Teen wants others to love libraries like she does

Destiny Walker is spending her summer as an intern at the Arlington Hills Community Center, where she’s established a Gender Sexuality Alliance. She plans on using the experience as part of a foundation for a career as a librarian. Marjorie Otto/Review

“Libraries are actually a pretty big part of my life. My mom has been taking my sisters and I since we were super small,” said Destiny Walker, the intern at Arlington Hills Community Center this summer, before reassessing.

“Libraries are huge in my life,” she said. 

Now, the 17-year-old is working to create that same love of libraries in other kids, while also gaining experience she will use towards becoming a librarian in the future.

Walker is part of a national internship program called the Inclusive Internship Initiative, a new program created by the Public Library Association and supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

She’s spending her summer at the Arlington Hills Community Center and is one of 50 interns nationwide tasked with identifying ways to create libraries that are more inclusive to more diverse communities, while also attracting more diverse librarians. 

She’s created a Gender Sexuality Alliance, often referred to as a GSA, at the library. The alliance serves as an educational tool about LGBT, queer, intersex and asexual issues, and also as a kind of support group for those who identify as LGBTQIA. 

The alliance holds classes and connects people with LGBTQIA resources. Walker, who will be a senior at Washington Technology Magnet School, participated in a similar group at her school. 

“GSAs kind of stop when school ends,” Walker said, explaining that she felt teens needed access to the alliances even during the summer.

“I thought it would be nice to start a GSA to let teens know the library is a safe space during the summer, during the school year, and that they can count on the library when they are feeling down or have nowhere else to go,” she said.

Walker added that while staff and most visitors to Arlington Hills are welcoming to those who identify with the LGBTQIA community, she said she will often hear younger people, preteens and teens, using slurs around the library and felt that those people, in particular, could benefit from the educational aspects of the alliance.

It officially started meeting July 18 and will continue meeting for the rest of the summer, every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Community Room B at the community center, located at 1200 Payne Ave.

She said during the first meeting, mostly younger kids, aged 11 or 12, who were roaming the library, stopped by to ask questions. Walker said while this wasn’t the age group she was targeting, she was able to help the younger kids dispel hurtful stereotypes about those who identify as LGBTQIA. 


The changing role of librarians

The internship started on June 16 with an event at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where teens and their mentors met others involved in the program and discussed the goals and ideas they had to make changes at their local libraries. 

Walker and Alaina Kozma, a staff member at Arlington Hills and Walker’s mentor, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the kickoff. 

Walker was well-known at Arlington Hills Community Center prior to her internship. She even helped it move from its old branch, now the East Side Freedom Library, to the current location at Payne and Maryland avenues.

Kozma had worked with Walker quite a bit over the past few years and knew right away when she heard about the internship that Walker would be a perfect fit for the program.

“She’s doing a really excellent job,” Kozma said. “Everyone here is happy to have her on board for the summer.”

A common theme at the Inclusive Internship Initiative’s kickoff in Washington D.C., and a theme Walker is working with, was the way libraries and librarians’ roles have changed over the years.

“The traditional stereotype has been evolving for a number of years, but now more than ever, public libraries are providing services — summer lunches, passports, social services — that we couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago,” said Public Library Association President Felton Thomas during the kickoff event. “Future librarians must understand that we are going through a generational transition of what it means to be a public librarian.”

Arlington Hills is an example of this evolution — it’s not only a library, but a community center, housing both St. Paul Public Library and St. Paul Parks and Recreation programming.

“[The internship] is showing that the library, as a whole, is a place for everyone no matter your gender, your nationality, your sexual orientation,” Walker said.

As for the future of the GSA when her internship ends, Walker said she’d like to continue its meetings, as a volunteer at the library on weekends.

“I’d love to see that happen,” Kozma said.

“Libraries make me feel good, they make me feel welcome, they make me feel happy,” Walker said. “I feel like I was built in the library and I want other people to experience the way I felt, that I feel here.” 


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto


Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here