Staff Profile: Karina Hagelin


Who they are: Karina Hagelin (preferred pronouns: they, them, their), diversity fellow and assistant archivist.

What they do: I do a lot of processing, a lot of metadata creation for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force collection, and a lot of going to Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) meetings. I’m on the DIB Vision Subcommittee, which is currently creating a vision statement for the library to guide its diversity efforts. I’m also on the Resource Acquisition DIB team, which includes getting social justice guides and books by people of color, by genderqueer, trans, and queer people, and by disabled people. I work specifically on how we can make our instruction sessions feature more diverse collections and how we can incorporate them into the library in a more holistic way.

Why it’s important: I’m preserving content for future queer and trans people to see that they have a history, and that people before them did really cool stuff here. Seeing the zine collections and the queer zines that have been made from the 60, 70s, 80s, and 90s really resonates with me, especially seeing this subculture that’s existed for so long. I didn’t have any access to stories of queer people growing up, and I wish I had role models and images like that in my life because that would’ve made a really big difference for me.

Also, maybe it’s not visible to everyone, but I am disabled, I am transgender, and I am queer, and students seeing someone who’s a librarian or an archivist in those positions being represented is really important.

Where they’re from: Annapolis, Maryland

Education: I did my Bachelor of Arts in American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. While I was there, I managed the LGBT Equity Library and also worked on digital collections and digital curation, which is how I got into librarianship. When thinking about what to do next, I decided to apply for a master’s in the Library and Information Science program and digitized special collections, along with a lot of image cataloging and creating metadata. I got really passionate about metadata while I was there, and that translates to what I’m doing here now.

Background: When I got to college, my relationship with school completely changed. I became really passionate about being a student and about my research. I published a master’s thesis called Gossip as a Site of Resistance: Information Sharing Strategies amongst Survivors of Sexual Violence, which is about how marginalized communities use gossip to resist dominant discourses and abusive structural inequality when they’re denied access to traditional information institutions like the media and education and the news.

As a grad student, I also worked on a lot of conference management, and I have planned and organized three conferences so far. The first was the Radical Libraries Archives and Museums Track at Allied Media Conference, along with two years of organized conferences on inclusion and diversity in Library and Information Science. It’s a lot of work but fantastic in the end.

How long at Cornell: I started in August of 2018 in the Diversity Fellowship program, which runs for two years.

Best part of their job: The best part of my job is processing and working with collections of other queer people. I’m currently processing a human sexuality collection, and sometimes I cry in my office because it’s so emotionally intense. This guy was with his partner 40 years, and while I was reading his journals his grief was so overwhelming to me and I started crying, which is actually normal for archivists because we work with collections of trauma a lot of the time.

What they’re most proud of: Sharing my story as a survivor and helping others heal from what happened to them.

In their spare time: I’m a zinester and I have my own series of zines where I write about radical vulnerability, mental health, recovery and healing, and queer femme magic. I also have two kittens that just turned six months old. I’m definitely a cat person. So, I do a lot of making zines, playing with my cats, and I’m also trying to read up to 100 books this year on the Goodreads book challenge. (I’m on number 77!)

Dream job: Zine librarian.

Parting thoughts: While we’ve made so much progress here by even having a diversity fellow, I think that all libraries have so much work to do because it hasn’t been a priority, and if it has been, it’s seen as a side thing. I think diversity and inclusion have to be incorporated into every mission statement, every vision, every aspect. You can’t just leave it out and add it on at the end because you’re leaving out and excluding so many people, and that’s a form of violence.