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I Am MLA: Kelsa Bartley

Submitted by Kelsa Bartley; edited by JJ Pionke

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Institution: Louis Calder Memorial Library, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL

Title: Librarian Assistant Professor, Education and Outreach Librarian

Brief description of responsibilities

I am an instruction librarian, supporting teaching, learning, and development of engaging, outcomes‐focused classroom and online instruction. I am also responsible for library marketing and social media, working to develop effective campus‐wide outreach activities and partnerships. Part of my outreach duties include working collaboratively with library faculty and staff to support the development of inclusive and representative programming and services that are accessible, and engaging with student, faculty, staff, and community organizations on initiatives related to diversity and inclusiveness across campus.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA has been an integral part of my career growth in the profession. I have been able to participate in and learn about the organization and librarianship through the various opportunities in MLA. For me, the most beneficial aspect of my MLA membership has been networking and connecting with colleagues and mentors for collaboration, professional, and personal growth.

Why did you become a librarian?

I became a librarian when I realized that my creative skills and customer service experiences from past careers were very much needed in libraries. Librarianship is actually my third career, one that I didn’t consider seriously until I was working for quite some time as a library staff member. Being a librarian has been a natural culmination of all the things I’ve done in my professional life.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My first library job happened by accident. I interviewed for a photographer position at my current library (on my birthday!) a few months after graduating with a bachelor’s of fine arts (BFA) in photography. I didn’t get the photographer job, but the director saw that I had been a flight attendant before pursuing my bachelor’s degree and thought my customer service skills would be a great addition to the library. I started as the day manager for the Circulation Department and have worked in various library roles ever since. I’m currently in my first librarian position, which evolved from my increasing involvement in library marketing, outreach, teaching, and research in my current department, Learning, Research and Clinical Information Services.

What do you consider to be the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship?

I consider the most pressing issue in librarianship to be the continued the lack of diversity of the profession. Not just the obvious racial disparities of librarians, but also generational, ableist, gender inequalities that continue to persist. In order to keep up with our rapidly changing world, we are going to need diversity of thought from all kinds of perspectives to keep libraries relevant, functional, and future thinking places.

Bucket list

Writing a children’s book. I’ve been a visual storyteller for most of my life with photography, and since becoming a librarian, I’ve discovered that I’m getting pretty good at expressing stories with words. I think that children’s books are just as much about the imagery as they are the words of the story, so it would be the perfect creative endeavor for me to blend both skills.

What do you do in your spare time?

I do yoga. I discovered yoga during a difficult time in my life, and I always turn to it for self-care, relaxation, and movement. I’m currently doing a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to deepen my practice and someday even teach. I’m also a plant lady! I love growing and tending to my plants; I find gardening highly therapeutic. I’ve learned so much about myself and people in general from observing plants. I may possibly have the biggest patio garden in my apartment complex!

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my ability to adapt, to keep growing, learning, and expanding personally and professionally; to make connections; to take risks; and to try new things even when the benefits were unknown. If someone told twenty-year old me I’d be a librarian with a master’s degree in a major university in the United States, I’d have told them they were crazy!

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