Watch: UC Berkeley Library’s Work+Learn program puts student jobs on the map

The Earth Sciences and Map Library is home to one of the largest map collections in California — making it the perfect place for Fernando Navarro to work.

“I’ve always had a huge appreciation for maps,” says Navarro, a senior studying geography at UC Berkeley.

Navarro transferred to UC Berkeley from Berkeley City College in 2015. Since the spring of 2017, he has worked as a Geographic Information Systems student assistant as part of the UC Berkeley Library’s Work+Learn program, which provides an array of opportunities for students to learn and grow while helping the Library serve its mission.

Most of Navarro’s work involves digitizing maps that are part of the Library’s collections, which includes scanning; georeferencing (providing the geographic context for maps by giving their coordinates); plotting features such as rivers, roads, and cities; and entering the maps into a database, “so that they can be viewed and studied on demand by anyone in the world with access to internet,” he says.

What does he like about his workplace?

“I love being surrounded by so many cool maps and globes,” he says. “Plus, it is a place with a great atmosphere to study and be mentally productive.”

Navarro enjoys working with the treasures the Library has to offer, and he’s especially interested in how maps can provide a detailed snapshot of a specific place and time. Recently, he was plotting features on a map of Mongolia from the 1950s. And he fondly remembers working on a set of East Asian maps, which, he said, were “beautiful, … almost like paintings,” he says.

Navarro, who plans on graduating in the fall of 2018, likes the people he works with (they are “very knowledgeable and approachable,” he says), as well as the the flexibility the job provides.

But he understands that the work — which requires technical skill and great attention to detail — is not for everyone.

“Some people may not like it,” he says. “I have a type of brain that enjoys it.”