This Spring, Special Collections participated as a host institution in a PACSCL (Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries)-sponsored semester-long, pilot DEI internship program to provide an undergraduate student from an underrepresented community/ies exposure to and experience working in a special collections library. The following was authored by Princeton student Aubrey Roberts ’25 about her experience.
When I was interviewing for the PACSCL internship for the Princeton University Library, I was asked, “What part of special collections are you most interested in learning more about?” As I scoured my brain for an answer, I quickly realized that I knew very little about the specific work that goes into special collections. All I knew is that I had a passion for preserving knowledge in all its forms matched only by a passion for making that knowledge accessible to as many people as possible.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have grown increasingly passionate about information accessibility and preservation. Queer stories have frequently been censored or destroyed, just have the stories of many other marginalized communities. While working with the various departments within Princeton’s Special Collections, I have had the opportunity to listen to oral histories in the Princeton LGBTQIA Oral History Project, work with texts important to queer history, and learn more about how cataloging can influence the ease at which LGBTQ people and people from other marginalized groups are able to access materials relating to their personal communities.
In addition to connecting with my identity-based community through this internship, I have also been able to directly connect with the community at Princeton. Before this internship, I knew very little about any of the libraries on campus. However, as I explored the different collections, I began to understand the depth of what I could access and study as a Princeton student. Additionally, I learned more about how archives and libraries function in general to assist researchers and the public, knowledge I will continually use throughout my academic career and afterwards.
I am very grateful for all of the wonderful people who I worked with over the course of this internship. Before I began, I was nervous that I didn’t know enough to do what might be expected of me. However, this feeling quickly subsided as I met more of the people who work in Princeton’s Special Collections. Each one patiently taught me about their specific field of work and discussed some of the complex issues surrounding Special Collections, introducing me to the importance of libraries and the challenges which the people working in them are tasked with unraveling. I look forward to continuing my exploration of special collections and libraries throughout my lifetime, both on campus and beyond!