My last day as Curator for the Southeast Asian Archive & Research Librarian for Asian American Studies at UC Irvine

September 30, 2022

Sadness and joy do coexist. I am so sad to leave this post I’ve held since 2013. For nearly a decade I have been practicing archival stewardship, learning how to be a librarian, and becoming a better educator and advocate for histories on the margin. From the very moment I came to UCI as a lecturer for the Department of Asian American Studies in 2010, I have considered UCI a special kind of place to test out community-building, social justice work, creativity, and experimentation. Along the way I found kindred spirits among my colleagues on this campus and it will be hard to settle into a new work life without these wonderful people by my side. Since clearing out my UCI office yesterday, I’ve oscillated between feelings of sadness and joy, but I’m trying to remain positive in my outlook, as always.

I am also filled with such joy and excitement for this next chapter as I join the UCLA Information Studies faculty to train future archivists, librarians, educators, and memory-keepers. UCLA is not new to me. Having been there for 2 years as a postdoc with the Asian American Studies Center, I already feel a sense of connection. And the warm welcome of former colleagues and enthusiasm of new ones give me great assurance that I am entering a place where I can keep learning and growing. I am excited to return to the classroom, mentor students, and unleash the creativity of research and community engagement.

When asked what I will miss most about UCI, I knew right away: the people. Because even as I felt the great privilege of preserving and sharing Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, and Vietnamese community histories, it’s not the “stuff” that holds my heart. It is the people who have mentored, challenged, supported, and inspired me to do the work that I didn’t know I could do when I was young. I did not set out to be a librarian/archivist/curator, but as I reflect on the journey, I’d say, “you did good, Dr. Thuy Vo Dang.” Much of the credit of my success in librarianship should go to the folks in UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives, a small but mighty team that should be a model for other academic archives nationwide. I can’t name everyone I’ve worked with past and present, but I have to make one shout out. Audra, you lead with such compassion and vulnerability and I will always be your biggest fan! The other small but mighty unit at UCI that gave me an intellectual home is Asian American Studies and I will forever be grateful for the support and partnership I’ve found among people like Linda, Dorothy, and my walking/scootering partner, Judy.

I’ve had about a dozen farewell gatherings over the last few months and each one has felt like a small ritual meant to help me let go. The “coronation event” in the OC&SEAA was filled with love and sparkle and I am so grateful for the care my SCA family have given me--and I might be calling on you to keep teaching me a thing or two about archives and special collections work! Thanks to friends for reminding me this week that we’re going to get good food together no matter where I work.

During my time at UCI I have built so many wonderful relationships with community members and students who have trusted me with their stories and co-created with me towards a more just and equitable future. I will continue my community-engaged work in Orange County. One of the greatest rewards of mentorship is witnessing the good that former students are doing in the world, so I hope they stay in touch. Maybe some of them will join me at UCLA...

To my Anteater and OC community: it is not goodbye, but “see you next time!” I will be riding my Vespa around the county and to UCI Libraries for research, grabbing some banh mi from a SASA fundraiser on Ring Road, or meeting some friends for boba at University Center.

Look out Bruins: I’m bringing my “can’t stop, won’t stop” energy to your campus! Friends in the community: if you are curious about Information Studies, DM me so we can have a conversation.

And if you want to know what the last thing I did on the UCI campus was...well, of course, I returned my library books.