Author Archives: Katrina Spencer

About Katrina Spencer

I'm the Literatues & Cultures Librarian at Middlebury College. I am the liaison the Anderson Freeman (multicultural student) Center, the Arabic department, the French department, the Gender Sexuality & Feminist Studies (GSFS Program), the Language Schools, Linguistics and the Spanish & Portuguese departments

Throwback Thursday: Kat Cyr

Some of the employees working within the libraries once had other roles and separate affiliations with Middlebury. Follow their (r)evolutions on the first Thursday of every month this semester.

Name: Kat Cyr

Former Role(s) on Campus: Midd Class of 2011, Japanese Major, Linguistics Minor

(also a Japanese Summer Language School Alumnus)

Current Role on Campus: Interlibrary Loan Associate

When was this photo taken?

When I was studying abroad in Kyoto in 2010. This was before we had established a Midd-specific school in Japan so I was there via the Associated Kyoto Program (AKP).

What were you doing in this photo?

I’d gone up to Kurama Hot Springs with a bunch of friends for a day of cultural enrichment (i.e. soaking in huge volcanic baths) and inter-college outreach (i.e. goofing about with fellow study abroad students from other schools). We had gathered a small group of Magic enthusiasts and were playing in between soaking sessions; we were using Japanese cards of course, so studying was still happening. We were just also in our fancy robes, sipping tea, occasionally amusing the other hot spring patrons. I seem to remember several little old ladies approaching us in the bath to chat. It was a delightful day.

How have things changed in your life since then?

I’m a couple years older, a couple degrees further in debt, now thoroughly obsessed with fiber arts, and very much turning into a crazy cat lady librarian. Also my Japanese is much, much better than it was then.

What hasn’t?

I still love hot springs, though my access to them is now non-existent. I also drink entirely too much tea, study Japanese whenever possible, and play geeky games on a regular basis.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I love seeing all the interesting books that people request through ILL. We see some really cool things requested for research purposes, from microfilm of obscure government documents to foreign language comics to massive road maps. As schools borrow things from our library we also get to see some of the coolest books from the stacks that I would never have thought we’d have. And then there are just the awesome book recs we get from people ILLing fiction of various kinds. ILL is a spectacular place to work if you love books.

What is on the horizon?

I’m currently working my way out of debt and trying to establish a home that is a little less temporary than my string of dorm rooms and office-provided apartments. Other than that, I haven’t thought that far into the future. Right I’m just taking things one day at a time.

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Celebrating Native American/Indigenous and Alaska Native Heritage Month

In honor of Native American/Indigenous and Alaska Native Heritage Month, Dr. Irina Feldman’s Spanish 324 Class, Images of America, has collaborated with the Davis Family Library to develop a display including works that commemorate the many peoples belonging to these groups throughout the Americas. Visit the Davis Family Library to see the display and read more about how it all was shaped below. We thank Marlena Evans, Caleb Turner, Alaina HanksOshin Bista and all the unseen laborers and sponsors who make these projects successful.

The display in the Davis Family Library lobby will be staffed by students from the class on the evenings of November 6th, 7th and 8th to answer your questions on this theme. Plan to join us the evening of Monday, November 27th when Chief of the Abenaki Don Stevens will join the Middlebury College community for a talk on contemporary life in Vermont as a person of indigenous heritage. Also, stay tuned for Dr. Brandon Baird’s talk, “Unequivocally Authentic: Mayan Language and Identity in Modern Guatemala,” in the Carol Rifelj Lecture Series hosted by the Center for Teaching, Learning & Research on November 29th. The site go.middlebury.edu/calendar has more details.

a photo of the students in Spanish 324: Images of America

Dr. Irina Feldman (center, in scarf) and her students from the Spanish 324: Images of America class pose for a photo in their classroom. They have contributed their energy to commemorating Native American/Indigenous & Alaska Native Heritage Month and selected works for the Davis Family Library display.

Participants; Hometowns; Roles @ Midd; Times @ Midd:

Cover art from The Original Vermonters

This is the cover art used for a book titled The Original Vermonters by William A. Haviland which speaks of the Abenaki Indians, groups of indigenous peoples residing in what we now know as various parts of New England and Canada. Chief of the local Abenaki, Don Stevens, will visit Middlebury College on November 27th to speak to the community. Follow go.middlebury.edu/calendar for more information.

Katrina Spencer; Los Angeles, California; Literatures & Cultures Librarian; 9 months
Irina Feldman; Saint Petersburg, Russia (Leningrad, USSR); Assistant Professor of Spanish; 8 years
Peter Thewissen; Kent, Ohio; International Politics & Economics Major; 2 years
Rae Aaron; Phoenix, Arizona; International Politics & Economics Major; 4th semester
Pedro Miranda; Scarsdale, New York; International Politics & Economics Major; 4th semester
Rachael St. Clair; Minnetonka, Minnesota; Neuroscience Major; 4th semester
Sam Valone; Wayland, Massachusetts; Economics Major; 2nd semester
Sophie Taylor; Los Angeles, California; Museum Studies Major; 3rd semester
George Valentine; Montpelier, Vermont; Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology Major; 4th semester
Ella Dyett; Brooklyn, New York; Psychology/Spanish Major; 3rd semester
Holly Black; South Portland, Maine; Neuroscience/Spanish Major; 4th semester
Kiera Dowell; Charlotte, North Carolina; Mathematics/Spanish Major; 3rd semester
Annika Landis; Hailey, Idaho; Environmental Studies/Human Ecology 2nd year
Lesly Santos; Chicago, Illinois; Classical Studies Major; 3rd semester
Hannah Seabury; Santa Barbara, California; International and Global Studies major; 4th semester
Wynne Ebner; Chevy Chase, Maryland; History Major; 5th semester
Greg Dray; Guilford, Conneticut; Computer Science Major; 5th semester
Melisa Topic; Chicago, Illinois; Psychology/Spanish Major; 5th semester
Kyle Wright; Denver, Colorado; American Studies; 4th semester
Ellie Carr; Ainsworth, Nebraska; International and Global Studies; 5th semester

How does the course content for Spanish 324: Images of America relate to the theme of the display?

Katrina: Irina and I happened upon a happy intersection between discourses we wanted to highlight this semester. I wanted to underscore Native American/Indigenous & Alaska Native Heritage Month, which, here in the U.S., is often celebrated with a relatively closed geographical region in mind. Irina reminded me that when we talk about indigeneity in the Western hemisphere, it absolutely makes sense to include the regions we now know as Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Abenaki, the Mohawk, the Sioux, the Cherokee, the Inuit, the Aztecs, the Maya, the Nahua, the K’iche’, the Aymara, the Tupi, the Guaraní, the Taíno, the Arawak and many, many more groups share historical experience that cannot be seamlessly divorced by the imagined borders we have applied to modern-day regions.

A map of the Americas indicating where varying amounts of indigenous populations currently reside contemporarily.

A map borrowed from the Wikipedia entry for “Indigenous Peoples of the Americas” depicting indigenous populations from what we know today as Greenland to Argentina with the land masses darkened in gradients to show indigenous population density. Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia are the most heavily shaded with 40-45% of the populations labeled as indigenous.

Pedro/Sophie/Hannah: In Images of America, we explore how America has been represented by writers and artists from both colonial and indigenous perspectives. We seek to study how the continent was imagined from different points of view, and how these perspectives shaped (and still shape) the culture and identity of America. We strive to challenge our stereotypes and associations of the word “indigenous” through our course material and readings, and explore both sides of the narrative in a world where most of history is written by colonizers. Our goal of constructing this display in the Davis Family Library, as well as inviting Chief of the Abenaki, Don Stevens, to speak at Middlebury, is to educate the Middlebury student body on the themes we have learned from our class, especially the historical oppression and misrepresentation of the indigenous American experience.

How did you contribute to this display?

Katrina: My job was to tell the students in the class what has worked for me in the past inasmuch as shaping displays, to be open, and to direct the team to good contacts to help carry out the necessary work. My supervisor, Carrie Macfarlane, models this for me all the time. I wanted students to be realistic about timelines, conscientious about scope, but most of all, confident in their ability to carry a significant project forward. I lent advice in steering but they did most of the hard work.

Rae/Wynne: As students in Images of America, our professor and library were our resources to compile documents and materials ranging from audio and film to novels and children’s books. We pulled books from Davis Family Library and ordered others online which we identified as offering an unique perspective or valuable information. Each student contributed at least two sources that they deemed relevant and useful contributions to conversations surrounding indigenous groups in America. We then organized our sources based on geographical origins and collaborated with our peers to create a bookshelf display with visuals that offer the greater Middlebury community access to Indigenous history and culture. We hope this display will give the community the tools to recognize the importance of Native American heritage and celebrate its many elements at Middlebury.

A screenshot from a digital library resource, Indigenous Peoples: North America

This screenshot depicts the homepage of Indigenous Peoples: North America, a digital archive in the libraries’ collection rich in primary sources. To find it, visit go.middlebury.edu/databases and search entries under the letter “I” for “Indigenous.”

Describe some of the limitations the class encountered in shaping this collaborative effort.

Irina: The biggest limitation is, of course, the absence of the first-hand indigenous voices. When working on our sources and on analyzing the class materials, what we often find is a European writer talking about the indigenous experience (such as Columbus or Padre [Bartolomé de] Las Casas), or an anthropologist translating the indigenous voice for a wider public. As a class, we are scholars of indigenous experience of Latin America, but none of us is indigenous. The students have been brainstorming on how to compensate for this always-mediated condition of indigenous testimony, and I will let them speak about the solutions they found to this limitation.

George/Annika/Ella: Given that so much of the available literature on the subject is narrated from the European point of view, our challenge was to bring some of the less common indigenous viewpoints to the forefront. The first and best way to do this, we agreed, was to allow them to speak for themselves. That’s why we have invited Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki to give a talk about his tribe’s history to members of the college. Another limitation we encountered was developing this project and all that we wish to accomplish within such a short time frame.

How can we learn more about the local group called the Abenaki?

A screenshot from the Vermont Abenaki Artists' Association website

This screenshot comes from the Vermont Abenaki Artists’ Association’s website .

A screenshot of the Nulhegan Band Coosuk-Abenaki emblem/coat of arms

This image comes from the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe website where various community events are listed.

Holly/Peter: There are many resources available both online and around Vermont that we can use to further our knowledge of the Abenaki people. For example, the Vermont Abenaki Artists’ Association works to both preserve traditional Abenaki art and to create contemporary artistic expressions of their culture. This group travels around the US and Canada, and even Germany, to give demonstrations that share the presence of Abenaki culture. Their website can be found here at www.abenakiart.org. In addition to this site, the Abenaki Tribe at Nulhegan-Memphremagog maintains a separate website at www.abenakitribe.org with information about the history and current state of the Tribe, as well as links to other sources of information on the web. We encourage anyone who is interested in the Abenaki to visit these resources, or better yet attend the talk by Don Stevens, Chief of the Abenaki, to learn about the tribe firsthand.

Katrina:  The cover art near the top of this post for The Original Vermonters is an invaluable text with highly accessible writing. To educate ourselves on the Abenaki, the entire class received scanned copies of chapters 5 and 7, respectively “At The Dawn of Recorded History” and “Survival and Renewal: The Last Two Hundred Years.” Moreover, the Ethnic Studies Research Guide offers a variety of entry points for studying indigenous peoples. Librarian Brenda Ellis, liaison to the history department, has also highlighted the U.S. History Research Guide, also rich in resources for research purposes.

What did you learn about other indigenous populations in the Western hemisphere?

Holly/Peter/Rachel/Sam: Many indigenous populations understand society as operating in a state of relatedness whereas typical Western culture believes in compartmentalization and individualism. The environment, objects, and people are closely linked, and this connection is reinforced by law, kinship, and spirituality. This is a holistic and fluid way to observe society; connections supersede categories and pressure is relieved from one single object or person to perform a specific, isolated role. In this manner, indigenous populations view nature as an economic system that governs society. However, this form of society is threatened when it comes into contact with modern, capitalist societies. Governments are increasingly focusing their attention on economic development and modernization, taking precedent over indigenous autonomy and culture.

Katrina: There are two major points. First, I read University of Illinois professor Debbie Reese’s “American Indians Are Not “People of Color,” which blew my mind. It is succinct and makes it clear that many of the groups we’re celebrating belong to sovereign nations which makes their political groupings different from those of African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinx Americans. Second, additional readings reinforced the idea of indigenous people being intimately tied to the land and the goods it produces, which underscored the importance of land rights and the disastrous impact that historical relocations to reservations have had on communities and ways of life.

Cover art from the the book entitled 1491 by Charles C. Mann

Depicted is the cover art for the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann that describes cultures and society in what we now know as the “Americas” preceding Christopher Columbus’ arrival. Find it through MIDCAT in the Davis Family Library collection.

What specific resources did you find that you feel others should know about related to these topics?

Katrina: 1491 and its sequel 1493 are historical works with deftly compelling titles. Essentially, they pose the questions, “What was life, culture and society like in the Western hemisphere before Christopher Columbus’ arrival and how was it indelibly impacted thereafter?”

Melisa/Mimi/Greg: The Arts of the North American Indian: Native Traditions in Evolution is an excellent book for understanding the roots and development of various art forms utilized by Native Americans. It is especially interesting to look at the impact of those art forms on contemporary art practiced today. Another resource, My Home As I Remember, is a collaboration of over 60 Native American female authors, poets, and visual artists where they tell their respective stories of home and origin. Not only does this book bring together native women from all over the world but it also provides a resource for others to learn about different native cultures and traditions.

What do you hope the Middlebury community will gain from these efforts?

Cover art to The Arts of the North American Indian edited by Edwin L. Wade

Depicted is the cover art for The Arts of the North American Indian, edited by Edwin L. Wade. Find it through MIDCAT in the Davis Family Library collection.

Kiera: With issues such as cultural appropriation for costume parties, problematic mascots, and even the celebration of Columbus Day still widely prevalent in our society, the humanization and normalization of indigenous peoples through exposure to indigenous culture could go a long way to increase awareness of how these issues directly affect the perception of indigenous people in our society, as it is much more difficult to intentionally disregard the feelings and opinions of people with whom you feel connected. At Middlebury in particular, where the large majority of students are white, the issues facing people of color in general (and indigenous Americans in particular) are regularly addressed but not fully understood by the majority of the population, and hopefully the increase of education surrounding a variety of issues facing the indigenous and POC (people of color) would allow white students, and thus the Middlebury community as a whole, to be more empathetic with people against whom our society is prejudiced.

Katrina: As a society, we err when we think of the default prototype for an American as a white, Christian, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisnormative male. For the rest of our lives, I want us to aggressively challenge that notion that exists in our collective imaginary. Remembering the past and the violent ways in which this country was born aids that trajectory and helps us to acknowledge the legacies of the past and our responsibilities in the present.

Cover art to My Home As I Remember, edited by Lee Maracle and Sandra Laronde

Depicted is the cover art to My Home As I Remember, edited by Lee Maracle and Sandra Laronde. Find the e-book through MIDCAT in the Davis Family Library collection.

Kyle: Because Native people and first nations have historically been excluded from conversations of racial, socioeconomic, and disability justice, it is particularly important to emphasize the histories, experiences, and cultures of those people to increase representation in spaces, like Middlebury, that have historically spotlighted the experiences of white, wealthy, able-bodied, cis-hetero men. This work may help to generate a greater degree of discourse at Middlebury surrounding how certain people are systematically excluded and marginalized along lines of identity on and off our campus.

Lesly: With a population that consists of mostly [North] Americans, Middlebury could use this program to raise awareness of this group of people that has been separated from its land and marginalized from social recognition. In this aspect, it is important for people to remember the original inhabitants of this land and its history, especially in our modern-day politics. The cultural wisdom and social components that the Native American people possess could aid philosophical growth and recognition of the culture that lives within us that hardly anyone speaks about. This may also be something that can support mindfulness for inclusivity and respect towards different cultures/people.

Throwback Thursday: Katrina Spencer

Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer visits Downtown Guadalajara Mexico with the Spanish School in 2010.

Name: Katrina Spencer

Former Role(s) on Campus: Master of Spanish Grad Student, Class of 2010; Portuguese School, 2014

Current Role on Campus: Literatures & Cultures Librarian

When was this photo taken?

Summer 2010

What were you doing in this photo?

I was studying in Guadalajara Mexico, completing my last requirements for my degree. There was a scheduled field trip for touring the downtown portion of the city. Here we’re all in an historic governmental building. It looks like one of my classmates caught me reviewing photos in my camera.

How have things changed in your life since then?

A number of things have changed in the last seven years. I’ve gained some weight. ;) Traveled to West Africa. Studied Arabic. (Mastering Spanish certainly gave me the confidence to approach other languages, though just last week I had a “por vs. para” slip up.) Started working in the professional world. And. . . have finally approached persuading myself to explore meatless meals.

What hasn’t?

I still wear leggings around three times a week. My tennis shoes (Tigers ‘n’ Reeboks) and purse (long strap and slightly exotic design) preferences are rather equal to those in the photo. I still strive for an abstract ethos and ideology of “equity.”

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I get paid well to listen to and help students I love.

What is on the horizon?

I still have an appetite to build on the minimal foundation I have in Arabic. There are so many things I want to read: David Sedaris, Toni Morrison, Nicole A. Cooke… I’d also like to meet my niece.

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Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. Come to the Davis Family Library atrium October 2nd- 15th to see our display that includes books and DVDs that touch on a variety of themes related to disability. Also read below about the various efforts made to make our campus more accessible and inclusive. Many sincere thanks to Marlena Evans for her work in designing this month’s banner and to the Advisory Group on Disability, Access, and Inclusion for its generous guidance.

Name; Hometown; Role On Campus; Time at Midd:

BK: Bill Koulopoulos; Athens, Greece; Director of Academic Technology, 3 years

CC: Courtney Cioffredi, Lebanon, New Hampshire; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator; 7 Months

ZS: Zach Schuetz; Bedford, New Hampshire; Senior Technology Specialist; 4 years (student) + 5 years (staff)

A young woman wearing a medical boot poses on a flight of stairs.

Junior Feb Ruby Edlin, from Hoboken, New Jersey, poses on the stairs wearing a medical boot meant to heal a former injury. At least one of her classes requires her to use the stairs.

KS: Katrina Spencer; Los Angeles, California; Literatures & Cultures Librarian; 8 months

We’re interested in disability access, inclusion, and full-participation. Why does disability awareness and inclusion matter?

BK: Because good design should accommodate everyone; one size does not fit all and variety is the spice of life.

CC: We (society) were supposed to have understood that separate is not equal a number of years ago, we are still fighting to see that concept realized; awareness helps to move toward inclusion. Inclusion matters because every body and difference adds value to our society. We will all likely be disabled someday: it’s only a matter of time for some of us; others live it every day.

ZS: Because designing systems to accommodate people with disabilities is often easy, but only if it’s planned from the start of the project. Changing things afterwards is often a lot harder; hence, it’s important to be aware of potential issues all the time and not wait for someone to make a complaint.

KS: As we continue to make our societies better for everyone, including those belonging to historically marginalized populations (racial, religious, sexual, etc.), disability must be treated with thoughtful attention, too. Disability is certainly intersectional and affects every color and creed. When we improve access, it helps broad swaths of the population and hurts no one.

Give us an example of improved access here at Middlebury that you want others to know about and why it matters. 

Cover art for Cece Bell's El Deafo which pictures a bunny in a superhero cape flying through the sky.

Featured here is the book cover image used for Cece Bell’s 2014 graphic novel El Deafo, a memoir that traces the author’s childhood experiences with deafness. This is one of the works to be featured in the October display.

BK: The College has subscribed to Sensus Access (go.middlebury.edu/sensusaccess/), which is a web-based, self-service application that allows users to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate and accessible formats. The service has been used hundreds of times the last couple of years, which suggests there is need for such a service and prompts us to reflect on additional ways to improve access.

CC: The College has added a second ADA Coordinator to Student Accessibility Services. Prior to that move, this was an office of one. The addition of this position allows two people to assist with access while the College continues to grow towards inclusive programs. This has allowed Student Accessibility Services to grow and provide additional programs, trainings and resources for students and faculty.

KS: When I started working here, I noticed that questions asked at the Research Desk could develop into conversations that lasted 15, 20 or even 30 minutes. I recalled that when I was a graduate student, I found it very uncomfortable to participate in research consultations having nowhere to sit, so I requested a stool be made available for lengthier conversations. It was a subtle change, but one for the better.

What are some resources to learn more about disability access and inclusion? 

BK: Understanding the principles and concepts behind Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will benefit anyone promoting disability access and inclusion at Middlebury College. UDL on Campus is a great resource on course design, materials and policy.

CC: Project Shift is a great resource and includes a number of readings regarding disability access and inclusion in Higher Education. I was also introduced to Mia Mingus recently and found her blog Leaving Evidence to be an excellent resource. Lastly, Student Accessibility Services is always willing to talk disability, access, and inclusion

A headshot of Audre Lorde wearing glasses and a necklace

Pictured is the cover art used for Audre Lorde’s 1980 autobiographical experience of breast cancer, The Cancer Journals, a work now on order for the Davis Family Library, also to be featured in the October display.

here on Middlebury’s campus.

ZS: I find that listening directly to people with disabilities has been really enlightening. There are a number of online communities where people are willing to share their experiences, and I’ve also learned extremely useful terminology like the curb-cut effect and the social model of disability.

KS: I recently learned that Middlebury has a Disabilities Studies Reading Group that has been meeting since 2009. Its first meeting this fall will be Thursday, October 12th, 7:00 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. in the American Studies Lounge, Axinn 242. For more on this, contact Susan Burch at sburch@middlebury.edu.

In what other ways might we forward disability access, inclusion and full participation? 

BK: Seeing accessibility and inclusion from a social model rather than a medical model lens requires a mindset shift. Education is key in facilitating this shift.  In the era of information technology, there is a wealth of resources available to individuals who want to learn more and people on campus ready to assist in the exploration.

CC: Shifting our Middlebury culture to a place where disability is celebrated as an identity, rather than something that needs accommodation would be a large step toward thinking about disability as part of diversity and inclusion. Each department, academic and operational, could own access in that department by seeking information and suggestions for ways in which events, classes, courses, and programs could be more inclusive to all. I would love to see student groups celebrating disability, access and inclusion and current student groups asking about how to ensure their events are accessible to all, including students with disabilities.

ZS: Classroom policies could be more focused on core pedagogical goals. Will students really not be able to learn the material if tests are untimed? If they can take notes on a laptop or record the lecture? If instructors make a note of sensitive material so people can mentally prepare themselves for it? Inclusion can be built in from the start. The ADA office is great, but for every student who’s already gotten a formal diagnosis, worked with them, realized what situations will come up in a course, and asked for specific accommodations, there’s one who hasn’t (yet) but could benefit from a little proactive thinking so everyone can fully participate in the course.

Two librarians seated at the Davis Family Library Research Desk, one using a stool

Literatures and Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer and Director of Reference & Instruction Librarian Carrie Macfarlane pose at the Research Desk where a stool has been installed to improve access.

KS: Last semester I went to visit a foreign language class in Munroe Hall that was held on the third floor. I was carrying graphic novels with me at the time to share with students and had to haul them up three flights of stairs. I asked for an elevator and didn’t find one. This is when I realized that stairs can actually be a barrier to access for learning, working and creating community. How do we determine which buildings are accessible and which are not? How do we make our campus accessible to all?

If you have more ideas for how to improve access on and around our campus, or want to know more about disability access and inclusion at Middlebury, write to the Advisory Group on Disability, Access, and Inclusion at agdai@middlebury.edu. Also see the libraries’ lib guide  dedicated to disability studies, developed with and maintained by Librarian Amy Frazier.

Celebrating Hispanic American/Latinx Heritage Month

From September 15th thru October 15th, the United States celebrates Hispanic American / Latinx Heritage Month. Read below to find out how some of the people at Midd engage with these identities. Also come by the Davis Family Library September 18th-29th to see the display. Many sincere thanks to Marlena Evans :) for her committed work in developing banner designs.

Names of Respondents; Hometowns; Roles on Campus:

Zarai Zaragoza, a Mexican American Middlebury College senior and studio art major sits in front of colorful art pieces.

Zarai Zaragoza, a Mexican American Middlebury College senior and studio art major sits in front of colorful art pieces.

ZZ: Zarai Zaragoza; Chicago, Illinois; Studio Art Major with Education Studies Minor – Part of Alianza, WOC [Women of Color], DMC [Distinguished Men of Color], Anderson Freeman Center Fellow, and so much more.

MRM: Marcos Rohena-Madrazo; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Assistant Professor of Spanish / Linguistics.

KS: Katrina Spencer; Los Angeles, California; Literatures & Cultures Librarian.

XM: Ximena Mejía; Salisbury, Vermont; Middlebury College Counseling Director.

Time at Midd:

Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics Marcos Rohena-Madrazo, born and raised in Puerto Rico, poses for a photo at the Davis Family Library Research Desk.

Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics Marcos Rohena-Madrazo, born and raised in Puerto Rico, poses for a photo at the Davis Family Library Research Desk.

ZZ: 3 years, going on the 4th.

MRM: 6 years.

KS: 7.5 months.

XM: 9 years.

What do you know about Hispanic American/Latinx Heritage Month?

ZZ: Hispanic Heritage month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It is a time to show the love one has for their culture, traditions, and the many identities that make up the Hispanic community.

MRM: I don’t know a lot about the month, per se, but I know that it’s important in the United States context and I’ve been learning more about it since I’ve lived “here” [on the mainland and not the island of Puerto Rico]. When I was living in Puerto Rico, there wasn’t a need to actively identify with either of those labels. Only recently have I started to engage with them.

Literatures and Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer, whose father is Afro-Costa Rican, poses in her office while preparing books for the Hispanic American/Latinx Heritage Month display.

Literatures and Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer, whose father is Afro-Costa Rican, poses in her office while preparing books for the Hispanic American/Latinx Heritage Month display.

KS: Unlike many other commemorative months, this one starts in the middle of September and ends in the middle of October. These dates were chosen in remembrance of a variety of Latin American countries winning their independence from colonial powers.

XM: It commemorates the diversity of the identities that encompass “Hispanic” and Latinx.

How do you pronounce “Latinx” and what does it mean?

MRM: In English, [lə.ˈthi.ˌnɛks]. In Spanish, I’m not sure because grammatical gender is much more complex. I’m still figuring it out. For me, it means a person of Latin American descent in/from a U.S. context.

KS: La-teen-x. Three syllables. You pronounce the “x” just like the letter “x.” To my understanding, the “x” is meant to draw attention away from gender specificity. In Spanish, grammatically speaking, the default term is “Latino,” an adjective that inherently prioritizes the masculine and invisibilizes the feminine. The “x” is an attempt to acknowledge the ways in which language, depending upon how we use it, can be inclusive or exclusive.

XM: Well said Katrina! Breaking down the gender binary.

Middlebury College Counseling Director Ximena Mejía, of Ecuadoran and European ancestry, poses for a photo.

ZZ: Laa-Tee-Nex. I love the way Katrina describes it. It is meant to be more inclusive since the Spanish language is structured to be more gendered.

How do you identify ethnically?

ZZ: Both of my parents are from Guerrero, Mexico. I was born in the U.S, but am very connected to the traditions of my cultural. I am Mexican-American → Latina.

MRM: Puerto Rican. If there is one identity that I can unproblematically claim, it is Puerto Rican. Where were my ancestors “from”? On my mom’s side from Cantabria and Mallorca and on my dad’s side general Caribbean Afro-Euro combo.

KS: My mother is African American and Creole; my father is Afro-Costa Rican. So. . . I’m black. ;) With some cultural, historical and social connections to both Central America and the Caribbean, broadly defined. Not one of these, however, for me, is an “ethnicity.” (Or are they?)

A map depicting the many departures from the African continent and arrivals to the "New World." The image is taken from David Eltis' Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on display now in the Davis Family Library. See the circular information desk.

A map depicting the many departures from the African continent and arrivals to the “New World.” The image is taken from David Eltis’ Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on display now in the Davis Family Library. See the circular information desk.

XM: Multiethnic / Mestiza a combination of North Ecuadorean indigenous people and European (German and French from maternal side and Spanish from paternal side).

Why is it important to have a display to commemorate this month?

ZZ: It’s a beautiful thing to take pride in your culture, your family’s culture, and how these traditions, stories, and art impact your interests and your sense of self. It’s very important to give identities that are sometimes overlooked, ignored, or marginalized, some space of confidence, openness, and growth. Speaking from experience, it is not always easy to take pride in one’s apparent (sometimes not apparent) identity, and it can often be thrown in your face that you’re different. I am hoping that this display will show differences but will shine it in a positive, wholesome light.

The cover of Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Díaz's 2012 book This Is How You Lose Her is depicted here. His work regularly engages what it means to be both Dominican and American.

The cover of Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Díaz’s 2012 book This Is How You Lose Her is depicted here. His work regularly engages what it means to be both Dominican and American.

MRM: It’s important in order to counter hegemonic discourses of who the people living in the United States are.

KS: I want more students of diverse and non-dominant/non-hegemonic backgrounds to know what materials we have in our collections that mirror their experiences, lives, and struggles. If we don’t highlight them, they may never know that they’re there. The library is theirs, too.

XM: Make visible to our larger community that there are students, faculty and staff who identify with this heritage.

What are some of the challenges in preparing a display such as this?

ZZ: Often times there can be an misrepresentation of a group of people. What I hope this display will do is bring together a true, multifaceted array of stories, backgrounds, and talents that make up the Hispanic community at Midd.

MRM: Choosing who and what to represent. It’s by no means a unified and easily portrayable group.

KS: “Who is Hispanic?” “Who is Latinx?” “Who is not?” For example, do we include Brazil and Brazilians? And how? How do we include works that represent all of them? Are all my choices generational and based on what I liked growing up? Will students even recognize these items I’ve chosen?

The cover art for 2013 Venezuelan feature-length film Pelo Malo (Bad Hair) is pictured here.

The cover art for 2013 Venezuelan feature-length film Pelo Malo (Bad Hair) is pictured here.

What readings/music CDs/DVDs might you recommend that your peers check out to commemorate this month?

ZZ: Recently… Latinoamerica by Calle 13 has been my jam, my motivator, my sense of pride. Give it a listen, look at the music video if you can. Internacionales by Bomba Estereo is also a great tune!

MRM: Junot Díaz. Rita Indiana ‘cause she’s got diaspora all over the place. Daddy Yankee. That’s very Caribbean, but that’s my experience. Ooh, ooh, also Brujos — queer-of-color geekstravaganza!

KS: All things Junot Díaz. Contemporarily, he’s likely the most famous writer who represents the Hispanophone world transnationally. Also Achy Obejas, writes on themes touching the queer Latina world. I’ve been wanting to see Pelo Malo (Bad Hair) for quite some time. We have it in the library on Bluray. I believe it studies hair straightening, a practice that often favors western European features, a discourse that continues to be relevant in the Afro-Latinx world today.

XM: Music: Bomba Estereo, Los Cojolites, Gina Chavez, Perota Chingo, Calle 13, Manu Chao, Cultura Profetica, Onda Vaga.

Books: Umami by Laia Jufresa; Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera; Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra; Bruja by Wendy C. Ortiz; Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera; Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña Paris, and more.

Anything else?

MRM: The more we talk about what “Latinx” is and what it isn’t, the more we understand ourselves and each other.

A screenshot taken from a Pero Like video of producer Julissa Calderón who often discusses her Dominican heritage in her work.

A screenshot taken from a Pero Like video of producer Julissa Calderón who often discusses her Dominican heritage in her work.

KS: There’s an Afro-Dominican actress and filmmaker, Julissa Calderón, regularly featured on Pero Like and a comedian and filmmaker who’s black and Honduran who produces content on “Callme Choko.” Aside from being hilarious dramatists, they both give greater representation to minority populations that too often go unseen.

ZZ: Thank you for providing the space… <3

If there’s a work you’re interested in seeing and feel the library should own, visit go.middlebury.edu/requests to let us know!

100 Years And Counting!

The Spanish School, one of Middlebury’s 11 Language Schools, celebrates its 100th year. Here are a few words from current affiliated staff who have witnessed some of its evolutions.

Professor Joseph Casillas of the Spanish School (MA, Class of 2010) poses for a photo.

Names:      

JC: Joseph Casillas

LC: Laura Cabrera

KS: Katrina Spencer

Bilingual Assistant Laura Cabrera of the Spanish School is pictured here, in Middlebury gear.

Hometowns:

JC: Phoenix, Arizona

LC: Salamanca, Spain

KS: Los Angeles, California

Roles:

Middlebury’s Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer poses at the Research Desk in the Davis Family Library. Having obtained a master degree from the Spanish School in 2010, she now serves the school as the Language Schools’ library liaison.

JC: Professor.

LC: I’m a bilingual assistant in the Spanish School.

KS: Library liaison.

When did you first encounter the Spanish School?

JC: My first experience in Middlebury was in 2007 as an MA student in the Spanish school.

LC: I arrived to Middlebury in 1998 when I was a little girl because my dad [Carlos Cabrera] was a teacher in the Spanish School.

KS: I arrived to Middlebury in 2009 and graduated from the master program in 2010. I’d been looking for a school that would allow me to complete my degree overseas and this was one of the two I found.

Has your role always been the same?

JC: No. I spent two summers in the Spanish school finishing my MA. Afterwards I spent two consecutive summers in the French school, as a pure beginner in level 1 and the following summer in level 4. The following two years I returned to the Spanish school to work as a bilingual assistant, and the past 3 years I have worked as a professor in the undergraduate 7-week program.

LC: First I came as a dependent with my parents but since 2007 I’ve been working as a bilingual assistant at the Spanish School.

KS: No. At first I was a master student, then a non-degree seeking student in the Portuguese program and now I’m a librarian.

Over the summer, the Spanish School placed several banners in the atrium of the Davis Family Library to commemorate its centennial. This one documents its beginnings in 1917.

Tell us about the diversity of the program.

JC: The Spanish school program is rather diverse. In any given summer there are professors and students from most of the Spanish speaking countries in the world. The students are particularly diverse in many different ways. In terms of age, in my classes I have had students that just finished high school, all the way up to retirees that decided to learn Spanish for fun. But the student body at Middlebury is diverse in other ways as well. For example, I have had students that work as government agents, and other military special forces, as well as high school teachers of other languages.

LC: Faculty and staff come from different places around the world: Spain, Mexico, Cuba, United States, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, etc. And we have some students that are from different parts of the United States and other countries like India and China, so the Spanish School is culturally diverse.

KS: In terms of the faculty, without having to do much mental exercise at all, I know that Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and the United States are all represented. In terms of the student body, you find students aged 19-50+. That’s always something that has quite impressed me. During my first summer, we had a nun in our program and at least one student completing the doctorate of modern languages. People come to Middlebury for a wide array of reasons and from a variety of backgrounds. This year they have a lawyer who’s engaged in immigration law.

This banner reflects some of the most recent developments and cultural celebrations led by the Spanish School.

Over the years, what changes within the school and what remains the same?

JC: There are many things that stay the same. Middlebury, itself doesn’t change much. In the ten years that I have been around, the faculty hasn’t changed too much. Certain aspects of the program that we do every year typically stay the same, but every summer is unique in its own way because of the students. Sometimes there are students who repeat, and the graduate students typically spend multiple summers in the program, but the majority of the undergraduate students are new. It is always fun to see how diverse and talented they are. I’ve also seen many of the professors children grow up over the course of several summers. It truly is a unique experience.

LC: In my opinion, almost everything is the same as my first time here. Some people come back and some people don’t, but the main spirit of the “Spanish school family” is the same, summer after summer. Middlebury is like a bubble, no matter how you spent the whole year, if you go back for another summer, you’ll feel the last summer was yesterday instead of a year ago.

KS: Much of the professoriate remains the same! The Spanish School attracts and retains excellent instructors. Some have been teaching in the program more than 15 years. Mariluz Gutiérrez Araus and Mercedes Fernández-Isla are two of them. One change that I’ve noted is that program now has a website where students can follow its activities. It’s very colorful and up-to-date, reflecting the technology use of our time. Also, I believe we have a school site in Argentina now. Formerly students were able to complete a summer of study in Mexico, which I did, and now you can do it in South America. Oh, and the Literary Analysis students join together and receive a library orientation session in Spanish!

Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer poses with an “abanico,” a fan, designed for the centennial. Other accouterments for the 100th year celebration included buttons and “pañuelos,” scarves or handkerchiefs, all marked with the letter “ñ“.

How do you and your community within the Language Schools use the libraries and our resources?

JC: I used the library much more for research as an MA student. Since then, I mainly use the library for preparing classes and meeting with students.

LC: As an office manager at the Spanish School, I don’t use the library so often. We usually borrow some films to show and some tech devices we need for the events. I think the students use the library more often, like a studying place and using the resources: books, movies, etc.

KS: When I was a student, we graduate students used JSTOR quite heavily to find academic articles of literary criticism. This database is still popular among Language School students in general. The Spanish-language browsing collection that includes readings like Manolito Gafotas and music by flamenco-style singer Buika is also popular. In the instruction sessions I give, I really try to plug Lexis Nexis for finding news articles,  Kanopy for online film streaming and our Alexander Street vendor for listening to music online. There are also special carrels/study spaces in the library assigned to each language school.

What do you envision for the Spanish School’s future?

The Spanish School hosted a special dance party with live music to which all the Language Schools on the Vermont campus were invited to fete the centennial occasion.

JC: I think one of the big changes facing the program in the upcoming years is related to heritage speakers. Every summer we get more and more students with this profile, which makes sense because of the changing demographics in the US, and I hope to see explicit attention given to these students in the program’s curriculum moving forward.

LC: I don’t know what will will be the future of the Spanish School, but I’m sure it depends on the students because they are a different group every summer. So, like Joseph said, I think the heritage speakers will be a very important part of the program in the next years.

KS: Changes in the school will likely mirror changes in society, ¿no es cierto? Perhaps there will be more demand for courses representing Central America and indigenous populations as we have more people within the United States that represent that region. I imagine the school will become even more diverse as more people realize the importance of speaking Spanish merely as residents in the Western hemisphere. And I hope that more classes will request library instruction sessions so students can navigate our spaces with even greater confidence. 

 

Katrina, Atlanta, and NCAAL

 

Katrina poses in front of the National Conference of African American Librarians’ banner.

Middlebury’s Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer attended the National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL) in Atlanta, Georgia. See a brief video from the opening session shared on Twitter and read more coverage of the event in American Libraries’ Magazine.

 

How was your conference?

OMG, great! I feel like this conference was Middlebury’s personal gift to me. It fed my soul, which was hungrier than I expected.

What made it great?

For the first time ever, I actually got to stay on site where the conference I was attending was being held. That makes a huge difference– to not have to catch a taxi, bus or train to the conference site and navigate inclement weather/downpours of rain, and also to be able to retire to one’s room to take breaks between sessions was a blessing!

There were beautiful people in the city. Beautiful black people. With braids, twist-outs, locks. . . And it was the first time that I’d seen black and white people voluntarily spending time together on such a scale. When I’ve seen this in the past, it has been rather exceptional and episodic. There I saw people from both groups treating each other fraternally. I can’t say I was expecting that and I can’t say, after 30 years, that I’d seen it before as such a normalized part of a landscape. But, to see that and to juxtapose it with the news from Charlottesville, Virginia is mind-boggling. Progress in terms of racial politics in this country, to say the very least, is spotty.

With much help from Davis Family Library’s Marlena Evans, the banners to be used during the February 2018 Black History Month display have been designed. Katrina’s presentation posed the question, “What do I put on display?” and encouraged librarians to think critically about their choices.

What was your presentation on?

The title of my proposal was “What I Wish I Would Have Known” and referred to my education on black history and blackness as a child growing up in Los Angeles in the 1990s. Succinctly, the Transatlantic Slave Trade impacted almost the entire Western hemisphere, not just the United States; the struggle for civil rights and social justice did not end in the 1960s; and black peoples are not defined by the violent scenarios and oppressive societies we encounter, yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Katrina (far left) poses with librarians and archivists who all graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with library and information science degrees.

A screenshot from the Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library website.

What did you do?

I visited historic and cultural sites, for example, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History and the Atlanta University Center’s (AUC) Robert W. Woodruff Library that serves Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. I also spent time with several alums from my library and information science alma mater, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

What did you learn?

  • Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College are all served by the same library.
  • The AUC’s archives currently hold Dr. Martin Luther King’s briefcase.
  • Malcolm X wrote postcards home from Lebanon and signed them “El Hajj Malik El Shabazz,” also held in the AUC archives.
  • Despite the fact that many HBCUs are suffering in terms of securing funds to properly maintain their grounds and facilities, the AUC is tremendous, popular, and well maintained.
  • There’s a published book of photos on Muhammad Ali’s life and fights that weighs over 70 pounds! A copy is held in the Auburn Avenue Research Library’s archives.
  • The library and information science field is more intimate than you might think!
  • Black librarians are interested in revamping the ways in which we teach about black history.
  • Tom Joyner is famous and funny. And he says he met his wife in a library.
  • BCALA is interested in recruiting new members to its body.

Were you inspired to pursue new projects? Come up with any news ideas?

Screenshot of an image published on the 3rd National Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC) website

Absolutely!

  • First, Leo and Kathryn were essentially looking for ways to recruit and retain people of color within their libraries at their respective institutions. As someone from that target demographic, I have thoughts, strategies and insight I want to share with them.
  • Second, I learned that BCALA publishes its own seasonal newsletter, BCALA News, in which, among other pieces, literary works are reviewed. I’ll pitch an idea to the editor.
  • Third, in every conference bag, there was a save-the-date type of invitation to 2018’s Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. I wasn’t aware of the meeting but now I want to attend.

Anything you might do differently next time?

It would be great to have my presentation entirely prepped before departing for the conference site so that when I’m there, all I have to be concerned about is showing up.