January 5, 2018 Auld Lang Syne: 2017 In Review
Happy New Year! Insert joke about not having written since last year here!
Welcome to 2018, friends. I have always loved celebrating the coming of the new year, as it always fills everyone with such a sense of purpose and renewal. Also, I’m a Capricorn, and it’s somewhat refreshing to see non-Capricorns getting all hype and motivated.
I am going to use this post to summarize my rotation and other projects from fall 2017, as well as discussing some of the cool things I’ll be doing during this rotation.
First Rotation: Special Collections and Digital Library Services
As you know, I spent the last six months working with a collection on a joint project between Special Collections and Digital Library Services. The collection I was given to work on was photo negatives and proof prints that accompanied oral histories taken of various ethnic groups within Salt Lake City in the mid-80s. I quite enjoyed working with this collection. Despite me not really having much interest in working in a Special Collections environment, I do enjoy interacting with analog audiovisual material. I loved handling the film and scanning it. Now that our culture tends to favor the digital over the analog, it feels special to be preserving and uplifting these physical materials.
The process of working with this collection started with organizing and inventorying the materials. I had to make sure that each proof print had an accompanying negative, and I also had to make sure both the negatives and the proof prints within their respective folders and boxes were in the proper order. This process took far longer than I was expecting, as the collection was a bit more unorganized than anyone anticipated. After everything was sorted out, I then had to process the materials. Archival processing simply entails numbering the items by collection number, box number, folder number, and item number. I only did this for the items by one photographer, in order to finish on time. Next I had to create the finding aid in EAD XML. I was very excited to begin working with “machine-readable” metadata, as it had been a while. For this collection, we took the approach of doing description on a collection and series level, and not so much on an item level. This was very strange and uncomfortable for me, to be honest! I am so used to giving way more description than is necessary to make sure that most possible access points are accounted for. But with this collection, the items were predominately proof prints containing about 30 photos of the same person or event; therefore, we found it unnecessary to describe these items beyond “This is a shoot of photos depicting X.” This made the process go by quickly, but it’s not the type of metadata work that I love doing. I much prefer to either do very rich description or develop scripts to generate descriptions for me.
Speaking of which, my favorite part of this process turned out to be not doing descriptive metadata, which is what I tend to favor, but writing scripts to transform the metadata. In grad school, I rarely had to do this beyond doing examples with pre-written XSL scripts. It was so fun and fulfilling to craft a metadata crosswalk that went from EAD to tab-delimited text, especially since I was not taught how to write any sort of crosswalk while in grad school. I am very proud of what I wrote, and I look forward to crafting more in my career. I also had help from my great mentor Jeremy Myntti when I had to do further transformations using Excel. The items in the digital library did not necessarily perfectly line up with the finding aid. I am now a V-LOOKUP pro. I should really put an example of those up on my GitHub, just to act as a portfolio.
Because I enjoyed working with metadata crosswalks so much, and I really want to play around with linked data in some capacity, I get to keep doing as much metadata work as I can handle during my second rotation. I think this will mainly involve doing cleanup work, but hey, I like doing cleanup work.
My rotation for this semester are in Scholarly Communications & Copyright and Graduate & Undergraduate Services. With the former, I will be working on resources regarding public performance rights, which are a huge issue for academic institutions! Many libraries will have some videos in their collection where they have the full license to show those videos publicly, such as at events. I will be labeling those videos more clearly in our catalog. With the latter, I will be doing more instruction and subject liaison work; I have even developed a research study involving the search habits of first-year students in order to see what gets “lost in translation” between the information need and question and the search behavior.
I am also in the process of getting an official Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon event organized at the Marriott Library in conjunction with the Women’s Resource Center. I organized one of these when I was an undergraduate at The College of William & Mary in 2015.
So uh, I don’t know if you saw, but I was chosen as one of the 2018 ALA Emerging Leaders. I am so proud of myself, and I am so excited to work with my cohort. If you are at Midwinter or Annual, don’t be shy!
I’ve also applied to volunteer on several committees, so we’ll see what happens there!
Here’s to 2018. Let’s all continue to do even better work!