In this new monthly series, student members of SLA from library and information science programs across the United States share their thoughts and experiences in response to a themed prompt. See our introductory post to get to know us better.
For our very first post, the prompt was:
Talk about a library-related project you are currently working on (either for class or for work). How does it relate to your post-graduation goals?
With the winter break finally approaching, I’m wrapping up work on a couple of big school projects. I’ve just put the final touches on my first attempt at a digital humanities project for my Information Retrieval and Customization class. I used some basic text analysis tools to search for patterns in the use of color words in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and then I compared those results to the correlations between colors and chapters he proposed in his Linati schema. And then finally I pulled all of that data together in a tidy little heat map-style graph. I’m not sure that my results would stand up to scrutiny by Joycean scholars, but it gave me a chance to dip my proverbial toe in the digital humanities waters and play around with some new toys.
And then for my Digital Collections class, I’m working on constructing my very own little digital collection of 19th century carte de visite portrait photography. It has let me work with concepts of preservation, organization and classification, metadata design and implementation, all kinds of stuff. And it’s let me put into practice everything I’ve been learning in my courses and in my work as an assistant and intern for a couple of other digital collections. I’m deeply interested in how digital tools are going to change our work — not just in the sense of duplicating traditional library services in a digital milieu, but also how we’ll be using these tools to do things that weren’t possible before. And since I like to learn this stuff by just sitting down and trying it out, I look for opportunities to approach these ideas in every assignment I’m given. Honestly, ever since I began library school I’ve never had fewer than three or four projects going at once between my classes, my jobs, and my own independent study on the side. At this point, I don’t think I’d even know what to do with myself without a few big projects in the works!
Like Amy, I have also been juggling multiple projects. Lately the project that has been foremost for me has been my volunteer work reorganizing the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center Library in Bloomington, Indiana. I have been working on this particular project for the past year with my friend and fellow library student Courtney Brombosz.
This special library faces its own set of challenges. It’s a browsing collection in multiple languages (the majority in English, Tibetan, Chinese, or Mongolian, with a small percentage in other languages) and the previously unorganized collection exists in a freely accessible space, without a librarian or steward for the materials. Originally, Courtney and I had grand plans for the library: we wanted to catalog each title and implement some type of checkout system. We soon found that the effort it would take to do these things just wouldn’t be feasible, as we are both still full-time students with jobs and other responsibilities. In the spring of 2012, we decided to take a different tack by planning an organizing session to utilize the language skills of the community. With their help, we sorted each book in the library by language and by subject (history/culture, religion/spirituality, language/education, children’s, miscellaneous). With the library collections organized and more usable than ever, we held a library re-opening to reintroduce the space to the TMBCC community. We hosted an open house where a local Tibetan book expert spoke and brought manuscripts and artifacts for attendees to see. Courtney and I were even honored with a khata, a Tibetan scarf symbolizing respect and sacrifice, by Arjia Rinpoche, Director of the Center and Tibetan high lama.
While this project is fairly removed from my educational focus of technology in libraries, I think I’ve enjoyed it all the more because of that departure. It has been gratifying to work with such a fantastic community of individuals. The TMBCC placed a lot of trust in us and our ideas for the space–truly a library student’s dream. Courtney and I presented on this experience at this month’s Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference; you can view our presentation here.
Currently I am working on two library-related projects within my jobs that I find exciting for very different reasons.
In my work as a Graduate Assistant for the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Florida State University I am consistently given opportunities to learn, discover, and get involved. Frankly, my supervisor is awesome! In October, my supervisor launched OANow.org, which was inspired by digitalhumanitiesnow.org. Along with my supervisor, faculty and staff from institutions like MIT and Princeton, I help curate the Open Access news source. I select, write up relevant news items, and hit the publish button. I get giddy when my own name appears in my RSS feed! It is exciting to be involved in the conversation as a student. So far in my graduate school experience Scholarly Communications is rarely, if ever, discussed. If it wasn’t for my GA position I probably wouldn’t be aware it was a possible choice for a librarian career. Although OANow.org primarily serves individuals already interested in open access and scholarly publishing, I really hope some students take advantage of the source.
My other position as Curatorial Assistant at Gadsden Arts Center requires information organization but rarely involves library projects. However, a recent opportunity to break out my librarian metadata skills presented itself. Every year the Arts Center hosts a Gala, a ticketed dinner party that includes a silent art auction to fundraise for the local museum and education center. The art for the auction is donated from local artists or collectors. As the Curatorial Assistant one of my recent projects is to catalog all the auction donations and put the metadata for the object in museum software called PastPerfect. PastPerfect is also where we organize our membership information, small library collection, and new acquisitions for the permanent collection. I’ve drawn a lot from my Museum Informatics class for this project, and it is great to use it on a collection of materials I feel passionate about. The experience with using PastPerfect and cataloging the auction items will be useful whether I end up in special collections, museums, or academic libraries.
These two projects offer me a way exercise what I am learning in graduate school. I still have some time to decide which path of librarianship best suits me, but right now I’m thankful for the opportunities to apply my education in tangible ways that will be useful post-graduation to show examples of my work.
Esther Marie Jackson
As part of my coursework towards my MLS, I am working on a directed study at the Western New York Book Arts Center (WNYBAC), a not-for-profit cultural center in the city of Buffalo dedicated to printing and the art of the book through “education and access for individual artists and underserved communities.” It’s a fantastic place to work, especially since I also have a personal interest in book arts and bookbinding.
My work at WNYBAC is in their library of commercial books and serials, and also with their collection of prints, broadsides, and artists’ books. While called the archives, this is really more of a museum collection, as I am working on cataloging all of the materials on an individual item level. To do this, I have worked with the metadata standards created by the student who previously worked on this project. Based on Dublin Core, some of the fields included deal with attributes such as typeset and other physical descriptors, as they will be of use as searchable fields to the artists and researchers who may use the collection.
I have faced several challenges with this project, with the largest ones being questions of sustainability, simplicity, and legacy. As a library student, it is relatively easy for me to organize a collection using software such as CONTENTdm, Drupal, or Omeka, but as WNYBAC does not have a permanent librarian or archivist, concerns of budget, time, and ease of use for future builders of this collection must be considered.
After graduation, I would ideally like to work in an arts library or a special collection. My work at WNYBAC has given me the chance to make decisions in areas including naming conventions and classification systems, as well as processing, presentation and housing of materials. I have also really enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with an arts organization, as it presents a unique set of challenges for a librarian. I have very much enjoyed my time at WNYBAC, and look forward to applying what I have learned as I move into the professional world.
Samantha Leigh Barry
I am currently working on a social media storytelling project for my internship with the Pima County Public Library system in Tucson, Arizona. The project involves interviewing patrons, volunteers and library staff to find stories to share in an online format.
Libraries have a million stories to tell and not just through their books. Staff, volunteers, and customers all have their own stories to share. After all, the library exists for and is held together by these people that dedicate their lives to the library, share their community through the library, and enrich their lives through the library.
I am interested in library marketing and PR, so working on a social media campaign is perfect. Since social media is becoming a required tool in the marketing world, I am excited to be more involved in the process and learn how I can use social media as a tool in the library marketing arsenal. I have worked for a semester in the U of A library, but I really would like to focus on public libraries. Through this internship I will get to visit and learn about a variety of library branches and get to discover their unique qualities.
For me, the project will help with the following post-graduate goals:
1. Use my marketing background in a library setting
2. Work in a variety of libraries
3. Create and execute a successful social media program
4. Create new partnerships and buzz about the libraries
5. Develop social media skills and techniques
As an Information Resources and Library Science graduate student at the University of Arizona and an intern with the Pima County Public Library, I am learning more everyday about the wonderful people that embody the library community and the stories of how the library has changed their lives. I have been humbled, gratified and amazed at the loyalty and commitment in the library community, whether it be a volunteer that comes in once a week, a customer that has found an outlet to unlimited resources, or a staff member that has spent 40 years in the library.