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Selena Aguilera, Community Engagement Librarian

Selena is wearing a white top. She has glasses and long hair with light streaks in the front. She is pictured in front of vibrant green plants.
Libraries are one of the first places to see what's going on in a community and address the needs.

Selena Aguilera graduated in December 2022 with a master of library and information science. She is now a community engagement librarian for the Taylor Community Library. Upon graduation, she left legacy for future SIS students due to her work as the school's Diversity Outreach Graduate Student Assistant (Diversity GSA) and president of the Future Librarians for Inclusivity and Diversity student organization.

When someone finds a career path that so perfectly meets their passions and interests, it might seem like it was meant to be. For Aguilera, that path wasn’t always so obvious.

Her love of writing inspired her to pursue a degree in English with a concentration in journalism. After graduating with a bachelor’s from the University of Michigan, she worked as a journalist but quickly burned out on writing that felt more technical than creative. She also briefly considered a career in teaching. She loves kids and would get to put her English degree to work, but something about that career path still didn’t feel quite right.  

Aguilera said a moment of inspiration came when she reflected on the people in her life who she really admired, and a theme began to emerge — librarians. A friend of her mother’s was a librarian and the librarian at Aguilera’s high school was the person who encouraged her to apply to college – something she might never have done otherwise.

“I’ve always loved reading and spent a lot of time in libraries growing up. I was the kid who would eat my lunch in the library in high school,” Aguilera said. “I loved the people I would meet, and I realized that libraries are institutions that help people and communities.”

To see if this career path was indeed a good fit, Aguilera took a job as a circulation clerk at the Royal Oak Public Library in January 2020 and fell in love with it immediately. Only two months into working in the new role, however, COVID-19 hit. While looking for something to ground her during the upheaval of a global pandemic, she discovered that Wayne State’s library science program was offered completely online.

“Libraries are one of the first places to see what’s going on in a community and address the needs,” Aguilera said. “I loved that we could find a way to get resources to the community even when the world was in crisis. Libraries are so much more than books and reading. They’re cultural institutions that help people and provide access to resources for members of the community. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Once enrolled, Aguilera applied for and was hired as the school’s diversity outreach graduate student assistant. The role came with an unexpected title – president of the student organization Future Librarians for Inclusivity and Diversity (FLID).

The group had been mostly dormant for many years. While other students might see the prospect of overhauling and reviving an organization while working and going to school full time as an overwhelming challenge, Aguilera saw it as an opportunity. “In order to revive the group and make it a success, I knew I needed to find people who shared my passion for social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] to help me get it off the ground,” she said. “I really care about what’s happening in these ‘diversity spaces,’ and I couldn’t let this fall apart.”

With advice from friends who ran a student group at U-M, Aguilera set out to create an executive leadership board and develop policies and procedures that could be handed down from person to person as students graduate.

The pandemic may have played a part in the group’s success as well. As people became more accustomed to connecting virtually, SIS saw an increase in engagement in all of its student groups.

“Selena is a natural leader,” said FLID board member Grace Moore. “Not only did she manage to revive a defunct student organization, but she also spearheaded multiple DEI initiatives that have enriched the lives of our fellow students.”

Among those initiatives was the Compass Mentorship Program, created in partnership with FLID, which aims to address the need to welcome and retain students and professionals from underrepresented groups in the library, archival and information science fields. The program pairs students with professionals who share similar identities, challenges and perspectives to help students build confidence when navigating spaces that don’t always reflect or represent their identities. 

“I hope that the initiatives Selena created will continue to thrive and that the organization will continue to grow,” Moore said. “FLID became a community of people who discussed issues, but also became friends over the years. Selena always manages to make people feel welcome, comfortable and heard. I hope the next generation of FLID members will have the opportunity to experience the same thing.”