Touhey Library Equity Fellows Gaining Experience at Albany Public Library

side-byside photos of a smiling man with long braids, wearing a suit and tie, abd a smiling soman wearing a UAlbany jacket
Robert Mornan and Yara Bonifacio are the two newest Touhey Library Equity Fellows.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 8, 2022) — Two Information Science graduate students at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) have been named Touhey Library Equity Fellows by the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library (FFAPL).

Yara Bonifacio and Robert Mornan are gaining hands-on experience in informatics as part-time library assistants at the Albany Public Library (APL) through the fellowships, which offer a $1,500 scholarship and up to $11,500 for the paid internship, made possible by the Carl E. Touhey Foundation.

The library fellowship was established in 2020 with the goal of diversifying the professional staff of APL to better represent the city’s population. It is offered to two Black students pursuing degrees in information science, and this is the second year the fellowship has been offered.

Bonifacio , who expects to complete her Master of Science degree in Information Science (MSIS) in 2023, has been involved in libraries for years, volunteering at her high school library and APL, where she worked as a page, a tutor and at special events at the Washington Avenue branch.

“That was when I realized my passion for technology. I never knew what information science really entailed and, by speaking with librarians, I realized that I could do both technology and library studies,” Bonifacio said. “All of these mentors and experiences helped guide me through my academic path. I was able to graduate with my degree in Informatics, and immediately join the MSIS program.”

Bonifacio said the Touhey Fellowship is valuable on three fronts: experience, the ability to put her knowledge into action, and service to the community.

“Libraries have always been one of my safe spaces, and I believe it’s important for me to help in any way I can,” she said. “After graduation I plan to continue working in a public library part time while I continue working in IT services. I would like to perhaps pursue becoming a full-time librarian during that time.”

Mornan, originally from the Bronx, expects to complete his MSIS this year and is grateful for the opportunity the Touhey Fellowship offers.

“I would love to gain some hands-on experience with the skills I have learned in class,” he said. “As an undergrad in computer science and cybersecurity, I recognize the importance of information being used in beneficial ways.”

Mornan is enrolled in the 4+1 Data Analytics degree program at CEHC, which combines the senior undergraduate year and first year of grad school to let students complete their master’s in five years. He volunteers as technology director for Skribblers, an Albany non-profit that publishes a magazine for and by children, and works repairing computers and smart devices for Geek Squad – both skills he says will be useful at his work at APL. He also started his own non-profit – Helping All People Internationally.

“This fellowship is important to me because, first and foremost, I love helping others and my community and I strongly feel the library is one of the most underrated community organizations,” Mornan said. After completing his MSIS, Mornan said he might pursue a doctorate in leadership to continue to help others. “That is my passion.”

Jennifer Goodall, vice dean at CEHC, said the college is “committed to ensuring that our learning, living and working environments demonstrate respect for all, and are free from inequality and discrimination. The Touhey Fellowship program is a natural fit for us. We are proud of our students, Yara and Robert, and know that their work will pave the way for a more equitable field for others.”

Carl E. Touhey, a lifelong Albany businessman committed to giving back to the community, passed away in 2013 at 95. His foundation, now headed by his son Charles Touhey, supports local organizations and entities that promote social and economic fairness for underserved and underrepresented populations in the city of Albany.

“The Albany Public Library and FFAPL are walking the walk, consistently demonstrating their commitment to equity and empowerment,” said Charles Touhey, adding that the foundation “shares their goal of attracting and retaining black professionals in Albany.”

“The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library is committed to achieving and maintaining a workforce that broadly represents the Albany community. We are grateful to the Carl E. Touhey Foundation for their continuing support for our efforts to expand the pool of future library leaders,” said DTrae Carter, acting president of FFAPL.

Melanie Metzger, interim director of APL said the fellows program helps both the library and the recipients. “Past interns have added so much to our community with their energy, talent and performance,” she said. “We look forward to working with Yara Bonifacio and Robert Mornan and guiding them through what are sure to be wonderful accomplishments during their semester at the library.”