Working with special, rare and archival materials

Within librarianship, there is a unique group of individuals that aspire to work with historical and unique materials. It truly is a fascinating field of work that combines a variety of facets, from material studies and history to language and culture.

This week I spoke with John, Liz, Bethany, Hannah and Caroline, who all share my passion for these unique and historical materials. As SLIS students that all currently work in rare book, archive, or special collection institutions, we wanted to use this episode as a chance to dialog on the significance and challenges inherent in collecting and preserving these materials and why we are interested in a career in this field. We also give some insight into some of the special projects we work on at our jobs: processing a cookbook collection, cataloguing miniature books, crowdsourcing metadata for artist books and processing the newly donated Tom Brokaw papers.

“Working in special collections gives you a taste of what’s out there. You have this ability to see behind closed doors, to see what exists, that I would have never thought of before.” -John Fifield, 2017

It’s clear that the dynamic content, the individuality of special collections and the ability to constantly learn are all reasons why at least this group of students have chosen to pursue a future in this sub-field of library and information science. We also take some time to discuss some of our favorite items we’ve encountered and how our experiences have played a valuable role in guiding us to a future career. As a bonus, John gives us insight into his recent experience interviewing for a rare book seller job.

“[Special collections] is such a big collection, a varied collection, no matter what you’re interested in we can find something for you.” -Elizabeth Riordan, 2017

If you’ve never taken the time to visit an archival, special collections or rare book institution before, I highly recommend you do! You never know what you could find.

Working as the Peace Corps Librarian

 

We’ve all heard of the Peace Corps, but have you heard of the Peace Corps librarian? And what exactly does a Peace Corps librarian do?

Recently, we were fortunate to speak with Kelly Grogg, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. In this episode, Kelly provides us with a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be the Peace Corps Librarian.

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“Since I am the only librarian and I have so many different roles, I get to do a little bit of all those things. There’s a little bit of the public librarian aspect where I get to answer questions from the public, I am managing a small library, I am sort of the default historian and archivist for the Peace Corps, and I get to do a lot of in depth research for people here at headquarters like an academic librarian would do, and I get to do a lot of international calls and talk to people all around the world.” -Kelly Grogg, 2017

As the Peace Corps Librarian, Kelly is busy serving, supporting, and communicating with four different audiences: library staff at all Peace Corps offices around the world, Peace Corps volunteers in the field, staff at Headquarters at Washington D.C., and the general public. Kelly describes what it’s like to work as a solo librarian for a federal entity and she speaks about some of the projects she hopes to work on during her term as the Peace Corps librarian.

Although she will only hold this position temporarily (for five years), as a former Peace Corps volunteer, Kelly is grateful for this opportunity to educate others about the PeaceCorps and to share her library expertise with current Peace Corps volunteers in the field. As for the future…

“I know that I would be happy anywhere, as long as a got to work in a library and do work that I believe in, which is why I decided to become a librarian in the first place.” -Kelly Grogg, 2017

**This podcast was prepared or accomplished by Kelly Grogg in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are her own and do not reflect the view of the United States Peace Corps or the United States government.**

Interning at the U.S. National Archives

 

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Erica examining the watermark on a document while rehousing the oversized collection at the Library

This past summer, the summer of 2016, two of our local SLIS students made sure that they did not waste their summer vacations. We wanted to make sure we captured a little bit of their experiences.Erica Knapp spent her summer working at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. Kara Wentworth spent her summer break working at the National Park Service Headquarters in Washington D.C. in the Tribal Relations and American Cultures department. They were both selected for their positions from an initial pool of applicants from across the country.

In this episode we speak to Erica and Kara about their experience delving into special collections work at the federal level, getting to know individuals through the intimate work of collection processing.

“Eleanor had a pen pal that she met in the early ’30s[…], she called her Tiny. We have Tiny’s half of the correspondence, but Tiny’s daughters [recently] donated Eleanor’s half of the correspondence to us. So I got to go through and read all of Eleanor’s letters.” -Erica Knapp, 2016

That summer, they also participated in special events, learned about the workflow and logistics of a functioning national archives, gained a unique understanding of national archive and federal agency standards, and became familiar with the responsibilities of an archivist at the federal level.

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Kara standing in the Main Interior Building, the headquarters of the United States Department of the Interior, located in Washington, D.C.

“I was working in a building with a bunch of anthropologists. I processed a 100-square-foot collection for the chief ethnographer of the Park Service from 1978 to early 2000. They wanted to get an archivist in to go through it [the collection] because they weren’t sure how much of it was personal and had to be removed and redacted. [The job] really appealed to me because I wanted to get an understanding, a working knowledge, of the National archive standard.” -Kara Wentworth, 2016