Baptism by fire!

My name is George and I am currently working at the University of Arizona Libraries’ Special Collections Library as a Knowledge River Research Graduate Assistant. Unfortunately, my stay here is relatively short due to my impending graduation set for December (rest assured, panic mode has set in), but I do hope to take the skills and lessons learned thus far at Special Collections (SC) to be able to translate them into valuable, relevant work experiences for the real archival world.


Working at the SC has been a truly exhilarating experience. Much of my graduate coursework has centered on the different type of archival institutions and issues that each face, so to be able to get first-hand experience working at a prestigious archival research institution negotiating the different aspects of the archival profession has undeniably been a rewarding emprise.  

For our first assignment, each one of the GA’s was tasked with processing an unprocessed collection from beginning to end. This entailed an initial survey of the collection, which let me know it was mainly composed of manuscripts and records. I then applied some intellectual control over the collection that allowed me to form a mental picture of the series and subseries that were to make up the end-product. And finally, the arrangement and description of the actual collection into boxes and individual folders. In the end, the result was the Fred. A. Riecker Papers, MS 493, a collection of records, manuscripts, maps and photographs documenting the life of an early Tucson, Arizona pioneering family and the professional survey and civil engineering career of Fred A. Riecker.


Having the first processed collection under my belt, I can now look forward to start working on other initiatives that the wonderful staff at UASC has consigned to me, like the digitization of several past exhibits and the encoding of my finding aid into EAD (the descriptive metadata standard used by archives). My goal is to complete the encoding of the finding aid so it can be uploaded to the Libraries’ consortium and accessible for researchers and the public through Arizona Archives Online. It is these projects and learning experiences I look forward to most as I continue my search for employment in an archival setting after graduation. Thankfully, I sleep better at night knowing that Knowledge River and the University of Arizona Libraries’ Special Collections Library have afforded me an opportunity unequaled elsewhere in terms of archival exposure, instruction and practice necessary for today’s competitive archival job market.




My 1st GA project at Special Collections

I am at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Pueblo Bonito is one of the many structures built by the ancient Chacoan culture. Southwest Archaeology is one of the many interests I have.

Hello, my name is Stephen. I started my MLIS program here at The University of Arizona this past summer and I have already experienced a lot. The School of Information Resources (SIRLS) is riddled with like-minded individuals and could not be a better breeding ground for academic query; a lot of doors are available and I cannot wait to open them all. One of these doors include my Graduate Assistantship here at the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections. I enjoy it. A LOT!

The pace and the projects are perfect for how I operate: independent, fastidious, and thoroughly engrossed. My first project was to survey and process the Tucson Poetry Festival Records which was acquired by the UA in 2004. ‘Processing’ entails the re-foldering, arranging, and describing of collection materials into a logical hierarchy of discrete categories. I found that classifying material into discrete categories can be very tricky, especially since the bulk of the items correlated to a nature of correspondence; there was bound to be an inherent overlap within these records.

These records were comprised of general correspondence between the Tucson Poetry Festival committee and other bodies (e.g. various grant foundations, business partnerships, or the poets who were participating in the Tucson Poetry Festival for that year). After playing with my organization, I succumb to prescribing 7 series to these records: Administrative, Poets, Contests, Grants, Ephemera, Newspapers, T-shirts.


Newspaper Clipping highlighting Ofelia Zepeda, Professor of Linguistics at UA, in 1993. One of many artisans of verse who performed at Tucson Poetry Festival XI which was themed “translation” for that year. It is neat seeing such prolific alumni just walking around on campus and getting coffee at the student union.

However tricky these records were in organizing, I managed to pull it off and finalize my creation as an Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aid on the Special Collections website.

The final stages of this project included having to encode my collection into EAD format by utilizing Extensive Markup Language (XML). This really put to test my working knowledge of computational mechanics. Luckily, I am taking a course that is currently working with EAD. It is very nice being able to apply these mechanics in a real-world setting rather than merely studying the theory of its application.

Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is used to describe the many collections housed at the UA Special Collections. This is my finding aid that I have recently finished encoding in XML. I feel computer savvy 😀

It has all been good so far. I have no reason to doubt that this sense of fulfillment, working at Special Collections would subside. Just knowing that my work will be housed indefinitely for others to use is a notion that enthralls me. The festival started in 1983 and exposed poets and their works to the community; it still exists as a cultural and literary landmark for Tucson today. Because the archived material for this organization only goes up to 2004, I wish the next person (30 years from now, probably?) who works on “Tucson Poetry Festival Records part deux” the best and that my efforts with what I have completed will be of use.

I’m hulking my completed collection onto the ‘processed shelves’. It feels good slapping that minted label on those boxes.

An Introduction

This is me at the Library of Congress this past September 2013, a couple days before the shutdown!

This is me at the Library of Congress this past September 2013, a couple days before the shutdown!

My name is Amy and I am a graduate assistant (GA) at the University of Arizona Libraries(UAL) Special Collections. I have been doing my Graduate Assistantship since the third week of August which has gone by quickly (I cannot believe it is October already!). This is my last semester at SIRLS (School of Information Resources and Library Science) here at the University of Arizona and I am happy that I got the opportunity to do my last GAship at Special Collections. Along with being here at Special Collections, I am also currently a Substitute Librarian with the Pima County Public Library here in Tucson.

So far my experience here at Special Collections has been great. I do not have as much experience working with special collections or archives so this will be an awesome experience to learn from some of the best in the archival profession.

My first project here at Special Collections was to survey and organize the records of the University of Arizona Business and Professional Women’s Club (UA/BPW). The UA/BPW records contains materials relating to the club’s presence at the University of Arizona since its establishment in 1964. The collection is divided into nine series: club history, publications, meeting minutes and agendas, correspondence, scrapbook albums, program materials, awards, ephemera and political material.

The goals of the organization was to provide networking and support for the women on campus, address legislative and social issues affecting women, and provide scholarships for women. In addition to the commitment of their activities on campus, many members were also active members of other clubs and organizations that supported women issues in society.


This was my work space area where I did all my surveying and organizing of the UA/BPW records. One thing I learned was to bring a jacket because archives are cold!

Organizing this collection was a great way to get a feel for processing materials. The first thing I had to do was survey the collection to get an idea of what was in the six boxes that the donor left for us. After surveying, the fun part of re-foldering the material began. Once I had re-foldered everything I already had an outline of how I was going to organize the records into series.

This is the archival boxes with the completed records of the UA/BPW club! Those yellow sticky notes will be replaced with pretty white labels so pretend they're not there =)

These are the archival boxes with the completed records of the UA/BPW club! Those yellow sticky notes will be replaced with pretty white labels so pretend they’re not there =)

Once I put everything into its series I began to put them into their archival boxes and numbered the folders accordingly. After all of that, it was time for the finding aid draft! It took me two days to complete the finding aid and submitted it for review. I have now completeded the EAD (Encoded Archival Description) training and my approval of my finding aid to finalize the records.

This booklet was funded by the UA/BPW club for the Boys and Girls Club. I really loved reading this booklet because you can tell kids came up with the scenarios.

This booklet was funded by the UA/BPW club for the Boys and Girls Club. I really loved reading this booklet because you can tell kids came up with the scenarios.

Well, I better get to finishing that finding aid!

Until next time,