Celebrating 30 Years of the Mary P. Key Diversity Residency

by Ann Hidalgo and Stephanie Porrata

Graphic depicting past MPK residents with text: "Celebrating 30 Years of the Mary P. Key Diversity Residency"

University Libraries is proud to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mary P. Key Diversity Residency. One of the longest-running diversity residencies among academic libraries, The Ohio State University’s Mary P. Key Diversity Residency assists recent library and information science graduates in the transition to academic research librarianship and provides opportunities for hands-on experience in University Libraries.

The residency is named for the late Mary P. Key, a University Libraries Professor Emerita at Ohio State. She was the second African American librarian to lead a department at University Libraries and served as the first chair of the University Libraries’ Diversity Committee, which oversaw the implementation of the Diversity Residency Program. Professor Key passed away on January 4, 2010 at the age of 80, but her legacy lives on with this important initiative.

To reflect on the history of this program and its impact, Stephanie Porrata and Ann Hidalgo, the 2019 Mary P. Key Diversity Residents, interviewed University Libraries colleagues who are past and current residents: Leta Hendricks, the African American and African Studies Librarian, Comparative Studies Librarian and Interim Anthropology Librarian; Deidra Herring, Head of the Humanities and Social Sciences Cohort; Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros, the Latin American Studies Librarian; Kapil Vasudev, the Education Librarian; and Kay Clopton, the 2018 resident currently working in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

The residency provides a guided introduction to the professional environment of academic librarianship. Several past residents used the residency to transition from work in public libraries or other professional backgrounds to academic librarianship. Vasudev highlighted the value of connecting with others working in the field. He explained, “It gave me a firsthand view into what librarianship is like in an academic research institution. I wouldn’t be here without the residency.”

For others, the residency helped identify their professional interests and goals. Clopton, who followed her MLIS with a PhD in Comparative Studies, explained that the residency confirmed that librarianship is a good fit for her. Specifically, the world-class collection in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is a perfect complement to her doctoral work investigating sound effects in Japanese manga. Clopton explained, “I love what I do, and the residency helped me to figure out my place in libraries. It essentially gave me my career.”

For still others, the experience of the residency taught them to recognize the strengths they already possessed. Espinosa de los Monteros credits the residency with helping her to mature as a professional by providing opportunities to witness leadership in a complex organizational structure and to be a part of the strategic process. She explained, “As a minority, I always underestimate my skills, so I assumed I would never get a Latin American position. I would have been intimidated to apply for it just because I didn’t know any better.”

Similarly, Herring noted, “It gave me more confidence. It made me stronger and taught me that I was in the right field to help people. It taught me that I am a true teacher at heart.”

Broadening the demographics of academic librarianship to include more diversity is an ongoing struggle across the industry. Hendricks, who has the distinction of being the first Mary P. Key Diversity Resident, identified a long arc in the history of librarianship. As the field professionalized and began requiring academic degrees, she explained, people of color could not attend white library schools. Nevertheless, communities of color recognized the work of librarians of color, even if they lacked official credentials. Residencies help to bring a more diverse workforce into the field of academic librarianship, but there is still a significant gap, especially in positions of leadership and administration.

When asked to envision the future of the residency, the librarians responded that they hope to see University Libraries create pipelines for paraprofessionals to enter the field, tailor the residency experience to the strengths and needs of each resident, provide more assistance in the job search at the conclusion of the residency, focus on retention of underrepresented librarians and most importantly, continue to strive toward greater inclusivity. Espinosa de los Monteros highlighted the collaborative nature of these efforts: “I have an expectation that the organization is going to learn with me. You think as a minority that I’m an asset and valuable, then we’re going to learn together about how to improve.”

Visit the Mary P. Key Diversity Residency page to learn more about other past residents.