On his motorcycle, Lassana Magassa, currently the SLA- NY Chapter’s Diversity Chair, says he can get just about any where in the city in 15 minutes. Soon though he’ll be traveling out of New York. Later this month, he will begin studies for a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. The recipient of the prestigious $6,000 Graduate School Top Scholar Award and a graduate assistantship for four years already has a topic in mind for his dissertation. Concerned about the digital divide-he would like to research whether access to the Internet in prison and development of technology and information searching skills has an influence on recidivism rates.
Lassana joined SLA and became active in the chapter as diversity chair in 2007, the same year he earned a masters degree in library and information science from Queens College, CUNY. Since July 2007, he has been the web content specialist at the Association of National Advertisers. Prior to that, he was a school library media specialist intern and also a trainer, conducting research and sensitivity training sessions for various groups at the New York City Tolerance Center- Simon Wiesenthal Center. Other earlier work positions involved being a dispute resolution training consultant at Creative Response to Conflict in Nyack and the Youth Futures Network Web Developer at the Harlem Community Justice Center. Lassana, who grew up in Harlem, earned a bachelors degree in computer science from Saint Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, VA, a historically Black college, where a professor encouraged him to combine his interest in computers and information.
As the chapter’s diversity chair, he’s talked to school classes where he’s been invited. He explains to students that each morning he checks Linked-In and Facebook accounts before proceeding to other computer work, such as ensuring confidentiality and availability of more than 2,000 proprietary resources, resolving customer questions and problems, and assembling and analyzing usage habits to better serve users. Then, he asks the students, to guess his career. “No one ever thinks I’m a librarian,” he says.
A program he organized for the chapter in 2008 was “Dealing with Diversity: Transforming Your Library's Work Environment,” with Dr. Camila A. Alire, 2008 ALA President, as presenter. In late August, during a “happy hour” at the Midtown Executive Club, SLA-NY members thanked Lassana for his contributions and wished him well in his new studies. When contacted for this article, he expressed thanks for everyone’s support and wishes.