Archive for the 'Librarian Education & Training' Category


Digitization policies: drafts

In a few weeks, I will have been in my position here for four months. If there is one project that I hope to complete before my first year, it is to successfully create a sustainable digitization process for our library!

With feedback from the digital/web librarian who attempted to create a digitization policy about two years ago and a lot of reading, I created four documents to get our digitization “task force” talking about our project process. These documents, in draft form, are as follows:

  • Digital Collection Development Policy: This document is modeled after the original policy document. It describes types of digitization projects, defines a “digitization advisory group” that decides what projects to do and who will be part of the projects, as well as project selection criteria.
  • Digital Project Life Cycle: This document describes the process of identifying and implementing a digital project. Team roles are described, as well as technical and metadata specs (still in development).
  • Digitization Project Proposal: This is a very short form that groups can fill out to propose a digital project to the “digitization advisory group.”
  • Project Proposal Checklist: This is the checklist that the “digitization advisory group” would use to help the group decide on and prioritize digitization projects. Adapted from Syracuse University Library’s “Digital Library Project Proposal Checklist.”

There are other forms and policies, such as a work order submission form and copyright research policy — I have some great guidance from the Society of Georgia Archivists’ Forms Forum, which has a lot of excellent examples. Some of the other resources I consulted and adapted include:

For me, the development policy and life cycle documents are the most important. Once our “task force” comes to agreement on these documents, they can serve as the backbone for our projects, as well as evidence that we all support a long-term, collaborative digitization effort. Feedback and suggestions are welcome. Thank you for reading!

As an unrelated note, Touchable Archives is the blog of the month for May 2010 at Simmons’ GSLIS!


Blooms Among the LAMs: Early‐Career Professionals and Cross‐Pollination between Libraries, Archives, and Museums

This post was co-authored by Audra of Touchable Archives and Lance of the NewArchivist blog, on which this post also appears.

As the lines between libraries, archives, and museums continue to blur and professional identities become less and less concrete, a question arises on how to best foster collaboration and knowledge‐building between these sectors. In some regards, this question is even more profound for new professionals. In graduate school, there are opportunities to take classes in other disciplines or even specialize in multiple areas. Is this type of education actually bringing together the best of the theory and practice of these disciplines, or merely teaching library skills in one class and archives skills in another?

Furthermore, it can be difficult for new professionals to know which of these identities belong to them. For example, what if you are a graduate of an archives program, working in a library setting, and putting together a few online and physical object exhibits? What are you? What professional organizations do you belong to and what journals do you read? Being new (and most likely carrying a mountain of education debt), we probably have to choose between the SAA, ALA, or AAM annual meetings.

Where does one look to learn more about the issues and opportunities surrounding the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Is there something out there for new professionals interested in cross‐discipline topics and fostering collaboration? If not, what types of groups would suit our needs? The purpose of this post is to solicit answers to some of these questions.

A Little History
The Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM) was established by the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board in 1970 as a partnership between the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and ALA, with the American Association of Museums (AAM) joining in January 2003. An in‐depth history can be found on the ALA website. The committee consists of fifteen members, five from each organization, as well as three co‐chairs from each organization. There are also staff liaisons and sometimes interns (mostly from ALAbut the committee is largely made up of experienced and well‐known archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. It is clear from the official functions of CALM that it is an administrative, high‐level committee that fosters communication between these three large organizations.
CALM’s official function is to:

(1) foster and develop ways and means of effecting closer cooperation among the organizations; (2) encourage the establishment of common standards; (3) undertake such activities as are assigned to the committee by one or more of its parent bodies; (4) initiate programs of a relevant and timely nature at the annual meetings of one or more parent bodies either through direct Combined Committee sponsorship or by forwarding particular program plans to the appropriate unit or on or more parent bodies for action; and (5) refer matters of concern to appropriate units of one or more of the parent bodies.

Both of us had never heard of CALM as graduate students. It was not until Audra was selected to be a part of the 2009 class of ALA Emerging Leaders that she was introduced to the committee and its priorities. (In case you’re curious, the 2008 EL class created a wiki for LAM (libraries, archives, and museums)‐related issues, which the 2009 EL class updated and supplemented with a page, and the 2010 EL class is working on a podcast series for LAM‐related issues.) CALM was born as a policy‐based group of representatives from SAA, AAM, and ALA. Their willingness to work with ALA’s Emerging Leaders program seems to demonstrate an interest in the ideas of early‐career professionals.

There is potential for CALM to become a major vehicle for encouraging discussion and scholarship about LAM convergence. The OCLC‐related hangingtogether blog as well as the new IMLSUpNext wiki present opportunities for discussion and debate around LAM issues.

A Call for Ideas
So other than getting involved with the big OCLC working groups and the super‐committee known as CALM, what opportunities are there for early‐career librarians, archivists, and museum professionals to be a part of the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Where is the “Emerging Leaders” program for new/young professionals who think and work between the LAMs?

Convergence is an exciting thing. How does this generation of new professionals understand and interact with it? That is what we are asking you. When we were first discussing this idea, we thought that an informal type of group focusing on these issues would be a good start. Perhaps it could have an online access component to foster collaboration and not require travel. We need your help and ideas on filling out this idea and make it into something tangible and usable for us new information professionals. Please leave comments or email us at to let us know what you think!


Forming iDEALS for tomorrow’s information professionals

On Monday, I participated in the first Information, Diversity, Engagement, Access and Libraries (iDEAL) Summit in the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The innovative summit was the brainchild of new department chair Dr. Clara Chu, the event was meant to create a “community approach to discussing and identifying strategies to address information, diversity, engagement, access and libraries (iDEAL) in our education, research, practice and community building.”

The event format appeared to be modeled partially from the 2006 UCLA Diversity Recruitment Summit, which incorporated small group discussion, brainstorming, and reflection as a larger group. While the UCLA event focused on ways to bring diversity to the field, iDEALS attempted to address ways to better prepare future information professionals for “relevant, appropriate and effective services in and with diverse, globalized and technological communities.”

Perhaps what made the program so unique was the diversity of participants. Faculty, students, and practitioners were invited to participate in the discussion, creating an intellectual potpourri. Small groups were sent into sessions where they discussed real world experience, education and professional development, research, and community, as they relate to LIS education, research, and practice.

I was part of a group led by Dr. Nora Bird, who further divided our group to discuss specific topics listed above. She avoided allowing participants from the same group sit together (i.e. no two students sitting together). My small group was asked to focus on education and professional development, something with which I have recent experience!

As we brainstormed skills and knowledge for graduates with respect to diversity, engagement, and access, the conversation kept returning to a lack of opportunities for LIS students to feel truly engaged with the local community, as well as opportunities for students to gain valuable professional training (read: not shelving books). Desired skills and knowledge: empathy, ability to listen to others, openness, exposure to different types of communities and cultures, ability to TEACH, being an advocate, and being knowledgeable about existing and new resources. There were a lot more suggestions, but we crystallized our discussion into two main points: mentoring and service learning.

We concluded that today’s LIS students need mentoring from a variety of sources. The student government can arrange 2nd-year/1st-year mentorships; alumni can provide networking and mentoring opportunities at the local level; NCLA/SNCA can continue and expand their mentor programs; and of course, there is always the national level. Mentoring does not just provide networking opportunities, but it also creates professional development that cannot happen in the classroom. Professional skills can be learned simply by watching and listening to an active practitioner.  Finally, professional organizations should encourage research at the graduate level by providing student poster sessions (especially at the state level) and supplementing or changingmerit-based scholarships into research funding.

Perhaps most importantly, we felt that service learning (as opposed to internships/practicums) offered the greatest opportunity for education and professional development to LIS students. By “learning by doing,” students are able to take classroom knowledge and apply it to a real-life situation. In particular, service learning projects with community-based organizations push developing information professionals into a new role as resident “expert,” where he or she must make decisions about how to deal with challenging situations. Service learners must teach and share knowledge — in effect, becoming advocates. Service learning provides a variety of experience for a budding information professional in a short period, and provides the chance to experience different communities. We felt that student organizations and LIS departments have a responsibility to help create community organization projects for students, with clear learning objectives and goals. These projects must be mutually beneficial.

I must admit my influence in this discussion was based on my experience with service learning at UCLA. I chose to work with Visual Communications, an Asian-American nonprofit film/media organization. Without an archivist, my peers and I were seen as archivists by default, and found ourselves using newly learned techniques and approaches to arranging, preserving, and making accessible their archives. This could not have happened in an established archive, where our work would have been more limited and, perhaps, at a paraprofessional level. The challenges of a limited budget and overworked staff are familiar today. My peers and I also learned about the information needs of a diverse and underserved community.

While the iDEAL Summit was focused on ways to improve UNCG’s program, nearly everyone I spoke to felt that this method could be replicated on other campuses and in other communities. It was inspiring to see three types of information professionals — students, faculty, and practitioners — in the same room, asking for the same transformation. I wonder how many other LIS programs incorporate service learning into the curriculum. In the near future, I hope to see more service learning as well as more practitioners who mentor.


Librarians, archivists, money, and a Lost Generation

What will happen to today’s new, young information professionals who are unemployed or “underemployed”? A recent article in Business Week dubs these young people as part of a new “Lost Generation.” Research suggests that an “extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods.” For those of us fortunate enough to be employed, will low pay and limited (or nonexistent) benefits be sufficient to keep us inspired, creative, and energetic?

I am in the midst of my first-ever annual review and I thought I’d share my experience,  both with fellow neophytes and supervisors. When I was hired into my current position, my county HR department said that I would start at the bottom of the salary range because I did not have any professional experience (pre-MLIS experience of 6 years did not count) and that I could negotiate my salary after 1 year. In addition, my salary increase would be based on the “market rate” for a librarian in my county — which was a good 20% higher from my starting rate. Good, I thought, in order for me to show my value as a professional and be paid a fair wage.

Not until this week, however, was I informed that the “market rate” is merely a representative figure — not an actual rate that most librarians are paid. Employees start at the bottom and, through merit-based appraisals, receive a percentage of the market rate as an increase in their salary per annum. Many employees don’t actually reach 100% of the market rate, and this year, the highest possible salary increase is capped at 2% of the market rate. That means a perfect appraisal would merit just a few hundred dollars extra the following year, due to the lower rate of pay. For a library director, a 2% increase could mean a few thousand dollars.

The difference between a poor appraisal and an excellent appraisal could mean a difference of a couple hundred bucks for a new librarian or archivist. Why would a government employee work harder than the minimum requirements? Why would a new librarian/archivist want to bring new ideas to the table and challenge him or herself to make changes? With new jobs asking for more and more training and education and experience for less pay, what will today’s information professionals have to gain?

Full disclosure: I got an excellent review. I love my job. I have few resources but full support from my colleagues and supervisor. I am grateful every day that I have a job, especially one related to special collections. But without mentorship and motivation, some new information professionals find themselves feeling lost. A recent post on The New Archivist discusses the feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence that can appear with the challenges of a first job (limited resources, a bit of naivete, overwhelming projects) and it resonated with me. I hope that I can continue to be confident and excited in my second year as a librarian/archivist.


NCLA Part 1: Politician papers and the new North Carolina Gazetteer

I am back in Winston-Salem, pleasantly surprised by my first experience with a state library conference: NCLA. I was warned that registrations were lower than ever, and while attendance was indeed low, I found that some sessions were more seminars than panels (which is always a better learning environment for me).

I attended the Government Resources Section’s session on politician papers in libraries, with Betty Carter from UNCG and Tim West of UNC Chapel Hill.

UNCG was given permission to acquire the papers of Senator Kay Hagan, and also has the papers of Congressman Howard Coble. While their collection’s strengths lie primarily with performing arts and early 20th century authors, UNCG’s University Archives and Manuscripts department also has political papers. Betty Carter mentioned two important things to consider when acquiring political papers: size and research potential. She also mentioned the usefulness of SAA’s publication entitled Managing Congressional Collections.

 Tim West from the Southern Historical Collection represents a large special collections repository. He mentioned the importance of obtaining special funding for a processing archivist, which the SHC has done successfully by asking for funding from donors. Research value (through archival appraisal) for historians, journalists, community activists, undergraduates, relatives, and constituents is of utmost importance to the SHC. Mr. West mentioned the importance of collecting from individuals and groups of “exceptional impact” such as officeholders who have been influential outside of political activity, people involved in politics who did not hold public office, political journalists, and more.

During the ensuing discussion, the panelists agreed that there is a need for a statewide documentation strategy for political papers. I am concerned with the role of academic special collections departments in making available political papers to the public. Academic libraries focus on students and faculty. What role do public libraries play in this? We recently de-accessioned and donated to the State Archives the papers of a local state representative because we felt they would be researched more frequently there. I had not thought that academic libraries with ties to political figures might also collect these types of work — what about the State Archives as a repository for government documents? Perhaps election materials and personal papers do not fall within their collection development policy? Also, what about elecronic records? Neither have, so far, begun collecting born-digital resources.

Another issue that became highlighted during the panel: the majority of those participating were government documents librarians, most of whom had never dealt with manuscripts. It was interesting to watch librarians and archivists discuss archival concepts — and it made me realize how much further we have to go to understand each other and our methods in dealing with “records.”

Later that afternoon, I helped introduce Michael Hill, supervisor of the Research Division of the NC Office of Archives & History and also coordinator of the North Carolina State Highway Historical Marker Program. His presentation on editing William Powell’s North Carolina Gazetteer was engaging and amusing, exploring some of the origins of unique place names in the state (i.e. Asey Hole, Pig Basket Creek, Whynot). I am really looking forward to the book, which should come out sometime next year and will undoubtedly become another reference must-have.


After archives inventory, then what?

I came to my job as a special collections librarian in an urban public library with grand ideas about interactive finding aids, MARC records linking to HTML or EAD finding aids or maybe a catablog, digitized content in a DAM system or collaborative project, and envisioning our first born-digital acquisitions. What I found: tens of feet of unprocessed manuscripts, rare books, objects, and ephemera without printed finding aids or even donor agreements; uncataloged maps and card catalog-indexed vertical files, uncataloged microform, and a backlog “closet of doom.”

Nearly one year into my first professional position as librarian-archivist, I have some idea of how I would like to proceed with the unique collections of the North Carolina Room. I decided early on to formulate a structure for our existing archival and special collections materials, but first we needed a place for stuff to go. I got an NCPC grant and had a locking cage built where our department would be moving. Then my colleagues and I started moving collections, objects, and rare books into the cage (photographic and audiovisual materials are kept in a temperature-controlled closet).

The North Carolina Room has officially moved to the ground floor of Central Library, where I am now able to deal directly with the materials in our cage, particularly record groups that need finding aids. Our community organization archives (League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, as well as StoryLine) can be kept securely in one place, but no one knows about them. My next step? Create an inventory of fonds (as well as objects, scrapbooks, and other unique materials).

After that, I have to admit I am unsure where to go. Ideally I would work with an IT team and administration to purchase and install Archon/AT and start adding finding aids that can be exported into our catalog as MARC and through our website as EAD/HTML. But we don’t have an IT team, our budget is slashed, and our county government programmers are not interested in supporting a database (yet).

I’ve developed an accession numbering system to go through all of the inventoried “collections” and am creating MS Word-based, very preliminary finding aids that I will hand to our cataloger so we can at least get some “placeholder” MARC records in the catalog. Then I am going to create a catablog and/or create HTML finding aids and investigate the possibility of our finding aids becoming part of ArchiveGrid.

In some ways, I have come to prefer “placeholder” MARC records that can be shared on WorldCat to the multitude of complicated, expensive finding aid programs out there. At UCLA (before AT) we would create a MS Word finding aid, an MS Excel container list, then send these files to an EAD coder who would then program the finding aid and send it to the OAC for harvesting. The Brooklyn Historical Society’s catablog, Emma, combines full-text searchable summary entries with links to PDF finding aids — using a free blog interface.

In my mind, and in line with the now overhyped MPLP method, people prefer to know that you have a group of records about someone/something instead of waiting for a precise description of every single item in a group of records. I see rows of unprocessed scrapbooks, slides, maps, artwork, administrative records, etc… and see a lot of information that isn’t being shared. Basically what I am wondering is: are finding aids in the traditional sense worth it?

Here’s to making things available. Feedback/suggestions are welcome!


THATCamp Austin reflections

With THATCamp Pacific Northwest coming up next month, it’s about time I posted about my experiences at THATCamp Austin. I think I’ve been delaying this post for a while out of simultaneous excitement that I got to participate and fear that I’ll be exposed as a big groupie of all the amazing folks who participated in THATCamp.

This year was the first regional session of the original THATCamp, or “The Humanities and Technology Camp,” first held by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As a user-generated “unconference” consisting of discussion groups, training sessions, and “dork shorts” demonstrating new projects, THATCamp is an ideal kind of spontaneous, creative outlet for  newbie archivists/digital humanists/historians.  Lisa Grimm was one of the archivists in attendance in June and wrote this inspiring post about the potential for THATCamp in Austin.

A few weeks later, THATCamp Austin was  born (care of Lisa Grimm, Ben Brumfield, Peter Keane, and Jeanne Kramer-Smyth). As I read the excited tweets about the program and encouraging news that anyone interested in digital humanities could apply, my hesitation about being a public library archivist/special collections librarian among digital humanities folks began to subside.  I applied and my idea to discuss redefining the  boundaries of memory institutions was accepted!

Overall, I could sense that the environment at THATCamp would be supportive, energetic, and a lot of fun. My enthusiasm grew as I got to the UT-Austin lecture hall where our event would be held. A narrow hallway was filled with smiling faces, free pizza, and free t-shirts thanks to some angel sponsors and a few incredibly hardworking organizers.

We settled ourselves in an auditorium in the basement of the building, with live tweets popping up on the overhead screen. Open discussion, creativity, and freedom of thought was the order of the evening — I was overjoyed! We shouted out our potential topics and organized ourselves on loosely-related themes. I chose to participate in the session on crowdsourcing in digital projects and was a discussion leader for the session on “web x.x and diversity and community.”

I didn’t take notes. For the first time in my career, my ubiquitous notebook sits devoid of scribbled entries, doodles, or quotes. Perhaps it’s because I found it faster to type than to write…so most of my remarks, in reverse chronological order, can be seen via tweets:

Perhaps the best thing about THATCamp was being given the opportunity to speak freely about new concepts with intelligent, creative folks in a non-competitive, relatively unstructured environment. No one had to submit a proposal a year in advance (many of these projects and ideas will have morphed multiple times within a few months). I relished the chance to meet some of the emerging contributors to my field and have conversations with my colleagues without the constraints of a formal panel. I am so grateful to have been there and cannot wait to see what concepts and innovations come out of future THATCamps!