It feels really, really good to start this blog post in the new year by saying that I am finally done applying to graduate school.
My UW-Madison, IU-Bloomington, UM-Ann Arbor, and UI-Urbana Champaign applications are all officially turned in and out of my hands forever. There aren’t any transcript or letter of recommendation stragglers that I am waiting with bated breath to have turned in. The application part of the process is completely over. Soon I will start applying for different jobs at the campuses, but for now I can relax a little.
Some are more interesting than others, but I have been slowly plugging away at them over the past few weeks. Russian for Librarians has been fun to read. I took my first semester of Russian this past fall, fell in love, then found that book. It has been good practice while also making me feel like I am being productive.
I absolutely LOVED the SPEC Kit that’s shown on the bottom of the stack. SPEC Kits are published by the Association of Research Libraries, and Special Collections Engagement included information on procedures and policies of a variety of university libraries around the country that related primarily to Special Collections outreach activities. It surveyed the universities about exhibits, events, barriers to engagement, and their outreach policies, among other topics.
It was particularly valuable to me to see the position descriptions section, which showed the exact qualifications of a curatorial/museum specialist, archivist, SC Dept. head, and other related positions.
What sort of information was among the findings, you ask? Allow me to summarize…
Marketing and communication skills, the ability to write and edit promotional materials, experience working with outside sources and creating promotional strategies/activities. Management skills. Interpersonal skills, the ability to work closely within teams, committees, and professional organizations. Being highly organized, continually reviewing and making changes or alterations to policies as they see fit. Capable of a supervisory role/leadership, always working on improved user services. Must be able to coordinate digitization programs, knowledge of book trade/antiquarian trade, archives practices, special collections acquisitions expenditures. Active participation in research and publishing activities. Knowledge of collection promotion, outreach, and grant writing.
Reading that makes me feel so ready to jump into getting true library experience.
My other favorite section was about barriers to special collections engagement, which is a topic of great interest to me. I have seen firsthand the apathy of students and faculty towards special collections, the challenge of promoting materials, and problems with adequate security here at UW-L. It was really valuable to read what special collections librarians and archivists from around the country who are dealing with the same issues think.
I wasn’t too shocked by some of the answers they provided: Not enough faculty to devote time to outreach, no money in budget for extended weekend/evening hours, university students are hard to reach by traditional means, inadequate physical space to hold events or exhibits, budget problems make it hard to produce print documents, educating other librarians to be aware of special collections holdings is challenging, security issues are a barrier to holding exhibits, poor economy.
I am not sure if I will be able to work on any sort of special collections outreach project as part of my non-credit internship this spring, but I would like to. I am starting to get quite excited. The librarians at Murphy Library have been so wonderful in allowing me to spend time there working on various projects and shadowing many of them.