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Library & Information Science Success Stories

Marcel LaFlamme '08LS

Marcel LaFlamme '08LS
Title: Director, Learning Resource Center, Independence Community College (Independence, KS)

If public libraries are places where people can investigate the world around them, then they also can be a vital resource for self-discovery. Marcel LaFlamme knows this to be true. Growing up gay in a small town in western Massachusetts, LaFlamme spent hours at the local library, where he found books about coming out that allowed him to "try on" this new identity. "The library became my safe haven, a space where I could start to understand who I was before I was ready to share that with anyone else."

Over time, LaFlamme says that he came to see the public library as a place where anyone who feels "different" can find answers, seek community, and acquire the tools to start creating social change. For LaFlamme, and for many of his classmates at Simmons, public libraries are more than warehouses for books; they are community centers and launching grounds for progressive activism.

"I want every small-town kid in America to have access to materials that will stretch his or her mind, that will help him or her to become the person he or she wants to become," LaFlamme says. "I don't think you should have to live in a big city to find books written in the language you speak at home, or to track down a novel about two boys falling in love."

After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard University in 2005, LaFlamme received a scholarship from the Point Foundation to study library science at Simmons. (The Point Foundation provides financial support and mentoring to students who have been marginalized due to their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.) He was awarded the Progressive Librarians Guild's (PLG) 2007 Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize. His winning essay, "Towards a Progressive Discourse on Community Needs Assessment: Perspectives from Collaborative Ethnography and Action Research," was chosen from entries submitted by LIS students from across the U.S. and Canada. Marcel's essay was published in the Progressive Librarian.

"At Harvard, I experienced learning for the sake of learning," says LaFlamme. "At Simmons, though, I learned for the sake of taking action. Whether we're designing a digital library or a literacy program for migrant workers, GSLIS challenges us to apply our classroom training to the workplace—and to the kind of world in which we want to live."