Celia Hagey

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Initiatives Student Librarian


Celia Hagey (she/her) is an MLIS student at the University of British Columbia. Summer 2024 is her third term of study. She is interested in academic library work that supports information literacy, curiosity, and empowerment for post-secondary students, as well as work centering library accessibility and advocacy for neurodivergent patrons. Before coming to UBC, she completed a BA in English Writing while working as a student writing consultant and library circulation assistant. When she’s not at the library, Celia enjoys writing, running, trying new recipes, and watching video essays on niche topics.

Current Role & Responsibilities

The EDI Student Librarian supports the development of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Scholars-in-Residence program, along with assisting in other community engagement programming at the IKBLC.


Q&A with Celia

Could you tell us more about yourself? Could you share with us some of your experiences working with community? What types of projects are you most proud of? 

My name is Celia. I use she/her pronouns, and I am currently an MLIS student at UBC. I am an international student who grew up in a small maritime city south of Seattle, Washington. I completed my bachelor’s degree in English Writing at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, where I developed a love of research and library work as it relates to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The accomplishment I am most proud of from my time as an undergraduate is my involvement in an event called Diversity Monologues. This annual event brought several hundred audience members to watch monologue performances from selected students relating to themes like justice, belonging, faith, and love. In 2022, I performed a monologue of my own about growing up as a queer person in a religious community. In 2023, I returned to Diversity Monologues as a planning committee member and mentor for that year’s performers.

The Diversity Monologues hold a very special place in my heart. It provided a space on campus for students to express vulnerable lived experiences through poetry and live performance. Participating in this event gave me a taste of what it is like when a community comes together to listen to and support one another, and I credit it for giving me courage to continue advocating for spaces of true belonging for all people. If I can present a monologue to a full auditorium, I can do anything!

Now that I am at UBC, I am proud of my current work to make library spaces more accessible for autistic people like myself. I have been able to connect with likeminded people in LIS spaces, including the NeuroGLAMorous Canada Discord server and the Disability Affinity Group at UBC. It has been a joy to discover other people who are interested in the same type of work as I am— UBC has definitely opened me up to a wider world of connectivity and opportunities in this field.


What is your definition of equity, diversity, and inclusion? How do you encourage people to honour the uniqueness of each individual? How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion? 

My formative understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion comes from an illustration that a teacher showed my class as a teenager. This illustration has existed in different forms, but I will provide one of the more current iterations as it appears in an article on LinkedIn:

(Key, 2021)

The illustration points out a flaw in thinking that providing equality will lead to fair outcomes for all people. When every person is given a stool of the same height, one person is still left out, because they are shorter than the other people in the illustration. Equity, then, is when each person is treated according to their individual need. The people in the illustration receive stools customized to the height that they need.

The illustration that I remember my teacher showing me did not include the final panel on justice. I appreciate this new addition, because it reminds me that supports are sometimes only necessary because a systemic barrier exists in the first place. Sometimes, the best way to include everyone is to change things about the structural environment that surrounds us.

I frequently encounter the topic of honouring each individual’s uniqueness in my library accessibility work. A key tenet of accessibility work is that every person has different access needs. Even though there are often common threads among a community’s needs— for example, many autistic people desire quiet spaces with low lighting— I cannot assume that everyone I am hoping to serve will share that need. Knowing this, I always work to include flexibility and universal design in my recommendations for improved accessibility. An initiative will be most successful if it allows users to adjust their experience according to what works for them.

When it comes to stereotypes, I challenge myself to investigate the reason why they exist. Learning about topics like implicit bias has allowed me to understand why our brains create stereotypical ideas about people— they helped our prehistoric ancestors to quickly identify danger by making flash judgments about a situation. Having this logical understanding helps me be able to dismantle the stereotype. I can recognize that it exists because of certain cognitive reasons, but in the context of my current reality, it is not helpful or accurate.

Being aware of my own implicit bias has also been crucial for me. Most of us are kind, well-intentioned people, but that does not mean we don’t still hold cognitive biases that are we are not explicitly intending to purport. Yet, when we know that the bias exists, we can be especially intentional about challenging our first thoughts and fears about people who are different from us.

Tools like Harvard’s Implicit Association Test can be useful in beginning to discover implicit biases in yourself: Harvard Implicit Association Test


Fobazi Ettarh’s “vocational awe” has become a widely read piece of LIS literature and the term has entered the lexicon of the profession. She recently followed up with, ““The Future of Libraries:” Vocational Awe in a “Post-COVID” World (co-authored with Chris Vidal). What does “vocational awe” mean for you as a graduate student entering a career in library and archives?

For me, vocational awe is a reminder not to place my career on too high of a pedestal. Pressing issues like racism, misogyny, and ableism are present in the LIS field, even though it is a field that also does a lot of good in the world. We should avoid viewing librarians as automatically virtuous people and instead examine people’s character through the same lenses we would use with others. Libraries and librarians are not immune to any of the pressures and biases that permeate the rest of the world.

I also am thinking about the pitfalls I could encounter by associating too much of my identity with my work as a librarian. As I continue as a graduate student and soon enter a full-time career, I want to make sure I stay intentional about maintaining other aspects of my identity. I enjoy writing creatively, participating in fandom and media analysis, running, hiking, and reading for pleasure. I am a friend and a daughter and a sister. These things make up important parts of me, even though they are not part of the “librarian” part of me. I anticipate that I will spend the next few years striking a balance between loving my job and loving all the other parts of who I am.


How has diversity played a role in shaping how you communicate and interact with others in the workplace and as a student?

My own neurodiversity definitely impacts the way I communicate. I am often more blunt and transparent than neurotypical people, and it can sometimes be challenging to navigate communication differences when I work with others. As I have grown and learned more about my brain, I have realized how important it is to approach communication with an open mind. I work to always assume good intentions and to avoid placing blame on any party if a misunderstanding occurs. Any person I encounter in a workplace or school environment will bring with them a diverse set of life experiences that informs how they interact with me. Our differences do not have to be pain points; instead, if we approach them with sincerity, they can be doorways into understanding someone else’s unique approach to the world.

I worked as a writing consultant as an undergraduate student, and that experience helped me to appreciate the diverse ways that people can communicate. I worked with students who spoke English as a second language and who often wrote in ways that were stylistically or grammatically non-standard. However, much of their writing presented ideas in very creative and interesting ways, simply by virtue of being presented unexpectedly. For example, when students translated idioms literally from their native language into English, I would comment on the way it struck me and impacted me in a way that standard English could not have done. Language differences should not be viewed as inherently “wrong,” only different.

An example of this phenomenon— I recently read A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott. The phrase “a mind spread out on the ground” is a translation of the Mohawk word for depression. The visual image that this phrase conjures has made me think about depression in new ways, taking a familiar word and making it fresh again.


In your experience, what challenges are faced by members of historically underrepresented groups in the workplace? And in academia? 

My personal experience with the work world has presented me with both challenges and privileges. Many of the skills needed to access a workplace require me to expend lots of energy masking my autistic traits. To navigate job interviews and networking events, decipher loaded questions, learn workplace etiquette, and even give a “good” handshake, I have to work a lot harder than neurotypical people. These experiences are a significant part of why I’m now so interested in conducting research around autism and employment in libraries— I want to make things easier for other people like me.

In my own experience with employment, it has been harder for me to obtain a job than it is to keep a job. I have genuinely enjoyed the roles I have held so far in libraries. While it is not true that all autistic people can successfully maintain employment, I have found that the right role that suits my skill set can really allow me to thrive.

As well as these challenges, I have also experienced privilege that comes from my racial and socioeconomic background. I have spent most of my life in majority-white spaces where I never had to navigate microaggressions or cultural differences with colleagues. I am also blessed to have a supportive family who is able to help me obtain a graduate degree while I learn to navigate disability and adulthood. I would not be able to do it without the resources they are able to provide me with. In a more just world, this wouldn’t be the case, but the ability to pursue a career in the precise field that you are most suited to is a privilege not afforded to everybody.

Academia is definitely an area where many groups are underrepresented. In my studies as an English student, I experienced efforts to bring in new voices to the typical literature syllabus. My professors often assigned readings outside of the “classics,” by authors of colour, female authors, queer authors, and disabled authors, as an explicit effort to contend with the homogeneity of the literary canon. These efforts are necessary because almost all of the titles that we view as works of classic literature were written by upper-class, white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied men. Since I aim to work in an academic library, I will consider it a part of my responsibilities to think about diversifying the types of content that academics read and write about. We must listen to ideas from all different types of people if we hope to produce academic work that truly benefits the world.


What does a campus environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and increasingly diverse look like for you?

I love to see clues in a campus environment that signal to me that it is an inclusive space. For example, when an advertisement for a campus event mentions accommodations that are available, that tells me that someone involved in planning the event thought about accessibility. Even some things that may arguably be performative, like putting up pride flags, are still signs that the campus is aware of the issue and has made an effort to communicate that it is a safe place. I find that I tend to appreciate these signals more than some other people because of my background in conservative and non-queer-affirming communities. In an area as comparatively progressive as Vancouver, I think it’s valuable to remember that even performative actions are more than what exists in lots of other places in the world.

Of course, efforts to become more inclusive should not end with these signals. I imagine that a campus committed to increasing diversity would always be evaluating what it is currently doing and what it can do next. There should not be a finish line; rather, there should be continual reflection and implementation of emerging ideas.

And, in regard to this reflection work, I am a big proponent of changing your mind. A crucial part of growth is the ability to change one’s behaviour after learning new information. As a future information professional, I believe it is of the utmost importance to cultivate humility while doing EDI work. That humility will allow us to move forward in more productive directions after discovering that a previous idea was not as welcoming or inclusive as we would have hoped. When a campus administration is able to admit to having done something wrong and then change its actions, I come to respect them as people who are capable of integrating new information into their worldview.


Are there any recommendations for books or articles that you recommend we learn more about? What are some titles that have shaped who you are?



Implicit Association Test. (n.d.). Project Implicit. Retrieved May 13, 2024, from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

Key, J. (2021). Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Entertainment: A Conversation Worth Having. LinkedIn. Retrieved May 13, 2024, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diversity-equity-inclusion-entertainment-conversation-justin-key/

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