This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
by Todd Simpson, Head Editor, INALJ New York City
Cristela Garcia-Spitz …Digital Library Program Project Manager, UCSD
Todd: Hi Cristela, it’s great to talk with you, thanks for taking some time out for INALJ. Can you tell us about your current job and how you found it?
Cristela: Hi Todd! Always nice to hear from you.
As the Digital Library Program Project Manager at the UC San Diego Library, I mainly coordinate between library and technical staff on projects to digitize materials in the library’s collections. I help ensure that those projects stay on track. I’m fortunate to work with a great group of people and amazing materials, such as photographs from our Melanesian Archive and Baja California collections, experimental recordings from the Department of Music, all kinds of interesting stuff on Oceanography like kelp bed aerial photos, and much much more. It was a newly created position which I found posted on the Digital Library Federation listserv.
Todd: So what’s your best piece of job-hunting advice?
Cristela: Take advantage of any networks – colleagues, friends, family, because you never know where an opportunity might arise. Go beyond just saying that you’re looking for a job, and talk about your skills and interests. And, be specific when describing your experiences, so that you stand out from the crowd.
Todd: I really enjoyed this posting: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/04/09/the-best-work-advice-i-ever-received/) What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about doing well at your job and getting along with your manager and co-workers?
Cristela: What a great list! – I had to learn some of that stuff the hard way. I’ve had great mentors, so I’ve been very fortunate to learn a lot from others. The one piece of advice that comes to mind is never surprise your boss. Even when things get hectic, it’s your responsibility to let your boss know what you’re working on and whether there’s any issues. It can take time to figure out your manager’s communication style, but once you do, let them know things first, so that your manager can guide and support you (that’s their job).
Todd: Is it disorienting to continually relate day-to-day activities to institutional priorities? It seems that project management requires you to iron out a succession of details, do you ever get lost in the details?
Cristela: Yes! Typically, we have more than twenty different projects going on utilizing staff from all over the library, so it can be difficult to keep the details straight and to make sure everyone is in the loop. We use an internal wiki and tracking software called Confluence and JIRA to keep track. Balancing project priorities with institutional priorities can be difficult, especially as the Library changes. We have various groups and committees which help the process, but it’s a lot of juggling. It takes a high tolerance for chaos, good communication skills, and some patience to be involved. However, it is very rewarding once a project is complete and the digital collections are available online.
Todd: What qualities do you find are most called upon to manage projects successfully?
Cristela: Definitely communication and organization – it comes down to being able to communicate what the project is, who needs to be involved, and what it will take to carry out that project. At any point during the project, it requires looking at the scope, resources, and time, and working with those involved to keep those project fundamentals in check. And at the end, the scope, resources, and timeline are revisited to make sure everything was completed. There’s always bumps in the road along the way, so again communication is very important all throughout the project.
Todd: Does the scope of a project ever change midstream? I guess I’m trying to get a better grasp of how much flexibility should be built into the scope of a project without compromising focus or project integrity.
Cristela: Projects do have a habit of changing (sigh). It’s important to define the project before it even begins, which we do with a project proposal process. Then the project scope gets further refined during planning, where we create a project plan. I’ve found that it’s best to define a project narrowly and possibly in phases, so that it is easier to accomplish.
Todd: What are you working on now that most intrigues you?
Cristela: We’re in the second year of a NHPRC grant to digitize the papers of Chicano Activist Herman Baca. It’s been a fast paced project, and we’re now to the point we can start promoting the over 4,000 items in the collection, including documents, photographs, posters, and audio. I’m excited about letting people know about the collection, which is available online now, and figuring out how we can make the collection more accessible to communities beyond the University. To start, we had a table at a community event for Cesar Chavez on the UCSD campus, and we’ll also be at the Chicano Park Day celebration in Barrio Logan at the end of April.
Todd: As you were going through the archive was there any item that struck you as particularly intriguing?
Cristela: There’s quite a few images of the Chicano Park murals, as they were being constructed. Chicano Park is one of my favorite places to take family and friends in San Diego, so it’s been amazing to see history-in-the-making in the collection:
Todd: When will the archive be accessible?
Cristela: It’s available now! Visit http://hermanbacapapers.tumblr.com/ to find out more about the project and to access the collection.
Todd: How does social networking figure in your consideration for promoting digital collections, or does that prove problematic?
Cristela: Social networking has become the norm, so it is a critical piece of promoting digital collections. However, it does prove problematic in some aspects. One of the largest challenges is in providing context and links. Currently, our digital collections website is built to display single objects, so it can be difficult to understand the relationship between the digital object, the physical object, and the collection the object might be coming from. Additionally, information about the collection is discoverable in different systems. Do you send a link to the digital object on the digital collections website? or the finding aid for the collection? We’re redesigning the system to help improve this.
Todd: So Cristela, I’m incredibly jealous of your proximity to Mexico, I miss those day trips and all of the incredible food! Have you made any jaunts across the border lately?
Cristela: Yes, being close to Mexico is one of the best things about San Diego. I recently took a long weekend to go down and explore San Felipe, which is located on the gulf coast of Baja California and is known as the home of the fish taco. Later this month, I’ll be joining Turista Libre for the Tijuana Cumbia Disco Skating Party.
Todd: You had me at fish tacos, sold. Seriously, it’s spring in NYC, it may not be disco roller-skating in Tijuana but it is still spring in NYC! Honestly though, I miss those west coast tacos, anyone know of a NYC equivalent should contribute, because this librarian has yet to find the definitive east coast taco that could compete. Cristela, thank you for sharing with INALJ and let’s hang out next time we’re on the same coast, or in between :)