By: Brian Dietz
This post was contributed by Cecilia Rose, ARL CEP Fellow.
There is a common misconception these days that the library world is in decay and doomed to extinction thanks to the big, shiny computer industry. As a graduate student of library, archival and information studies, I am often faced with an inquisitive yet slightly patronizing look when telling people what I’m studying. “But, aren’t libraries closing?” “Can’t people just google everything now?” These are not unusual responses. The good news is: they’re wrong!
Not only is the library industry alive and well, it has embraced this new technological landscape to a level that guarantees our survival well into the future. Libraries have become tech hubs in their own right, offering modern spaces to public and academic audiences for not just research and circulation purposes, but for hands-on interaction with the very tools that are supposed to be bringing our demise. Want to produce a video? Check out our digital media lab! Want to build a robot? Hit the makerspace! This is not the dusty and stuffy library environment of yore.
So what am I getting at? Well, the reason I find myself here, writing to you all, is that I was looking for a career where I could combine my love for technology with a passion for learning about the past. You see, I’m a history buff: I love reading historical novels, looking at historical photos, watching historical films, touring historical neighborhoods… you get the picture. The first tourist thing I did upon my arrival in Raleigh was spend 4 hours perusing the halls of the North Carolina Museum of History. I know all about the Tar Heel State now, thank you very much. From the Cherokee to the Antebellum era, Civil War to Civil Rights, and Blackbeard to the Wright Flyer–y’all sure have an interesting story to tell!
But enough about your story, let’s get back to mine! In January 2014 I began graduate studies at the iSchool (otherwise known as SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where I have been living for almost 20 years. In late 2014, mid-way through my studies, I was awarded a scholarship by the Association of Research Libraries. They have several programs that help library school students who identify as minorities and demonstrate an interest in academic librarianship gain valuable experience in the field. I was honored to be chosen to participate in the ARL’s Career Enhancement Program, which offers a weekend Leadership Symposium and 6-12 week paid internship opportunity. I was doubly honored to be chosen by NCSU Libraries to come down and spend 8 weeks here at NC State!
My profile on the ARL CEP Current Fellows page.
I am now 4 weeks into the internship and wow! What a fantastic community of innovative thinkers and dedicated collaborators you have here. And everyone has been so kind and friendly to boot. I am located in the Special Collections Research Center, and considering my fascination with the crossroads of history and technology, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I get to work under the supervision of the ever-resourceful Brian Dietz, Digital Program Librarian for Special Collections, who has managed to cull together several meaningful and interesting projects for me to work on within a short timeframe.
The main two that I am currently elbow-deep in are: looking into a Google Analytics strategy for the SCRC Collection Guides; and with the help of the User Experience department, 3D scanning of SCRC artifacts. Getting to know Google Analytics has been a very rewarding challenge so far, for there is a lot to learn, especially how to best use this very feature-filled and business-centric program in an academic library context. In the end I hope to contribute significantly to the design of an analytics strategy that will provide the SCRC with relevant data reports that they can use to better understand how users interact with the guides and further improve usability. With the 3D scanning project, I’m excited to test out various scanning methods on several special collections items to help enhance documentation of the scanning process for reference purposes. We have selected a number of small artifacts to start with, and soon I will meet with the User Experience team to review and start trying out some of their amazing 3D scanning technologies.
In addition to working on these wonderful projects, I also get a mentor, the incredibly accomplished Kris Alpi, Director of the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Library of Veterinary Medicine. I can’t speak enough about the advantage of having access to Kris’s tutelage, advice, and experience in all things academic, library, and research-related! Not to mention, she’s an amazing role model and someone to aspire to live up to as I launch my career.
In addition to thanking Kris and Brian for their patience and guidance, I would also like to thank Lisa Ruth, Associate Head for Recruiting and Visitor Relations, who was instrumental in granting me this fantastic opportunity, and everyone in the Special Collections Research Center and User Experience departments who I’ve had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with so far. Special thanks to the ARL and Institute of Museum and Library Services, of course, for making this opportunity possible in the first place! I look forward to the next few weeks, especially getting to know more about the library community here at NC State, and contributing in any way that I can.