Saturday, April 18, 2015

LibraryJournal: Lauren Comito | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Innovators

Lauren Comito | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Innovators

Lauren Comito


Job & Business Academy Manager, Queens Library, Jamaica, NY
MLS, Queens College, CUNY, 2007
Photo by Bob Stefko

It’s Her Fight

Lauren Comito has a regular patron at New York’s Queens Library who is one of the most cheerful and positive people she’s ever met. Homeless and unemployed, the woman is also one of the neediest. Comito had trouble locating the help the woman required. “I realized that if I was having a hard time finding services as a librarian, people who don’t have my training must have an even harder time,” says Comito, the job and business academy manager at the library.
Working with the founders of San Francisco’s link-sf, a bare-bones, web-optimized website that links people in need to available services, which she learned about as a presenter at the 2014 SXSW conference, Comito created shortly after. Using a mobile phone or tablet’s built-in GPS, the user can easily find the nearest food, shelter, medicine, health, hygiene, and career services in the borough.
“WhereinQueens was huge for me,” says Comito. “I am incredibly proud of it and think that it is a great example of modern librarianship.”
Closing such gaps is second nature to Comito. She is a cofounder of the Urban Librarians Conference initiative, now in its third year; the 2015 event focuses on nurturing a broad range of patron literacy: informational, digital, health, financial. Comito also created a “coding for girls” program for female high school students in Queens that aims to chip away at the gender gap in coding. When she realized that male patrons looking for jobs didn’t know they should wear ties to interviews—let alone own them—she created a lending library of ties—a “tie-brary”—and in her apartment built the racks to hold them.
Such initiatives are deeply inspiring to her colleagues. “Lauren does not flinch. If she sees something that needs to happen, a change that needs to be made, a product that needs to be created, a meeting that has to happen, then she does it,” says Christian Zabriskie, cofounder of the conference (and founder of Urban Librarians Unite and a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker). “Lots of librarians are courageous. Lots of librarians have good ideas. Lauren is the kind of librarian who will fight for those ideas until they become a reality.”
Comito believes we need to be the change we want to see in the world. “If you have ever looked at a problem and thought, ‘Wow, somebody should really do something about that,’ then you are the person who needs to do something about it,” says Comito. “That fight is your fight.”

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