College Library is delighted to welcome Kalani Adolpho to our staff. As a new Diversity Resident Librarian, Kalani will spend their first year at College Library working in public service, primarily reference and instruction, before a two-year placement in a library based on their interests and the needs and priorities of the libraries. We asked Kalani a few questions about their goals and are pleased to share the interview below:
College: Where did you go to school and what degrees did you earn?
Kalani: I have a Bachelor’s in History (with a minor in Spanish) and a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I earned both of these degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
College: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in information science?
Kalani: I worked in Special Collections as an undergraduate and was, at first, lured in by the idea of unfettered access to the stacks at a special collections library (which are non-circulating and non-browsing to patrons). But what really solidified it for me was something the head of the collection, Max Yela, said to a group of students prior to an instruction session in our space. I am going to paraphrase, but he said something like: “History doesn’t exist, it is constructed, and the only reason we can say we know anything about history is because of the artifacts that persist into our time.”
This idea wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but this was the first I had heard it spoken so plainly, and it happened during my first read through The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. Max’s assertion, combined with the following quote from Fanon, made pursuing my MLIS seem rather urgent, “colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content…it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it.”
Archivists and librarians are responsible for selecting, preserving, and providing access to many of the materials by which we can construct history. This is an enormous responsibility, and it can be concerning because the Western world has a rather narrow view about what constitutes “reliable” historical evidence, which ultimately privileges Western cultures and narratives. This, plus the fact that librarians in the U.S. tend to be overwhelmingly white, straight, able-bodied, and cisgender, often leads to the exclusion of non-dominant perspectives in archival institutions. Although this exclusion may not be intentional, it leads to an exclusion from history itself.
To make a very lengthy answer more digestible, my reasons for pursuing a Master’s in Library Science and for becoming a librarian are deeply rooted in a combination of a love for printing history, an anti-colonial desire to ensure that our history can be “proven” to exist, and the desire to help connect folks to information resources.
College: What are your career goals?
Kalani: I only graduated this past May, so my career goals are likely to change a bit as I gain more library experience. However, at this point I am mainly interested in working at a special collections library or archives. I think that these two overlapping areas appeal to me the most due to my background in history. I am really intrigued by the history of books and printing and the ways in which writing, book and printing technologies changed over time, and how these changes impacted history, society, and power dynamics. For that reason, it is difficult to imagine myself working outside of a special collections setting. However, I am also very interested in archives and the creation, collection, and preservation of materials and records from everyday members of marginalized groups (rather than larger historical figures). I have a lot of interest in oral histories and ensuring the preservation of viewpoints that are routinely left out of archival institutions due to Western ways of remembering and record-keeping.
If I were to get terribly specific, I would love to work in a special collections and archives setting that holds a large collection of Hawaiian materials.
College: What are you passionate about?
Kalani: I am passionate about a lot of things, but they mostly relate to intersectionality, decolonization and anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and transgender issues. These topics shape a lot of my professional goals and concerns, but also my personal life experiences.
College: Any impressions of College Library, the campus, or the city of Madison that you care to share?
Kalani: I have only been in Madison for about three weeks now, but everyone at College Library has been really great. Although it is very different from what I am used to, I really support the mission of College Library and the culture of inclusivity and diversity that is continually strived towards here. As far as Madison itself, I am really diggin’ the bike trails and am excited to explore the Arboretum, go kayaking, and bring my dogs everywhere.
Kelli Hughes serves as supervisor for the resident librarians in this program and reports,”We are thrilled to welcome Kalani to the College Library staff! Kalani spent the first weeks of their time with us exploring our collections, services, spaces, and training materials. Kalani’s already made a positive impact with their insightful feedback and questions related to some of our policies and practices. I look forward to collaborating with Kalani through their first year at College Library, and seeing their sphere of influence expand as they continue through the three year residency.” During the second year of the residency, Kalani will leave College Library and focus on an area that most interests them, since the program is designed to meet both the professional goals and interests of the resident as well as the service and operational priorities of the library. Until then, however, we are delighted to welcome them to Helen C. White Hall.