Q&A with Jesus Espinoza (2016), interviewed by Denisse Solis (2016)

Jesus Espinoza (he/him/his) is the Student Success Librarian at the University of Michigan. He is a 2016 Spectrum Scholar. His work centers around instruction, outreach and DEIA in academic libraries. In his spare time he enjoys travel, horror movies and boba.

Jesus is interviewed here by Denisse Solis (she/her/ella), also a 2016 Scholar, and Interim Digital Collections Librarian at the University of Denver. Her work centers around digital collections, outreach, and DEIA in academic libraries. In her spare time, she enjoys naps with her cat Murphy, running and spending time with loved ones. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @Luna_dee

DS: What have been your most memorable experiences as a Spectrum Scholar (thus far)?

JE: Meeting and connecting with so many wonderful people during my leadership institute (2017) was a really great experience. Being able to reconnect with friends and colleagues as well as make new ones through Spectrum continues to be an invaluable experience. Finally, all my favorite Spectrum memories are with you, Denisse! We met before Spectrum, but I am so thankful to have shared the Spectrum experience with you and to have had you as a resource, collaborator and friend throughout our early career experiences!

This year, I was fortunate to serve on the selection jury for the Spectrum Scholarship. Though there were some difficult decisions, this was a wonderful experience! The highlight was being able to participate in notifying successful applicants, being able to connect with them and sharing in their excitement!

DS: Congratulations on your new role as Student Success Librarian and being promoted to Associate! Can you tell us how your role has changed since the pandemic began?

JE: Thank you! Since March, much of my work has been focused a lot on online instruction. A lot of it has been on the fly due to the quick transition but I’ve also been able to learn a lot in preparation for the fall. This has included getting acquainted with tools such as Kaltura and Camtasia for providing recorded lectures as well as creating modules. I am currently assisting in supporting the University’s Summer Bridge program. I also work closely with our Latinx student organization, La Casa, and as a member of their Faculty/Staff Advisory Board have helped support their work in this transition.

I co-coordinate the Peer Information Consulting Program. These are students trained in reference and providing research support for other students. We are currently working on what the fall will look like and what our engagement will be. We are developing an assessment of the program (planned pre-Covid 19) to update our service model and realign ourselves with our institutional DEIA initiatives.

I have also been able to work on some of our Library and Campus wide anti-racism initiatives. As a member of the Library Diversity Council we’re working on engaging the library in this area by developing as well as helping to organize a reading group around the 1619 project. I was also one of many folks that contributed to our Anti-Racism Lib Guide.

Like many in academic libraries, we are still figuring out what our fall will look like.

DS: What are some ways in which you’ve practiced self-care or kept in touch with community during the pandemic?

JE: In many ways, I’ve taken it day by day. I have been extremely fortunate that both my institution and my direct supervisor have strongly emphasized work-life balance and self-care. The last few months have not been business as usual and my supervisor has reiterated that throughout this time.

I love to travel, so that’s definitely been a challenge for me. I’ve made sure to stay connected with colleagues, friends and family through Zoom and Facetime. I’ve been watching a lot of films lately and they’ve been a welcome escape. Feel free to ask me for recommendations! I have also been baking a lot as a way to relax. (You can keep up with my food moments @whatwouldjesushave).

DS: When we were [selected as] Spectrum Scholars we once talked about the struggle of people of color competing for a small pool of opportunities such as Spectrum, The ARL Kaleidoscope Initiative, and residencies, to name a few. Have you thought more about this?

JE: Yes! I’m glad you brought this up. Even before I was applying for grad school one of the things I heard from everyone was, "You have to apply for Spectrum!"

The first year I applied I didn’t get it. And, I’ll be honest, I took it really personally. Being a POC in LIS almost felt so tied to Spectrum that it felt like such a failure to not be selected.

When I did get it the second year I applied, I was ecstatic but also acknowledged that there were probably a bunch of wonderful, talented, and deserving folks who did not receive it. This is something I’ve noticed throughout grad school and into my early career; there are so many wonderful opportunities for POC (ARL Kaleidoscope, Minnesota Institute, etc.) but they indirectly create a unique situation that pit POC in our profession against each other. Library residencies have been established at dozens of institutions to address the lack of librarians of color, but they have also recreated this environment of early-career POC competing for the same opportunities.

It’s yet another cost to being POC in this field and sometimes it feels like there’ll never be a point at which this will not be the case.

Within the current context, we’re seeing how committed (or not) institutions are to DEIA by how they are responding to the pandemic as it relates to Resident Librarians and other folks in precarious employment situations. Our DEIA initiatives (of which these Residencies are a part of) don’t matter if our institutions cannot commit to them in the worst of times.