Today’s interview is with Naomi Welikala, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I was born and raised in Southern California, so the blend of cultures here has really impacted my life. Growing up with a Black mother and a Sri Lankan immigrant father also greatly shaped the way I move through the world, and I am grateful for my parents’ sacrifices allowing me the opportunities I have today. I am a student, I love to cook and read, and I am passionate about issues of equity facing our nation.
What is your academic/professional history?
This coming fall will be the start of my senior year at Biola University, where I am double majoring in sociology and Spanish. I actually did not know about the discipline of sociology before my time at Biola. Even so, I have grown immensely through the sociology classes I have taken there. My studies in Spanish started in high school, and when I got to college I wanted to continue my education in Spanish through a minor, which I eventually converted to major. I love having both of these areas of study because of all the different ways I have seen them intersect.
Before the pandemic, I was working with kids on the autism spectrum as a behavior technician. During the 2020-2021 school year, I also got to work as my school’s student gospel choir coordinator.
How would you describe your job to other people?
As one of the Herencia crowdsourcing interns, my job is to edit, review, and transcribe Spanish legal documents from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The collection has a wide variety of topics, ranging from the smaller domestic disputes of everyday families to royal decrees that affected countless lives. This is one of my favorite aspects of the job because it allows me to get a glimpse into various pockets of life in Spain’s history.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
Getting to work at the Library of Congress has been a dream come true. Being able to contribute to the collection has been rewarding, not only because of the cultural preservation it brings with it, but also because it has been another way in which I could work at an intersection of both of my majors. My Spanish has been challenged by the documents I review, and my background in sociology has helped me in considering the context of these documents. All in all, my work here has been quite valuable to me.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
The most interesting thing that I’ve learned about the Law Library thus far is that a separate Law Library Reading Room first opened to the public in 1941. While that may not seem like much to some, I love the fact that people from all over the country can access the wealth of information offered by the Library.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
Most of my coworkers do not know that I love to sing! I have been singing in choirs for almost 10 years now, and it’s one of my favorite pastimes.