Reflective Essay

After being employed with Ford Motor Company for over twenty years and getting closer to retirement, I started thinking about what my life after Ford would look like.   Since I had always had an interest in archival work I decided to pursue an MLIS degree to prepare myself for a second career.    In the winter of 2015, I started my journey toward a Master of Library and Information Science at Dominican University.

My first class was intro to library and information science and after meeting my classmates I must admit I was slightly intimidated.  Most of the students in the class had long careers in the library and information science profession, I believe there was just one other person who did not have a library background in the class besides myself.  Dr. Salvatore quickly put my unease to rest by explaining that having a library background was not necessary in order to succeed in this program.  Intro to library and information science was an eye opener for me!  Thanks to the many guest lecturers, I learned that the field of library and information science was a lot bigger than I had originally thought.  The class increased my interest in library and information science and exposed me to areas of the profession I didn’t know existed.

When I entered the program the career path that I had envisioned for myself was working with a museum, special collections or a historical society.  I quickly learned there was much more I could do with the MLIS degree.  There were career paths that I could pursue that would allow me to utilize my business background.  I then decided that in addition to the archival courses that I had planned to take I would also take courses that would lead me to a career such as data management, digital archives or digital curation.

Some of the classes that I took which helped me build a foundation that would lead to my desired career are LIS 899-Digital Curation, LIS 882 Metadata for digital resources, LIS 750 Information storage and design and LIS 753 Internet fundamentals and design.  While all these courses had a significant effect on my development, I would have to say the one that had the greatest impact was internet fundamentals and design.  If someone told me when I first started the MLIS program that I would be able to create a website from scratch I would not have believed them.  I started the course with absolutely no experience working with HTML or CSS, however by the end of the course I had created not one but two websites! (Outcome 3a) Unfortunately, neither website was saved so they were not able to be included as an artifact.  In addition to building a website and learning information regarding the history and future of the internet, the class challenged me not only to learn a new skill but to also become proficient at it.  I learned not be afraid to take on a task that takes me out of my comfort zone.  The other course that had a significant impact was metadata for digital resources, in this class I learned about the importance of metadata to search and retrieve an information resource.  I also learned about the standards Dublin Core, MODS, MARC and VRA.  By the end of the class, I was able to use these standards to create metadata schemas for a digital collection.  One artifact that was created as part of this class is from a group project where we collective created different schemas to support a collection we constructed entitled pets in the Chicagoland area. (Outcome 5c) The skills that I learned in this class will be crucial to my success in this profession.

Other artifacts in the e-Portfolio that had a notable impact on my development in the MLIS program is the access database.  Access is a program used to manage information, I was not familiar with this program until I was introduced to it by Dr. Gao.   I am currently enrolled in this class and just completed a project where I was challenged to set up a database that could be used by a dealership and to create invoices and sales records based on the information in the database.  In the class we were taught the basics, I took it upon myself to use outside resources to learn components of access that were not reviewed yet and also used my background in the automotive industry to expand on the project assigned. (outcome 3b) Another artifact of note was the ready reference that I put together for Playbill Vault.  The ready reference was a step by step guide to teach patrons how to use the web-based reference. (outcome 4c) With this instructional tool, I challenged myself to make the tool fun and engaging for the library patrons, and I believe I accomplished that.

One issue in the library and information profession that struck a chord with me during my time at Dominican is how to ensure the accessibility and preservation of information.   In LIS 753 internet fundamentals and design, I became aware of this concern after reading Abby Smith Rumsey’s book, “When we are no more-How digital memory is shaping our future.”  The issue the profession faces is how to make certain the preservation methods used today would allow access to the stored data and information for many years in the future.   After reading the book and doing research for a paper on the topic, I found this dilemma to be very eye-opening, it was very sobering to think of all the data and cultural memories that could be lost to future generations due to how the information is preserved today.   In order to avoid a “digital black hole” as mentioned in the book, members of library and information profession must give more thought to preservation, not only for the short term but the long term as well.     Also, libraries need to develop protocols for determining what data has long-term value to our cultural memory and what can be discarded. Libraries and archives must ensure that all cultural memories are recorded, including points of views that may be unpopular or distasteful and records of unfavorable events.  If we don’t actively include all cultural memories they may be left out of digitization and lost forever. With the plethora of information that is available today library professional must be diligent in their selection process.

Overall, the experience at Dominican University as an MLIS student that benefited me the most is the practical experience that I gained and my exposure to professional organizations.    The internship and practicum opportunities allowed me to get hands-on experiences and work beside library and information professionals.  Having these experiences will better prepare me for a career in this field. (outcome 1c)

While taking intro to archival principles, I had the pleasure of completing a 40-hour practicum at Chicago State University.  During the practicum, I was able to put together a display for the special collections open house using materials from the collection.  I also worked with the Provident Hospital collection and was able to organize the unprocessed and partly processed materials in the collection.  After the collection was organized I put together a processing plan for the remaining unprocessed items. I was able to check in and re-shelf items from the Provident collection that were on display at a medical museum.   During the practicum, I also shadowed the University archivist which allowed me to learn what her day to day duties and responsibility looked like.  In addition to processing and making available the materials within the library, some other duties that I observed the archivist doing was building relationships with other archives, loaning out materials for displays and exhibits, creating programs to raise awareness to what special collections had to offer and securing funds for projects.   One of the highlights of my time spent at the archives at Chicago State is being introduced to the library’s Retrieval Online Via Electronic Robot or ROVER.  Books published before 1990, 80% of the archival material and most audio-visual material is stored using this storage/retrieval system.  This system allows the staff to find and retrieve information quickly while freeing up shelving space within the library for other uses.   The way the system works is you enter into the system the location number of the items that you want and then the storage/retrieval machines (SRM Robot) retrieves the information and deposits it at one of several locations.  Due to their high rate of usage, one of those locations is within the archives and special collection.

I also had an opportunity to do an internship at Newberry Library working on the Tuck & Sons postcard digital initiative. I started with Newberry in October 2017 and currently still working with them. The internship allowed me to enhance my skill level working with metadata.  The main function of the project was to assign metadata to the digitized postcards of the Tuck & Sons collection.  During this experience, I also increased my familiarity with searchFAST and Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names which I used to assign the topical and geographic headings.

Currently, I am completing a practicum at Northwestern University working in the global marketing department.  During my time here, I helped manage the digital marketing collection which is stored on MDAM the digital marketing asset management system.  I also created and edited metadata for the collection and organized the digital files for easier searchability.    Presently I am assisting with the migration of the digital collection for the Bienen school of music from Fotki to the universities digital access management system MDAM.

During my time in the MLIS program, I have become a member of the library and information science student association, society of American archivist and Chicago area archivist.  As a member of SAA, I subscribe to their listserv that I can access to keep informed of the current issues and developments in the profession.

One career path that is of interest to me is that of Digital Asset Manager.  In this role, you will be responsible for collecting information and making sure that information is easily searchable for your customers and ensuring that it is stored on a platform that will not go obsolete.  Coming from corporate American I really see the need for a position like this, centralized storage of information is something that we struggled with in my previous employment.  Because protocols were not put in place for information storage most times when a person left the department or the company the information left with them.  The research paper I did in LIS 880 Knowledge Management spoke on this very issue.  In the paper, Maintaining Critical Knowledge during Corporate Downsizing I discuss the negative effects of a corporate downsizing, one being the loss of knowledge.  Knowledge loss occurs when a corporation does not have a knowledge retention plan in place.  This problem is exacerbated when a company engages in non-prioritized downsizing where the wrong employees are let go.  If a company has a process in place to help with the retention of this knowledge and information most problems that plague a company after downsizing would be avoided.

With only weeks left to complete the requirements for my degree, I realize my views on this profession greatly different than my thoughts when I first started this program.  Before I began my studies at Dominican I was set to work in a museum or special collections.  Midway through the program I changed focus and decided to pursue a different path base on what I learned and was exposed to at the time.  This allowed me to select classes that were better suited for my success in this career path.   As I prepare myself for graduation from Dominican University I leave with a complete understanding of the learning goals and outcomes.   I also leave with a support team of professors, classmates and library professionals that I can call upon for help as I embark on my own career path in this field.  I also leave with the realization that my quest for knowledge in this profession does not stop with the degree.  In order to adapt to and incorporate the many technological changes that are sure to come in library and information science, I must continue to learn, train and evolve.