Photo by: Heather J. McClelland
At LSU libraries, Hayley is the Head of Government Documents and Microforms, while Sarah works as the Undergraduate and Student Success Librarian. Together they have been uncovering the powerful narratives of Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in Louisiana internment camps during World War II.
The close friends — who will be sharing the stage together at TEDxLSU 2019, have long had an interest in history, working on numerous projects together before researching Japanese internment, including an exhibit at Nicholls State University on the 100 years between the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.
They have also partnered with the Historic New Orleans Collection for their traveling exhibition, Purchased Lives, dedicated to the history of the domestic slave trade that emanated from New Orleans. The librarians’ collective skill and dedication is helping to shine a light on important narratives of Louisiana’s history.
We recently chatted with Hayley and Sarah to discuss their work and lives. Read some highlights of the conversation below.
How did you end up as librarians?
Hayley: I was pursuing an academic career in English and realized that what I really loved was the research aspect of academics. I did some searching and discovered that academic librarianship would allow me to do research on a wide variety of topics. So, I changed course and got my MLIS.
Sarah: After getting my BA, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and worked in environmental construction. Then one day, it hit me that I loved to help people and loved libraries — so why not become a librarian? I moved to New York City and pursued my MSLIS from Long Island University while working in the antiquarian book trade. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t enamored with my job selling rare books, so I moved to Thibodaux, LA to take a job as an academic librarian at Nicholls State University. It was there that I met Hayley and we’ve been collaborative partners for about 5 years. Almost two years ago, I took a job here at LSU as the Undergraduate & Student Success Librarian to be able to focus more on teaching and outreach to undergraduate students.
What is your favorite aspect of your work?
Hayley: My favorite aspect of the work that I do is the variety that comes with being a government documents librarian. One day, I can help someone find statistics on education, population or housing. The next, I can be researching coastal erosion or non-unanimous jury verdicts. The next day will be something just as different. This variety keeps my work challenging.
Sarah: The best part of my job is teaching information literacy to students in a fun and creative way — lots of discussions in the classroom with students and faculty centering on the idea of how to become information literate and how to use that information well.
Why did you start researching Japanese internment camps?
Hayley: Curiosity and a bit of chance got this whole research project going.
Sarah: Hayley is a super curious and persistent researcher. One day she told me that she had found this really cool article where Muslim children read letters to Japanese American adults who had been incarcerated during World War II — these letters were written during World War II by incarcerated Japanese American children. It was really powerful, and she got to wondering if there were any camps here in Louisiana. From there, we’ve been working nonstop to uncover this history.
How does your friendship play a role in your research partnership?
Sarah: Our friendship outside of work grew organically because of our shared interests and working so closely together for so long. Since we know each other so well, we also complement each other really well — where one struggles, the other can pick up the slack. We also travel really well together, which we hear is the sign of a healthy relationship!
What’s something that a lot of people don’t understand about being a librarian?
Hayley: Being a librarian isn’t just checking out books and answering other people’s questions. Librarianship is a malleable field that supports varied research interests.
Sarah: I think a lot of people have this stereotype in their mind that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Librarians are very civic-minded and work to promote people’s rights — privacy, information usage, and literacy, just to name a few.
What do you do to relax and unplug from your work?
Hayley: I spend time with family and friends. I also love to unplug for a few hours with a good movie or book.
Sarah: British murder mysteries are my go-to for relaxation!
Do you have any other hobbies?
Hayley: I love travel, tennis and music.
Sarah: I’m a huge nerd when it comes to cemeteries. I love the history that exists in these spaces, frozen in time. I’ll make a point to visit a historic cemetery whenever I travel. I especially love the folk art elements that you see in New England cemeteries.
What is your superpower?
Hayley: Tenacity. I don’t give up easily. Over the course of this project, there have been countless hours spent following leads that ended up being dead ends. Every dead end just made me more determined to uncover the history of internment in Louisiana.
Sarah: I’m a people person, so I love talking to people about their experiences. I’m genuinely interested in the human experience and can talk to anyone about anything!
Of all the 2019 TEDxLSU speakers, which are you most excited about seeing, and why?
Hayley: LadyBEAST. I’ve heard about her act and can’t wait to see it in person.
Sarah: I can’t narrow it down, I can’t wait to see what everyone brings to the stage. The lineup is amazing!
To learn more about Hayley and Sarah or about TEDxLSU 2019, follow TEDxLSU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reserve your seat now to experience their talk, as well as the talks of all of the other TEDxLSU 2019 speakers.