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Heartbreak

My bullet journal tells me I haven’t posted in a while. I wanted to write about teaching today, about a particular topic that I’ve been thinking about interesting ways to teach. Honestly, my heart is not in it. My heart feels broken.

McAllen, Texas is the biggest site of the horrific child and infant detention centers, which will soon be expanded to keep families together…in jail. It’s where thousands of kids lie on concrete floors unsure of when they’ll ever see their families again. It’s also the town adjacent to the one I grew up in (Pharr, TX). My family is there. I shop there. I eat there. I hang out there. My heart is there, and my heart hurts.

Readers of this blog know that my first son Connor was unexpectedly stillborn, and I bring that up not to elicit sympathy for myself, but to say that having experienced that pain of not being able to hold and keep safe the child you were meant to protect is shattering. Those mothers and fathers are having their hearts ripped out and their children are being terrorized by this administration. It’s cruel, inhumane, horrific, and I don’t know what else. There isn’t a word harsh enough to describe the world right now. In the faces of those children I see my sons, my nephew, myself and my sister, my cousins and my friends, all of whom have the privilege of being born brown on this side of the border. I 100% identify with those parents just trying to find a better life for their children, who they love more than anything in this world.

So, like many of you, I do what I can to help support children and families and encourage others to do the same. Donate to RAICES, KIND, and NETA. Help REFORMA help children. Buy books for my amazing colleague, Lisa Cruces’ book drive. Vote. Protest. Call all those assholes in office. Basically stay human in the face of inhumanity and fight against it.

 

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Acculturation, Integration, Assimilation

I’m at the end of week three in my new job and have been thinking a lot about the process of on-boarding new employees. UH Libraries has a very comprehensive on-boarding and orientation program. With 50+ librarians that’s not surprising. I’ve had one-on-one meetings with everyone in my department, other supervisors within the library, and am looking forward to meeting people outside the library in the next few weeks (summer just makes for fewer folks on campus). There is a big stress on understanding the library’s organizational culture and strong encouragement to ask questions and offer feedback on the orientation / on-boarding process, which I appreciate.

I’ve had some interesting, open conversations with my colleagues about what it means to a) come back to work after being on sabbatical for 8 months, and b) come back to an entirely new place of work. There’s a fair amount of culture shock happening, which is to be expected when moving from a small liberal arts college to an R1 university. Thankfully I feel like I can talk about this at work.

I can also talk about what it means to be a new employee at a library without simultaneously being a new librarian. This is the first job I’ve started as an established librarian. My first subject librarian position at the UH Libraries was my first job out of library school, and I was green, green, greenie-green. When I started working at St. Mary’s I was relatively early career (about 2.5 years in). But now, as I settle into this new Instruction Coordinator role, I realize I’ve been doing this for more than a hot minute. I have a much stronger sense of who I am as a person and as a librarian. I have my own values, beliefs, hopes, and goals. I have established ideas about librarianship, teaching, and scholarship. I bring my own culture. I don’t want to be so rigid that I espouse my own values and culture as the right values and culture. I always want to be open to learning and to new experiences. I also want to recognize that I have something to bring to the table and that my own identity matters.

I’ve been the latina who anglicized my name in college because I was tired of hearing my professors and fellow students stumble over it. In my early twenties I struggled to reconcile my own latinidad with the whiter world around me and just ended up feeling alone and confused. I wish I could go back and tell 20-year-old me to stop code switching and take pride in myself and my culture (and for the love of God stop tweezing your eyebrows so much). These are lessons I’ve tried to keep with me over the years (including the brow-shaping). I bring them with me as I start this new job, and think about ways I can integrate myself into this new library. I don’t want to assimilate, and I don’t feel pressure to do so. I want to continue to question, reflect, act, and practice librarianship in an intentional way that aligns with my own values. I want to learn new ways to be in this profession from my colleagues. It’s a very different approach to starting a new job for me, but it’s one I’m committed to pursuing in the months to come.

 

 

Photo of flatlay objects including camera, shoes, maps, pipe, magnifying glass by ian dooley on Unsplash
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A New Adventure Begins

Southern Maryland has been my home for almost 10 years. Although working at St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s library wasn’t my first library job, it has been the job that turned me into the librarian I am today. My friends are in Maryland, parts of my heart are in the rivers and the bay, and pieces of me will come up every year with the daffodils that have naturalized in the front yard of my little blue house.

But as the title of this post indicates, new adventures are always around the corner.

I’ve shared my husband’s health struggles and triumphs on this blog and on Twitter, and one thing that became overwhelmingly obvious to us this fall was that we, as a family, needed to stay in Houston. What began as a temporary sabbatical move turned into a transformative year for all of us, my partner in particular, and is now the start of a new phase for all of us.

In one month I will begin a new job as the Instruction Coordinator at the University of Houston Libraries. It’s the place that gave me my start in academic libraries, and it’s the library that I’ll once again get to call my place of work. I am excited to join a wonderful team of teaching and liaison librarians and am so looking forward to the new challenge of being a librarian supervisor (!!!). I can’t wait to start working at this vibrant university.

Yes, this means an abrupt end to my sabbatical year, but 9 months isn’t too shabby. I will miss St. Mary’s and Maryland deeply. I’m a ball of excitement, nerves, sadness, and joy. Transitions are scary, but they bring the possibility of growth and renewal. Here’s hoping this next academic year will bring them both.

I’ll be at LOEX May 3-5 (conveniently located in Houston). If you’re attending, I’d love to see you, meet you, and learn more about you. In the meantime, I’ll be wrapping up projects, continuing my writing and research, and waiting for my new adventure to begin.