When Pang Yang realized there were not enough children’s books written in Karen in the Saint Paul Public Library collection, she partnered with staff and local authors and artists to publish two bilingual picture books for the city’s growing Burmese refugee community. Because very few books in the Karen language have been published for young children, community demand for these books was great; more than 5,000 copies were given out to Karen families directly or to teachers and community groups that work with the Burmese community.
SPPL Deputy Director for Public Services Maureen Hartman, who nominated Yang, said, “In every setting—whether in library buildings or beyond, Pang models SPPL’s mission – to welcome all people to connect, learn, discover and grow. She brings a community-first focus to library services and finds opportunities for the library to partner directly with community members every day.”
Prior to her position as a branch manager, Yang coordinated the library’s services to recent immigrant and underserved communities in Saint Paul. She led the project to publish bilingual books in Karen, Oromo, and Amharic, and coordinated world language storytimes and computer classes in other languages to meet the needs of recent immigrant communities.
The daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos, Yang understands growing up in a country where her history and traditional stories weren’t taught in school. "When I began my professional work at the Saint Paul Public Library, I realized I could now help to change that situation for children growing up in Saint Paul today," Yang says.
In a recent project, Wash & Learn, Yang partnered with Giant Wash Coin Laundry, Minnesota State Library Services, and nonprofit Libraries Without Borders to offer storytimes, Wi-Fi, laptops, and books at laundromats. "Our mission was to understand obstacles for specific communities and remove them," Yang says.