You may or may not have mistaken our new librarian, Jackie Correa, for a student. No one can blame you – she’s really good at hiding her secret identity. A veteran librarian, Jackie is the mastermind who recently reorganized the Cogswell Library. Many of our readers have been asking us to investigate the facility’s new look, but I’ve got a more interesting plot in mind.
When I pitched this interview to Jackie, I gave her the freedom to pick any setting she would be comfortable in. My default idea was to play a friendly game of chess in our good ol’ library, but when I actually catch up with her she has a better plan in mind: shopping for comics. “Um, sure,” I say. I become more excited about the ingenious idea after spotting a row of Funko Pop Figures on her desk.
Jackie and I drive to Black Cat Comics in Milpitas in her metallic orange Honda Element, which I can’t help but relate to Cogswell given the color and the fact that it’s a unique car (they’re not manufactured anymore). “It’s fate!” I declare. She laughs and tells me that her last car was orange as well.
From the moment she toured the campus, Jackie was drawn to the uniqueness of Cogswell. “The energy was so crazy,” she recalls, “usually people are just trying to get through the motions of getting things done. I don’t get that sense here.” Before becoming Cogswell’s resident librarian, Jackie worked at the Art Institute library, forewarned that the campus would close very soon when she took the job. Still, she worked until the last day, donating all 5,000 books the library had to offer to charitable beneficiaries. She goes on to say that Cogswell’s positive energy and thriving campus are a welcome change.
“It’s a passionate community – students are committed to their education because they realize the importance of it for their futures. I love being around creative people and helping them make their dreams and projects come alive.”
As soon as we enter the shop, we head for a set of boxes in the front labeled “ten comic books for five dollars.” We immediately begin digging for some good finds. I tell Jackie about the lack of graphic novels and comic books in the library, something she assures me she is working on.
This initiative is a part of the bigger picture that is Jackie’s long-term plan. Returning students noticed a very different Cogswell Library on the first day of this fall semester. I share how I’ve been asked multiple times about the new layout, and she begins to tell the story:
“I took the time to observe how students were using and walking through the space. Within the first two weeks, I had a pretty detailed floor plan about what should happen.”
We continue to talk while browsing through the aisles of glossy comics. "In my first week I realized there were significant problems with the layout. Our books are organized and classified using The Library of Congress Classification system; the call numbers on the books are supposed to be in alphabetical order, but instead, the shelves almost followed a reverse alphabetical order [that was not consistent] – which made it impossible for me, a trained librarian, to locate books. I knew if I wanted students to be able to independently find books in the library, I would need to fix this problem.
“Next, I had seen feedback from the student satisfaction survey that students needed the library to be a study space. I felt like with the current setup, it felt like a lounge, so of course everyone was treating it like a lounge. There was also a lot of furniture that was being underutilized, such as the study carrels, which were not connected to power in the old set up. It was important to me to include more areas for people to connect their laptops and phones. I’m also not a terribly big fan of shushing – I never wanted to become a shushing librarian, but the campus needs a designated study area and the library is the logical space for that. I have attempted to separate the space a bit and put up signage encouraging people to respect that others are trying to work in this area. I’ll shush if it’s overly disruptive to others. I’d prefer if I didn’t have to, and if students took it upon themselves to respect others around them.”
Outside her work with the Art Institute, she has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from UCLA. Organizing is not just a hobby, but a skill and profession she’s mastered for a long time: She’s worked as a UX designer for Blizzard Entertainment and at Warner Brothers as a Corporate Archive intern, spending hours cataloging props and costumes from Harry Potter and watching premiers at the WB backlot.
As an Art History major from California State University, Fullerton, she started many days on Indiana Jones and Jungle Cruise rides in Disneyland, before class, as an annual pass holder. As we navigate the aisles and foot traffic of other comic book fans, I can’t help but notice the many things that make her a perfect fit for the Cogswell community. I jokingly tell her that she blends in as a student, and she tells me about multiple instances in which faculty members have actually made the same assumption.
“You’re like a superhero in disguise,” I say as we browse through the DC Bombshells collection. In keeping with the setting, I ask Jackie if she had any real-life superpowers. She pulls out a printed list from the Superpower Wikia.
“I love helping people find information and creating environments that empower [them]to locate what they are looking for,” she explains. “[At Cogswell] I like that I can do what I think needs to be done. I thought things needed to be changed and everyone was like, ‘Okay cool, let’s do it!’”
Jackie picks up a Wonder Woman comic. When I ask if she’s Team Marvel or Team DC, her response isn’t what I expected.
“Neither,” she shakes her head, “Team Image Comics all the way.”
Jackie’s favorite comics include Saga, Locke & Key, and Paper Girls, though she is drawn to strong female characters across the DC-Marvel spectrum like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel. It is Archie, however, that got her hooked on comic books. Both of us recall memories of reading Archie comics in shopping carts as our moms’ way of appeasing us in grocery stores.
We continue to look for interesting trades in the shop, settling for a section dedicated to Betty & Veronica. I ask Jackie how books (and comic books in particular) have influenced her life.
“I’ve made a career out of my love of books and reading,” she explains, “the impact cannot be overstated. I am a first generation college graduate and I don’t come from an upbringing where I was heavily encouraged to read, but I had some key individuals in my youth, including librarians, who encouraged my love of reading.”
“If we’re sitting here one year from now celebrating what an amazing year you had in this role,” I ask, “what did you achieve?”
She gathers her thoughts, clutching a pile of assorted comic books she has picked up throughout the interview.
“We’d be celebrating the feeling of smart consumers of information and understanding what libraries can provide… many students don’t see how important the library, or even a librarian, can be. I want a space that creates a sense of pride and embodies the Cogswell culture, while functioning as a library.”
Whether personal, professional, or academic, Jackie wants all of our close-knit Cogswell communities to be confident in using the library’s resources. Although she is starting from near zero – considering the historic underutilization of the Cogswell Library – she is excited to put in motion the many long-term initiatives she has in development.
“I’m stoked about helping students realize their projects. I am having a lot of fun in the process. I want to create a library we’re proud of, and I want it to be unique to Cogswell.”