Miriam Tuliao didn’t learn how to swim until she was in her 40s. Now the 56-year-old library marketing manager at Penguin Random House is an open-water masters swimmer.
On August 6, Tuliao competed at New York’s Rockaway Beach, where she helped raise more than $1,400 for the American Library Association’s Spectrum Scholarship program, which helps promote diversity in the library profession.
“Going to library school meant a lot to me,” Tuliao says. “And those scholarship monies are not always there, so it’s an opportunity to give back” and publicly honor the people who “have been so generous with their time and advice and support.”
For the past decade, Tuliao has been raising money for Spectrum—itself celebrating its 20-year anniversary—and this year swam in memory of Cynthia Clark, director of collections and circulation operations at New York Public Library (NYPL), who died in 2015.
Tuliao spent more than 20 years in public libraries, formerly working at NYPL and Brooklyn Public Library.
“Librarians of color are in many ways ambassadors in their communities,” she says. “They are our links to language, culture, to the collections and service, and they can extend their role to [the] families of users in their community, broadening the reach of service.”
She admits she’s not a speedy swimmer, relegating herself to the “manatee” or “cocktail lane” of the pool, but notes the magic and pure joy of the open water.
Tuliao cites a Filipino saying—utang na loob—which means “a debt of the soul.” It’s why she says she feels a strong debt to colleagues and is inspired to help “provide new librarians an opportunity to fly.”