11 Sep First Month Reflections
by Jessica L. Colbert
It’s been almost two months since I started working here at the Marriott Library, and it has been a month since I began my project rotations. Somehow, it is nothing like I expected! Here are some updates as to what I’ve been doing, as well as some reflections.
My first project rotation is with Special Collections and Digital Library Services, where I am processing the photographs of an Oral History collection. Of all the areas of librarianship, special collections and archival work is the area where I have the least amount of experience or knowledge. I was actually really worried that I wouldn’t be good at this kind of work or that I would absolutely hate it. However, my ethical cornerstone of providing access to information really kicked in, and I find myself getting very passionate and particular about how this collection is organized, probably more so than is necessary.
Right now, all I am doing is preparing these photo negatives for processing: taking inventory, making sure there is a contact sheet for every negative, putting them in some kind of order. The main issue I’m running into is that this collection is from the 1980s, and the photographers involved have different styles of organizing their work. Some pieces have also been lost or misfiled. The people in Special Collections keep telling me that most collections begin in a worse state. I think I am sure that this is not the kind of work I want to do for a living, even though I see its importance and find myself really getting into it.
I am also beginning to scan the negatives to make digital contact sheets for reference purposes, and I will eventually begin scanning individual negatives for the Digital Library. To prepare for putting things in the Digital Library, I have been adding descriptive metadata and tidying up existing metadata in our Football Video Collection.
Since beginning in July, I have actually accomplished a lot of professional development! I think this is because I didn’t start my project rotation for the first month I worked here, so I had a lot of time to sit and write in my office. In my time here, I have:
- Submitted an introduction article to the Utah Library Association newsletter
- Been invited to submit an article based on the poster I presented at ALA
- I have finished the draft to submit!
- Restructured an article I started writing in graduate school
- Finished my cataloging and classification resource for the ALA GLBT Round Table
- Applied for ALA Emerging Leaders
- Submitted a lightning talk for the annual OLAC conference
- Finished creating a draft of authority records of Video Game Genre Terms
For being in my first professional job out of graduate school, I would say I’m on a really good track to have a steady stream of scholarly creativity and service throughout my career.
Adjusting to Professional Life
One thing I am very open about is my status as a first-generation college student from a low socio-economic class. Before going to college, academia was something completely foreign to me, and I still don’t think I quite know how to interact in this world, especially as a professional. I constantly second-guess my actions, my wardrobe, my speech. Imposter syndrome times a million. But one thing I’m learning is that my colleagues are all really supportive and understanding, and in fact, many of them faced similar challenges early in their careers (and some continue to second-guess themselves occasionally). Apparently, we are all still learning on the job. I am a Buddhist, and we have this concept called “Beginner’s Mind,” where you should always have the mindset of somebody who is just learning, that you can never learn everything and should keep an open mind. I think having a Beginner’s Mind in my professional life helps me to understand that we are all human beings trying to work cooperatively with each other in order to help others, and that means that we are always learning as we go as our environments and conditions are constantly changing. This helps me to develop confidence.
Total Eclipse of the … Sun
The first day of the Fall semester also happened to be the date of the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, where Salt Lake City experienced around a 91% totality. The Library held an event that thousands of people attended. Some other librarians and I stood outside sharing our eclipse glasses with our patrons, trying to help everyone experience this beauty of nature. It was really a profound experience.
When I am not working on my projects or doing professional development, I am wearing many other different hats. I have been doing outreach to different departments and resource centers, becoming a subject liaison, working on LibGuides, and developing relationships with my colleagues and faculty members. I am also serving on a search committee, which has been super interesting since I was just on the other side of the process a few months ago.