Q&A with Heather VanDyne (2018), interviewed by Nathalie DeFelice (2017)

Heather P. VanDyne (2018 Scholar) obtained her MLS at Emporia State University in May 2019. During that time she worked as a Children's Librarian at the Coffeyville Public Library in Coffeyville, Kansas, where she launched her bilingual storytime outreach program, visiting students and sharing Hispanic Culture as well as teaching them basic vocabulary. She has also written an article for NMRT's Endnotes about using bilingual storytime outreach to connect with the Spanish-speaking community, titled "Storytime En La Escuela." Currently, VanDyne is the Library Support Specialist at the Allen Community College library, where she hopes to continue her research on outreach, dual literacy, and early learning.

VanDyne is interviewed here by Nathalie DeFelice (2017 Scholar), who obtained an MSLIS from the University of North Texas in December 2018. She has previously worked as the Homebound Coordinator for the Springdale Public Library in Springdale, AR. Currently, DeFelice works as a Children’s Librarian at the same library, and serves as a member of the Spectrum Advisory Committee.

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

HV: My most memorable experiences have definitely been the mixers at conferences because I got the chance to meet other scholars and connect with such interesting people. However, my best and most memorable experience was the Spectrum Institute because I not only got to know other Scholars, but the sessions were so empowering as far as gaining confidence in your position, representing your culture and ultimately who you are as a person. I felt like I made friends for life and came back home with renewed strength and passion.

ND: When I reached out to you, you mentioned being one of the only POC [people of color] at your library. How has this impacted your role at the library, and are there any aspects that are especially challenging?

HV: My role at the library has changed with my new position. When I was working in a public library I was the go-to person for translating and any assistance with Spanish-speaking patrons. It wasn’t in my job description, but people just look at me and assume I speak Spanish. I do not get as many requests in the Academic Library now, but I am encouraged to try to find a way to advertise that I do understand Spanish (even though I’m not fluent). I have not come across any challenges as of yet, but I do think that my interest in diversity and cultural awareness might turn me into an advocate for increased diversity and inclusion within the library’s materials as well as the institution as a whole. It’s something I see as a challenge because it takes me out of my introverted comfort zone, but necessary to help reach others.

ND: What inspired you to pursue your form of librarianship or current position?

HV: I am someone who has always loved to learn. I know many librarians love to read but I love the pursuit of knowledge and sharing it with others. But honestly, I was torn between public and academic librarianship for a long time. When I was a children’s librarian it gave me so much joy to buy items for our collection that were a bit different, but a kid enjoyed so much and make reading and the library as fun for them as it is for me. Now I’m an academic librarian and I am inspired by the opportunity to research and work with faculty and other staff to help students succeed and achieve their goals. I remember being a freshman and sitting while my college’s librarian taught us about the different databases and how to properly research at the college level. It made such a difference in my academic career that I couldn’t imagine getting through my coursework without it. I love that I get to be that librarian for other students today.

ND: Are there any experiences within the Spectrum community that have been significantly impactful to you?

HV: My first Spectrum Social was at Midwinter in Seattle and I met two other scholars. I can be quite shy and when we started talking about our libraries and our work that we do, it was like an instant connection. We ended up staying up very late just talking about our work cultures and concerns, which ended up being an uplifting experience in which two women I had only known a few hours helped me see my worth in being a part of the Spectrum community and gave me such support. I felt like in the course of one evening I had made friends for life.

ND: How do you stay motivated when you’re facing challenges as the only POC in your institution?

HV: It can be frustrating when there are instances where you are judged based on how you look or for speaking another language, especially when your co-workers do not understand why it can upset you so much. It took me a while to not get mad that they just don’t get it, but then I tell myself that they never will have those same experiences, which is not their fault. In my institution I get concerned that I’m going to be the poster child of diversity, so I am trying to see it as an opportunity to educate others, and increase equity and inclusion.

Also, as the only person of color, I feel that I almost have a duty to be present and to give my very best. I want people to see me for the skills I have to offer and achievements that I have made, not by some preconceived notion based on what I look like or where I come from.

ND: What aspect of librarianship would you like to learn more about?

HV: I want to know more about instructional librarianship. I really enjoy working in the academic environment and information literacy presentations and lectures are some of my favorite aspects of my position, so being a teaching librarian is definitely a path I want to take.

ND: What are some ways that you think that we might be able to get POC into the library and information science profession?

HV: Well, when I started working at my first library and then beginning library school, I felt like I was finally in my element and found my ideal career that I kept thinking “why didn’t I do this sooner?” So I think that libraries and MLS programs would be wise to go beyond just library conferences where people are already in the field and look at marketing to students that are still undecided in their career path or unsure what to do after they get their undergraduate or even associates degree. It may seem a little out of the box to recruit future librarians but I know that it took me over a year to even make the decision to pursue librarianship just by my own research. It would have made a world of difference if I were a single 20-year-old able to work and study anywhere in the world entering library land as opposed to a 33-year-old mother of two going back to school after 10 years while also working full time.