Summer Practicum in the Repository & Digital Curation Department

It is required that students in the MLS program at Indiana University fulfill one internship. Since I am specializing in Art Librarianship, I am required to complete two internships. This summer, I was a practicum student at Northwestern University’s Library in Evanston, IL. I completed 187.5 hours of work for Digital Collections. I met my supervisor at the Midwestern Art Cataloging Discussion Group (MACDG) last fall, where she had mentioned a practicum position available. I immediately talked her after the meeting and stayed in contact with her till the Spring 2016. In March, we corresponded and finalized when I would be arriving to work and what projects I would be working on. I chose to stay in Evanston for five weeks and work 37.5 hours a week; it worked perfectly for my summer schedule and budget. What is the Repository & Digital Curation Department (R&DC)?!
The R&DC at NU supports the University’s teaching and research mission by providing digitization services and support for their faculty and graduate students. The department is responsible for the development and administration of the library’s digital repository. The repository provides the infrastructure for preserving and making accessible digital content on a wide variety of websites.

For my assigned project, I created item-level data for multiple volumes of images fromLa_Caricature_-_Le_Cafe_Militaire_-_Draner_6_March_1880.jpg
La CaricatureLa Caricature was a satirical weekly published in Paris between 1830-1843 during the July Monarchy. Its cartoons repeatedly attacked King Louis-Philippe, whom it typically depicted as a pear. This collection resides in Northwestern University’s special collections. A professor of Art History and a professor in the Humanities asked the R&DC department to reformat and ingest the images into Hathi Trust (object level) and Repository | Images (item level). I entered the data through Metadata Editor Northwestern University (MENU), a locally developed web-based tool, which uses VRA Core.

With home-grown repositories comes bugs or errors. There were a few days where I would report to my supervisor about error messages on MENU or images disappearing off to who knows where. The upside to this is that I was able to see how my supervisor talked with the developers, using their language to communicate what was happening on the back-end of MENU. I was able to attend a Scrum meeting with stakeholders for the R&DC. The R&DC uses Scrum, an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing development. It defines “a flexible holistic product development strategy where a developmental team works as a unit to reach a common goal. Those who attended were either the Scrum Master, team members and/or the Scrum product owner. My supervisor was the product owner. She met with four other people to discuss their most recent two-week sprint on the development of Repository | Images.

While the developers fixed MENU, I inventoried photographs from a 1915 scrapbook of someone’s automobile trip to San Francisco. I also created an inventory of born-digital images and slides for another professor. Creating an inventory is vital when the department has several projects queued up to be digitized. The inventory lets the digitization team know what they are looking at and what steps or precautions they may need to take when digitizing. After completing several inventories, I have officially given myself the title, “Master of Google Sheets”.

My supervisor and I met every Friday to discuss projects, ask questions and to chat about how the practicum was going. In one of our meeting we were discussing my interest in Visual Resources and Digital libraries, and she encouraged me to expand my thinking to consider digital collections. By the end of my practicum, I came to the conclusion that the content that I interact with or manage does not always have to be ‘fine art’ related. I am now researching my new interest in repository librarians.

One major highlight of my practicum experience is that I was able to join IFLA’s Information Technology Section SC, The Women, Information, and Libraries SIG, and Northwestern University Libraries for their “UnConference, Women in Open Technology & Culture – Empowering Women’s Participation in Open Technology & Culture”. The unConference covered topics surrounding women and technology in the workplace, and featured keynote speaker, Amy Buckland. Amy Buckland is the Institutional Repository Manager at the University of Chicago and Vice-chair of the ACRL’s Research and Scholarly Environment Committee.

This unConference was amazing and inspiring! The sessions that I attended include:

  • Practical Project Management for Getting it All Done in 40 hours a Week or Less
  • Leading through Inclusion: Including Aspiring Leaders in the Conversation
  • HR Tactics for Dealing with Difficult Employees
  • Women & Open Digital Publishing Tools
  • Gendered Nouns at Work
  • Careers and Kids

Overall, I had a practicum experience that was very beneficial to my development as an emerging professional! I learned so much about the various paths that someone who is interested in art librarianship and visual resources can take. Similar to Lauren’s experience, you should interact with library staff and your environment as much as possible. My supervisor did a phenomenal job introducing me to several librarians and library staff. This lead to a diverse amount of conversations and discussions. I also attended meetings within the R&DC department and library-wide staff meetings. My supervisor also set up times for me to tour the Preservation Lab, the Transportation Library, the Art Library, Special Collections and the Africana Collection.

Editor’s note: this post was originally published August 31, 2016.

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