Sharaya Olmeda

2020 Ken Haycock Award Recipient

Sharaya Olmeda is a librarian at the California Men’s Colony state prison where she works to provide services and access to an underserved population. One of her favorite community-building library programs at the prison is the monthly open mic, which gives inmates the opportunity to share their poetry and music.

Olmeda began this position a year ago while studying full time in the Master of Library and Information Science degree program at the San José State University School of Information. In December 2019, she completed the MLIS program requirements and graduated Summa Cum Laude. In recognition of her outstanding academic accomplishments, she was invited to join the SJSU chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

As part of her grad school experience, Olmeda participated in the American Library Association Student Chapter and was elected social media manager for the chapter in 2019. She also presented at two iSchool-sponsored poster sessions at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2019 and at the California Library Association in October 2019. Her poster presented the idea of writing a handbook that libraries could use to help establish free food programs to address the rise of food insecurity and the growing trend of food pantries on college campuses.

Fast forward a year, and the Public Library Association is now sponsoring Partnership for Plates: A Handbook to Reduce Food Insecurity, which will be published on the PLA website in 2020. Olmeda is thrilled that her handbook has been accepted by the PLA and hopes that it will help equip libraries with the information they need to begin food programs and reduce the impact that food insecurity has on their communities.

Olmeda’s passion and dedication to reaching those in need extends beyond the prison walls and far into the community. She continues to seek out new and innovative ways to increase the library’s role in providing basic services to those in need. She is considering a Master’s in Social Work to deepen her understanding of how libraries can leverage social programs and support for underserved communities.

In addition to her newly minted MLIS degree, Olmeda holds a Bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing focus from California State University, Northridge. She currently lives in Morro Bay, California with her girlfriend and houseplants. Her post-graduation plans include traveling, becoming a certified Cicerone, and making pottery. She is grateful for the love and support of her family, the receipt of several scholarships, and the honor of becoming a librarian.