Student Spotlight: James Stephens, Special Collections Desk Assistant

James Stephens ('20) had worked as a Special Collections Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room beginning in June 2019.

James Stephens ('20) had worked as a Special Collections Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room beginning in June 2019.

Please note that due to the NC State University Coronavirus Response and winter break, the Special Collections Research Center is now closed for appointments for the fall semester. We will begin accepting appointments for the spring semester on January 11, 2021. No student desk assistants are currently working at the Public Services desk due to the coronavirus situation. The Public Services desk is currently closed.

The Special Collections Research Center blog series "Student Spotlight" features student employees who contribute to the work of the SCRC. Guest author James Stephens, class of 2020, is an undergraduate NC State student majoring in History in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. James had worked as a Student Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room beginning in June 2019.

Please describe in a sentence or two the work that you do in the Special Collections Research Center.

Overall, my responsibilities in Special Collections include processing primary sources, cataloging donations, and learning more about the particulars of archival work. I, along with the other Student Desk Assistants, help make records more readily accessible to anyone who desires to learn from our archives.

What has been most interesting to you about your work?  Have you made any surprising discoveries?

One of my favorite projects that I had the privilege of working on was the project index for the George Matsumoto Papers. I looked through all of the collection materials available online, and organized each individual project into different categories of design (drawings, blueprints, photos, etc). Since my father is an architect, it was fascinating going through Mr. Matsumoto’s work because it reminded me of when I was a child sitting on my dad’s lap while I looked over his work. Seeing the variations of design from each project based on the requests of consumers and the needs of the environment was also eye-opening.

What are you studying, and what do you hope to do in your future career?  Has your work in the SCRC changed how you look at your studies or your future career plans in any way?

As a History major, working in Special Collections has solidified my aspirations of becoming an archivist. It is one thing to learn about history in a classroom setting but, for me, it is quite another thing to apply that love of history beyond the classroom by taking part in the preservation of various materials. Though the outbreak of COVID-19 cut short my time at the SCRC, the opportunity to work in the SCRC for nine months gave me a glimpse of my future in archival work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with the SCRC?

Before working in Special Collections, I had an opportunity to serve as a missionary in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library and Church History Library. From genealogical records to congregational histories, I dealt with all sorts of requests from various patrons on a daily basis. This opportunity gave me the desire to continue that line of work as a student at NC State University. The SCRC helped me to retain the archival skills that I had learned from Salt Lake and expanded them above and beyond what they initially were. Now that I have graduated, I feel that the SCRC helped me be more than prepared to tackle the demands of the Library Science graduate program at NC Central University.