Spotlight Feature: Michelle Peralta

Photo of Michelle Peralta
March 31, 2020

What is your role at Yale?

I am an archivist in Manuscripts and Archives, which is located in Sterling Memorial Library. My role is to arrange, describe, and make available, archival collections from across Yale University Library’s special collection repositories, including the Divinity, Music, Medical Historical, and Arts libraries. These collections comprise personal papers, organization records, and/or manuscripts, and be in such formats as photographs, drawings, letters and postcards, floppy disks, etc. The goal is to have these materials made available through Archives at Yale, the library’s resource for discovering archival collections. I also provide reference assistance to students, faculty, staff and researchers, serve on library committees, and assist with instruction.

How have you adjusted to living on the East Coast as a California native?

It has been a process, for sure. I certainly don’t get as much sun as I’m used to! But it is nice living in a place with distinct seasons, and I have been trying to make a point to take advantage of the seasonal change as much as possible. Also, I like that New Haven is situated between New York and Boston. There is always a lot going on!

How does representation show up in your life? What does it mean to you to have an Asian community in your workplace?

I am cognizant of the fact that I occupy spaces that not many Asian-Americans, let alone Filipinx-Americans, hold. Growing up, I never considered a career in librarianship or in archives; I did not think that these jobs would be options for me. Part of this is because, as a daughter of immigrants, my parents encouraged a different path for me, one that was based on occupations that they knew were both lucrative and stable. But another part of this equation was that I just did not see people who looked like me behind reference desks. So now, having a seat behind the reference desk, I try to be a visible as I can be to students, researchers, faculty, community partners, etc. But I also, since I do have a seat at the metaphorical table, I strive to make space and uplift underrepresented voices in my work.

I come from a city that has a sizeable Filipinx/Filipinx-American population. Unfortunately, this is not true for New Haven. And it would be very easy to feel isolated from familiar food, languages, customs, etc. but I have come to appreciate and find solace in the Asian/Asian-American community here at Yale, and to celebrate its vibrancy. Asian cultures are multi-faceted and complex, but I enjoy celebrating our commonalities, and learning more about those aspects that make each culture unique. It makes for a much less lonely experience.

What does diversity look like in your field of library and archival science? How can Yale continue to develop as a workplace of belonging for people of color and minority backgrounds?

Librarianship as a whole could be more inclusive of various backgrounds, education levels, types of experiences. The oft quoted statistic about the diversity of librarianship is that it is 87% white and where the majority of the workforce is women. These statistics are from a 1998 American Library Association report, but a more recent Association of Research Libraries surveys show similar findings. So, there is a lot of work to do still.

The library workforce should reflect the communities they serve. As the student, faculty, and research population continues to change and diversify, inclusive of various ethnic and racial identities, physical abilities, neurodiversity, LGBTQIA+ identities, multi-lingual and multi-cultural experiences, etc., re-thinking hiring practices to be more reflective might be a way to start.

What’s your favorite New Haven food? What’s your favorite meal from home?

Is it cliché to say pizza? It really is good here. From back home, I really miss California burritos. Not to be confused with burritos from California. They are ubiquitous and somewhat unique to San Diego, so much so that if I can get a California burrito, I know I’m home.