Future Lawyer and Former UCLA Library Assistant Talks with Us about Comics, Surrealism, and Working towards a More Equitable World

If you’ve spent time in Powell Library at UCLA, you may recognize Javier Muñoz’s friendly face from the circulation desk. Javier is a recent UCLA graduate (Class of 2013) who worked as a library assistant in Powell Library for two and a half years, including as a student worker and then as a full-time staff member post graduation. In the year since he’s graduated, he’s been both a UCLA Law Fellow and a Humanity in Action fellow.

We caught up with Javier Muñoz to talk about his UCLA experience, how the library made a difference in his undergraduate experience and to find out how life after graduation is treating him. Read on!

Javier Muñoz at the National Library of Denmark

"In the long-term, I hope to contribute positively to my community in East Los Angeles in order to increase college enrollment, build a [w]healthier community, and protect those who don’t have the means to protect themselves."

Q: What was your favorite class at UCLA?

A: That’s a very tough question but I’d have to say that my favorite class was a History 199 course I co-created with Professor Robin D. G. Kelley. The course was titled Surrealism in Africa and the Diaspora and it was an exploration into the significant contributions that Black people from the Caribbean, Africa, South America, and North America had made to the movement. It was amazing because I was able to read about something entirely new to me and to discuss what I read with Professor Kelley for about two hours every week. 

Q: What are your plans now that you've graduated?

A: A lot has happened since I graduated from UCLA in 2013. I lived in small town Pennsylvania for a couple months, returned to Los Angeles to participate as a fellow in the UCLA Law Fellows Program, began working as a staff member at the UCLA Library, and left to become a Humanity in Action fellow. Now that I’ve returned to LA from my program in Copenhagen, Denmark, I plan to pursue a joint JD/PhD or joint JD/MA program. I’d really like to return to UCLA because the law school has an amazing faculty and an excellent critical race studies program. In the long-term, I hope to contribute positively to my community in East Los Angeles in order to increase college enrollment, build a [w]healthier community, and protect those who don’t have the means to protect themselves.

Q: Did your work in the library influence what you plan to do later?

A: Of course! My work at the circulation desk (It’s now called the Inquiry Desk) and the Inquiry Space helped me realize that I enjoyed helping people obtain what they needed and that I enjoyed doing research. My move toward the legal profession is compatible with providing people with a service they need. The library helped me figure out what I enjoyed doing regardless of where my career path takes me.

Q: What recommendations might you give to incoming freshmen or prospective students about the UCLA Library?

A: 

  • Take advantage of the research consultations provided by librarians. They’ll teach you how to use the research tools available at the UCLA Library.
  • Participate in quarterly workshops that help students obtain new educational tools. For example, Zotero workshops help students learn how to manage citations, plagiarism workshops help students avoid unnecessary situations, and oral history workshops help students learn how to conduct interviews for their research.
  •  Third, the UCLA Library holds many competitions, such as the Robert B. and Blanche Campbell Student Book Collection Competition and the UCLA Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, so take advantage of these opportunities to compete for cash prizes or fellowship money.  
  • Finally, attend events put on by the UCLA Library! There’s a lot going in within the library, such as the Video Game Orchestra and the Silent Disco, that goes beyond books and learning. 

Q: In what ways has the UCLA Library made a difference in your undergraduate experience?

A: My work required me to interact and communicate with hundreds—maybe thousands—of people from distinct backgrounds, age groups, and languages. I overcame my shy demeanor and gained the confidence to approach and help all those people who relied upon the UCLA Library for their work.  

Q: What was your most surprising discovery about the library once you started working here?

A: I’m quite a nerd so I’m into manga, graphic novels, sci-fi, fantasy, and most recently, zines. The UCLA Library has plenty of books like that within their community collections. They’re not all about biochemistry books, engineering books, economics books, history books, etc. The UCLA Library has a bunch of cool books that will ease the stresses of studying and planning for the future. 

Q: What was your favorite place in the library to study?

A: My favorite place to study in Powell was probably by the first floor reading stacks. It was very quiet and people were hardly around until 10th and Finals week.

Q: What's your favorite book?

A: It's impossible to choose a single book so I will share my most recent favorite with you. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition by Cedric J. Robinson is one of the books most responsible for shaping my thought and actions in the world. The book traces the rise of racial capitalism, critiques the shortcomings of the Western philosophical traditions, and provides readers with an alternative vision of the world. It is an insightful work urging us toward a more just and equitable world.

Interested in a job at the library? Visit Library Jobs for more information.