Genira Newell, a library services supervisor at the Lawrence Branch and a graduate student studying human resources development at Indiana State University was recently selected as The Indianapolis Public Library’s (IndyPL) Human Resources Diversity Fellow, an opportunity that offers her mentorship and professional development.
Newell was a teenager when she started working for IndyPL as a summer reading clerk at a branch in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. When she attended college at Indiana State University, she’d come back to Indianapolis over summer breaks and work with the summer reading program. After graduating from Indiana State University, she worked with IndyPL full-time and gained new responsibilities with each role. Her love of hiring, coaching, supporting, and training staff inspired her to work toward a master’s degree in human resources.
“I’m currently in school, almost done. When you go to school, you get the basics, you get an internship. But this is a learning opportunity for real-world coaching, feedback, and mentorship as an HR professional. I grew up in The Library, and I believe it is a great place to work, a learning institution where you can grow,” said Newell. “Specifically, with my HR skills, I want to hone in on the areas of diversity and inclusion. As a hiring supervisor, I’ve had the opportunity to make an impact in hiring a diverse workforce at the Lawrence branch. I look for diverse candidates, and sometimes I have to reach out to networks and people I know to get the word out about these positions. I want to create a workplace that encourages equal opportunity.”
The Diversity Fellow program got its start in the early 2000s. The goal was to create a position similar to the training librarian position that was available in the ‘80s and ‘90s but with a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion. Training librarians would gain experience in various public service locations and closed departments before being placed into an open position or applying for open positions. IndyPL’s diversity fellows have the opportunity to explore their interests in a number of roles.
Newell is the third IndyPL Diversity Fellow. The previous fellow, Olanike Olaniyi, worked in public services, digitalization, and collection management before moving on to a full-time role as a collection development librarian. Olaniyi focused on increasing the diversity of Library collection items, adding titles by African American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ authors.
“My favorite aspect [of being a Diversity Fellow] was getting to know the library system in its behind-the-scene mode in collection management and public mode in public services. As a collection development librarian, the part that stuck to me is the ability to relate my works with Immigrant Welcome Center as a Natural Helper and profession as a librarian in providing resources in the ecology of diverse Indianapolis communities,” Olaniyi said.
Amira Malcolm currently works as a diversity fellow in the Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC), where she is helping to prepare the CBLC for a digital expansion.
“We want to implement a kiosk display on Black history, Black literature, Black culture, the Black diaspora, and Black librarianship,” said Malcolm. “Working with Nichelle Hayes has been great and I’m grateful to learn about project management. In other environments I’ve worked in I haven’t had as much autonomy, you might try to start a project and it has to be approved by many people. It’s really great being able to have an influence here.”
Newell will be the first diversity fellow to work in the Human Resources department, partnering with HR generalists to ensure recruitment efforts and hiring processes are equitable while supporting retention and employee engagement, especially focused on diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, hiring, career pathways, and talent development.
Katherine Lerg, the director of human resources at IndyPL, is excited to have Newell join the team on August 16.
“This role is important because diversity makes for a better organization and better outcomes,” said Lerg. “We want her to be able to touch on everything we do in HR, to give her necessary practical skills and experience to move forward in her HR career path, and to help strengthen our organization in the process.”