Faces of DLSU: Life of an archivist

Students in their graduating year often go to her working station at the library’s 10th floor to ask for reference materials and copies of old theses. In just a couple of minutes, after running through the maze of dusty high-rise shelves filled with archaic collections, she’s already handing them the materials they were looking for.

Meet the living artifact herself, one of the oldest members of the Lasallian community, our turning 65-years-old library archivist, Ate Josephine Galleon. It’s her 37th and penultimate year here in La Salle, and we wouldn’t want to miss her story, the stories she has collected, and the stories she has yet to tell.


Who is Ate Jo?

“Where can I find it?” Whatever that thing might be, Ate Jo probably knows where to find it, or at least how. “Sinasabi mo pa lang hinahanap ko na sa utak ko.”

Ate Jo has been a member of the library staff for almost 37 years, which is why her colleagues dub her as the go-to person when someone is in search of old material. First assigned to the circulations center back in 1978, she was assigned to two different sections before finally being transferred to the archives section in 1989, where she would spend the next 26 years of her stay in DLSU.

Besides going through shelves upon shelves of archives and attending to students’ requests, some of Ate Jo’s daily tasks also include the processing and updating of faculty and DLSU publications. And while it takes a lot of experience and sharp memory to work in the archives section, she reveals to us that it is really her love for what she does that really makes her stay. Aside from being a voracious reader, she enjoys actively searching for answers instead of simple sitting idle at one corner.

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In fact, she loves her job so much she only thought of settling down at the age of 40. Although she has no children, she says, “Pinag-aaral ko naman yung mga nieces and nephews ko.”

This desire to continuously learn and help her family can be traced back to when she was still in college. As a working scholar, she was trying to juggle finishing her degree in Business Administration at the University of the East – Manila and learning Library Science so she could pay for her sibling’s tuition fees. “Ang tawag naman sa akin noon sa library, walking encyclopedia, kasi alam ko kung ano yung answer sa tanong nila o kung saan makikita yung answer.”

Being the faithful Catholic that she is, she believes that her skill in locating materials is made possible through divine guidance. “Nagugulat na lang ako minsan katabi ko na yung shelf kung saan nakalagay yung hinahanap kong material.”

Gone are the days of looking through piles of card catalogs to find a book or old documents. But even with the advancements of information systems, it still takes a keen eye and a knack for preserving and learning to fulfill Ate Jo’s duties as an archivist.


What is archiving, really?

Archiving is a tedious and time-consuming job. With archiving, first hand sources of knowledge and information are organized and preserved for the use of future historians, biographers, or even researchers.

Thousands of papers, books, and photos are stored in the archives, and in her entire stay, and even up to now, Ate Jo confesses that she has not seen them all yet and finds delight in learning something new every so often.

To give us a glimpse of some of the unordinary tasks she does, she shows us a diary of the late Brother Michael which she is currently trying to decipher. Dating back to 1926, Brother Michael’s penmanship is decipherable only by people like Ate Jo, who read old manuscripts on a daily basis.

She shares another story, about a time when she stumbled upon what looked like a high school class picture in the past. She explains that in instances like this, she makes sure to manually research the names of those in the picture by flipping through old copies of Green and White, along with other possible sources. She indicates the names at the back of the photo so if anyone goes to her asking for it, she’d know where to find it.

It’s like bookmarking using her mind. She shares how she used this technique when she was asked to look for a photo of the prominent CNN reporter Rico Hizon, an alumnus of DLSU. “Nagulat nga sila when I said I can provide them the photo right away,” she recalls.

Ate Jo has had requests ranging from the ordinary, to the unusual. She shares that, in the past, a student once came up to her asking for a picture of aswang—a thing that would be of real interest in the pre-digital days.


On students

Ate Jo fondly recalls one of the students in the past which she once treated as her alaga. From helping her look for the materials she needed for thesis to finding her soulmate, Ate Jo was there to guide and assist her. “Noon, habang tinutulungan ko sila gumawa ng thesis, na-witness ko din ang love story nila.”

This alaga of hers eventually became a professor in the College of Science, also holding administrative positions in the past. Ate Jo says that even with all these milestones, she still receives the same respect and treatment from her. “Pag-nagkikita kami niyan sa mga outing or sa school, ganoon pa rin ang turing niya sa akin.”

Ate Jo knows that this kind of bond with library patrons is hard to make nowadays. Even with the evolution of the reading culture and the uprise of social media, Ate Jo somehow still yearns to see students doing the organic method of researching in the library, making use of old materials and reading in sheer silence where the only thing audible is the sound of pages flipping. She remains hopeful, however, that students will still carry with the same curiosity and appreciation she has always had for these vast collections of knowledge.

Cirilo Cariga

By Cirilo Cariga

Audrey Giongco

By Audrey Giongco

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