In honor of Kenya Flash, library creates new residency position for early-career librarians

  • Black woman with glasses ad purple cowl neck sweater and black cardigan smiles at camera
    Kenya S. Flash
June 1, 2023

Yale Library invites entry-level career librarians to apply for the Kenya S. Flash Residency, a newly established three-year position created in honor of Kenya Siana Flash.

Flash served as librarian for Political Science, Global Affairs, and Government Information at Marx Science and Social Science Library from 2017 until her untimely death in 2021. At Yale and throughout the library field, Kenya was known as an exceptional and beloved social sciences librarian, colleague, teacher, and community member.

“Kenya was dedicated not only to learners and researchers, but to other information professionals,” said Jeremy Garritano, director of research support and outreach programs at Marx Library, who had been Flash’s supervisor. “A creative and enthusiastic mind allowed her to bring engaging outreach and programs to our community, and her empathetic heart constantly sought to make connections with others.”

Flash’s colleagues and loved ones are committed to continuing the work she started by coordinating events and opportunities—including this new residency program and the Kenya S. Flash Virtual Lecture Series—to honor her leadership, mentorship, service, and passion for librarianship.

The residency

In this first year of the residency, the resident librarian—under the supervision of Risë Nelson, the library’s director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)—will be responsible for supporting the library’s advancement of staff-oriented initiatives.

This work will include assisting in recruitment and retention efforts, promoting and coordinating opportunities for ongoing learning and professional development, and collaborating on the assessment of the library’s progress in achieving its DEIA goals. In subsequent years, the focus of the residency will shift to reflect Flash’s many other interests and areas of expertise.

“Kenya was extremely passionate about helping others,” Flash’s sister, Kari Flash, wrote to Nelson when she learned of the launch of the new residency program. “She did her best to support both students and professors at all times, always going above and beyond. The charge to this new resident librarian is this: With all you do, do it with all your might. Let your voice be heard and not muted and, above all, have fun helping those you meet.”

Resident support and selection

Nelson has brought together several of Flash’s colleagues to serve on a planning/steering committee and—as recommended by the ACRL Residency Interest Group’s (RIG) Diversity Residency Toolkit—also invited others who have experience with similar residencies to join.

She also convened an advisory committee to work with the selected candidate. “I have found an advisory committee can be incredibly helpful in supporting and shaping the experience of an early career staff member, particularly in an inaugural role,” Nelson said.

Garritano will serve on the committee, along with Mary Caldera, associate director of archival description, and Mike Rush, assistant head of the manuscript unit in Beinecke Library—both of whom play an active role in ACRL’s diversity efforts. Adiba Nabiz, library service assistant at Marx Library, and Michelle Peralta, archivist at Beinecke Library, will also serve as committee members.

The advisory committee will support Nelson and the resident in work that Nelson describes as “strategically crafting the resident’s overall experience and opportunities to enhance their professional growth, including mentoring from librarians, career shadowing, and other activities that prepare the resident for their next steps in librarianship or library administration at the end of this residency.”

The search committee includes diverse members of the library community. Caldera, Peralta, and Rush will serve with Nelson on that six-person committee, along with Allison Gallaspy, librarian for business and management, and Miriam Olivares, librarian for Global Information Systems—both from Marx Library. Nelson will also invite staff members from across the library to participate in candidate interviews and offer their unique perspectives.

“I hope that staff members will actively participate in this upcoming resident search,” Nelson said, “and in related initiatives and events sponsored by the library or other associations of which Kenya was an invaluable member.”

Strengthening the library community

In 2022, Nelson, former assistant dean of Yale College, was named as the inaugural director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Yale Library. Flash helped shape this directorship during her time as co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Library Staff Diversity and Inclusion.

Through this residency program and other professional development initiatives, Nelson hopes to support staff members’ ongoing learning about DEIA issues and to engage staff members in making the library’s resources, services, programs, and spaces even more inclusive and accessible. 

Before joining the library, Nelson served for seven years as director of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale. There she successfully increased community-building efforts; increased programming and engagement among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members; and championed student wellness and social justice initiatives.

Nelson will continue that work and expand its reach in this new directorship position at the library. “I look forward to working with Kenya’s sister, Kari, and her family, along with my other colleagues, in continuing to honor Kenya’s legacy here at Yale and beyond,” Nelson said.

A legacy of research and service

Flash earned her MLIS from Drexel University, her MA in Political Science from East Stroudsburg University, and her BA in Government and Law from Lafayette College. Passionate about working with faculty and students, she supported the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and the Ethics, Politics, and Economics majors at Yale. She also co-taught a Government Information course at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences.

In addition to her work as an educator, Flash presented and wrote on various topics in librarianship. In 2021, she published Ethnic Studies in Academic and Research Libraries with co-editors Melissa Cardenas Dow and Raymond Pun. The more than 30 research guides that she created or co-authored showcase her remarkable scholarship and subject expertise—from broad disciplinary overviews and individual course guides to writing about more specific topics, such as political protest movements.

Flash also served the library profession through her ongoing service to the American Library Association (ALA). She was an ALA Emerging Leader in 2018 and a member of ALA’s International Relations Committee and the Black Caucus. She was also active in the Politics, Policy, and International Relations Section (PPIRS) and the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) of the American College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Flash was a member of the ACRL Diversity Alliance Task Force and the ACRL Residency Interest Group.

The first lecture in the Kenya S. Flash Virtual Lecture Series in Librarianship will be held on  Fri., July 14, and will be sponsored by PPIRS and GODORT. Willa Liburd Tavernier, Research Impact and Open Scholarship librarian at Indiana University Libraries–Bloomington, will deliver a talk titled “The Participatory Promise of Digital Community Engagement: Toward an Equitable, Trustworthy Scholarly Communication System.” Register for the free lecture.

Learn more about the Kenya S. Flash Residency Program and how to apply.

Read more about Kenya Flash.

—Deborah Cannarella