Keila Zayas Ruiz was the Diversity Resident Librarian at the John C. Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville from August 2015-August 2017. Keila is currently the Sunshine State Digital Network Coordinator at the Florida State University Libraries.
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 received my Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Central Florida and my MLIS from Florida State University along with graduate certificates in information architecture and library leadership and management. During my time at UCF, I focused on Latin American history and learned of the poor conditions of many of the archives there. I was determined to work in the digitization of our cultural heritage in order to ensure preservation and access to our common history and memories. Graduate school taught me the basics of digital projects and information architecture and organization. In my current position, I coordinate the Digital Public Library of America Service Hub for the state of Florida. I work with different types of cultural heritage and GLAM organizations to develop partnerships and provide training and resources to help organizations digitize their collections and make them available online and shared to the DPLA. This work has allowed me the opportunity to help provide access to Florida’s valuable cultural resources and share our stories to the world and to help organizations become a part of our shared national narrative.
What caught your interest about the residency that you were a part of?
I was particularly interested in the rotational aspect of the residency. I was very interested in getting a well-rounded experience at an academic library and learning how different areas could work together. I was also attracted to the opportunity to learn how to be a professional librarian in an environment that allowed room for failure and growth.
Before you became a resident, what were you thinking about doing professionally or academically?
Before becoming a resident, I wanted to work in digitization and digital libraries.
How was the residency for you?
The residency had its ups and downs, but allowed for me to get an understanding of the academic libraries landscape and provided me with the necessary experience, skills, and professional connections necessary to move forward in my career.
Do you have any comments or advice for current residents?
I would say get as much out of the experience as you can. Residencies allow room for experimentation and failure that no other professional position can really offer you. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and others at your organization and within the profession. Be a change maker and push the boundaries of the opportunities presented to you. I would also say, don’t be afraid to say no. It is easy to become overwhelmed early on if you take on too much at once. Consider what you really want out of the experience and take the opportunities that will help you move forward.
How are you becoming or staying involved with the wider profession?
I am a member of several professional organizations and committees which allows for me to be a part of current conversations and decision-making processes in our profession. I regularly attend conferences that are relevant to my area of work such as DPLAfest and the DLF forum and I present at many local and regional conferences to ensure that I am reaching and expanding my network.