Graduation and Distinctive Collections

As I prepare for graduation and life beyond college, I can't help but think back on my college experience and all the aspects of it that fostered the person that I am today. Part of my learning experience as a student these four years at ASU includes working with distinctive collections. The many reading rooms I have worked in were not only places I only went to work, but also places where I learned about collections, research, and archival materials.

I have worked with distinctive collections for nearly three years now. When I initially applied for the job, I didn't know exactly what distinctive collections were. As an English literature major, I was just excited to be working in the library, in an environment that appreciated books and research. Now, having experienced the many facets of distinctive collections, from working at the design library with our architectural materials to working at HDC and getting to see where our many, many materials are stored, I’ve come to appreciate how important and versatile our collections are.

Seeing as I was new to the concept of distinctive collections, while working here, I experienced many firsts. My favorite one was when I was first exposed to artist’s books. I had never (before working here) heard of artist's books, much less did I know what they were. The name seemed to suggest to me that they were books about artists, biographical, informative books. Certainly, an artist’s book can be about an artist, but what I’ve come to learn is that they are works of art in the form of a book. They invite us, the reader, to fully interact with the text. My favorite artist’s book is Julie Chen’s View. As an avid reader and writer, I’m always drawn to compelling narratives, and the story which Chen tells through her artist’s book is beautifully tragic. I encourage you to make an appointment to check it out because it is worth it!

View by Julie Chen
View by Julie Chen

Perhaps, though, the most important thing I’ve learned while working here is that the love for  research and education should not be reserved just for a selective few. Rather, people from all ages and backgrounds should be encouraged to research special collections and beyond. In the future, I hope to continue my education and remain in academia, so this is the lesson that I will cherish the most as I continue to work towards my future.

As I close the chapter of this part of my life and work towards the next, I will always fondly remember the impactful and enlightening experiences I had while working here. I’ve had many great supervisors, such as Harold Housley, Matt Messbarger, and Julie Tanaka, who have always been kind, helpful and willing to teach me about the many aspects of distinctive collections. Though part of me is sad to leave this place I have come to love, I’m also grateful that I got to dedicate nearly three years of my college experience working at a place where I was surrounded by research, books, and the desire for knowledge.

Alexandra Rios with View
Alexandra Rios with View at Wurzburger Reading Room

View by Julie Chen can be found in Rare Books and Manuscripts; see catalog record at

Alexandra Rios, Student Worker, Distinctive Collections


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