Jennifer Olguin, MLS, is the Rio Grande Historical Collections Archivist at New Mexico State University Library, Archives, and Special Collections.
Jennifer, what are your main responsibilities as an archivist?
As a tenure-track archivist at a university archive, my main responsibilities include the following:
- Assist the campus community along with the public with their research needs
- Process, arrange and make archival collections accessible for research
- Teach one-shot instructional sessions to NMSU students and the public to inform them about the archives and the importance of primary resources
- Engage in community outreach opportunities such as creating exhibitions and in addition represent the ASC department at events to promote archival collections
- Publish content in scholarly publications
What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
Currently, since I am working remotely due to the pandemic my typical day structure varies. I have a 2 year old and you can say I have my plate full and I am getting good at mastering the task of multi-tasking. On a serious note, every day is different in the archival profession and depends on certain tasks on my to-do list. On a typical day at the office, I try to devote two days a week to process archival collections to minimize the backlog. In addition, I answer incoming reference requests, read literature about current trends in the archival profession, and lastly work on my scholarship writing. I suppose you can say that multitasking is a good quality to have as an archivist.
What do you like most about your work? What’s most challenging?
I enjoy many things about being an archivist. I enjoy the fact that I get to interact with the public and assist them with their research needs. I like that each day varies and one day I can be meeting with a potential donor to process incoming collections. I have to admit, I enjoy working and assisting the campus and community members locate their archival resources. I would say the most challenging aspect about being an archivist is trying to stay on track and not spend too much time getting involved in a collection when processing. When processing, I catch myself reading letters one by one and I have to tell myself to keep on processing and not spend too much time since there are many more collections that need processing.
How have your responsibilities changed throughout your career?
My responsibilities have certainly changed throughout my career, but I feel that working in the archival profession as a paraprofessional has taught me valuable skills before transitioning to my current role as a tenure-track archivist. Currently, I oversee one of the largest units in the Archives and Special Collections unit and I have to ensure all collections are adequately housed and maintained.
What current issues and trends in the field should readers know about/be aware of?
Born-digital content is coming in regularly and content must be preserved for future generations. When I first started in the archives at my institution I have to admit I didn’t have a good grasp on born-digital content, but as I read literature and get guidance from my colleagues I feel better when dealing with this type of format. A tip I would suggest to readers is to reach out to their network of people to learn what they are doing in terms of current trends in the field.
What are some career accomplishments you’re most proud of?”
One career accomplishment I am most proud of is seeing my first manuscript published in a local publication. It is a rewarding feeling to see the final product and seeing your name printed in the table of contents. Also, I just completed my first peer review article and I am anxiously waiting for feedback. Fingers crossed all goes well!
How did you become interested in this field, and how did you begin your career?
I became interested in this field for several reasons. First, and foremost, I enjoyed working in the academic library atmosphere. I started working in a library as a student worker then upon graduating from college I applied for a library staff position and held that position for 7-8 years. I guess you can say I became interested in the library profession as a college student.
Back in 2010, I joined the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) as a paraprofessional. I was working as a cataloger at the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Library when I decided to apply for the ASC position. The ASC job posting piqued my interest, I decided to apply and you can say it was history from there. I kept the paraprofessional position for about 8 years and then I decided to apply to library school to obtain my MLS while working full time. In 2018 I graduated from the University of North Texas and in the Spring of 2019 I started my career as an archivist.
What education, skills, and training have been essential to your success in this field?
I believe that working as a paraprofessional was beneficial and it further my skills and provided me on the job training – nothing like getting hands on training! During the time I have been working remotely, webinars have helped tremendously and have further my knowledge in certain areas.
What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
The advice I would give someone is to join various professional organizations to build a network and find a mentor to assist and provide guidance. I feel that it is helpful to have inside knowledge and a mentor be essential and they can provide helpful advice when needed. Also, another piece of advice for someone who is considering to be an archivist is to keep an eye out at job postings for archivists positions, don’t be discouraged if you don’t happen to obtain a job right away.
If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
I do not think I would change my career path in any way. I never could have imagined that starting my library employment as a student aid would open the doors to a career in librarianship. Looking back, I am thankful that I applied for that student aid position. It is the foundation upon which I have been able to build, step by step, each succeeding level of my library career.