Author’s Corner: Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present.

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. In this installment, we hear from Preethi Gorecki and Arielle Petrovich, who edited Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present.

In my own work with Hiring Librarians I have been interested – and hopeful – about the possibility of Residencies to improve two issues: the difficulty inexperienced librarians have getting their foot in the door and the lack of diversity in the profession. I am grateful to Gorecki and Petrovich for editing this volume, because this work provides nuance and tempering to these hopes. They illuminate the shortcomings, in both vision and practice, as well as the successes inherent in the residency system. In the post below, they provide excerpts from several sections, which should serve to illustrate the breadth of viewpoints included. It seems to me that this book would be a useful guide for folks who are considering becoming a resident, as well as for those who run or administer their own programs.

Gorecki, P. & Petrovich, A. (Eds.). (2022). Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present. Library Juice Press. 

When making the decision to apply for a library diversity residency program, it’s important to understand the benefits and the risks of accepting such a unique role within an academic library. Although library residency programs have been around for over three decades, many MLIS graduates lack knowledge about them–it can even be hard for the residents themselves to define these programs to others. Host institutions use different names for them (fellows, diversity residents, interns), structure them differently (rotational, assigned role, open structure), and have different motivations for establishing a residency program at their institution. With so little consistency, it’s difficult to know what the residency you apply for will actually look like until after you start. You may decide to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. 

Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Presents is comprised of essays from former and current residents, resident scholars, and residency administrators that describe all the ways residency programs can be done right and how they can go wrong. We hope the insight these essays offer will enable you to make a fully-informed decision to participate in a residency program and to make the best choice for your professional growth.

In the section, Dear Program Administrators, we highlight the critiques and advice diversity residency participants have for the folks who run these programs. When we hear program administrators talk about their institutions’ respective diversity residency programs, we often hear that these programs are successful and that residents are thriving at these institutions. However, once you hear the perspectives of the residents, it becomes clear that many program administrators are not asking residents about their experiences, are not providing spaces where residents feel safe enough to provide honest feedback, or are ignoring the critical feedback that they do receive from residents.

Overall, I think that some conversations could have been more in-depth. I had one coworker who shared with me that they were happy that I was there and that it was important to have residencies, but they also alluded that they had taken a pay cut so that this position was possible. I assume they shared this so that I would feel grateful, but it only caused me to feel uncomfortable. In their effort to share how much they bought in, they stated something that was inappropriate. This demonstrates that even with great effort from the top down, there can be issues with the messaging and the types of conversations that are appropriate or perhaps inappropriate. Buy-in from your faculty/staff/students is invaluable in making sure that a resident has a smooth transition into their role. 

Excerpt from Chapter 5: “Ready or Not, Here We Come!: The Onboarding Experience of Library Residents in Diversity Residency Programs” by Alexandrea Glenn, Amanda M. Leftwich, and Jamia Williams

In the section, Reclaiming Our Time, we explore how residents can salvage their experiences when their residencies fall short. Although the onus to create a positive residency experience should be on everyone involved in the program, sometimes the responsibility falls more heavily on the resident.

All my experience up until then allowed me to be a competitive applicant when it came time to apply to more permanent positions. I fully believe that my in-depth experience with the first-year writing program and having some liaison librarian experience, allowed me to get the position I currently have. Obviously, this is due not only to my hard work but also to the support and encouragement of colleagues who wanted to see me succeed and who trusted I could take on more responsibilities. Having a plan written down and put in place allowed for my residency to not only take shape but also have productive and important tasks and goals. Having honest and open conversations with my residency coordinator/mentor was vital and my success was due to people who were organized and genuinely cared about my goals and interests. 

Excerpt from Chapter 7: “It’s Never Really Goodbye in Library Land: Self-reflection of My Residency Experience” by Quetzalli Barrientos

In the section, Life After Residency, we examine the long-term impact residency programs have on a librarian’s career and explore their efficacy. Their longevity may imply that residency programs are successful initiatives, but very little data has been gathered to support that. When we look past the appearance of success and ask former residents how residency programs prepare and position them for a career, we found some significant pitfalls.

On paper, my residency experience could be made to seem like a success story: I entered an ARL library as a diversity resident, served as an interim department head during my residency, moved to a full-time, tenure-track department head position, and eventually earned tenure and was promoted. However, the complex and painful reality is that I spent 14 years, 7 months, and 30 days existing as a second-class citizen at an institution where I experienced disturbing levels of verbal abuse, mobbing, bullying, pay inequity, and a host of other dehumanizing behaviors.  I experienced things no one should encounter in a workplace …I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge all the ways working at an ARL Library afforded me opportunities to make sustaining connections that preserved me… Without these external relationships, I doubt I could have earned tenure while working in an openly hostile environment and I seriously doubt I would still be a librarian.

Excerpt from Chapter 13: “Everyone Else Contributes and You Contribute Nothing” by Pambanisha Whaley

In the section, Looking Towards the Future, we look at what can be done to improve resident experiences. The precarious nature of library residency programs is something to deeply consider. Some programs make it clear from the beginning that there is no promise of a permanent librarian position at the end of the program and a growing number of programs are only for one year. What are residents sacrificing to pursue a residency opportunity? How can we make those sacrifices worthwhile?

Rather than diversifying the workforce in a permanent, meaningful way, residencies place early-career librarians in a precarious position. Turn the residency down and perhaps you do not get another chance, especially with large, esteemed institutions that will help bolster your CV. Accept the residency and you gain valuable experience, but you are contingent labor and may find yourself spending much of your residency worried about what happens if you have to relocate to a new city, sometimes many states away from family, and find yourself unemployed in two or three years. This is the tightrope I walk today. I enjoyed my residency and it was rewarding both personally and professionally… Knowing what I know now, I believe I would do it again, but I would be more strategic about how I did it. 

Excerpt from Chapter 21: “Privileged Position: My Journey into Second-Career Librarianship” by Theresa Arias

Preethi Gorecki 

is the Communications Librarian at MacEwan University. In 2018, she started her career in librarianship as a Library Faculty Diversity Fellow at Grand Valley State University. Preethi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Concordia University in Montréal, Québec, Canada and a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses primarily on diversifying librarianship and academia.

Arielle Petrovich

earned her MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in 2017. She began her career as a Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame. Arielle is currently the College Archivist at Beloit College.

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