Katrina Spencer

In each issue of Keynotes, we profile a staff member who works in the library or other related department. This issue features Katrina Spencer, Literatures & Cultures Librarian, who joined the Library staff just this month.

Place of Origin: Los Angeles, California (not Venice, Rodeo Drive, The Hills, Hollywood, Compton, Watts, East L.A., the Tar Pits, or West L.A. I’m from Mid-City.)
Favorite Food: Carne asada enchiladas with red sauce
Allergies: Clams, down/feathers, wool, dust, misogyny
Open Secret: I prefer a phone call to texting.
Question For Y’all: If I started just this month, does that make me a “Feb”?
Words on Tombstone: “This strikes me as an unnecessary expense.”
Fondest Midd Memories: Studying abroad in Spain (2009), writing my comic strip in Portuguese (2014), buying $30 of Kleenex to nurse my winter colds (2017)

What brings you to Middlebury College?

I’m a new librarian on campus and I will start liaising with some of the language departments, the Language Schools, the Anderson-Freeman Center, and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. I’m also an alum of the Spanish and Portuguese Schools! So, while I’ve been here over the summer, this is my first Vermont winter!

How’s the reception been so far?

Great! People have lent me blankets, fed me, invited me to play games, watch hockey, see films, taken me to the grocery store and to get my laundry done! Actually, I haven’t spent an evening alone in a while and I may need to prioritize that!

What do you expect work to look like?

Well, in the beginning, ideally, it’s going to be a lot of, Wait, please tell me your name again? followed by, How is this usually done?, Can I help you with that? and then I have this idea. Would you like to hear it?, followed by Do you have time to help me with _____? In other words, there will be a period of acclimation where I get to know my surroundings, colleagues, programs, and departments. I need to get to know the local culture and seek opportunities to collaborate and, eventually, I’ll begin leading some of my own projects.

For me, the most important part of my job is connecting with patrons and informing them of the resources our library has that can benefit them, whether they be for academic, social, or other purposes. All of that said, I have a ton of interests: how we celebrate and commemorate signature and seasonal cultural events, translation, blogging, writing, reviewing literary works, marketing and promotion of the library, acquisitions of multicultural materials, getting more student voices in the library and having them shape our services, talking about language learning, and the students’ open-mic nights where you really get to learn who they are.

Tell us something about librarians we don’t know.

We fear not being able to guide patrons to the resources they need at the very moment they ask for them. Our every desire is to assist library users on a trajectory of success. Sometimes the database we use is down; or the DVDs are difficult to locate; or the call numbers for the items sought are housed in multiple places within the library. We want to get it right the first time when we provide answers. One thing we should also acknowledge about effective research, however, is that when you’re doing it right, it is messy, time-consuming, and laborious.

As the Literatures & Cultures Librarian and in light of our new, national administration, how will your work change?

That’s an excellent question and the answer is complex. My work is routinely dedicated to encouraging learning about and understanding of the proverbial “Other,” so I’m not sure it should “change” because the administration did. If anything, where possible, it should be intensified and/or broadened, but the vision will likely remain the same. People of color have had to carry an undue and unfair burden of being the predominant U.S. demographic preoccupied with themes related to injustice based on racial and ethnic identity. As a nation, we’re starting to wake up and realize the importance of “getting all hands on deck.” So, my work won’t “change,” per se. Rather, the hope is that it will be contagious.

What do you want to know more about on campus?

In addition to finding out as much as possible about the departments and programs I serve, I’d like to visit the Chateau, which I’ve seen from the distance for years but never entered. I’m also very curious about the campus’ radio shows and programming. And I want to know if there are any wild animals that come and roam about campus. You know– to be prepared. 😉

What are some immediate and long-term priorities?

  • Obtain and distribute my business card
  • Get on all the mailing lists for the groups I serve
  • Figure out how students read so much in so little time
  • Buy a French language Scrabble
  • Carefully navigate the concept (or lack thereof) of anonymity in a small town context
  • Do few things and do them really well
  • Forward discourses of social justice through our library’s resources, services, and programming

Any challenges you’re anticipating?

  • Staying warm
  • Doing it all between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
  • Taking breaks
  • Hoping to head to the bathroom and actually find it empty
  • Identifying attractive after hours activities
  • Doing any regular and meaningful exercise
  • Getting good steak tacos easily
  • Finding long periods of intense productivity

Last words?

Please drop by my office if you can explain the difference between a storm and a blizzard, know the species of the long and slender black bug with the two red spots that has entered my home, or if your name is Shatavia, Shenisis, or Lucy. 😉