Library Student Spotlight: Ashley Boykins

Ashley Boykins
Library student worker Ashley Boykins

This month, we are highlighting some of our library student workers and talking with them about how working at the library has prepared them for internships, jobs, and life after graduation. The library employs over 100 students each year from all majors to help maintain daily operations and provide the one-on-one service you’ve come to expect from the William H. Hannon Library. These are just a few of their stories.

Today, we spoke with Ashley Boykins. Ashley is a junior art history major and german minor. 

What department(s) do you work for at the William H. Hannon Library?

I work in the department of Archives & Special Collections (A&SC). I transferred to LMU in the fall of 2017 and applied to work in the Archives the month before I started school. I specifically wanted to work with the Archives department because of the connection to my Art History major and for the experience of working hands-on with the art, artifacts, rare books, postcards, and manuscripts that are in LMU’s collection. I have never had another library job, but I get to do a bit of everything in the A&SC department!

What skills have you learned during your time working here at the library?

I have learned how to properly scan fragile documents and photographs for patrons. I have learned how to organize archival boxes in the LMU library vault. I have also become more comfortable with the Library of Congress call number system, which has helped me in my everyday library use, and will help me in my future research projects. Working with A&SC has also opened my eyes to the type of research I can do on any given subject. If I’m researching a specific person I now know I can look for personal letters and writings to understand them more fully. The primary sources in the archives allow you to dig deeper than the information you’d typically find from an online search alone.

How do you think these skills will prepare you for future jobs, internships, or just life in general?

Studying art history is difficult because so much of what you need to know happened so long ago. However, using primary sources like the ones in A&SC makes research 100 times easier. It is as close as you can get to talking to someone from hundreds of years ago. Since learning how to properly use a finding aid and dig for relevant materials, a whole new world has opened for me which has made writing papers and doing my schoolwork a lot more fun. I am now choosing which information to leave out of my papers due to having so much, as opposed to adding fluff.

Also, becoming a strong researcher is very important for the future work I hope to do as an employee of an art museum. Working with the archives has already helped me greatly in securing an internship at a Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. for this summer, where I will be working to increase the number of manuscripts and artifacts related to African-American artists in the Archives of American Art. Without my job at the library I would not have even known to look for an opportunity like that, and I am so excited to learn more about archiving and storing art objects and manuscripts.

How did working as a library assistant aid your academic growth at LMU?

Working at the library has allowed me to have a leg-up on assignments and research projects because I have more time and contacts in the library. I am able to spend more time with books and materials, as well as observe what happens and what is assigned for other visiting classes which is very interesting! It gives me an idea of what classes I’d be interested in taking in the following semesters, and what kinds of materials are relevant to different subjects. I also get to see what types of outside research is being done with LMU archival materials while the projects are still in the beginning stages, and that is a lot of fun to help with. This can include anything from people writing books, to television shows looking for images, to historical research for filmmakers and screenwriters. This job also helps me think outside of the box during classes, and contribute more thoughtfully during discussions based on materials I’ve seen.

What did you enjoy most (or least) about working at the library?

I enjoy the people I work with here, because everyone is very kind and willing to explain things and spread their knowledge. I have learned a lot from them. I also like how quiet and calm the library is to work in. I enjoy coming in because I know even if I have a busy day, it will be a positive experience.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I hope to attend graduate school and/or find a job at an art museum. I would also like to study or work abroad at some point after my time at LMU. I am considering a library sciences program based on my positive experience with Archives & Special Collections [Editor’s note: yay!], but I am waiting until I complete my internship with the Archives of American Art this summer to see if it is a career I would like to dedicate myself to, or if there is another facet of museum work that I may enjoy more. This summer I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be more hands-on with the archival process, which I don’t always get to do at LMU due to my part-time schedule.

What advice about the library would you give to the incoming class of 2022?

The library is a really fantastic resource that offers much more than a place to study. I would really recommend making an appointment with Archives, or just sending the department an email whenever you have a paper or project to see if there’s anything in the collections that could help you. I think a lot of students miss out on that because they are maybe intimidated by the formal aspect of making an appointment or not knowing exactly what the archivists and curators do, here. But everyone is so nice and happy to help, so I’d say go for it!

The best advice I can give is to actually GO to the library and to not just look up books on Linus. This helps me so much, because the most useful books I’ve found for research, I found because they were next to the book I was looking for. It’s really important to dig around, because you’ll probably find things you didn’t even know you needed.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us, Ashley. And thank you for all your dedication and work at the William H. Hannon Library. We can’t wait to hear about your experiences this summer at the Smithsonian!