Arriving at the 2019 Authenticity Project – introducing fellow Raquel Donahue

April 29, 2019
Catherine A. Aster

When Cathy Aster, Product and Service Manager in Digital Library Systems and Services (DLSS) at Stanford University asked if I’d like to do some guest blogging for Stanford Libraries, I was surprised and grateful. As a 2019 Cohort Fellow in the joint, IMLS-funded Council on Library and Information Resources’ Digital Library Federation (CLIR/DLF) + HBCU Library Alliance Authenticity ProjectCathy serves as my official Conversation Partner in the program, alongside Andrea Jackson GavinGrant Writer at Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, who serves as my program Mentor. I’ve quickly learned how generous Cathy is, and the sincerity of her involvement in this program that seeks to encourage and develop early- to mid-career library professionals working at HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) like mine, Prairie View A&M UniversityThis is my first time as a guest blogger and although I’m inexperienced, the point of this program is to help me grow professionally.

I’m in my third year as a Reference & Instruction Librarian at John B. Coleman LibraryI still hardly believe that I landed this position –my first professional librarian job I interviewed for right after completing my Master of Library Science at Texas Woman's University's School of Library & Information Studies (TWU-SLIS) in December 2015. The interview was an all-day marathon. I just “knew” there was no way I’d get the job when I drove home that night exhausted, my mouth aching from the perma-smile I’d worn, just like I “knew” I wouldn’t be picked to participate in the Authenticity Project.  When I got that life-changing call just after closing the Houston Community College – Spring Branch campus library where I worked for the day, I sat in stunned silence in the dark. I knew and still know this wasn’t the typical new graduate experience in this field and I count myself fortunate. I’d heard cautionary tales from librarians prior to graduating preparing me for a grueling year-long search. I listened to SLIS faculty warnings from the start of my graduate program and did everything that I could to shore up my lack of library experience well before graduation.  The furious sprint I maintained between January 2014 and December 2015 as a full-time, online graduate student while I worked as a full-time library assistant at Houston Community College Libraries plus a 120-hour unpaid practicum while a single mother of a toddler was among the most intense periods of my life. It felt like I was holding my breath for two years plus, but it paid off.

As I clambered over obstacles I’d stop and look back in wonder that I managed to come so far from where I was, but I recognize that I didn’t do it alone.  My family, my classmates, and the amazing librarians who mentored me along the way share the credit for my success so far.  I’ve been working hard in my first librarian role feeling that I have much to prove, and the specter of Imposter Syndrome is always near, which is not unusual considering that I don’t have a blueprint for this path.  I’m a first-generation college graduate, was (until quite recently) a single mother born to a single mother, and the long-awaited beneficiary of generations of hardworking blue-collared people; Detroit auto workers, seasonal/farm laborers, and Mexican immigrants.  I’m an oldest child born to teenage parents and none of my family before me knew how to prepare me for higher education, but here I am, grappling the best that I can, one handhold at a time with the help of newfound friends and colleagues.

The Authenticity Project is a formalized way for me and other HBCU library professionals trying to find our footing to continue to receive invaluable support and mentorship from more established librarians.  I have three commitments lined up to present at conferences about this project over the next year.  I’ve never presented at a conference before.  I’ll be meeting Cathy in a month at my first conference presentation in Austin, Texas for the 2019 Texas Conference on Digital LibrariesIn a year’s time, cohort fellow Raeshawn McGuffie, Assistant Director of Techical Services at Hampton University's William R. and Norma B. Harvey Library will join me to update TCDL on the entirety of the program experience.  This October, several of us within the project will be participating in a program panel at the DLF Forum in Tampa, Florida –another first!

I’m stepping well out of my comfort zone now, but I know that these experiences are invaluable.  I’m so thankful for my involvement with this project and getting to know and learn from other dedicated librarians because, in the words of the late, great Maya Angelou:

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.  

Mrs. Raquel K. (Williams) Donahue, MLS
Reference & Instruction Librarian
Instruction Liaison to College of Juvenile Justice & Psychology &
Division of Social Work, Behavioral & Political Sciences;
Collection Development Liaison to Sociology
Prairie View A&M University
John B. Coleman Library (Office 126A)
P.O. Box 519; M.S. 1040
Prairie View, Texas 77446
Ph. 936.261.1505 | FAX 936.261.1538
rkwilliams@pvamu.edu | https://www.pvamu.edu/library/
twitter: @RaquelKWilliams

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