SAA @ UCLA presents “UCLA Information Studies: Fields of Endeavor.” The Fields of Endeavor series introduces UCLA Library and Information Studies program graduates and current interns who are out in the field taking knowledge learned in the program and putting it to use! We’re excited to present Human Rights Archivist and Brazil Studies Librarian, T-Kay Sangwand!
Name: T-Kay Sangwand
Graduation Year: 2008
MLIS Focus: Archives, Latin American Studies (IS/LAS Dual Degree Program)
Job Title and Site: Human Rights Archivist | Brazil Studies Librarian,
Human Rights Documentation Initiative | Benson Latin American Collection,
University of Texas Libraries
What do you do all day?
This changes daily! My time is split between doing archival work for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) and collection development work as the Brazil Studies Librarian. We receive digital material from our partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US on an ongoing basis so my job is to ensure that the material is safely stored, available for access (if there are no privacy restrictions), and described to the extent possible (creating finding aids, applying metadata). Additionally, this work entails liaising with our partner organizations, on email or in-person. I also manage an archived web collection of human rights websites and am responsible for maintaining the Human Rights Documentation Initiative web presence. While the HRDI focuses primarily on digital materials, we do have some physical collections so I also work with donors and do some physical processing. Additionally, I have some public service duties like working a shift at the Benson Latin American Collection reference desk and leading instruction sessions related to human rights or Brazil Studies. I supervise one half-time graduate research assistant as well as the occasional volunteer or capstone project for iSchool students. Professional development/involvement – presenting at conferences, peer-reviewing articles – also takes up some time. Also, no one ever told me in grad school how much time is sometimes spent on meetings and various library and university committees!
Most interesting item, record, document, etc. you have come across:
The first collection I worked with when I started here at UT was the Kigali Genocide Memorial testimonies from genocide survivors. In order to familiarize myself with the collections, I read the translated testimonies and was completely floored by the horror, resilience, and hope that their testimonies conveyed. It’s hard to choose one that stood out because all the stories are so powerful, but the testimony of Josephine Murebwayire is one I keep on going back to.
Recommendation(s) for students who’d like your job:
One of the beautiful aspects about the information profession is that we all come to it with a plethora of different experiences, backgrounds, and competencies. Bringing this diversity of experiences into the profession and applying them to the challenges we encounter as information professionals is what can help build the sustainability into this field. So, my general career advice is to seek out professional experiences that interest you. Find an aspect of the profession that you think you can contribute to by drawing upon your own interests and existing skills. (I hope this doesn’t sound naively cliché, but in my experience, it has worked.) This does not mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself by working in new environments, though. It’s not a bad thing to feel uncomfortable as long as you ask questions and learn from the experience. You have to be strategic, too, and gauge what skills will be valuable for the type of work you’re looking for after graduation. For example, I tried to gain experience in institutions of different sizes (and funding) – research libraries, museums, community organizations.
I think it is also invaluable to tell people – your fellow classmates, your advisor, friends, the person you met at a party – about your interests and what you are aiming to work on or in. When you’re really excited about something, people remember that and they keep you in mind when they come across relevant opportunities. When the Human Rights Archivist job posted at UT, I think three people in the IS Department sent it to me because they happened to know that’s what I was interested in.
One archival professional commandment you would establish:
Thou shalt not believe that archivists are objective.
Favorite archive to visit:
Free Music Archive: Creative Commons music well curated by WFMU, dublab, and many more respected tastemakers.
Favorite/Most memorable course from UCLA IS Department:
IS 200: Information in Society with Dr. Srinivasan and IS 431: American Archives and Manuscripts with Dr. Gilliland. Ramesh’s class introduced me to so many great authors/thinkers – Marshall McLuhan, Manuel Castells, Critical Art Ensemble (fast forward to 2012 and I had the opportunity to invite one of the CAE members to speak at our library). 431 was impactful in that I had entered graduate school intending to become an subject specialist academic librarian but then Anne’s class introduced me to archives and their potential for community empowerment and social justice. I hadn’t realized the possibility of combining the archive profession with social justice praxis.
Course you wish you had taken/was offered at UCLA IS Department:
Either of the cataloging courses. Since I was on the archives track, I was told that I wouldn’t really need to know cataloging. Wrong! At our repository, archivists are responsible for creating the catalog records for our archival collections.
Photo courtesy of T-Kay Sangwand