Library professional named ALA Spectrum Scholar

portrait of Alex Soto ASU Library’s Alex Soto is among this year’s Spectrum Scholars, a class of 61 exceptional graduate students in the field of library and information studies.

The scholarship award, given by the American Library Association (ALA) Office of Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services, is in recognition of Soto’s commitment to community building, leadership and efforts to make social justice a daily part of library work.

Soto (Tohono O’odham) is a graduate student in the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River Program and a team member within the Labriola National American Indian Data Center at the ASU Library, where he is actively working to increase engagement with American Indian students, faculty and staff. 

Named a 2019 Dean’s Medalist by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for his outstanding undergraduate work at ASU and his advocacy around libraries and Native communities, Soto has focused his library career on issues of tribal sovereignty and empowerment.

“This is a much deserved honor. Alex is one of our outstanding early career professionals,” says Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Strategy, “I look forward to Alex’s continued valuable contributions to the Library and to the University. He is truly a rising star!”  

According to the Spectrum Scholarship Program, the 2020 application cycle garnered four times as many applications as there were available scholarships – the majority of them deemed highly fundable.

A highlight of the $5,000 Spectrum Scholarship, which Soto plans to apply toward graduate school tuition, is its offering of professional development, networking and mentoring opportunities through the Spectrum Leadership Institute, which Soto will attend at no charge at next year’s ALA Annual Conference.

“The main thing I like about the scholarship is the training initiatives,” said Soto. “It will be great to meet folks in the field and get connected to the larger network on a national level.”

Soto, who recently co-authored and helped shepherd the ASU Library’s first-ever Indigenous land acknowledgement, in coordination with McAllister and others at the library, says that cultural memory institutions such as libraries have a significant role to play in prioritizing Indigenous knowledge systems, which, in turn, have the potential to meaningfully confront systemic racism, white supremacy and social injustice.

“How we set up a space will inform the ways in which we interact in that space,” said Soto. “We need to be asking, how can we be more inclusive to Native knowledge systems?”