2020 Symposium Early-Career Scholarship Winner – Kaneisha Gaston-Arhin (Columbia University)

As I come to the end of my first full year as an academic librarian, I am constantly reminded of how my previous experiences as a teacher shape my current attitudes towards librarianship. I firmly believe that librarians are teachers and community leaders with servant’s hearts rather than servants at the mercy of other teachers and community leaders at our respective institutions. The distinction is important for many reasons– and has been debated– although I will detail neither the distinctions nor the debates in this reflection. There is plenty of contemporary scholarship on the topics of low morale and vocational awe, among others, that tie these and other assumed identities and positions to burnout and early departures from the field. To be quite honest, I desire to leave the profession once a month. Nevertheless, what I witnessed at the ACRL/NY Symposium confirmed my belief as teachers, subject experts, and leaders put their service on display. Confirming this belief positively affected my confidence, for there are many times in which I feel underprepared and subject to the uncertainty of learning by doing as an early career librarian. Additionally, this confirmation gives me hope that I and my peers can build careers that center the importance of our expertise rather than the importance of our service. As a result, I have renewed interest in a few research ideas and have identified new skills I want to learn to enhance my experience as a teaching and outreach librarian.