In Conversation with ischool Blogger Kesheena Doctor

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Kesheena Dcotor

“One of the things with blogging is that I felt like I was really reflective, but I also was very determined to provide information for students.”

Kesheena Doctor, expected ‘24, MLIS
New Orleans, Louisiana

Kesheena Doctor started her MLIS journey at SJSU in the Fall of 2022. She received several scholarships, such as Native Forward, the Navajo Nation Graduate Fund, and the Cobell Scholarship.  Additionally, she was accepted into the Kaleidoscope Program, a two-year commitment that provides support to BIPOC students focusing on academic librarianship.

Kesheena is set to graduate this Spring! Completing the MLIS program in two years would be daunting in itself. Still, in addition to a heavy course load, Kesheena has attended multiple conferences, maintained a part-time job as a library assistant at the New Orleans Public Library, and was a part of several initiatives. For instance, she worked with Dr. Chow on Reading Nations’ Waterfalls, a program that works with specific Native American tribes to increase literacy rates among children. She also worked on the Seeking Immortality Project, which helps to preserve Native American language and cultural artifacts on a virtual reality platform. The projects are led and owned by the tribes they are about. All the while, Kesheena blogged about these experiences (and more) from the beginning of her two years at SJSU until the very end.  

Road to Librarianship

As an undergrad, Kesheena studied intersectional and Indigenous feminism. She then joined the tech industry but remained active outside of work in community and activist spaces. She was raised in a Navajo community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is the first person in her family to attend graduate school. As an avid reader, Kesheena had always wanted to be a librarian, but she said being a first-generation student limited her worldview of available opportunities. She was also concerned that her interests in punk and radical politics might not mesh with her library work. Through her zine community in Portland, Oregon, she learned what library work could be: engagement, teaching, and event and community programming. During the pandemic, she assessed her life and decided to go back to school to study academic Indigenous librarianship. 

She chose SJSU to build community with other BIPOC students in the bridge scholarship program, which provides financial support to 15 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduate students. She also joined the first-generation student group and said she felt very welcome. Similarly, one of her goals in attending conferences was to meet other Indigenous and BIPOC librarians. 

 “One thing I have noticed with the profession is people are really really nice. Not just fellow students but professionals, especially within the BIPOC community. They want you to stay in the program because there are a lot of people who leave after a few years from what I’ve learned. For some reason, LIS can’t retain BIPOC librarians, so when you meet people they want you to stay so they are more than happy to talk to you and provide any mentorship you may need no matter how small. I highly recommend going to conferences and meeting people. They’re not scary”

Blogging Journey

Students can read Kesheena’s iStudent blog and gain multiple insights and tips into navigating the SJSU experience, from choosing classes to staying organized to applying for scholarships and grants. Writing the blog felt like a natural step for Kesheena, as she was the editor of her high school newspaper. From the beginning of her blogging career, she knew she wanted the platform to be a source of information for other students. 

“I realized I had discovered a third-person outlook where I am looking at what I am doing and seeing it from someone else’s perspective. Like, oh, I wish I had known this or this is an informative experience.”

However, Kesheena’s blog is not just a reference for didactic information for students; it also serves as a source of encouragement and inspiration for those who are experiencing insecurity or doubt. For instance, Kesheena cites the student research journal as an example. She had always wanted to submit an article to it but never thought she had actual viable research to offer.  She said she just “automatically had this barrier.” However, she realized she could submit the paper she wrote for Info 200, Information Communities.

“I was like this is fine for the student research journal, I could submit this…it’s a really easy way to have something published that the school is supporting. And so I was like just do it. And after I thought about it, I was like I should write a blog about this as well, and I do a lot of that.”

Students reading Kesheena’s blog might relate to the perceived barriers that stalled her from fulfilling her true academic and professional potential. Hopefully, students will see they, too, should go after opportunities they feel insecure about. 

Kesheena Doctor 2

“Everyone should celebrate their work and everyone should put it out there because there’s not a lot of literature on whatever people are doing. And I think as students we feel like our research isn’t good enough, or when we become a real librarian we can publish, but I’m just like, no, publish now.”

What’s Next and Advice For Students

The library field will benefit from Kesheena’s knowledge, insight, and thoughtfulness. In her free time, she likes to watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race and has already gotten halfway through the 1001 films to watch before you die list. However, now that graduation is approaching, she is already planning her next moves. Her ideal is to move to a more progressive state and work as an academic Indigenous librarian in a place like UC schools.

“I think everyone should learn about Indigenous librarianship, first and foremost, not just native Americans and Indigenous people.  It benefits everyone and really kind of pushes a non-white viewpoint on librarianship. Because a lot of the issues Indigenous librarianship brings up are prevalent in non-white communities. So I think if you are trying to be a more inclusive librarian, it would be central to your work to learn about all of these other viewpoints of information literacy, data, and services you provide.”

Kesheena correctly notes there is an elephant in the room within librarianship: the profession is eighty percent white women. This contributes to a climate of inherent racism, which could be why the profession loses so many of its BIPOC students. She offers this sage advice, 

“I always think of the platinum rule.  It was something I learned in radical organizing. The golden rule is to treat others how you want to be treated, the platinum rule is to treat others how they want to be treated. I think that can extend to librarianship by for example DIY initiatives. You want to listen to other librarians and communities when they tell you something is wrong. Don’t talk over them, listen to them and be an ally. Support people in what they want to do for change.”