My First Library Symposium

iStudent Blog

Published: March 4, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor

This past January I was able to attend the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Symposium for Kaleidoscope Scholars in Vancouver, BC. This was the first event I attended as an MLIS graduate student and had such an exhilarating time interacting with my cohort and future librarian colleagues in a professional capacity.

The ARL Kaleidoscope Program 

Since 2000, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has supported the Kaleidoscope Program, a program that provides tuition assistance, professional development and other benefits for MLIS students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. For the 2022-2024 cohort, four iSchool students were accepted into the program; David Castro, Blanca Garcia-Barron, sourav guha and myself.

As part of the Kaleidoscope Program, scholars were invited to participate in the ARL Annual Leadership Symposium, which took place in Vancouver, BC, Canada. For four days, Kaleidoscope Program scholars networked with librarians from the host institution, Simon Fraser University and other ARL-affiliated institutions like the University of British Columbia.

ARL Leadership Symposium

The ARL Leadership Symposium was primarily held at Simon Fraser’s downtown Vancouver campus and Burnaby campus, with a one-day visit to the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. The symposium was packed with panel discussions from academic librarian professionals sharing their experiences and insights on all facets of academic librarianship as well as offering career development advice. Our group was also able to tour each campus library and talk to staff about their experiences as academic librarians. As part of the agenda, a reception was also held at Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, offering Kaleidoscope Scholars the chance to engage in a casual, one-on-one format with panelists and librarians from the reception co-hosts, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

Each panel was curated for Kaleidoscope Scholars and I learned so much useful information to help me on my journey as an academic librarian. As a first-gen, Native American grad student, I’ve felt very overwhelmed with all of the logistics surrounding librarianship. I don’t know if I am taking the right classes, making the right connections, pursuing the right career pathway, and the feelings of imposter syndrome often make me feel that I will never be a part of the profession. Listening to library professionals expressing similar feelings of inadequacy and overcoming them to create viable and enriching careers was so invaluable. Knowing that others felt similarly but were able to accomplish their education and career goals not only made me feel validation with my struggles, but emboldened me to keep working towards my own goals.

2022-2024 Kaleidoscope Scholar Cohort

The ARL Leadership Symposium was also very impactful as I finally got to meet other members of my Kaleidoscope Program cohort. While each facet of the Kaleidoscope Program is extremely worthwhile, meeting and interacting with fellow MLIS students with similar experiences to mine was unlike anything I’d ever known. I spent the entire symposium ensuring that I spent quality time with each cohort member. I cannot express how each interaction was so rewarding and fulfilling. Though we all had dissimilar backgrounds, our commonalities shone through, especially our desire for radical change within librarianship. I especially loved meeting fellow iSchool program participants. We were able to talk about our experiences with the program, including our recommended classes. I was extremely grateful to build community with other MLIS students in-person and this experience alone made the ARL Leadership Symposium worthwhile.

Connecting with Indigenous Librarians

At our visit to the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, we got to visit the Xwi7xwa Library, which I discussed in a previous blog. While I learned about indigenous librarianship while researching my chosen information group in INFO 200, it was an entirely different experience to be in an indigenous library interacting with indigenous librarians. I was so appreciative of this part of the symposium as I intend to work with Indigenous students at an academic library. Xwi7xwa Library’s staff were very kind and supportive, answering the myriad questions I had about the intrinsics of operating an indigenous library.

At the suggestion of my Kaleidoscope Program mentor, I also reached out to an Indigenous librarian whose scholarship I was familiar with from the Vancouver area. We were able to meet up for a few hours after the symposium,and spent some time together discussing issues pertaining to Indigenous librarians. They were incredibly supportive of my goals and offered to help me in any way they could. Though it was always recommended, I never thought that simply reaching out to a fellow colleague could build such meaningful connections. Again, it was a reminder of how supportive librarianship is and that many librarian professionals are happy to connect with future colleagues.

In and Around the Host City

As a former resident of Portland, Oregon, I was very happy to visit the Pacific Northwest again. Vancouver, BC is such a beautiful city with many destinations for folks to visit. I am vegan, and was excited to visit some exceptional vegan restaurants while in Vancouver. I also got to visit the Vancouver Public Library’s Central location, which was a hot destination for many folks in our cohort.

I’d like to thank everyone who was a part of this wonderful opportunity. I had such a fun time and highly recommend any interested BIPOC MLIS students apply for this program. If you have any questions, please comment below or contact me at


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