Being a Diversity Resident Librarian: A Seven Month Update

It has been six months seven months since I started my position as a Diversity Resident Librarian and there is much to reflect on. Rather than listing out my whole dossier for the past six months, I thought it might be more helpful to answer some reflection questions on my experiences so far:

Do you like your position? Was it what you expected?

I love my position so far and I feel incredibly lucky to be a Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian. I have a wonderful supervisor and my overall experience has been fulfilling. Was this experience what I expected? Yes and No. My residency’s job description was left intentionally vague to allow us residents to explore what we wanted to do during our time here. This made it difficult to have any expectations, and at the beginning of my residency, I was unsure of what I was supposed to be doing. As time progressed (and with the help of my ambitious supervisor), my days began to fill up quickly.

What have been some highlights so far? What have been some challenges so far?

One highlight so far has been meeting and working with my supervisor. I say this a lot but I feel very lucky to be in her care. She is hardworking, successful, intelligent, and everything else good you could say about a person. I have learned so much just by being near her. She is an excellent model of a good boss and a good person. Another highlight of my residency so far has been the ability to get involved in some really awesome service, research, and librarianship opportunities. From doing a pop-up exhibit to helping show around a visiting artist from Chile, I have felt so lucky to get to meet people doing amazing work and to do things that are exciting and informative.

One challenge so far has been project management in the long term (i’m looking at you, research agenda). I struggle to be self-motivated when it comes to non-urgent long term projects and it has been easy to put things off. I want to publish something by the time I am out of my residency and to do that, I need to start doing something. Another challenge has been my insecurity with the department I help liaise to. Frankly, I am intimidated by the faculty and I often feel inferior to them because I (1) can’t speak Spanish and (2) am many years their junior. My inability to be fluent in what should be one of my first languages is something that I struggle with every day and makes me feel like I cant do my job as a Latin American Studies Librarian.

What courses or experiences in Library School would have better prepared you for your professional career?

One of the biggest gaps in my knowledge has been anything pertaining to information literacy and instruction. I went through grad school thinking that I would never have to do instruction, and if I did, it would be whatever I threw together and deemed fit. Now, being in an institution that has a dedicated Teaching and Learning Department, I realized that not only would I be expected to do instruction, but there is actual pedagogy behind this instruction. During grad school,  I don’t remember having courses offered to me that dealt with instruction, but this also could have been that I did not pay attention to them for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this answer.

In what area have you seen the most growth? In what area has growth been a bit slow?

I have seen a lot of growth in my ability to let myself make mistakes and note get stuck in my perfectionism. For example, when I first started out, I would read a draft of an email 100 times before I sent it to ensure there were no errors. Now I only read them over  around ten times. All jokes aside, I attribute this growth to my supervisor making it abundantly clear that it is okay to make mistakes, especially as a resident. I also think it has helped to see someone who I think very highly of admit that she struggles with certain things too. Just because she needs some help editing her writing doesn’t make her any less competent at her job or any less of a good person, so why would my struggles do that to me?

An area of growth that has been slow has been any interpersonal aspects of my job. For example, I really struggle with feeling confident doing instruction or reference intakes. I am the kind of person who is quiet until she feels confident enough that everyone in the room isn’t going to destroy her. I have tried to push myself outside of my comfort zone over the last 6 months, agreeing to do instruction sessions, talking to students, etc. and it gets about 0.001% easier every time I do it. I  have learned that I work well in small groups and one-on-one vs. in large classrooms. With this information, I can try to control these situations to make me feel a little bit more comfortable moving forward.

Is there anything that has surprised you about your experience as a resident? 

One of the biggest surprises has been the sheer amount of bureaucracy and politics in academic libraries. I am sure many of the people reading this are probably saying duh but it took being in this position to really understand all the passing comments made by faculty over the years. I could never fully understand it until I lived it and here we are, writing dossiers, participating in search committees, trying to leverage resources for student workers, exhibits, programs, etc.

Another big surprise has been the importance of networking and networks in general and as someone who struggles connecting with people, this is my worst nightmare. I have to work extra hard to ensure that I am cultivating fruitful relationships as I continue my career. Luckily, my supervisor has done an excellent job of assuring me that my people skills really aren’t bad and that a lot of the time I just need to let my good work speak for itself.

The last surprise was the expectations put upon librarians who are faculty members. Again, the dossier process, tenure conversations, service and research. All of these things were new to me. Obviously I am not eligible for tenure, but I am learning how to navigate this system to be prepared for a tenure-track position after my residency.

What does the word diversity mean to you in terms of being a diversity resident? 

This is a tough question and I plan to continue exploring this as I move through my residency. I am a member of a couple minority groups: I identify as a woman and I am non-white (Puerto Rican). My demographic makes up a tiny portion of academia, and an even tinier portion of librarianship. I guess the idea of a diversity residency is to provide people like me a place to continue to grow in the profession while adding some non-majority groups to the field of librarianship. That’s great, right? Yeah, I guess, but there are only so many diversity residencies, and expecting to diversify the field of librarianship through residencies doesn’t quite scale the way we need it to. Plus, not everyone has a good residency experience, and this could lead to them exiting the field all together, leaving the demographics of the field un-changed. Now coming back to me, having the word diversity in my title is… a lot of pressure. I don’t feel particularly tokenized by it, but I do feel like I am carrying the weight of that 4.7% Hispanic/Latinx ALA statistic on my back with everything I do. I feel like I am not doing enough for “diversity”. I have especially struggled with the feeling of not being “diverse” enough to be in this position. All of this is to say that I have a complicated relationship with the word diversity in my title.

Is academic librarianship still your calling? 

Absolutely! I came into my residency pretty confident that I wanted to work in an academic library. I love the atmosphere that academic libraries and campuses have. I also love the idea of working with students and researchers while also being able to complete my own research agenda. The real questions is what route in academic librarianship do I want to take? I am a Latin American Studies Librarian by training. Unfortunately,  those jobs are few and far in-between meaning I need to diversify my portfolio a bit. If I had to do something outside of Area Studies, I could see myself enjoying working with collections —Collection Strategist, Assessment Librarian— or on the access side of things. I could also see myself liking communications and marketing or taking on some sort of leadership role!

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