Kenya Flash is a Diversity Resident Librarian at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The length of residency is officially 3 years. She began in August 2015 and will end on July 21st, 2017.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you attend college? What degrees do you have? What programs (undergraduate or graduate) prepared you for your current position? Tell me about your position and what you do?
I am a Diversity Resident Librarian from the University of Tennessee. During my residency, I worked within the instruction, collections, and assessment departments. While at the University of Tennessee, I also serve as the Social Sciences liaison and provided service to the Political Science and Sociology departments. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Government and Law from Lafayette College, a masters degree in Political Science from East Stroudsburg University, and a Masters degree in Library and Information Sciences from Drexel University. These degrees gave me a strong basis for the work I do now both as a resident and as a liaison. This summer I am working with several committees to develop plans for future programs within the library.
What caught your interest about the residency that you were a part of?
I became interested in the University of Tennessee’s residency because of all the opportunities it provided. Essentially it advertised: come get three years of experience as a professional and explore aspects of librarianship that you are interested in and those that you find out of your realm. I loved the flexibility of the program.
Before you became a resident, what were you thinking about doing professionally or academically?
I had completed my first year after graduate school and during that time, I worked as an adjunct librarian and as a paraprofessional at academic libraries on the campuses that were in walking distance of each other. My goal was to pursue the role of a practitioner in an academic library.
How was the residency or job application process for you?
The residency application process was rather interesting. It was the equivalent of a professional apprenticeship, but I am not sure that I realized that at first. I had only ever heard of the residency through job ads, but I had only gone to one Midwinter by that point in time.
Do you have any comments or advice for current residents?
To current residents, I suggest that they build strong relationships within their institutions and without. I also recommend that they learn as much about their institution and attempt to leverage that knowledge into lifelong relationships. One word of advice I have found helpful, “become indispensable.” To me, that means, one ought to work in a smart fashion, gently, with curiosity, and to find the one thing that the institution could improve upon and become a master of it. Constantly look ahead and conquer any challenge set before you.
How are you becoming or staying in involved with the wider profession?
Staying involved in the wider profession is all a matter of initiative. You may apply to be on committees or look for opportunities through various listservs. It is imperative that those entering the process be aware of the opportunities available to them. Another way to also remain involved is to retain mentors or to maintain relationships with members of the profession at a variety of institutions.