We’re so excited to welcome our new colleague Ai Miller to the Health Sciences Library as our Reference Specialist. In this role, zie will be staffing our service point, answering reference questions, and supporting the work of librarians and curators.
A Q&A with Ai
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I’m originally from Toledo, Ohio, where my parents were librarians at the public library and a private Montessori school, respectively.
I have a BA in history from Knox College, and my interest in teaching led me to graduate school at the U in the fall of 2016. I was pursuing a PhD in history but took a leave of absence (starting in January 2020).
I decided that I was more interested in serving people through library work, and I started as a library/media paraprofessional at Hopkins High School before coming to HSL. I hope to finish my PhD some day, but am grateful to be able to do other kinds of work while I research and write.
Why was working in HSL appealing to you? What do you hope to do in this role?
Working in HSL really mirrors what I like about library work generally: It’s a place that allows me to attend to my values, of access to information and service to education, without having to participate in the parts of teaching directly that I don’t like (grading, among other things).
I’m hoping that I can assist with larger projects and develop more skills to better help people with their research and other reference questions. I also am hoping to use some of my teaching skills with workshops or classroom contact.
You recently facilitated breakout sessions in a course on the history of dentistry for the new incoming class — what skills or perspectives did you bring to the class?
I was at the table for DEIA questions regarding dentistry’s past and future. I was able to use my experience as a TA in the History Department, as well as my historical knowledge, to provide some context for students about the items and what was happening in medical
history more broadly to help them understand how to approach these texts, which were occasionally difficult to understand, especially without context. I then tried to ask questions that would help guide them in the short time we had to understanding how what they read connected to DEIA in dentistry. It was exciting to hear the students connect some of what we discussed with their own experiences — discussing the dental care of incarcerated people in the past allowed them to note the ways that incarcerated people today continue to have access only to the most limited dental care.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read a lot — four books at a time, around a hundred books a year, in all genres. Because I want to finish my PhD, I’m often reading things “for research,” but I also am interested in radical politics and am usually reading about that, and then fiction for fun and to stretch my brain in a different way!
I volunteer every year as a date researcher for the Education Liberation Network’s Planning to Change the World plan book, and I’ve started volunteering for the Prison Library Support Network answering reference letters from incarcerated people. I also try to write from time to time, and have a few projects in addition to my dissertation, including a queer history aimed at young people.
I’m really enjoying developing skills that are outside my usual wheelhouse, as well as developing my research and reference skills!
Please join us in welcoming Ai!