The University Libraries at Virginia Tech, a founding member of the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Diversity Alliance for Academic Librarianship residency program, recently welcomed Ana Corral as its second resident. 

In 2015, the three-year residency program began small and was housed at only the original four alliance universities — University Libraries at Virginia Tech, American University Library, The University of Iowa Libraries, and the West Virginia University Libraries. Now, the program includes close to 50 participating university libraries across the nation.

Anthony Wright de Hernandez, the University Libraries’ Community Collections Archivist and Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, was a member of the program’s first residency cohort and its first resident.

Corral, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Wayne State University, said the position appealed to her because it offers the freedom to explore different areas of professional librarianship and the collaborative approach they have to tackling modern-day challenges in the field of library and information science. She was also drawn to the university’s culture of service and is interested in fully immersing herself and engaging with the surrounding communities.

“One of the things that really appealed to me about the residency position in the University Libraries at Virginia Tech was the university’s motto of Ut Prosim,” said Corral. “I liked the emphasis on serving our communities and society.”

Corral moved to Blacksburg from San Diego, California, which has a large Spanish-speaking community. As a first-generation college graduate, English is her second language and growing up, she did not see many Latinx professionals in and out of academia and knows the value and importance of seeing yourself represented in higher education. “It is important for people, especially young adults that are preparing for their academic future, to see a face that looks like theirs, especially in the library.” 

She said her supportive parents always encouraged her and her three sisters to further their education. “My parents went to college in Mexico, but didn’t finish and instead came to the U.S. In Mexican culture, it is common for parents to want their children to stay close to home, to stay close to family, but my parents always encouraged me to go where I needed to go to be successful and happy. They only asked ‘what do you need from me to help you,’” said Corral. 

As a three-year resident in the University Libraries, Corral wants to learn as much as she can about the librarianship profession while making a difference in her community.

“School is a small fraction of what you need, it’s a base. I am expanding upon what I learned in school,” said Corral “I also want to create something that will live past my time here.”

After her first three weeks in Blacksburg, she missed hearing Spanish being spoken and reading books in Spanish. She found herself drawn to El Centro, one of the community and cultural centers under the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. 

“I met a lot of students who talked about missing the sense of community in language. They missed speaking Spanish and wanted someone to talk to,” said Corral. “I jumped at the opportunity to become more involved in the organization and create something to fit that need.”

The Comunidad Book Club was born. Corral saw this book club, a partnership between the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, the Blacksburg Public Library El Centro, and LASO, as a way to foster community and belonging and encourage people to form and maintain connections where they might not have originally sought to.

“Members of the Spanish speaking community at Virginia Tech have been searching for a place to speak in their language, to share ideas, and feel at home in an area where community and the familiar can be hard to find,” said Corral. “Book clubs are places of connection, where people from different backgrounds gather to reflect, enjoy, and immerse themselves in stories.

“The Spanish speaking community around Montgomery, Floyd, and Franklin counties is small but mighty, and connecting them with the Virginia Tech community will not only address the need for a sense of community but also provide a physical location to gather, share ideas, and be present, all in Spanish.” 

The book club will begin with the book Umami by Laia Jufresa on Feb. 15 and meet in the Blacksburg Public Library on the third Saturday of the month through July 18. Anyone interested in participating is invited to learn more

“I never intended this program to be just mine or just the University Libraries’; it does and should belong to the community,” said Corral. “We are hoping to expand to other public libraries across the region. The University Libraries along with various partners can help cultivate a sense of belonging and welcome. The need is not just in Blacksburg, but also in other communities in Southwest Virginia.”