Community Archives Volunteer Looks Forward to Career in Librarianship

Community Profile

 “I really enjoy connecting youth and family to their favorite things while finding pathways to empower them. Librarianship is a career that will let me connect those things as well as also allow me to serve my community on a larger level.”

Monica Vega Latona
MLIS Student (degree expected spring 2020)
Library Assistant, Sacramento Public Library
Sacramento, California

Monica Vega Latona is a Xicana femme genderqueer whose love of both art and art history, along with a desire to serve the community, has led to a passion for librarianship and a possible future career in community archival work.

Early Career and School Choices Based on Community

This California State University, Sacramento painting and drawing major was first introduced to the concept of archival work through a job at a book and record store. As Monica describes it, the store played a role similar to that of a public library. Monica relates, “Working there was like being an archivist because people had research questions on authors and musicians or were seeking information about acquiring rare books or vinyl.”

Since the store was located in a neighborhood that was comprised of newly arrived immigrants, Monica also learned to develop research skills that helped to locate materials that were in languages other than English, and local teachers would also frequent the store for help in developing curricula. Monica says, “We weren’t a library, but I did my best to work within my limits to serve others.” 

Having the experience of serving as a community information source led Monica to be open to exploring librarianship when the suggestion was posed by a librarian acquaintance. Monica explains, “At first I laughed, as I hadn’t made the connection between librarianship and serving the community, but when he explained that libraries are all about community, and that working in the library field meant that I could do more of what I loved”, the idea of a career in librarianship was planted. 

Academics and Volunteer Experience Lead to Archival Work

Influenced by the work performed at the record store, Monica began the iSchool’s MLIS program with the idea of a career in special libraries or archival work. Monica chose the iSchool because of SJSU’s tradition of valuing social justice, as well as for the curriculum’s emphasis on community building and willingness to critically examine the larger cultural narrative.

Monica made sure to take all of the MLIS core classes (INFO 200, INFO 202, and INFO 204) right away to establish a good educational foundation in the field, in order to make informed decisions about a future library field career path.

As part of the career exploration process, Monica started volunteering at the Lavender Library Archives and Cultural Exchange (LLACE) in summer 2018. Monica shares, “I hadn’t decided on archives or youth librarianship, so I wanted to be exposed to as many different library models as possible.” To support fieldwork, Monica enrolled in Professor David de Lorenzo’s INFO 256 Archives and Manuscripts course. While volunteering, LLACE sent out an email request for archive volunteers to create finding aids (the archivist equivalent of abstracts for researchers), and Monica used working connections to the group to acquire the position and create a special INFO 294 internship, in order to get academic credit, as well.  

CLA Poster Presentation

Monica transformed the INFO 294 internship into a poster presentation at the iSchool’s Community Impact Poster Session at the California Library Association Annual Conference in October. Entitled, “Putting the ‘A’ in Archives! My Internship at the Lavender Library and Cultural Exchange,” Monica shares the duties of sorting hundreds of boxes containing LLACE’s archives that were being held in an unorganized, off-site location. Monica describes the volunteer duties as needing “some love” and “was there to get LLACE back on the map.” Specifically, Monica worked to accession items of LLACE’s U.S. veteran memorabilia. Monica’s work resulted in the creation of an archival section for the Sacramento Valley Vets (SVV), an activist group made up of LGBTQ active and discharged military who were working for civil rights within the military itself.

Future Career Plans in Archives

Fueled by the MLIS course work and work experiences while at the iSchool, Monica is planning to pursue archival work. “I feel like a detective solving a mystery”, Monica says of the role as an archivist. For now, Monica has taken a step back from LLACE in order to focus on current work as a library assistant at the Sacramento Public Library with the goal of learning more about the public library career field.

After graduating in spring 2020, Monica plans on volunteering with the local Puente Project, a program that mentors Latinx community college students before they consider their future options in archives or youth librarianship. In the meantime, Monica’s interest in community archives persists, and is open to any potential employers who may be reading this profile: “If you are looking for an archivist to hire, let’s talk!”