SJU Alumna Works to Serve Immigrant Community in Queens
Selina Sharmin ‘10G came to the United States from Bangladesh in 2000 and began working part-time at the Queens Library. She already had a background in library management from her home country, and after seeing librarians help members of the community, she realized she wanted to be a librarian, too.
She asked around, and a family friend brought her to St. John’s University Office of Graduate Admission, where she received step-by-step assistance with completing her application. SJU also accepted her foreign credentials through World Education Services. Sharmin entered the Intensive English Program (now The Language Connection) and began taking Library and Information Science courses once her English skills had advanced enough.
After graduating with her master’s degree from SJU, Sharmin began working full-time at the Queens Library and pushing for more Bengali services and programming. As the first female Bengali-speaking librarian in the Queens Library system, Sharmin initiated the first bilingual story hour in Bengali at the South Ozone Park branch in 2007. She later leveraged the Queens Library’s partnership with WNET’s Early Learning Network and American Graduate program to create Bengali videos for children, teens, and adults. Sharmin even traveled to Bangladesh and brought back a copy of the Harry Potter series in Bengali, which she donated to the library.
Since 2011, she has been Coping Skills Librarian for the Queens Library, working with the immigrant community to organize educational workshops and citizenship programming in languages other than English. In this role, Sharmin organized Bengali computer classes and Pathway to U.S. Citizenship workshops, which provide information and resources related to the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, in different branches every month. Sharmin herself became a citizen in 2005. As part of her job, Sharmin also joins Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s task force meeting every month to advise her about the Bangladeshi community, and last year, Katz presented Sharmin with a Citation of Honor for her work.
“What makes America beautiful,” said Sharmin, “is immigrants and their skills and talents.” She says St. John’s enabled her to overcome her language barriers and pursue her chosen career: “When I came to St. John’s University, I could hardly speak. Now I’m speaking publicly every day. If St. John’s weren’t there for me, I wouldn’t have become a librarian. I needed to become a librarian and help immigrants like me because I got so much help from librarians. This is why, no matter how technology changes, we need librarians behind the desk. With the most diverse library and information science curriculum in the state, SJU prepared me to become a public librarian. Everywhere I go, I find SJU students are the best. Out of 100 employees in a workplace, the few from St. John’s really make a difference.”
Just recently, Sharmin was one of three librarians in the country selected for an International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) National Committee Fellowship Grant. The fellowship provided her with $1,000 to attend the IFLA 2016 Congress in Columbus, Ohio from August 13-19, 2016.