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Corporate Archive

I work in a corporate archive.  When I took LIS438 (Introduction to Archival Methods and Services) last spring, one of the questions someone asked me was what the main difference is between a corporate archive and a historical archive, besides the obvious fact that the corporate archive only hosts documents pertaining to the institution I work for.  The one I can think of, off the top of my head, is that our legal department gets to determine how documents should come to the archive, and what shape they should be in when they get there.  One of the first things I learned while I was doing my first archival internship at the Worcester Historical Museum was just how much I should appreciate the lovely uniformity of the records that I got every day in the corporate archive - everything organized and arranged just so before they even got to me.  

Of course, at the historical archive there was always the excitement of opening a box and having only the vaguest of ideas what might be inside.   We don't get that in the corporate archive.

That's not always true, though.  When one of our sales offices closed last spring, the archive received all of the files from their office at once: over 300 boxes, with dubiously vague labels like "old files."

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I sort of fell into my current job by accident.  I certainly never expected to love it as much as I do.  I decided to get my MLIS because I know this is the sort of work I want to keep doing.  I'm not entirely certain, yet, exactly what kind of archive I'd prefer - right now I'm leaning toward a municipal archive of some sort, although I expect it will be more a question of where I can get a job once I graduate. 

This summer I'll probably take LIS502, the Archives Field Study, which will hopefully give me more exposure to non-profit archives.  When I first heard about Simmons' internship requirements during the application process I have to admit I was a little unhappy about it.  I knew it would be hard to work out the internship hours around a fulltime job and classes, and it seemed a little pointless.  Now I think the internships are possibly the most important thing I'll do at Simmons: they give me a real feel for what a job in different sorts of archives will actually be like, and let me test out what we learn in class in a practical way.  One thing that is repeated over and over in our archives classes is that there are few hard and fast rules of archiving.  Every place will do things slightly differently, and it's important to see the differences in practice before students internalize ideas of The One Right Way of Doing Things. 

I'm really looking forward to what I'll learn this semester! 

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Not Your Typical Reference Librarian - Or How I Found My Career

2014 just started - and I already feel like we're in the middle of the year!  This time of the year is always so busy, because you're turning over a new leaf, trying to develop all of these habits - and also attempting to remember to re-vaccinate the dog, to take the car in to be inspected, and so much more.  But the biggest thing that I am excited about for 2014 is that I am now fully employed - in an amazing position that I am so excited about. 

I have spoken in this blog before about the traditional library position, and how I just don't seem to fit that mold.  In several of the classes there is talk about other types of libraries that one could make a career out of, including law libraries and medical libraries.  For me, the records management class consisted primarily of talking about small local-government records management - but all of these subsets really only scratch the surface of the types of jobs that exist.  For me, I seem to have found my niche working in records management in a biopharmaceutical company. 

As I said, I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: don't force yourself into a position that you don't love just because you feel it's the only thing out there.  You don't need to do reference if your passion is elsewhere! (Yes, you might have to do reference for a while, but keep looking...you will find that thing you are passionate about.) 

The position that I have as a clinical document technician is one that I never even knew existed until after I worked at this company for some time.  I mean, it makes sense: clinical drug trials are producing documents, and those documents need to be managed... but who knew you could make a career out of it?!  Seriously, there needs to be a newsletter, or public service announcement, or something. 

In conjunction with this new position, I am also doing my 502 internship at Harvard as a research assistant for a super cool exhibition that will be going out in October.  While "research assistant" doesn't seem like the most practical of job titles, let me tell you: I am so excited about this internship.  But I am mostly excited about the way that my two major commitments this semester will interact with one another: will researching in the archives at Harvard help me to better navigate and organize these files at Harvard, and vice versa?  Can I develop a self-driven project from soup to nuts?  How can I work managing these two very large commitments at the same time?  It's slightly overwhelming, but...very exciting.  I am sure that I will be having more insights as the semester progresses, but for the time being I wish you all the best in starting your own semester, and finding your own passions - mainstream or unheard of as they might be! 

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Internship Time

Tomorrow afternoon, I start my internship requirement for LIS 438, Introduction to Archival Methods and Services. For those of you who don't know, each student enrolled in LIS 438 needs to complete a 60 hour internship project. While the list of potential internship sites was numerous, each student was told to select just three potential locations and from there, one of the three would eventually be chosen. Well, after waiting anxiously, two weeks ago I was finally given my placement; the Cambridge Historical Commission.

As someone very interested in history, I couldn't be more happy with my placement. Tucked away in Cambridge, the Commission is an institution concerned with preserving and chronicling the development of the city. Although on the smaller side, the Commission is filled with photographs, registries of those who have lived in the city, and other items related to the city's history. As for the people who work there, they seemed super excited to have another Simmons student working with them for the semester. Fortunately for me, I couldn't have shown up at a better time. Currently, the Commission has two projects that need attending to. The first deals with going through a collection of photographs, make a finding aid and uploading the pictures to Flikr, making the photographs available to anyone. The other project is concerned with going through items and documents donated to the Commission by a former employee of a now defunct electronics corporation. What's exciting about this project is that the woman who donated the collection is still alive! What does that mean? It means that if we have any questions, we simply can get in contact with her and ask whatever questions we might have. With a primary source just a phone call away, who knows what we might learn?

I cannot wait to get started at the Commission so expect updates throughout the semester. If I make any earth shattering discoveries while at the Commission I promise, GSLS will be the first to know.

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Learning Outside the Classroom

This summer has been hot, rainy, and is going by fast.  And did I mention busy?  Yeah, it's been busy.  This summer, as I've mentioned in a few previous blog posts, I'm doing a records management internship for Biogen Idec, a biopharmaceutical company located in Kendall Square in Cambridge.  And I can already say, just because I'm not taking official classes this summer does not mean the learning has stopped...

I find myself every now and again marveling at how I ended up here.  When I initially applied to library school, I never thought I would have the opportunity to work in a place like Biogen.  It's one of the aspects that we don't cover too much on the archives track -archives includes records management, and records management isn't just for city planning or traditional libraries.  Corporations (especially since the Enron debacle) have been tightening the leash on records management.  And in this case, more regulations just so happens to equal more jobs. 

Two of my lovely new co-workers are actually Simmons alumni, which not only make conversations fun (did you take Candy's course?!), but also gives my co-workers a sense of the angle I am approaching records management as a whole from.  I do think a lot has changed, however; one of my co-workers mentioned that when she did a presentation on being interested in industry, the general consensus was that she was "selling out." 

To be honest, "selling out" was something I grappled with when I started.  I was in library school for the science of it all, not to make obscene amounts of money and be working for "the man."  But after I got a few paychecks, and once I had gotten past the preliminary "here's your login, here's your password, here's your email, read these best practice guidelines" and actually started working with the material, I realized that working for industry - at least in my limited experience - is just as valid as working anywhere else.  My particular industry is highly regulated, as audits can occur at any time from the FDA.  Making sure our records are kept just as detailed and accurate as they need to be ensures that in the case of an FDA (or MHRA in the UK) inspection, the particular drug being inspected will continue to pass and can stay on the market - which, in Biogen's case, ensures that millions of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers can continue to receive their medication. 

I am only about halfway through my internship, and am sure I will have different or stronger opinions when all is said and done.  However, what I can say, is that I am glad this opportunity was presented to me to learn about all of the other applications of this degree outside from the traditional library - and I will definitely take advantage of that knowledge. 

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The Fairbanks House

This summer, in addition to working a full-time job, I'm working as an intern at the Fairbanks House on Fridays and Saturdays. I'm not taking this internship for credit - I decided not to take any classes this summer as I meant to devote more time to beginning my thesis, but I wanted to make sure my archival skills stayed fresh and if I could land an internship, it would look great on my resume. 

Well, not only will this experience look great on my resume, but it is quickly turning into something I look forward to each week. I worried that working longer hours Monday through Thursday and then going to an internship on Friday and Saturday would leave me worn out and wishing for more free summer days. This is definitely not the case. Going to the Fairbanks House does not feel like work - I'm having fun, and I'm finding that perhaps working at a historic house is more along the lines of what I want to do with my career. Why? Well, let me tell you...

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The Fairbanks House is the epitome of awesome early American history. It is the oldest timber-framed house in America, and it was built between 1637-1641. As an intern, I have a specific archival project to work on, but I also get to give tours of the house. The curator, Meaghan Siekman, created a manual for each docent (volunteer) and intern with vital information about the house and the archive. I shadowed a few tours, gave a tour with Meaghan's help, and then finally began giving tours of my own. Telling people about the history of this house and the Fairbanks family is something I've become truly passionate about. The family built this house and then lived in it for generations - all the way up until 1904 when the family organization, the Fairbanks Family in America (FFA), bought the house and turned it into a museum. Thus, the items in this house, and the stories that have been passed down through generations, exemplify ordinary family life in America since before the country was founded. As a huge American history nerd, I am in awe of these details, and I hope I inspire that same awe in the visitors on my tours. For more information about the house, visit the website: http://www.fairbankshouse.org/index.html or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fairbanks-House/129954507016357.

Besides tour giving, I am also working on the photograph collection at the Fairbanks House. 

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This photo is a picture of me, and two other interns (Matt and Donna) working on the collections. Over the years, many people, mostly descendants of the family, have donated items to the museum. However, only recently has the FFA started hiring professionals to be curators instead of family members. So, the archive is still in the beginning stages. Meaghan, the current curator, is reponsible for most of the progress on the archive, but none of the photographs have been inventoried or accessioned yet. Also, there aren't many records to indicate when the archive received materials or from whom. I've recently finished inventorying all of the photographs in the collection (I'd estimate there are about 500) and now I have to figure out an intelligent way to organize them into series in order for future researchers to effecitvely access them. It's an increasingly daunting task, but luckily Meaghan is very hands-on and we frequently discuss the best options for the collection. It's reassuring that she doesn't expect me to date the photographs exactly or determine who the individuals are in the photos (a lot of them are unidentified), but we are making strides to create an accessible collection. I'm excited to see how it turns out.

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Site Visit

I went on my first site visit on Friday. A site visit is a visit to a prospective archives donor to see the size/condition/subject matter of a collection to see if it's appropriate for the archives before accepting the responsibility to move the entire collection.

This visit was half site visit, half social call since the Cambridge History Room had already accepted the collection from this donor and we were only going down to pick up two more boxes she had found. We were to meet the donor at her house in Marshfield, about a 2 hour ride from Cambridge. Once we got off the highway into the little cape towns, it was gorgeous! All those trees! Boston is a lot greener than some cities I've been in but you forget the amount of foliage that lies undisturbed right beyond its borders. We saw old farm houses, little town markets, and even a few horses.

Our directions, written by the donor (who is an author), told us to take such and such a road "winding around several houses," to notice the nursery on our right at one spot, the wharf on our left at another, to go over the causeway and take the "narrow unmade road" past the dead end sign until we reached her house which overlooks the marsh. In fact, at one point we almost drove into the marsh! Descriptive directions are beautiful but sometimes not very practical (all flower covered traffic islands start to look the same).

I'm sure in every archivist's career there are stories of wonderful and horrible donor visits. I'm glad my first one was so lovely. The house was gorgeous! I just kept staring out the windows into the beautiful view of the marsh with the ocean beyond it. She showed us pictures of it during storms when the tide came up to the deck and in the winter when the marsh froze into miniature glaciers.

We were given black currant juice, salad, bread, cheese and fruit, and chatted about Tolkien and other topics. It really was a lovely day.

Internships can sometimes be frustrating, working for no pay. Even if you love the work you are doing, in the back of your mind you wish they were paying you instead of you paying for the class. But sometimes it's good to have a chance to step back and realize all the opportunities you are getting. I really love this profession, Simmons and Boston. As soon as I was done for the day, I called my mother to tell her all that I had done and seen. This was one of those chances that I would never have had otherwise.

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Busy, busy, busy!

You'd think summer would be less stressful....but no. I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. New job, new internship, new apartment, new bank account, even a new boyfriend. Breathe in, breathe out.

But my internship is so much fun! I'm in the midst of planning two exhibits, both based on the same collection. Today, I worked on the second one which is going to trace how a children's book is published since we have all the steps represented in the collection. Notes, contracts, illustrations, mock-ups, royalty checks! So cool! But I also got to see some other sides of the archives today. Wednesday is our "late" day. The archive is open from 5-9 instead of the regular earlier time frame so that people who work full-time can have a chance to stop by. That makes it a little more busy than usual. Today we had three patrons in the room at the same time!

That might not sound too amazing, but the manuscript portion of the collection is very small since it is still in its early stages. But all of the sudden someone came in to do research while a potential donor interview was going on and another past donor was self-processing her collection. The potential donor was very interesting...a jack of all trades who had brought his illustrated poetry. In the meantime, the researcher wanted to scan a map from the collection that only could fit into the scanner by fourths. For a few minutes there it was almost like being busy!

Not that the archive is dead, not by any means. My supervisor, being what we call a "lone arranger" has to do all the work herself so there even when there is not a single patron or donor in sight there is always something to do: scanning, processing, cataloguing, budgeting, exhibits, email reference, filling in on the library reference desk, meetings...

Speaking of meetings, today I sat in on a product demo. I don't really know what you would call the product. It was kind of like Tumblr for archives/libraries. It wasn't a digital repository, they don't host the items but they allow you to curate digital items into "modules" that are beautifully displayed in a Pinterest type format of thumbnails that endlessly scroll.

For example:  One preview module they had was on Lincoln. When you clicked on it, the curated digital objects were further broken down by categories such as "Biographies," "Assassination," "Civil War," etc. Within these categories where scanned books, photos, videos, and all types of media. The company's vision is to sell this product to museums/archives/libraries as a means to share their items virtually. It is a beautiful format, much nicer than most digital repository interfaces. If you want to see more about it, it's called Biblioboard.

Oh so much to do and so much to learn! I love being a student!

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Designing the Ultimate Exhibit

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It's the age old question....how do you design an exhibit on a budget that appeals to both adults and children while educating them about a subject?

Well I'm having my first go at answering it. At my current internship at the Cambridge History Room in the Cambridge Public Library, I am taking the materials and knowledge I have gathered from my processing of the John Langstaff collection and trying to turn it into something that will interest and engage the public. The biggest issue is that most of Langstaff's collection is paperwork (largely unreadable paperwork I might add) and his greatest contribution to the area is in theater and music, both things that are difficult to showcase in the middle of a library on a budget.

But considering that I did a conference presentation on integrating archives in museums via technology, I am not ready to give up yet. I have been able to create QR codes to link to some wonderful video clips of Langstaff and his performances. However, not everyone has a smart phone and unless you have headphones....some patrons might become annoyed that I have linked to music...

There were some small portions of the longer videos I thought were exemplary instances of Langstaff's enthusiastic performances, but realized that the patrons would probably not want to watch the entire nine minute clip for 2 seconds. I decided to try making gifs of these few seconds since it was the movements rather than the audio that was important. I had never made gifs before and I think I was successful for my first attempt but now I wonder if it is worth linking to a 2 second clip.

I'm also trying to see how I can engage children. Langstaff wrote a wonderful selection of children's books and one in particular has lovely woodcuts that would make for good coloring pages but I am not sure the copyright ethics of copying those pages to provide for the children. And...would it just be a waste of paper?

In my utopian vision I would want to do a whole Christmas in July event since most of Langstaff's materials are associated with Christmas and the Winter Solstice but that does not fit into the time or money constraints of this internship. So, I must work with what I've got, but it is quite a lot of material. I hope I can find a creative way to use it. Perhaps I will follow Langstaff's instructions from the collection and make my own shin pads of bells to wear as a Morris dancer. 

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

The summer is always a great time to capitalize on opportunities that escape during the cold, hard, rainy winter season.  For me, I ended up getting a summer internship in an aspect of GSLIS that I had never before considered - records management.  While I am super excited just to have an internship - and a paying one at that - I am even more excited to try out what is the "hors d'oeuvre" of the meal of one's career (sorry, this metaphor is kind of falling apart...).  I'm pretty excited to be trying out this new career path, and I have super high hopes (expectations) that this will end up being THE NEW CAREER FOR ME. 

I have very little expectation that this career won't work out.  But it is the last in a long line of internships that I have tried in my still juvenile career - I have worked in financial planning, in support and administration, in publishing.  I have worked at Harley Davidson Motor Company, law firms, and for various academic institutions.  And while they may not have been my total cup of tea, they definitely gave me the insight as to what I liked and didn't like - and I could tailor my next internship experience with that knowledge. 

I also love the length of internships - twelve weeks, to me, is about the perfect time to work.  It's not long enough where you start to run out of work and are scrambling for something to do (once, when I was bored at a job, I organized the entire supply closet for my floor), but it's long enough where you can tackle two or three huge projects, or a plethora of short ones, and finish it with bows on before the internship ends. 

And of course, there are always those lucky few who find internships whose work cannot be completed in twelve weeks, and who are asked to stay on for part-time work into the semester. 

I am super excited for the summer.  It has all of the things I love - sun, sundresses, long days, Toscanini's Ice Cream, and internships.  Guys: I am ready.  Let's get this show on the road. 

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Cambridge History Room Internship

This week marked the beginning of my internship. I am working at the Cambridge History Room which is placed inside the Cambridge Public Library.

The plan as it now stands is for me to process the papers of John Langstaff, singer, author and creator of the Cambridge Revels while selecting pieces from the collection that are usuable for an exhibit as well as creating the finding aid.

The boxes I have glanced over so far (there are about 15 in total I think; I need to double check that number though) contain an assortment of sheet music (both printed and hand-written), production notes, correspondence, mock-ups of his children's books and promotional materials. I believe the majority of the "good stuff" was removed and are in the boxes of material the biography author was using, which I have not gone through yet.

I hope to find some photography, etc. that would be useful for an exhibit. I do think there should be something in the collection that would interest the public if not about the Revels, perhaps about his children's books or his BBC children's show.

As I mentioned, there was a biography written by a friend of Langstaff and I was able to get a copy and read it before I opened any of the boxes. This was very helpful. I know it wouldn't be possible in all cases but I'm glad that it was because it allowed me to bring context to the things I was seeing. For instance, I found a map of Canada with a small mark on it which seemed meaningless until I recalled that Langstaff had bought an island in Canada that the family used for vacations.

After just one day, I can say that I am quite enjoying the smaller atmosphere than the Gottleib archive where I did my previous internship. The Gottleib is so big that I was upstairs processing and never even set foot in the reference room. Wednesday night, I was able to watch the archivist interact with a couple from Dallas who had come to the area to do research for the husband's upcoming book. It was great to see how the reference interview was handled and how the archivist provided information not only about the Cambridge History Room's materials that might be helpful, but also other nearby institutions.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of this internship!

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22-24 of 36

Surprise! I bet you weren’t expecting to hear more about my GSLIS course credits this semester, but this is it, I promise. In addition to my three classes this semester, I had an Independent Study doing an internship at a law firm library.

The perks of my internship have been gaining practical experience, building my résumé, bolstering my arsenal of talking points for future interviews, and spending time on the job with a library professional. I spent twelve hours per week at the law firm doing a variety of tasks including research, collection upkeep, invoice organization, and basic cataloging. I did not have any designated internship-long projects, and was, for the most part, subject to whatever tasks cropped up on a given day. It was a great introduction to the life of a solo librarian in a special library environment.

The internship culminated in writing an article about the benefits of having an internship. I had almost too much material to work with! With the help of the GSLIS professor who proctored my Independent Study, the article might even be published. This whole experience has been invaluable to my professional development, and publication of the article would be a nice added bonus.

The only “bad” thing that I can say about an Independent Study is that you pay for it just like any other GSLIS course. I suppose that I am technically spending money to gain library experience, but frankly, I can’t think of a course that I would rather have taken. If you have the chance to obtain library experience without taking an Independent Study, more power to you! I don’t think that an Independent Study is for everyone, but in my case it provided me with an opportunity that I would not have otherwise had.

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The Practicum Binder

If you've ever known an SLTP candidate, you'll know that these two words have a special power over us.  The practicum binder represents the culmination of all the hours of work we put in at our practicum experiences - the rich experiences we have are condensed down into two, massive, three-ring binders filled with papers.  Yet, it's also really satisfying to see this tangible evidence of all you've worked to achieve.

The practicum binder serves as the official documentation of the evidence submitted to the state by Simmons when we graduate, since our diplomas become our initial licenses.  This way, if the state ever wants to audit the program, we will have the evidence to support what we said we did during our student teaching hours.

The binder is a mammoth undertaking, one that must be completed over the course of the semester, within the 100 hours we are meant to work (most candidates work more, but 100 is the official minimum requirement).   It breaks down into four major components (apart from a summary experience reflection and official paperwork): the practicum log, the major and minor projects, lesson plans, and artifacts.

Continue reading The Practicum Binder

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Practicum Experiences

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a Boston Arts Academy pep rally for the whole school at Fenway Park.  Now, I've been to Fenway before, but always surrounded by legions of fans.  Today, however, the park lay entirely empty, save for some groundspeople and a few (slightly confused) tourists, and it was pretty cool.  The reason I got to do this was because I am doing my high school practicum at Boston Arts/Fenway High School, and as a library intern, the librarian wanted me to be introduced to the student body as part of her staff, but it really stood out to me as a hallmark of the experiences we have as practicum students.  Though we are only at our schools for a few short months, and though the time flies by really quickly, the schools and the librarians take great effort to welcome us and make us feel included.  To my mind, this makes the experience that much richer, because it gives you a sense of every aspect of the librarian's role - the emails that must be answered, the parent volunteers who must be coordinated, the book fairs that must be supervised - as well as the teaching side of things.  It's invaluable, because it helps make sure that Simmons graduates will enter the profession with a holistic perception of what the job entails, which in turn lays the foundation for creating strong, vibrant library programs in communities across the state (and the country).  We are very fortunate, as practicum students, to have such welcoming schools to host us and such dedicated librarians who guide us, mentor us, and help us to grow as pre-professionals, and it's what makes the SLT program so strong.

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The Tale of a Reformed Networker

As I mentioned in my last post, this semester brings me the joys of a part-time job and an internship. After months of what amounted to futile job searching, I eventually managed to land not one, but two library-related opportunities. Based on this recent experience, I have come to terms with the fact that networking can go a long way.

For years I assumed that my unique (read: incongruous) résumé and undeniable charm (read: propensity for awkwardness) would force the job market to bow down to me in reverence. Incorrect. Rather, I have found that just about every job I have ever held was because of an acquaintance who already had a foot in the door. So finally, after months of wondering why I wasn’t hearing back from library job postings to which I had responded, I set my pride aside and resorted to some good old fashioned networking.

In the midst of volunteering at the Somerville Public Library, I applied for a few part-time vacancies and was offered one which starts next week. I loved the Corporate Libraries course that I took in the spring, so I contacted the professor to see if I could test the waters in a special library, and he helped me obtain an internship (which is technically an independent study, so I will receive GSLIS credit) at a law library. Instead of scouring library job websites and sending what often amounts to an anonymous résumé and cover letter, I reached out to people whom I already knew, which in these instances was quite effective.

I did several things in order to get the aforementioned opportunities, and the order of operations went something like this: 1. Get over myself and accept the fact that asking for help is ok, 2. Figure out what I am interested in doing, 3. Make connections in those areas of interest, 4. Ask said connections what opportunities are out there, 5. Pounce on said opportunities.

A fantasy of mine is to have jobs fall into my lap. I now recognize that that fantasy can become a reality if I depend more on my ability to network and less on my résumé. I used to think of networking as an annoying way to suck up and make phony connections; now I am starting to realize that it is the real deal.

Internships | Jobs | Libraries | People | 1 comment


Oh, can’t anybody see? We’ve got a war to fight.

The past two weeks since my last update have been ridiculously busy. First of all, I’m at the point where I have been forced to sit down and start committing all of my findings to paper. I feel like the progress has been abysmally slow, and 20 (single spaced!) pages in, I feel like I’m only half-way to my conclusion. Luckily, it’s broken down into a number of smaller sections, so I’ve been hopping around to smaller topics that interest me to try and keep up my motivation. I’ve also found that if I listen to the same song on repeat for eight hours, I don’t get nearly as distracted as I would if I let Pandora do its thing. Thanks, Portishead. I can literally listen to your song “Roads” all day long. So far today, I’ve written two pages on the disposition of culturally modified human remains!  Oh, jeeze.

This past weekend I also had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Wikimania conference in Washington, D.C. Fortunately for me, the conference was held at George Washington University, where I just so happened to be staying! I mostly attended GLAM-Wiki sessions (GLAM stands for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums), and I really feel like all library and information professionals should explore how Wikimedia projects—not just Wikipedia, but Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource—can facilitate greater access to our (very broad “our”) collections. David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, gave the closing plenary, and I actually got to shake his hand!

Well, I jotted down this blog post during my lunch break, and now it’s back to writing about the secularization of sacred objects. I only have three and a half weeks left of my internship, and I’m amazed and kind of sad about how quickly it’s all gone by. Tomorrow, I'm planning on attending a mini career fair held at the Smithsonian Institution; I wonder if they'll give me a job if I just ask? I wish!

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Adventures in the Social Law Library Archives

My unplanned foray into the world of law librarianship has taken yet another unexpected turn: I’m working in an archives at a law library!

A few weeks ago, my supervisor at the Social Law Library told me that, if I wanted to, I could spend a couple of hours each workweek in the Archives. Of course, I said “yes” with no hesitation. As I’ve articulated in a previous post, I’ve found a great deal of professional value in my circulation job at Social Law, even as an archivist-to-be. But I would be a fool if I didn’t jump at this opportunity to squeeze some more relevance out of my pre-professional job.

I have quite a task ahead of me when it comes to the Social Law Archives. Due to budget/staff shortages, there is no professional librarian or archivist tasked with managing the Archives. To make matters even more interesting, the Library moved in the early 2000s, and whatever order that had been established in the previous Archives got jumbled up when it moved to the new building. Concepts like “provenance” and “original order” certainly become a lot more difficult to work with in a situation like this!

My job is, more or less, to figure out what’s down there and get a large-scale sense of intellectual control over the place. Something I’m noticing right away is there are really two high-level groups at work: the Social Law Archives proper and a Special Collections component. The “Archives” themselves are composed of the materials Social Law has created over the course of its history as an institution, and the Special Collections are a compilation of various groups of materials that have been donated to the Library over the years, such as judges’ and legal institutions’ papers. It may seem like a minor distinction to people outside of the archives world, but to us archivists it’s a big one!

My ultimate goal is for this currently unorganized place to become a resource for researchers--there’s a lot of cool stuff in the Social Law Archives (& Special Collections), and no one knows about it! We have a long way to go before we can get to that point, but if I can do something during my time here to push Social Law closer toward this goal, I will consider it time well spent.

I’m finding myself coming up with project ideas for a “future intern,” and I’m starting to think that I’m going to be that intern. There’s a 130-140hr internship component to the GSLIS Archives Concentration, and if I can get the formalities figured out then I believe I will spend that time working in the Social Law Archives. It’s official--Social Law has sucked me in!

Archives | Internships | 1 comment


Missing June

One month down and 5 weeks to go at my internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and I’m really starting to feel the time constraints. I am in the process of compiling a report for the Repatriation Committee Chair of the Board of Trustees that creates a history of Board discussions and actions regarding repatriation since the enabling legislation of 1989 through the present day. I’ve been given access to a lot of confidential information, and I’ve also been given the opportunity to browse through some collections at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives on the mall!

In the middle of all this, I’ve also been assisting the repatriation staff in digitizing and organizing documents in their information management system, Client Profiles. It’s interesting because it’s intended for legal use, but it works really well for their purposes. It’s also capable of syncing Word and Outlook email, so you can link information from multiple points of origin. (You can even upload audio files.) I haven’t really been on the information creation side of things before, so it’s a really enlightening perspective. Frustrated, at times, with the lack of organization of the information I’ve been trying to find, I’ve spent some time reviewing the Smithsonian’s information management and archival policies and schedules, which are not always put into practice. Luckily, the people I work with are really receptive to ideas about how better to organize their personal files and information, and we’ve really been able to learn a lot from each other.

Looking forward, I’ve conducted a lot of the research I need to begin drafting the actual report, which leaves me pretty intimidated. I’ve unearthed a pretty large and dense amount of information, so trying to turn that into a coherent document is going to take some time.

Aside from work, though, I’ve been having a great time in D.C. I went to a live action parody of Jurassic Park by Old Murder House Theatre (which was hilarious), and on the Fourth of July, I went to a Nationals baseball game!  It’s hard to get much more patriotic than that. Next week, I’m looking forward to attending the huge Wikimania conference, and I’ll probably blog all about that once it’s done! Now if only the weather would stop being so abysmal.

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Week 1 at my Summer Internship with the Smithsonian NMAI!

So concludes my first week at the Cultural Resources Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian!  I’ll make sure to take some pictures that I can post next week.  I have my own little cubicle in the Repatriation Department and access to all manner of really interesting office files and archives.  At the start of my week, I felt a little overwhelmed at the scope of my project, but the more I dig, the more excited I get!

I’m here through August 11, and by the end of my internship, I am expected to produce a report to the Board of Trustees on the department’s policy and case history.  I am looking at how discussions have evolved around topics concerning human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, as well as conclusions and debates surrounding cultural affiliation, stewardship, Native American identity and state, federal, and institutional recognition, author, jurisdiction, etc.  As you can see, it’s a huge amount of information I’m trying to extra from Board of Trustees agendas, minutes, transcripts (if they exist!), and correspondence.

I find it fascinating because I’m getting a really detailed look at how the bureaucracy of an institution like the Smithsonian works as well as how policymakers can influence the course of debate and understanding on very important issues.  It helps that I’ve been interested in this subject and have already done a little research on repatriation and cultural stewardship prior to my internship here.  I only hope I can conclude my work here before I have to leave!

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/Spring 2012

With only one last class and one last presentation to give, I’m facing the end of the semester, and I can’t believe it went by so quickly!  I’ve had a great experience in my Introduction to Archival Methods and Services class, and I learned so much from my internship with the Cambridge Historical Society.  The finding aid I created should be up on their website soon, and it’s given me a tremendous sense of accomplishment to process an entire collection from start to finish!

This summer I’ll be looking forward to an internship with the Repatriation Department of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Cultural Resources Center (phew, that’s a lot of words).  My internship starts on June 4th and lasts through the 10th of August, and I’ve been doing a ton of reading and research on my own before it starts!  I believe quite a few of us here intend to blog over the course of the summer, and I’ll have a lot more to say about it once it starts!

For now, I just have to get through this one last power point, and then I have an awesome summer in Washington, D.C. to look forward to.

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Experience, Experience, and More Experience

Internships are very important to the Simmons GSLIS experience. Many programs have internship requirements built into their curriculums. The Archives Management concentration, which is the only one I can speak to with any kind of authority, features a 60-hour internship at the beginning of the program and a 130-140-hour field experience at the very end of the program. The first allows students essentially to get their feet wet before delving into coursework, and the second serves as an opportunity to apply everything learned in the program in a culminating, final experience. Especially because level/amount of experience is one of the most important elements potential employers consider when looking to hire new archivists, I really appreciate having the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as a part of the curriculum.

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