Tag Archives: career

#NDLC2016: Reflections on the Opening Keynote

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I’m at the National Diversity in Libraries Conference 2016 this week, which is hosted at UCLA. This morning, the opening keynote speaker, Lakota Harden, left her notes on the podium and decided to speak from the heart. She shared a bit of her experiences growing up on a reservation, being the descendant of individuals who have endured horrible things as a result of federally sanctioned genocide. She spoke about attending boarding school and losing her language, because they were not permitted to use the words they’d been born into. She spoke about sitting at her great-grandmothers’ knees and regaining a little bit what she’d been torn away from, what her ancestors had been torn away from. She spoke of remembering and honoring the pain, of acknowledging the truth. And she spoke to the tearing away that many have descended from in the name of colonization. She also spoke of the existing wounds that her people, the Lakotas, bear and the deep wounds of American Indians across the nation. The poverty and broken families. The alcoholism and drug use. The homelessness and imprisonment. The atrocities that continue. And the people who come to reservations in search of the dead, expecting the living to perform a nativeness that is contrived. People who will open hands, wanting, needing to get rather than to give and just be present. She spoke of the borrowing…stealing of cultural values and practices by majority cultures that don’t take the time to know the humanity behind them. As she spoke, it resonated with me. Not just because I appreciated her sharing and was moved by her honesty, but because, as she said, we all have backgrounds filled with woundings that we’ve had to live through, cope with, and survive. And for many of us, we’re still trying to find our survival.

As a librarian of color, and more specifically, as an African American woman in the United States, I’ve had to come to terms with the heaviness that is my cultural heritage. Like Lakota, I have found the beauty amidst the sorrow, but it comes from acknowledging that past. Often, like her, I hear people say things like, “Well, slavery was hundreds of years ago, don’t you think it’s time you guys moved on?” or “Why don’t you guys [black people] stop protesting and just get a job? or “Why don’t parents in urban communities care about their children?” No one is really interested in talking about the past, because it’s messy and it’s painful. But the things we witness today are deeply rooted in a continual cycle of loss and trauma. To break that cycle, we have to talk about it. And we have to acknowledge that it is, and will continue to be, the legacy that some communities have to deal with.

Trauma brings about injury and unless those injuries are directly addressed, it’s impossible to move on. When talking about issues of poverty and lack of education in urban communities of color, it makes me sad that the conclusion too often drawn is that parents don’t care about their kids. Sure, there are always the exceptions, but I think deep-down, the vast majority of parents care about their kids. But how does one cope with challenge after challenge without relief? For individuals in impoverished communities (and poverty doesn’t always look like slum towns), I believe there is a great deal of depression and mental health issues that have gone unnoticed and unaddressed for generations. Wounds that go unaddressed continue to fester and these generational symptoms of brokenness continue to plague my community as well as hers.

Lakota spoke of being inspired by the strength of her ancestors and invoked the strength of the ancestors of any people group who has ever suffered loss and trauma, whether the separation was chosen or not. When I first came into librarianship, it was through genealogy. I discovered the archives while investigating my own family history. Through uncovering details about my grandparents and great-grandparents, and gg-grandparents, I learned more about the nuances of American history and the role that individuals and communities play in shaping futures.

In America, racism has played a huge role in the shaping of futures, both for people of color and those who are not. For the black community, racism didn’t just mean slavery. It continued well beyond that. It meant laws and a legal system that was designed and upheld to keep blacks in a subhuman status. It meant not having access to certain types of employment. It meant not having funding for quality education resources. It meant not being able to travel through certain towns after dark or being able to use the same restroom or water fountain. It meant having to step off the sidewalk if a white person walked towards you, or having to avert your eyes for fear of being regarded as disrespectful. With the consequences being great. It meant being called out of your name and being reminded at every instance that you are less than. It meant being made to walk to school, while the white kids rode the bus and having your change slapped on the counter while someone else got to have theirs in their hand. It meant being told that the closer you were to white, the better you were. It meant being denied love and marriage to the person you cared about, just because of the way your skin looked. It meant being you could be a crime. It meant being you could be worthy of death. And the law would look the other way, because sometimes the person under that hood or behind that gun, was the law. It meant you didn’t know who you could trust and so you had to build your own communities and economic infrastructure. But then it meant losing all of that, sometimes over and over again, at the whim of a people who didn’t want you to succeed.

And this wasn’t 1865. It wasn’t 1967. For some, this type of legal ostracizing ended as late as the 1980s or 1990s. For many, it continues today under different labels and ways of being.

It causes scars.

Trauma is life changing and when your people experience trauma after trauma for generations, it has an impact.

As people, as a profession, the core of what the communities we serve are asking for is to be recognized as human. To find a place where they are not made to be othered in a way that shadows the trauma they’ve already felt for so much of their existence and the existence of all the blood that runs through their DNA.

Acknowledging truth isn’t about shaming or blaming, but it is about giving voice to those who have been silenced for so long. For any people group who has known trauma and injustice, there will be parallel stories. When we talk about making the LIS profession a space that is welcoming and inclusive, we need to start by acknowledging and then sitting in that. Sometimes in silence, if we need to. It also means owning our collective pasts and the roles our pasts have played in affecting the pasts of others.

It’s a lot. I know it’s a lot, but since our profession exists for the building and edification of people and the preservation and sharing of information, we don’t really have the luxury of picking and choosing which groups get included, whether explicitly or implicitly.

 

Where I’m at.

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It’s officially been one month since I assumed my new role. Classes start again in about three weeks. And it’s my birthday month. Yay birthday!

Before birthday (and the start of classes), though, comes a lot of prep work. I’m in the process of emailing faculty from the liaison departments I inherited. Our library is also in the process of switching over to Libguides from an in-house system, so I’m creating course guides for my assigned TSEMs and creating shell course guides for classes I’ve confirmed instruction for, but haven’t nailed down the specifics yet.

I have to admit, I still feel weird emailing professors and saying, “Hi! I’m your new liaison librarian.” But the more I get “Oh, that’s awesome. Can you come teach a session?” the more it sinks in. Part of my role involves supporting student retention and success, so I’ve been reaching out to faculty members teaching classes that either haven’t had a library component before or haven’t had a library component in a long time. Which is cool, because I’m basically building from the ground up.

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It seems there were a lot of problems

We’re also in the process of weeding the general collection. I’m working with the American History section (E in LCSH), which includes gems like the ones on the left. Also, can I add “a distinct negro strain” to my list of phrases? “Flavor of blackness” is also on the list. I found most of them in the archives 🙂 I’ll have to find them and share them at some point. Good stuff.

Also, I decided to take advantage of a few MOOCs*, because I like learning and I wanted to brush up on my education background knowledge, for a few reasons. A.) I work with the teacher education program on campus and it’s been a little while since I’ve actually studied education, besides leisure reading of articles and blogs. B.) I came across the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute a few weeks ago and was fascinated by the concept of a program that encompasses applied research, a school, and a teacher training academy. C.) I found an online course taught by
the director of the UC Urban Education Institute. and D.) I’m planning to apply for a Ph.D. program that will in part be focused on education and literacy. So I’m taking two MOOCs. One is Critical Issues in Urban Education  (offered by The University of Chicago, as mentioned) and the other one is Literacy Teaching and Learning: Aims, Approaches and Pedagogies (offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a focus on multiliteracies. Yes please.) 

So that’s what I’m up to. Oh, and I’m presenting at a conference next week, so I’m mentally preparing for that. Also, I can’t wait!

 

 

 

*MOOC = Massive Open Online Course. Interestingly, I’ve seen a few articles recently that describe MOOCs either designed in part (or whole) by students or that feature student contributions. I wonder what possibilities exist in that with information literacy and developing instruction modules for distance learners or larger classes where possibilities for F2F instruction are limited. Hmmm….

 

New job!

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Roughly a year ago, I was interviewing for jobs and sleeping off my grad school fatigue, trying to figure out what to do with my post-MLIS life. In July 2015, I ended up accepting a two year residency at Towson University and moving to the Baltimore region.Within that role, I’ve had the opportunity to complete a rotation in Technical Services, Research and Instruction, and part of a rotation in Special Collections and Archives. I learned a great deal in each division and count the residency as a valuable part of my early career formation. However…

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Professional me

I won’t be completing the remainder of my residency, because I’m excited to announce that I have accepted a permanent status (same as tenure-track) position as a Research and Instruction Librarian!! As of July 1st, my position became official. I knew coming into the program that there was no guarantee of post-residency employment, but I’m really happy it worked out for me to stay.

Within my new role, I will responsible for liaising to the College of Education; supporting student outreach and support, with a focus on retention of at-risk populations; and assessment of instruction programming. And you know what they say, other duties as assigned.

So here’s to the next few years of greatness as I work on building my dossier 🙂

First, close all the tabs.

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I maintained my edge by always being a student; you will always have something new to learn.

~Jackie Joyner-Kersee

I’ve been trying to be more self-aware lately. I have noticed I have a tendency to pay attention to the details. While that can be a strength, it can also be a hindrance, such as when I’m paying so much attention to the details, I’m not getting things done. Case in point: the browser tabs. Read the rest of this entry

Tl;dr – I’m very excited

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Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

Defying Gravity | Wicked

I figured I would give a nod to my love of performing arts there. Nice touch, right? A few updates on my residency experience Read the rest of this entry

Going into 2016

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2015 was a good year. I finished grad school, landed a new job and made

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MLIS graduate! Class of 2015. Boom.

some strides in my personal life. As I reflect on the past year and exercise gratefulness, I can’t help but look forward to what this year will bring.

I believe in goals Read the rest of this entry

The ways in which I’m not a “Librarian”

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  1. Sometimes the biggest relief to work is when I clock out and go home and release all the pent up stories, poems, and songs that were lodging in my brain all the day long, because
  2. While I am a pragmatist and a realist, I am also a dreamer and a creator. I love beautiful things and I love to make beautiful things. Sometimes I see beauty where others don’t and sometimes what others behold as beauty, I just stare at. I can’t relate
  3. To cats or cute baby animals or cardigans. The former has fur and
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    Reflections on being me…

    stares at me when I walk into the room. It licks itself constantly and then looks at me like I’m the weird one. And walks on my face at night. No! The middle are still animals and, sorry, just not as compelling as baby people. To each their own. The latter are an item of necessity, because even though it’s almost winter, I can still wear that fetching tank, as long as I’m wearing said cardigan. But not your mother-grandma’s cardigan. And speaking of,

  4. I’m most comfortable in funky earrings, wide-legged pants and maybe headwraps. Or just my hair. Because it’s cool. I love jeans, but am not above a dress and heels, as long as the heels aren’t high enough to make me angry. It’s complicated, I know
  5. I love books, but even more, I love the stories within the books. The connections to emotions and the ability to see the world from someone else’s eyes. Something we miss out on all too often, I’m afraid. I believe
  6. In empathy and walking in other people’s shoes, but not because you forced the fit, but because they took them off ungrudgingly. Recognition of vulnerability is the least you can give when learning from someone else. While you’re walking around, they’re standing barefoot and there are still stones. I
  7. Don’t wear pearls, but if I did, I would definitely clutch them and hold them tight, marveling at how smooth and beautiful constant irritation can become. Master of disguise, shape-shifting and turning to fit pieces where they don’t belong, at first. Discomfort
  8.  Isn’t something you can measure, see, or hold. Someone told me about falling forward, learning from mistakes as much as successes. Taking chances, just to see. Challenges and
  9. Being challenged, even if it means stepping back and taking time to breathe. Redefining experiences, turning loss into new opportunities. Focused on
  10. Knowing yourself and knowing that you are unafraid to live outside of boxes. “Because I wanted to.”