Isabel Espinal is a Research Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she provides research support, research instruction, and collection development services. She is also the liaison to the Afro-American Studies, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies, Native American & Indigenous Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies departments/disciplines. Isabel earned her Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She also earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Complete the following sentence: “I am a librarian because….”
…it’s a profession that suits me. The decision I made a few decades ago still has validity. Being a librarian promised to allow me to do a variety of things in my job, and I craved variety and to work with Latinx communities and Latinx materials and even to use my Spanish language in my work.
Finish this sentence: “One way the LIS profession can improve or progress is…”
By paying the people of color to get their LIS Masters degrees and by moving more of the current librarians of color into management, and specifically by adopting the diversity fellowship model and approach that I have been presenting these past two years with colleagues at UMass (Pete Smith, Kate Freedman, Laura Quilter, Annie Solinger) and that I am outlining in an upcoming book chapter with Maria Rios and April Hathcock.
It’s important that each large library across the country take up this approach, not waiting for some external entity to do it or fund it. And smaller libraries can also find a way, perhaps by pooling resources. It is clear (and super frustrating) that the LIS profession has not improved or progressed in its stated goal of diversifying its ranks, as the following chart clearly shows and as we POC who’ve been in LIS a while know – check out this tweet by the Institute of Museum and Library Services:
If you are a creator/maker, what do you make, and how does that creativity help or inspire your library practice?
I’m a poet and a translator of poems. I create poems for many reasons, mostly personal. Sometimes I read or write poetry when I’m really sad or depressed and that can inform personal or even professional situations. Oftentimes, this creativity is very far from my library practice, and at other times it’s very directly tied, as when I’ve done library programming with poets.
Poetry for me is really personal, to the point that it’s something I go to when all else fails and I’ve hit an emotional bottom, it’s like prayer, sometimes it *is* prayer. Other times poetry is what comes out of the way my mind works: on one hand, my thoughts often meander, and on the other hand they oftentimes stop at things that other people might skip over. Poetry helps and inspires my library practice in that it frees up my mind, sometimes loosens my thinking, other times tightens my thinking. It’s possible that the kind of thinking I do as a poet helped me to seek out and grasp ideas before or without them being buzzwords in LIS… I’ve been a librarian with no end of ideas!
Share a useful tool or application that you use in your work or non-work life.
My tools are pretty basic. First and foremost, but with a huge word of warning: my iPad. I have used it for my work and non-work life. I have used it to listen to music and funnel the sounds to a Bluetooth speaker. I have used it to communicate by text, email and video call. I use it anywhere I can get wi-fi and when I don’t have wi-fi, I use my iPhone as a hot-spot.
When I’m offline, I read PDFs or do work offline that I upload later. Although I prefer a laptop for many tasks, when pressed I can use the iPad for writing, spreadsheets, etc. Although I prefer to read books in paper format, I often use the iPad instead just because it’s so portable. I take photos on it and use it to edit and show photos airdropped from my iPhone. I like that I can do so much with just this one device. CAVEAT: because I had been using the iPad so much, recently I have realized it has been causing me upper body pain. Currently, I am taking a wonderful yoga class geared to help me relieve the pain caused by my iPad use.
Finish the following sentence: “I am happy when I…”
…am feeling loved; when the people close to me in my life (my children, my boyfriend, my close friends, my siblings, my parents) are happy and fulfilled, when they accomplish something important to them; when I accomplish something; when I hear of a victory in some arena in which people achieved some social justice; when I hear a happy song, when I hear birds, when I feel the sun on my face; when I smell a beautiful smell in the air, like the smells created by flowers, or grass or the rain mixing with earth. There are so many kinds of happiness… I could go on and on…