Diversity residents flanking Libraries director Lorraine Haricombe.

Diversity Residents Move On

In fall of last year, the Libraries welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program who arrived for a 2-year term. Residents Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill spent the last year+ in rotations with various units for an immersive experience in librarianship, and though their terms haven’t yet expired, both earned the sort of attention that generated interest from other institutions wanting to lure them to professional opportunity. While we’re sad to see them leave, we’re extremely proud of the work they put in during their time at UT, and for the extensive contributions they made to what we do.

Hill and Tadena sat with me to reflect on their experience during their residencies, and to share their impressions of the program and the knowledge they gained.


Natalie Hill and Laura Tadena.
Natalie Hill and Laura Tadena.

Tex Libris: What is the main value or biggest takeaway you have from participating in the program?

Laura Tadena: I think for me it was learning about all the resources that we have access to or that are available for the state, and really wanting to share that information with others. Coming into this, I wasn’t familiar with the Texas State Library. I also didn’t realize how many libraries are open and free to the public, especially academic and college libraries. So, I think the most valuable thing for me was learning that and really refining my information literacy skills. Now I feel equipped to really find information in a way that I wasn’t before, especially research and reference skills. I did chat, which was part of learning UT’s system, and then we ended up doing a lot of presentations together, which required a lot of research that recalled the knowledge I learned in school and put it into practice in a professional setting. And seeing how some of the other librarians in action, how they do their jobs, and being like, “Wow…that’s how you get information.” 

Rachel Winston and Natalie Hill standing in front of a work of art.
Rachel Winston and Natalie Hill.

Natalie Hill: My big takeaway is knowing how the library works at multiple levels, and how information is communicated. Rotating between the different areas and being on all of the listservs, even after I’ve left an area, has been really interesting to see when people find things out about what’s going on. The experience has really encouraged me to go into leadership, which isn’t something I had strongly considered before. Now I want to do that.

TL: Do you feel like you gained some confidence from your time here?

NH: For sure.

TL: That’s a huge value, if you can walk into a place feeling like a visitor, and walk away thinking, “I can do this.”

NH: I think meeting directly with (Libraries’ Director) Lorraine Haricombe a few times was really valuable, and having her provide encouragement…when she says you can do something, you think, “Yeah, I can, if she thinks I can.”  So it was a big confidence boost.

TL: You have both done a lot of presentations in your time here, and that comes along with the territory, being in the residency program, but not all of the presentations were required as a component of your positions as resident; they were elective. Was that interest in presenting something you brought to your work here, or was it a byproduct of the confidence you’ve talked about gaining in your time at the Libraries?

NH: I think it was after we got here. Presentations were what I was least looking forward to. And now I’m like, “These are easy.”

LT: I think that one of the things that kind of started it was when we had a window into the hiring process, and saw what the CVs, resumés and cover letters looked like. We realized that we needed to get that sort of activity into our CV to be able to compete in the market. And so we put a bunch of submissions out thinking we weren’t going to get accepted…

NH: We thought it would be harder to get accepted…

LT: We also recognized a higher value in presenting papers or being included in panels as opposed to other forms of presentation.

TL: Did the experience meet your expectations?

NH: I didn’t fully know what I wanted to do when I started, but I felt it would have something to do with open education. So being able to call myself the open education librarian, and write my own job was great. So, in that way the experience exceeded my expectations — especially with the development work behind open education going on simultaneously, to see it becoming a real strategic initiative within the organization and to be part of it as that was happening.

LT: I think coming into this, I initially thought I was going to be doing more outreach and connecting with the student body, so learning how academic libraries work was what exceeded my expectations. And the access we had to professional development was incredible. We had opportunities to go to professional conferences, and I got practice in applying for scholarships. I came in here wanting to find ways to serve Texas, and I think I leave here now with a better foundation for doing that.

NH: I think one thing I didn’t expect was being known in the field. And I feel like now people know us – probably as a pair, not necessarily as individuals – but, still that’s bizarre. It’s kind of strange to be familiar to people in positions of leadership.

Hill and Tadena with fellow diversity residents.
Hill and Tadena with fellow diversity residents.

TL: This is a nascent program that didn’t have a lot of predetermined direction when you came in, and you’ve had a chance to steer it in a way.

LT: We didn’t expect to start a Slack space for various diversity residents across the country, but there are ACRL liaisons contacting us about the development of that. We’re being brought on as mentors for other residents. So it’s rewarding to be able to give back to the profession.

NH: Laura met with the iSchool to try to set up presentation opportunities for students.

LT: I also met with the dean of my alma mater who’s been recruiting me to teach there. I didn’t realize that as library schools are moving more towards an information science orientation, there is a shortage of public school librarians, resulting in a shortage of people who can teach about school librarianship. Someone told me – I think it was Portia (Vaughn, previous science liaison) – that every opportunity should lead to another opportunity, and I’ve found that it does tend to happen if you are open to talking with people and seeing if you can meet each other’s needs and trying to think ahead.

TL: What was the benefit of getting to work with professionals in librarianship?

NH: I worked with Colleen Lyon (Head of Scholarly Communications) most of the time that I’ve been here, and that’s been really beneficial because she really knows what she’s doing.

LT: I think that working with Porcia (Vaughn, former Liaison Librarian for Biosciences) and Carolyn (Cunningham, Head of Teaching and Learning Engagement Team), they have a way of communicating with you and teaching you – the had a way of teaching you how to do things, including the decisions behind their methods; it was extremely helpful and not something that everyone naturally does. Carolyn was really helpful in navigating internal and institutional frameworks, and Porcia helped with the external opportunities, like connecting with other STEM librarians, introducing me to other networks to get involved in of which I was unaware. And through our residence space, we learned about what was happening at other libraries.

Porcia Vaughan, Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill.
Porcia Vaughan, Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill.

TL: What was something you didn’t know about libraries before that you know now?

NH: I didn’t know anything about instructional design, and now I’m going to be an instructional designer. At the time we came in, job postings in the field suggested that people were looking for assessment and instructional design experience, and I was like, “I don’t really care about either of those things.” But, working in open education, I realized that I was drifting away from affordability arguments, and toward student engagement and being able to adapt materials to better serve users, and those are really just instructional design principles. So, open pedagogy is what I want to do now.

LT: I really didn’t understand how academic libraries operated, big picture stuff. I think one of the biggest things I learned was how we provide services to our community. And what, as librarians, we’re able to do. I didn’t know that there was a state library that did just professional development. And I didn’t know about AMIGOS which does professional development support for all libraries. That area of the profession is very interesting to me because of my instruction background, and so I’m excited to be able to take that forward and support all types of libraries.   

NH: I don’t think I knew about how professional associations work before this, and having the ARL president here (Haricombe), I now know what the ARL does, which has been really valuable, because you can see where broader initiatives start then trickle out to the rest of field in succeeding years.

LT: And how committees operate, because we’re getting practical experience.

Three people standing with a large Olmec head sculpture.

TL: What advice would you give to someone who was considering applying to a residency program like this?

NH: Know that the program is for you, so if there’s not going to be a lot of flexibility or freedom, maybe consider another option. I think that we’ve been really fortunate here in that coming in as the first class of residents, it was pretty unstructured, and people were pretty willing to say yes to ideas. We’ve seen where other residency programs have a set job description and I don’t think something like that would be anywhere near as valuable an experience.

LT: My suggestion would be to connect with other residents — to learn about what they are doing and use that to help support what you are doing or to create your own agency, and advocate for your own benefit within the program. Because being part of it is about learning, and I think we’ve seen a lot of residents in positions where they don’t know they can ask for more, or they aren’t aware that they have some control over their experience and what they gain from it. We’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity – as long as it ties to our growth and development – to help shape our own experience.

TL: What do you think can be done to improve the experience for future residents?

LT: Cohort models are nice. I don’t know that this program would have been as beneficial for us if there was just one of us. It was a great experience to be able to have someone to go to talk with about the shared experience, to have someone that you’re constantly able to check in with. And, then again, to have someone available to bounce ideas off of was helpful, especially since the program is a safe space. Moving forward, I would recommend that there are at least two residents at the same level, or at least in a cohort model that is closer together. Having a buddy is good. And having great mentors.

NH: Maybe there could be a refresher for staff on what the program intent is. Because it’s up to the individual resident what interest within the organization they choose to pursue, they could end up in any area, even one that may have not had previous experience with a resident. We stayed in pretty public-facing academic engagement roles, but maybe someone else would be really interested in technical services. So just a reminder that it could go any way. And keeping the door open so that residents can go anywhere within the library that appeals to them, because that is what makes this program unique from other ones.

TL: What’s next for each of you?

LT: I will be the inclusive services consultant at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and I’ll be working for the first year with public libraries, helping to train staff and ensure that they have adequate resources to provide inclusive services. My future supervisor has said that the hope is to expand the role and potentially bring my work into both school and college/academic libraries. I’m looking forward to the type of work that I’m going to do. It’s another job that I don’t really know what I’m getting into, but I’m excited because of the great things I’ve heard about the State Library. And I’ll be close by.

NH: I will be an instructional designer with the University of New England in Portland, Maine, and I will be on a team of instructional designers within the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, which is made of fully online graduate programs. So, I will be working with faculty and subject matter experts to develop new online courses and provide quality assurance and redesigns for existing courses. I think that my specialty on the team will be promoting open educational resources and moving those to the forefront in the course creation process.

LT: Outside of our future roles, we’re also going to be working on a book chapter with (new diversity resident) Adriana Casarez on the residency program, and we’ll be presenting at TLA together, on a panel about residencies in Texas.

NH: Then, hopefully, the goal is to come up with an ACRL proposal so that we can do that in 2021.

TL: Congratulations on be the first class and being first class.

NH/LT: Thank you!

NH: We’re the first to graduate!

LT: Yay! We get to move our tassle….

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