As I prepare for my presentation at ACRL, I realize that it’s almost 5 years to the date that I did my very first presentation. It was for MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference) and I was terrified. I was weeks away from graduation, and had no idea where I was going or what was coming next. The reason I was on this panel despite no archival experience was because Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet heard me bumble my way through a lightning talk about intersectionality at Midwinter, and thought my perspective might be worth hearing. I’ll forever be grateful to her for asking. And to God for putting the right people in my path at the right time.
So much has changed since then. I first started speaking about intersectionality because of my experience at Rutgers during library school. I had been so excited about going to Rutgers for my MLIS, not only because it was one of the best school library programs, but also because the campus itself was so diverse. After spending four years at a PWI (primarily white institution) I was excited to be surrounded by people who actually looked like me. And Rutgers, the campus lived up to that reputation! As I wandered campus and walked through the student centers, I saw people from all walks of life…which made it all the more heartbreaking when I realized I was the the ONLY women of color on the school library track in my cohort. And that the people of color in the entire program could be counted using one hand. I felt isolated and alone. It seemed like no aspect of my identity was considered valid let alone valuable to the profession.
Although the profession hasn’t become more diverse in these past 5 years, I do not feel quite so alone. I have found a community of amazing and radical women of color through programs such as MIECL (Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians) as well as at conferences. Oftentimes those conversations had over dinner and in hallways have been more vital to my professional development than the actual conference! And as I’ve grown in the field my research has changed and grown with me. I would never have been able to coin the concept vocational awe without understanding white supremacy and how it intersects with librarianship and institutional culture, power, and labor.
From writing articles, speaking, at conferences, to making a microaggressions game, and coining a concept are all things I never would have guessed I could do back when I was doing a 5 minute lightning talk or speaking in a small room in Rochester. I’m still learning and growing, and I’m excited to see where the next 5 years takes me.