So What Do You Do? My Experience at JHU

This post is part of our series “So What Do You Do?” in which  LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Heather Johnson and I’m starting the second semester of my MLIS program at University of Maryland College Park next week. My specialization is in Archives and Digital Curation. I work full-time as a defense contractor and part-time in a temporary internship-like job as an Archives Assistant at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland.

So what do you do?

I’ve been working at JHU for about six months and will continue until the end of the year. During this time I’ve been fortunate to work on a variety of projects. I’ve inventoried collections, categorized and sorted metadata (dates, file names, volume and issue numbers, etc.), physically boxed up collections, and barcoded containers. I’ve performed quality control checks on digitized files including magazines, newsletters, photographs, and other print media. I’ve also reconciled varying versions of finding aids and box counts.

Upcoming projects include converting VHS tapes to digital format, processing a small collection of photographs, and scanning print media for digitization.

Did you find your coursework helpful in that position? In what way?

I’ve only taken two classes so far so there is a limit in how helpful they can be yet. However, after briefly surveying different metadata standards in one class, it was interesting to see how these standards were used in the finding aids produced in Archivist’s Toolkit and ArchivesSpace.

Overall, I’d say that the job will be more helpful to my coursework. During my interview at JHU I was asked if I knew the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard, and I had to admit I had read briefly about it but not much more. Now I feel confident in my ability to correctly employ this standard. Finding aids were another lesson. I googled the term before my interview so I could at least say I’d heard of them (when I interviewed for the job I had just started my first semester – I really knew almost nothing particularly tailored to archival processes and functions). Now, after reviewing and performing quality control on perhaps hundreds of finding aids, I’m feeling pretty good about how to create one myself.

What would you say are the lessons you’ve taken away from this job/internship/etc?

The MLIS field is so broad and even though I’ve narrowed my specialization to Archives and Digital Curation, there remains a wide and diverse field to dive into. I’ve learned a bit more about what I like (processing and research) and that there is still so much to learn. I’ve been fortunate to have two great people to work under during this time. They’ve gone out of their way to expose me to different aspects of the archives profession.

If something interests you, go for it. I’ll be honest, this job sounded great to me, but I nearly didn’t apply because of my already packed to bursting schedule. I told myself it was a win-win either way if I did or didn’t get the job. But, being honest again, I was excited when I was selected and that has helped me slog through the long days. If it excites you, you’ll find a way to make it work.

How do you think this will help with your career?

I’ve learned how to use Archivist’s Toolkit and ArchivesSpace (I was lucky to learn the former and then the latter as the university converted to the more current tool). These tools will enhance my skill set and the practical experience will be a great addition to my resume. The work has also confirmed that I’m going in the right direction with this career change, and that’s been a great help to my confidence and frame of mind.


Featured image by Homewood Photography is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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