ULS Outstanding Professional Development Award Interview: The Editorial Team of LibParlor
Nimisha Bhat, Hailley Fargo, Chelsea Heinbach, and Charissa Powell, members of the editorial team for the professional development blog LibParlor, are the 2021 recipients of the ACRL ULS Outstanding Professional Development Award. Sponsored by Library Juice Academy, the $1,000 award recognizes librarians, archivists or curators whose contributions to providing professional development opportunities for librarians have been especially noteworthy or influential. The team was selected for their efforts to create and promote an online community of practice for librarians.
Congratulations to Nimisha, Hailley, Chelsea, and Charissa, who agreed to do an interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and the work that you do.
We are all academic teaching librarians who are passionate about student research and investing in support for those pursuing LIS research. LibParlor was established in 2017 by Chelsea, Hailley, Charissa, and Katlyn Griffin to create a community of researchers in the field across institutions. Nimisha joined the editorial board in 2019 and the four of us have really formed a wonderful friendship both in and out of the profession.
Why is professional development important for the librarian profession?
Professional development plays an important role in helping connect with other people in the field. We have all benefited from the connections we’ve made through various professional development experiences and having a support network to turn to is so valuable. Additionally, engaging in professional development can help spark new ideas or think about a situation from a different perspective. We have also found that participating in professional development helps us stay engaged with what is happening in the field of librarianship. An important aspect of our profession is advocating for ourselves and each other to request professional development funding & opportunities from employers — it is important for our institutions to invest in us so that we can all continue to grow.
Tell us about a transformative professional development experience that has impacted your careers as librarians.
Nimisha: I took part in a program called Library Leadership Ohio in 2018 that I was very skeptical about because I am very cynical about how we treat and train for leadership roles in librarianship. While I think “leadership” is much broader than just managing people, I don’t think our field has a good understanding of the nuances of what a leader can be. Library Leadership Ohio taught us that leadership can manifest in a variety of ways that we navigate our jobs, from making decisions to starting projects to advising students, and I met an amazing cohort of librarians that really changed the way I thought about how we can all be leaders in librarianship, without being directors or deans.
Charissa: I participated in ALA’s Emerging Leaders program in 2016 and am so thankful for that experience. I met many amazing librarians in the field who were also new/new-ish and it gave me a peer network to reach out to with questions. In one training session, we did an activity where we journaled about what we’re an expert in. It was a really meaningful moment for me to reflect on what I know well and what areas I had expertise in. This was about 2 years into my career at that point and this professional development opportunity gave me confidence as a new librarian.
Hailley: I had the opportunity to participate in ACRL’s Immersion program in summer 2017. I was still fairly new to the profession and it was a great way to meet fellow peers and spend a week thinking about teaching. I remember it being a nice mix of smaller cohort meetings along with big group discussions and work. It was also during the iteration of Immersion where you brought a lesson plan you wanted to revise. I have fond memories of sitting on the floor with my laptop and my new friends, outside the conference room at Champlain College, putting the final touches on our lesson plans.
Chelsea: I also attended Immersion in 2017 and it was incredibly transformative. Hailley and I had met only a few months before and we were about one month away from launching LibParlor, so we spent a lot of time together daydreaming about what LibParlor could be and solidifying ideas for its future that we could bring back to the team. I also met so many librarians who were also passionate about education, and it was invaluable to have the uninterrupted time to develop relationships, explore ideas, and test strategies related to teaching with others.
What are some examples of ways that you have contributed to the professional development of others?
Nimisha: Mentorship is very important to me. As a young brown woman entering the field, I did not have anyone who I could look to for guidance. After finding my direction in my career, I sought out mentorship programs to pair with mentees of color. I hope to work on removing barriers to young Black, Indigenous, librarians of color to thrive in librarianship.
Charissa: As an instruction librarian, I have been grateful for the people in my life who taught me how to teach by inviting me to observe and co-teach with them. In 2018, an MLIS graduate student observed me teaching a one-shot and afterwards I asked her if she wanted to co-teach with me sometime. We are now current colleagues and good friends and she has told me that I was the first person who invited her to co-teach and helped her feel like she could be a teacher too. I love working with MLIS grad students and newer librarians to help them grow as teachers.
Hailley: I have been fortunate to supervise and mentor undergraduate students and also help support an internship program within my library. I really enjoy working with undergraduate students and helping them prepare for their next steps. It’s lovely to see them grow over a year or two and the ways they are able to contribute to the Libraries.
Chelsea: One of my favorite things to do is figure out ways to make things more clear for others. I was lucky to have really passionate and engaged mentors, and I take the responsibility I now have to give that energy back to others very seriously. I have mentored multiple undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in librarianship as well as students I work closely with who are interested in pursuing other fields. There is nothing more energizing and nourishing than helping folks realize their goals are within reach.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Nimisha: I was on Humans of New York once about being a librarian!
Charissa: I was on the Stone Cold Foxes roller derby team in Junction City, KS for two years!
Hailley: I grew up in the troll capital of the world, Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin (a small town about 20 minutes west of Madison).
Chelsea: I lived out of my car and traveled the country for six months when I was in my early 20s.
The ULS Outstanding Professional Development Award is sponsored by Library Juice Academy.