We asked Jessica “Jes” Neal, archivist at the Coates Library, a few questions to get to know her better.
by Susie P. Gonzalez
As Trinity University’s archivist at the Coates Library, Jessica “Jes” Neal manages and makes accessible records that document and preserve the history and evolution of Trinity from the Tehuacana, Waxahachie, and Woodlawn campuses to the present. When she is not up to her ears in records, she watches art and indie films or researches hip-hop archives. Undefeated in her Scrabble crown, she loves, loves, loves lobster macaroni and cheese. Neal holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s from Dillard University.
What do you like most working as an archivist in the Coates Library?
I enjoy working with our student organization records. I find these records to be the best snapshots of what campus life was/is like for students. It is my hope that I will be able to connect with more student organizations here on campus to collect and preserve individual and organizational records created by Trinity students engaged in student groups and/or student activism on a broad range of issues and perspectives, both on campus and off.
Can you share details about any treasures you have encountered?
Trinity memorabilia, photo prints from our Waxahachie campus, and our scrapbook collections are some of my current favorites. My personal most prized treasure here in the archives is the small collection of the underground student newspaper publication titled the Onliwon.
How do you work with Trinity students?
I am available to help students (and faculty & staff) with any departmental or organizational records and materials they may need for research or to satisfy their general curiosity.
How did you get involved in your field of study?
As an undergraduate, I majored in African world history—a nomenclature for African American Studies—and minored in history. I’ve always been passionate about helping marginalized communities maintain their autonomous voice over their historical narratives and organizational records. Obtaining my MLIS in Archival Studies and working in an archival repository allows me to do this exact work, and is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Working with university records is slightly different, but equally rewarding in that I am responsible for creating visibility for the university archives at Trinity. Having a university archivist helps to support and preserve institutional history, and I am happy to have this role.
Who inspires you? Why?
Virginia Proctor Powell Florence and Audre Lorde. Both women are library school graduates, historians, and notable scholar-activists. Together they are both sources of inspiration for me to achieve similar goals.
Favorite color? Why?
Gray. Color psychology says those who favor the color gray are articulate individuals who are focused and dedicated to commitments. If I had to add something further, I’d say gray is the perfect hue between melody and melancholy, which are two life extremes we as human’s walk a tightrope between.
What is your favorite expression?
"If you don't define yourself for yourself, you'll be crushed into other people's fantasies of you and be eaten alive." — Audre Lorde
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Why?
If I were not doing archival work, I would love to cross the aisle and teach African-American studies or do leadership work in a cultural institution focused on African American history.
What is your favorite archive and/or library?
Schomburg Center for Research in Black culture is my favorite archive. Gerber/Hart in Chicago is my favorite library. This changes often.
Favorite sports team? Why?
Boston Celtics. The stats speak for themselves. 17 NBA Championships. Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Paul Pierce are some of the best to ever play the game, and they all built their legacies with the Celtics.
Where would you like to retire?