Stephanie Porrata is the Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian for Area Studies from August 2019-August 2022 in the Thompson Library at The Ohio State University.
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?
For my undergrad, I studied International Economics and Cultural Affairs at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I then attended Indiana University (IU) for dual master’s degrees in Library Science and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Both my undergraduate and graduate trajectories aligned well with my goal of being a Latin American Studies Librarian, at least intellectually. When it came to hands-on library work, my job as a Residential Library Center Supervisor at Indiana University gave me the opportunity to learn about, and more importantly, do collection development, leadership and management, programming, and outreach.
After graduating from IU in May 2019, I accepted an offer to be one of the Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarians at The Ohio State University. This position and its job duties really depend on the residents’ interests and goals. Because I am interested in Latin American Studies Librarianship, I will primarily be working with the current Latin American Studies Librarian and related stakeholders on projects involving instruction, exhibits, reference, and research. As a Diversity Resident, I am making it a priority to reach out and incorporate underrepresented groups and their experiences here on our campus. One of my first projects involves revamping our current DACA LibGuide and meeting with these students to better understand how the Libguide (and the library) can serve them.
What caught your interest about the residency that you were a part of?
What initially caught my attention about this residency was the fact that it specifically asked for an interest in Area Studies Librarianship as one of the focus areas for future residents. It seemed that this residency would allow me to continue to gain practical experience in Area Studies while also having the freedom to continue to explore other areas of interest like Digital Humanities or Teaching and Learning. Another important thing that caught my attention was the willingness to incorporate social justice work into the position. Knowing that I could do this kind of work at such a large institution was an exciting prospect!
Before you became a resident, what were you thinking about doing professionally or academically?
I always wanted to be an Area Studies Librarian but as I looked at jobs, the odds were stacked against me. Because there weren’t very many Latin American Studies Librarian jobs available, I considered outreach positions, higher education diversity positions, and circulation management positions. I am grateful that my current position allows me to do what I love!
How was the residency or job application process for you?
I found the residency application process to be fairly painless in hindsight. The application itself did not require a ton of material. My struggle with the process was more personal as I had never done this type of job search before and didn’t have any of my materials updated. Luckily, the requirements for the residency were fairly relaxed. It was less about what you knew and more about what you wanted to know. After a couple of trips to the Career Center, I was able to get my resume, cover letter, and anything else I needed done to send in. After the materials were turned in, I was asked to do a Skype interview, and then an in-person campus visit and job talk. My only complaint about the process was its length. I submitted my application in February, and accepted the position at the end of June.
Do you have any comments or advice for current residents?
My advice would be to keep track of your residency experiences. If you are doing exhibits, make sure to document them for later reference. If you are hosting events, make sure to do a quick write up about who was there, what worked and didn’t work, etc. I would even suggest saving any reference questions that come in. Residencies are amazing opportunities to try on a lot of different hats and being able to look back can be helpful as you are getting ready to move forward in your career. And how you keep track is totally up to you! Some people like to keep binders, others like to keep everything digitally. I am personally going the digital route and will be creating a blog to document the projects I work on, people I meet, issues I come across, etc.
How are you becoming or staying involved with the wider profession?
As a new professional, I am grateful that my residency has ways of getting involved baked into our job duties. I am expected to participate in conferences and workshops over the course of my residency to network with colleagues both around the country, and around the world. My supervisor has also been helpful by connecting me with professional groups and associations that might be of interest to me while also providing me with opportunities to be on committees and/or working groups. Having just started my position a month ago, I am taking this time to explore all that is available to me before I commit to anything.