Library Advisory Board

The Library Advisory Board provides input on initiatives that further advance the mission and goals of the Deaf Culture Digital Library. 

The Maryland DCDL Advisory Board consists of 8 members who are residents of Maryland. Members include:

  • A representative of the county library system;
  • the State Librarian, Maryland State Library Agency (MSL) or designate;
  • the Director of the Governor’s Office on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) or designate;
  • Representatives of Statewide deaf and hard of hearing organizations (i.e. MDAD); and
  • three (3) members of the public at large representing other organizations as agreed on by the ODHH and MSL.
Ricardo Lopez Headshot

Ricardo Lopez


Ricardo Lopez, a native of Puerto Rico, is a longtime resident of Montgomery County, Maryland. He has earned a Master of Science in Educational Technology/Special Education from Gallaudet University and a Master of Library Science – School Library Media Specialist from the University of Maryland at College Park. Mr. Lopez is currently employed at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, a division of Gallaudet University. He was past president of National Literary Society of the Deaf and has been called on occasions to give presentations on Deaf History.
Linds Phelan


Vice Chair

Tyese Wright Headshot

Tyese Wright

Board Member

Ms. Tyese Wright graduated from Gallaudet University with a degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Wright earned her master’s degree in Counseling from Trinity University in 2005. Her career has included teaching students enrolled in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs and serving as a Family Educator/Counselor for students in grades 1-8 at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. She is currently the Transition Specialist for the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. At the present time, she is a board member of District of Columbia Area Black Deaf Advocates, Inc.

Sonya Smith 

Board Member

Sonya Smith is the Programs and Communications Manager for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Deaf and Hard of hearing. 

Sonya was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. She received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing from the Rochester Institute of Technology. That year she also relocated to Maryland to work and was crowned in 2017 as Miss Black Deaf America at the National Black Deaf Advocates Convention in Baltimore, MD.  Sonya embraces diversity and enjoys learning about different cultural beliefs and new perspectives while not giving into discrimination. Sonya continues to take advantage of opportunities to grow and to develop advanced leadership skills. Sonya is passionate about helping others to ensure that they are able to develop self-confidence, gain motivation to pursue their dreams, overcome barriers, and reject any boundaries or limits. Sonya is driven by deep faith and her spirituality.

Amy Crumrine

Board Member

Amy Crumrine has been deaf since the age of 10 months. She is a lifelong resident of Maryland where she grew up in Silver Spring and is now residing in Germantown. She has many hats and is involved in various organizations across the nation. Her biggest accomplishment is establishing CueSign, Inc.; this is an organization that believes all deaf children should have visual access to language. In her real life, she is an ASL teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools and is an ASL curriculum coordinator for the North Carolina Virtual School system. She  is a wife to her high school sweetheart, Roy, and a mom to her two hearing adult  children, Rosemary and Paul.
Alli Jessing Headshot

Alli Jessing

Library Representative
Howard County Library System

Allison Jessing is the Head of Adult Curriculum at Howard County Library System. Prior to joining HCLS in 2015, she worked at both the National Archives Museum and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC as an interpretive educator. Allison holds a MFA from Boston University and a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, she now resides in Ellicott City, MD.

Irene Padilla Headshot

Irene Padilla

State Librarian
Maryland State Library

Irene Padilla, the Maryland State Librarian, serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland State Library Agency. Padilla works with State and federal programs to improve library services in the 24 public library systems in the State of Maryland, the State Library Resource Center (SLRC), Sailor and Regional Resource Center programs. She also oversees the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) and the Maryland Deaf Culture Digital Library (MD DCDL). Irene has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English Literature and Master of Library Science (MLS) from Western Michigan University. She also holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from George Mason University.
Portrait of Brandt Van Unen

Brandt Van Unen

Maryland Deaf Culture Digital Library

Brandt Van Unen is the Maryland Deaf Culture Digital Library’s new Coordinator. He has previously worked as an academic librarian for Austin Community College District and Alamo Colleges District in Texas. He has a dual bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and History from Texas State University, a master’s degree in Information Studies from University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in History from Sam Houston State University. His love of puns may make anyone want to book it but his passion for serving the Deaf community is easy to check out with many happy returns.