You’ve worked in some great libraries, and have accomplished some really great things at these different places. Tell us a little bit about your background — library-related or not — and projects you are proud of or were excited to be a part of.
I am Ngāti Paoa Māori and grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand). I have lived in the US for the last decade, and went to the University of Washington for my Master of Library & Information Science. I have worked and volunteered for a range of public libraries, academic libraries, museums, and literacy organizations over the years, and I’m pleased to join everyone at Gleeson Library and shape this new role.
In my most previous role, I was an NCSU Libraries Fellow at North Carolina State University Libraries, working in the Special Collections Research Center and the Learning Spaces & Services department. My colleagues there were very dynamic and would actively present opportunities to collaborate together, and Fellows in particular are called upon to lead strategic initiatives and try new things.
A couple of successes I am happy to share are that when I began my fellowship, library staff would volunteer for Project SAFE or Trans 101 training sessions through the campus GLBT Center, which gave people space and knowledge to talk about LGBTQIA+ issues. Upon completion of the training, the GLBT Center gives people a paper certificate to display in their office — but many library staff work in spaces where students wouldn’t see such a display. I led a collaborative effort with the Libraries’ Human Resources and the Web Team to develop the web tools for staff to write in their pronouns on their staff web pages if they chose to, as well as display a digital badge to show that they have completed allyship training at the GLBT Center. Additionally, job descriptions are now written with gender-inclusive language, and candidates are asked if they would like to share their pronouns when Human Resources is putting together interview schedules. At my suggestion, we also erected signage outside gendered restrooms to inform people where gender-inclusive restrooms were. It might seem like a small thing, but I am proud of facilitating this small cultural shift for a public, land-grant university library in a deeply conservative part of the country.
I was also given the space and resources to create an event series called Raiders of the Lost Arcade, where I curated a selection of video games created for and by people from marginalized communities, and which encouraged critical thought about the media we consume, what stereotypes and narratives we enforce, and how video games can be used as active learning materials. Some of the themes we explored during the drop-in event included mental health, precarity, and immigrant rights; and we received consistent feedback from students that this drop-in event changed how they felt about libraries, how they felt seen or able to talk about issues which impacted them, and how they thought about the media they engaged with. I’m proud to share that this event is now a permanent part of the NCSU Libraries event calendar, and has grown to include guest speakers from the video game industry and the potential to showcase student work.
Tell us about your new role as FYE Librarian at Gleeson, and why you were interested in and excited about this position and/or Gleeson and USF. Since you’ve started, are there student interests, work, groups, etc., that you’re keen to know more about or work with?
As the Instruction/First-Year Experience Librarian, my role focuses on welcoming freshman students to the library and ensuring they develop the academic research skills necessary to see their research and academic success to fruition. You will likely see me on the reference desk, in first-year Rhetoric or Language classes, through initiatives such as USF 101 or the Muscat Scholars Program, or at campus orientation events. This semester, I am also the interim liaison librarian for Art, Art History, Design, and Museum Studies. I am most excited by helping facilitate student research, and helping students integrate their own expertise, interests, and lived experience into the scholarly creation and information literacy process.
As I mentioned, my most impactful work at NCSU Libraries focused on creating initiatives around student wellness, representation, and social justice. One of the things that most excites me about joining the team at Gleeson Library is that much of this groundwork is already well established within cura personalis and the culture of USF in general, so I can focus on expanding on this work and integrating social justice and critical thought into my own information literacy curriculum.
Lastly, to my knowledge, I am the only Indigenous Oceanic faculty member on campus, so I want to ensure that I can lend support to Indigenous and Pasifika students whenever possible. I am happy to be part of the team working on the Indigenous Peoples of Oceania Commencement Ceremony — if you know anyone who is graduating this year and may be interested in attending, please spread the word!
Any reflections about your own first-year experience at university, and how the library may have been a part of that time, that informs your work? If you could give FY students tips or advice about their first year of college, libraries, and/or research, what would you tell them?
As an undergraduate student, I was balancing multiple jobs and responsibilities, and a lengthy commute to campus, and as such, I was not a prolific library user, even though I had been as a young child and a high school student. One of my lasting memories as an undergraduate student was when a professor called me out in front of my entire class because I didn’t have the required textbook in the first week of classes. My professor literally said, “Are you poor?” in front of everyone — and when I said, “Yes, actually,” they had no suggestions or assistance to offer me. So, in my own work, I am often thinking of the virtue signaling that we do, and what that means in terms of what we are actually promising or offering to students. And of course, I do my best to let students know their fees have already paid for a number of services on campus, including access to specific library services such as course reserves, interlibrary loan, LINK+, and our book scanners. (Psst, faculty, have you applied for our USF Open Education Faculty Fund?)
You’ve also researched and published on important topics. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and where you are interested in taking your research interests next?
As a graduate student, my friend Jessica Humphries and I published and presented a paper on our experiences as Indigenous library students and the absences of Indigenous knowledge in North American library science curricula. I wrote a book chapter exploring historical trauma and library work, and an article on designing Cultural Humility training with my friends and colleagues Sunny Kim and Josie Watanabe. I am currently working on an article about imposter syndrome, and a research project continuing to explore historical trauma in libraries. At its core, my research explores the tension between being a minoritized person navigating oppression or historical trauma within society, and working or learning within large institutions which were originally built to replicate colonized or oppressive norms, and how these tensions can change both the worker and the institutional culture.
What are you enjoying about SF? What are some of your personal interests or passions?
Being from Aotearoa and having lived in Washington State for several years, it is great to be back near the Pacific Ocean again! Since moving to San Francisco, I have been exploring the many museums and art galleries in the area, and doing a lot of urban hiking.
If we visited New Zealand, what would you tell us to do or see?
Aotearoa is a country which formed without any native mammals, other than bats and marine animals. Consequently, we have prolific endemic birdlife, including kororā (little blue penguins which nest on the beach), kea (the world’s only alpine parrot), and kākāpō (the world’s only nocturnal flightless parrot). Sadly, many of our beloved species are endangered, so if you visit Aotearoa, please respect the biosecurity measures which are in place. Take the Tiaki Promise, and respect rāhui or restrictions on what land is accessible to visitors. Te Reo Māori is an official language of Aotearoa, and you can easily find Māori perspectives and narratives, both historical and contemporary. In the meantime, you can take a stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which has proudly been displaying Aotearoa’s flora since 1915.