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SVREP Collection: Student Clerk Experience

October 31, 2016

This post was written by Karina Franco, our student clerk for the SVREP Collection. 

While Jenn and Leah have updated on our progress for Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, I would like to share my experience as the student clerk working on this amazing collection. I am a senior at UTSA set to graduate with a BA in History this fall semester. I know I love history but I was not sure where I would go with it as a profession until I found out about archives through my professor John Reynolds when he took us on a trip to Special Collections. Melissa Gohlke spoke to our class as to what they do and the rare books and historical documents they have in their possession. I thought to myself, “Wow you can organize history that is so cool! I want to be that person!” Once I heard through a professor there were student positions available I jumped at the chance to apply for it. I received an email from Kristin Law requesting an interview and I was so excited! Three student clerk positions were open so for my interview I would meet with Kristin, Jenn, Julianna Barrera-Gomez and Katie Rojas. It was intimidating walking into that room with such impressionable women but once I sat down and conversed with them it was not as daunting as I thought because they were so warm and receptive to me.


A few weeks after my interview the email arrived and it was from Jenn notifying me that they would like to move forward with my application and instructed me on the hiring process. During my interview I was so caught up with excitement that I did not grasp what collection she was working on until I arrived for my first day at work. She showed me around the facility, my desk, and the area where the collection is stored, which were two large rows of boxes full of office documents and folders. As she began to open one of the boxes she started talking about Southwest Voter Education and Willie. As much as I was trying to keep composure by simply nodding and smiling while she was talking to me, on the inside I was going nuts in the realization that I got chosen to work on Willie Velasquez’s papers! He is a man whom I have always admired and interested to study when I would be reading about the Chicano movement, and now I get to personally work on his documents; that is truly remarkable. I have been fortunate to work with such a great team. Jenn is an awesome boss who has been so thoughtful towards me and knowledgeable about Willie and how his organization worked. Leah arrived as our project archivist a few weeks after I began there and she has been just as incredible to work with. She has given us greater sense and insight as to how to properly sort and analyze documents. Both have become mentors for me and I feel lucky to be part of such an amazing team.


We have been working diligently on the collection. First it was the inventory process, followed by flattening maps and separating the documents to their proper categories, and now we are in the foldering process. We also had the pleasure of the UTSA Magazine “Sombrilla” follow us around with their cameras throughout this time. They are doing a video piece highlighting what an archivist’s role entails featuring our collection. It is set to premiere in November. In addition, as Jenn mentioned in our last update, PBS recently premiered a documentary called Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz and we had the distinct honor to attend a screening at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Since then we have participated in a pair of screenings where we exhibited material from the collection. One was at St. Mary’s University, Willie’s Alma mater, and UTSA as well, which was my personal favorite. It gave me the chance to proudly demonstrate what I do to my fellow classmates.


I tell everyone how blessed I am to be a part of this experience. A kid like me rarely gets an opportunity like this one. As a first generation college student who comes from a working class family, we tend to do what is needed in order to simply put food on the table. We seldom get the chance to be employed in whatever we are passionate about, yet UTSA and Special Collections have given me the great chance to experience first-hand what it will be like to be an archivist, and for that I will always be grateful. Now I have realized this is my path. To my fellow classmates, I advise you to take full use of the resources we have available at our school, such as the work-study positions and programs offered to us. Also, pay a visit to our Library including Special Collections for your research needs. The librarians and archivists are your greatest allies!


**This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**

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