Interview with Jessica Blackwell, Special Collections & Archives librarian: written by Yujin Chung

woman standing in building

Hello! I’m Yujin Chung, and I’m currently in my 3rd year of Public Health, in the faculty of Applied Health Sciences. This is my 3rd term working as a Library Ambassador, and I’m still loving my job, and I hope I can continue working until I graduate or even longer! Back in Spring 2018, my first spring term here in Waterloo, I decided to apply for the Library Ambassador program for 2 main reasons:

  1. In my first year, I spent the majority of my time in the Library. Not only did I study, but I also chilled, took naps and more! So that was the main reason why I started getting interested in working at the Library.
  2. Unlike the majority of the students (I guess), I wasn’t involved in any school activities and didn’t make a lot of friends. In spring 2018, I felt like I wanted to be more engaged in the University and meet various people from school (staff and students).

As a result, I think it is one of the best decisions I made in my life as I was able to know more about the different events happening in the Library and met LOTS of people! (And meeting new people is my favourite aspect of this job!).

woman holding whiteboard

Out of all the fantastic people I have met through the Library Ambassador program, Jessica Blackwell, librarian in Special Collections & Archives is one of those incredible people. I sat down with Jessica to learn more about her job and gained insight into her story. For those who are not sure about where the Special Collections & Archives department is located, it is located on the first floor of Dana Porter Library. Before I interviewed Jessica, I did not have sufficient information and insight about Special Collections & Archives. I thought that I needed a special permit to access the Special Collection & Archives room. However, the place was full of warm and humbled staff, and Jessica is one of them.

Special Collections & Archives room

Even though Jessica has her own office in the Special Collections & Archives, she is often out of the office and interacts a lot with people. She instructs, designs and collaborates with professors at UWaterloo. Examples of this are first-year Fine Arts course she assists with, visiting potential donors and listening to their stories, participating in a different school events and more! She told me that her education and experience had lead her to her current position. In her undergraduate degree, she majored in Art History with minor of Museum Studies and went to a field related to her major. After she found her interest in libraries, she went back to school and completed her graduate school in Library Studies. Her current position is a combination of her undergraduate studies and graduated studies, and it was clearly shown to me that she really enjoys her job. 

woman pointing at screen

Out of curiosity, I asked her about her favourite collection within the school’s collection. Her favourite is “First English Translation of Euclid Element of Geometric”, which was printed in the 1570s. I was able to see why it was her favourite as it was a fascinating object that shows the history of printing as well as pop-up shapes! Everyone should visit Dana Porter Library’s Special Collections & Achieves to see this old fascinating book!

The interview with Jessica allowed me to gain more interest in library services and made me more curious about what else the library has to offer students. Jessica also gave me the advice not to hesitate to approach library staff for any kind of reason, especially when you want to further pursue in library studies. Lastly, I want to thanks Jessica Blackwell for spending time with me and sharing a fantastic story with me. 

Here is some of the interesting School Archive that I spotted:


Photo 1: Collection of School Newspaper: Imprint


Photo 2: Early Version of Tinder “Cupid Computer” from the one of the early editions of the Imprint Newspaper