Meet Kat Jorgensen, an aspiring archivist and librarian

April 6, 2023

Aspiring Scholars and Professionals (ASAP) is a cohort program at Princeton’s Emma Bloomberg Center for Access & Opportunity, designed to introduce undergraduates from other New Jersey colleges and universities to higher education careers in the humanities and qualitative social sciences. This summer, Kat Jorgensen, a rising junior at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) spent her time in the program working with Princeton University Library (PUL) staff on projects ranging from making online materials accessible to examining the archives. 

Kat Jorgensen spent the summer working in Firestone Library through the ASAP program. Photo credit: Brandon Johnson, Office of Library Communications

Tell us a bit about your background as it relates to libraries.

I’m going into my junior year at TCNJ but I’ve been volunteering at my public library since I was in fourth grade. I worked there all through high school. It started with really basic tasks but the library was always something I really, really loved. I’m working at TCNJ’s library as well. 

What are you studying at TCNJ? 

I’m majoring in English literature, specifically English literature and publishing. But I think I’m going to pursue a master’s of library and information science after my bachelor’s. In our area there are some great programs like Rutgers, and Pratt up in New York. I know there are programs in D.C. too, but those tend to be all online.

Within English literature, my main interest has always been books, which is where the library comes in. I grew up reading. I found in college that I really liked Shakespeare even though I did not expect to enjoy the classics. And I love studying contemporary children’s literature. 

What have you been working on at PUL?

I got here at the beginning of June and have been working with Librarian Sara Howard in Firestone Library and Project Archivist Valencia Johnson at Mudd Manuscript Library. We’ve been updating Sara’s libguide to incorporate best practices and to be in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Now, I think it’s a lot more accessible to the general user and for people with visual or cognitive impairments. 

Valencia and I have been working on our oral history project for the “Covid-19 and Me” project, so I recorded a few interviews with her. I also worked with another archivist in Mudd, Mandy Ferrara, which was super exciting.  

What is a typical day like for you at PUL? 

A big project we worked on this summer was redoing the LibGuide. We would meet to discuss the regulations and practices you should put in place for things like that, and I talked with a lot of staff to learn about their experiences with these things. A fun thing for me is getting to give my thoughts on something with fresh eyes. It’s been really cool to give input and see it reflected in materials that are now published. 

Have you come across any materials in the collection that you are excited about? 

Princeton has a very big library. Something I’ve been enjoying is that when you go through the Library of Congress categorizing system, a lot of the items in the Z’s are actually materials about libraries. So now, I have about 15 books in my car that are are all about libraries—libraries amid protest, queer libraries—things like that. Shockingly enough at my library there are not many books about libraries so it’s been fun to research in that way. 

Tell us about your presentation.

It covers accessibility in libraries. The title of my presentation was “Information, Injustice, and Intellectual Freedom,” and it was about how you can make libraries and archives accessible in the way that they can be used as tools for social justice. 

A lot of higher education research isn’t available in the ways that it needs to be. A lot of my research was around how you can make research accessible and whether that’s making it more available for people pushing the margins, or for students who are first generation, or people who aren’t in college at all but want to access research in that way. 

That was a big thing I found going to college as a first generation student, not even understanding the concept of what research is and how to conduct it. I think libraries can be intimidating in that way so I think it’s a good thing to try and make it an easier transition. 

Did you encounter any challenges while you worked here? 

Everyone here has been insanely accommodating and so kind during my process of getting to know the general area. But I think it’s important to get over your own fear. A big thing for me was that even though I’m not a student at Princeton, I needed to realize that I did the work to earn the position I ended up getting.

What are your career aspirations? 

I had very little exposure to the archives before this, but after working with Valencia I have a lot of interest in archival studies. I think I would want to do something on the public services side because I think that’s the best part of this, being able to have those interactions and help people in the way that you were helped once. 

The good thing with experiences like this is that you can get a better general understanding of what options are out there. I think the archives are an amazing place to work but I would also love to be a librarian. 

Do you have any advice for someone coming into a similar position? 

Don't doubt yourself. At the end of the day you only have these opportunities if you take them. One of the best things I found this summer was that the more you talk about your interests, even if you think they aren’t applicable in a given area, you end up meeting and connecting with so many people. 

Your mentors can’t read your mind. If you tell them what you like, they will hook you up with someone who is a professional in the field. I met some of the neatest people just because I think rare books are cool. 

Published on September 12, 2022

Interview by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications