Meet Stephanie Martinez, 2023 ASAP Library and Archives Research Assistant

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, Stephanie Martinez, a rising junior at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) worked at Princeton University Library as a research assistant with Librarians Sara Howard and Valencia Johnson.

Stephanie Martinez holding a variety of books

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

Thanks to the librarians of my youth, libraries are really what got me to love literature. If not for them, I would likely not be where I am today as a person and as an academic. I've always tried to spend time with the librarians in my public school life and tried to help with the little things so that their workload was at the very least a little lighter during busy days. I spent the last two weeks of my senior year going to the Library to scan in books so the librarians could focus on other tasks like getting Chromebooks back from students.

Are you fond of any particular field or era within archival work?:

Conveniently, the era of queer history at Princeton (ranging from the 1970s to close to modern-day) through the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance records has been a treat to parse through as a part of my work. That said, I am broadly interested in how people remembered and are remembered, and most eras and fields would prove interesting to me. If I had had a chance to do a deeper dive, I would likely find some more defined favorites (though I have a decent feeling that I would still be drawn to eras and fields regarding my multiple identities). And though I didn't have much of a chance to look into it, the personal papers of authors that interest me would have greatly fascinated me as my background is more literary rather than historical.

What were your responsibilities at PUL this summer?: 

I had a number of responsibilities at PUL this summer as a part of the ASAP program, but two of the main ones were adding Homosaurus terms to PUL's e-book catalog to make queer materials more searchable with language better reflective of queer life, and processing new purchases to Sara Howard's LGBTQIA Periodical and Ephemera Special Collection.

Are there any materials that you have come across that have surprised you? (Feel free to include catalog/finding aid links!):

The socially acceptable materials to discuss would probably be the archived correspondences from Princeton's LGBTQ+ student organizations not only to the greater University body but also to other universities and organizations throughout the country throughout the late 20th century. Just seeing some physical reminders of what people were doing and talking about on a grand scale beyond my own lifespan was incredible.

The probably less socially acceptable materials to discuss would be the new materials I helped to process for the LGBTQIA Periodical and Ephemera Collection. Mostly because I knew that I would probably run into some erotic materials but did not prepare for the amount I ended up running into – especially as someone who struggles to see the, uh, desirability of the cis-male form on a good day. It was mostly in good fun though, and made for some good stories to tell my friends after the workday. (Kind of wished I got to work with more Sapphic materials but, hey, that's what came in during my time).

How does working at PUL compare to some of your past roles/experiences?: 

I don't really have much to compare to when it comes to past experiences, as I've mostly been in traditional service roles either back home or at TCNJ (Foodservice and tutoring respectively) and the occasional little helper. Overall, working at PUL was a new frontier for me in the workplace and broadened my view of what life after college could potentially look like.

Can you tell us a bit about the research you are preparing with Sara and Valencia for the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)?

The research material being prepped for the conference is centered on a discussion of existing and interacting with archives, especially when it concerns topics and concepts such as gender, sexuality, race, etc. It is mostly a roundtable discussion regarding praxis and experiences with not only Sara and Valencia but also a number of other individuals from Princeton, so my role (along with my peer Reid Higgins) will mostly be aiding in moderating the panel to create a fruitful discussion for all of those involved.

What are your career goals?

I want to be a professor in some form, whether it be adjunct work or working toward tenure. The bottom line has always been wanting to be an educator of some form to share not only the love of literature but storytelling as a whole, however it arises. Seeing how people interact and engage with fiction has always been a beautiful and enjoyable thing for me and I want to give the tools to do so to others so they too can find the joy and fun in thinking a little deeper into one's favorite pieces of media. 

I also just love sharing stories I find great and meaningful to others whenever I can (any hapless victim at my local comic shop can attest to this), so being an educator has always felt like a great means of reaching those desires. I did consider teaching high school for a minute, especially after having a terrible English teacher in high school, but with the depth of conversation I want to have about literature and media I feel like higher education will be a better fit for me.

Otherwise, it's just a matter of figuring out how to survive after getting an English degree.

Published on September 5, 2023

Interview by Brandon Johnson, Communications Strategist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications