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Diversity Alliance provides opportunity for SIS alum

January 14, 2020

Sheila GarciaSheila Garcia is a resident librarian in learning programs and initiatives at the University of Michigan. This position was inspired by the Diversity Alliance of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a program that unites academic libraries committed to increasing the hiring pipeline of qualified and talented individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

"The biggest impact that the Diversity Alliance has made on my career is my residency, which has opened doors for me in terms of pursuing varied interests in librarianship," said Garcia. "I found the U-M library to be a community where collaboration, professional development and peer support are actively encouraged."

A 2017 graduate of the Wayne State School of Information Sciences, Garcia received both the Sallie Ellison Memorial Endowed Scholarship and the university's Library Workforce Development Scholarship. The scholarship opportunities and the online-only program made Wayne State the perfect match for Grand Rapids-based Garcia, who only ever set foot on campus for orientation and graduation.

As a student, Garcia was named an American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholar. The Spectrum Scholarship Program actively recruits and provides scholarships to students from underrepresented ethnic groups in order to assist them with obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and ALA. "I was quite proud of being able to join the Spectrum program and it really opened up a new realm of possibilities for me in terms of national engagement with the profession," Garcia said.

While attending Wayne State, Garcia was confident that she would eventually work in public libraries, so she specialized in Library Users and Communities. Her current residency position helped her realize that the same skills and knowledge base are applicable across library types as the main mission remains meeting the needs of users and the community.

Garcia's current three-year residency is focused on community outreach and engagement. Her initial outreach initiatives focused on forging relationships with campus partners with the aim of bringing the library into the greater campus community and encourage those users to make the space their own. She has hosted a number of events for the Latinx community, including "My Latinx Is..." an open mic night where guests were invited to express how they defined their Latinidad.

"During the community conversation that followed, a faculty member at the university said that it was great to see the Latinx community come out to support each other and amazing that this event was happening within the graduate library, a place that can seem unwelcoming at times," Garcia told the ACRL. "His comment summed up the type of impact I strive to make every day."

In 2019 Garcia was named an ALA Emerging Leader. This leadership development program enables library workers who are new to the profession to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, gain an inside look into ALA structure and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity. The program is limited to no more than 50 participants each year.

"My hope as an Emerging Leader is that American Libraries can continue to serve as advocates for their communities, ensuring that the technologies we adopt and services we provide are accessible and equitable," she says of her short-term goal. "As for the long-term, I hope that libraries will continue on a journey of meaningful change that acknowledges and dismantles the systemic barriers to librarianship as a profession."

As for her personal goals, Garcia hopes to find a permanent position post-residency while contributing original research to the profession to continue to strengthen information-literacy programs. She also hopes to build a culture of assessment in residency programs to help strengthen peer communication and support among resident librarians.