Latinx voices: Cas Laskowski

CasThis battle of identity is one I have waged in some fashion most of my life. I am Cuban and Italian, gamer and veteran, reader and poet, disabled and strong-willed. I feel connected to all sides of me, except la Cubana. I tried to join different heritage groups, but it always seemed like I was being judged. By attempting to connect to my razas, I’d get the paradoxical feeling that I am appropriating my own culture. ¡Imagínate!

My Spanish is terrible. I conjugate verbs incorrectly and fail to recall basic terms in conversations regularly. Never is it more apparent how far from fluent I am than when I speak to my abuelita. It is not that she has ever made me feel deficient. Quite the opposite. However, we keep our conversations shallow and short, cognizant of the language barrier that neither of us is skilled enough to scale. The older I get, and the further from my family, the more this disconnect from my heritage troubles me.

2016_Latino CaucusThat was until I joined the Latino Caucus. From the first meeting, everyone was welcoming, non-judgemental, and extremely helpful. Barely knowing me, they believed in my potential, voting me to Vice-Presidency. That connection, faith, and mentorship gave me a foundation to launch the beginnig of my career. For that I am extremely grateful!

Taking on Latino Caucus presidency gave me the opportunity to advocate for our members, speaking out about AALL silence on the sanctuary city bill at the Members Open Forum that year. I was fortunate that the Caucus supported my idea to fundraise for KIND, and we raised over four thousand dollars for an urgent cause. (See: KIND of a big deal by Casandra Laskowski. AALL Spectrum, September/October 2008).

Cas2Latino Caucus presidency was just the first in a series of leadership opportunities. I am currently the Chair of the AALL Diversity & Inclusion Committee and am incoming President of Duke Libraries Assembly. I am proud of the Committee’s work this year as we will host ABA President Martinez and Louisiana Chief Justice Johnson at this years D&I Symposium! Powerful women during a powerful moment. The Symposium will take place on Sunday, July 12th from 4pm to 5pm.

I am the Technology & Research Services Librarian at Duke Law. It is my job to find new ways to engage with technology tools and knowledge in the law school. I have been able to design engagement events, connect with technology leaders, and provide students the skills they need for 21st century law practice.

But the facets of my job that I love most are those that allow me to make an impact. Recently I took part in the ABF Future of Latinos Southern Roundtable. All participants collaborated to consider different ways we can build a better future for Latinos nationally. As an extension of the roundtable, I’m working on an interactive map of all the organizations that serve Latinos. We hope to have a pilot up in a few weeks and will need all the help we can get identifying additional organizations for the map.

Cas4This past year, I worked on a cross-university collaboration using design thinking to create innovate solutions for human trafficking survivors. There we were able to lay the groundwork for a solution that may help those serving farmworkers in North Carolina, if not the farmworkers themselves. I am not sure what the final project will be; whatever the result, I am honored to be working for change.

I have accomplished a great deal in the last four years. I have written articles and had a technology column on a library publications. I wrote two book chapters: one in Law Librarianship in the Age of AI and one in the forthcoming Millenial Leadership in Law Libraries. I have spoken at conferences, judged the innovation contest, been party to university level strategic planning, and partnered on projects with local community partners. But I still feel honored to be featured in a upcoming leadership profile in AALL Spectrum.

Cas3I have grown tremendously since that first meeting. I am braver, more confident, and more determined. I am grateful to be part of this community that has allowed me to feel connected to my roots and contributed to what I have become. In attending the upcoming AALL Leadership Academy, I hope to gain the skills to follow the Latina leaders I admire. We are in a tumultuous time in our nation and cannot be passive. I am committed to helping in whatever way I can.  I know I am surrounded by others that feel the same way.

P.S. I am editing an Open textbook on Librarianship and would absolutely love if every Caucus member would propose a chapter or subchapter. We need the next generation to feel as welcome as I’ve felt and to see themselves as they learn about our profession.

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Issue: 7

(2020/02)

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