Camille Tyndall the aspiring archivist
Camille gets down to library business.
I actually work in three separate positions in the field right now as a graduate student, so it changes. I work as a graduate assistant at the reference desk of Davis Library, which is the main research library at UNC, as a graduate assistant for the Southern Folklife Collection, the audio-visual archival collection at UNC, and as a processing intern for the Forest History Society, a small library and archive in town.
At Davis, I mostly provide research help and instruction from the reference desk to students, faculty, and community members. The questions come at us via phone, chat, and in person, and they are always different, so it is certainly never boring. I also process ILL and document delivery requests, and work on other projects for the department, like right now I am editing the resource page for our data services librarian.
At the SFC, I scan, edit, and create metadata for photographic collections that we have in our holdings, which we then can attach to our online finding aids. The photos are generally really interesting, and it’s really kind of gratifying knowing that I’m making these collections available to a much wider audience than would normally see them.
And finally, at FHS, I do a lot of processing, arranging, and describing archival collections, which includes creating EAD encoded finding aids. It’s a dusty, hard job, but it’s kind of amazing to begin to get some kind of understanding of the person through their collections and papers. Plus, I’m anal retentive, so being able to put them into a usable order and description just makes me happier.
2. How did you get into librarianship?
By accident! I had graduated with my MA in English and was working as a barista, and was utterly miserable doing it, so I decided to volunteer at a library to feel like I was doing something valuable with at least part of my time. I really loved it, and so I started applying for library-related jobs and thinking about applying to LIS programs. I got a job as a library aid at the Marine Warrior Library on Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station serving Marines and their families, and never looked back; I was so happy doing the job that I just knew this was where I was supposed to be. However, I did miss the historical documents part of research that I had loved with I was in grad school part 1, so I decided to add the archives and records management concentration to my degree, which has been a great fit for me.
3. What work training and education did you have to prepare for your career?
Well, like I said, I did the first graduate degree, and worked and volunteered in libraries, and I’m still working towards my MLS (May 2012!). I also took a few web design and computer programming classes online through a community college, because this field is moving so heavily towards IS and the technology field. I think that has definitely helped me a lot, especially in communicating with people from other academic backgrounds.
4. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the field?
Helping people is by far my favorite thing. Whether at an archive or a library, when I help a patron find something, or they discover a new piece of information because I helped them, it just makes my day. I love watching people learn!
My least favorite is that we seem to be kind of insular. I’ve read a lot of articles while in school justifying to ourselves why we are important, but it doesn’t seem like we do enough to convince the people outside, the people funding us or our potential users, that we are important. We have a major PR problem on our hands! I think it’s a problem that is definitely fixable, though, and I’m noticing that a lot of my peers are similarly frustrated by it, so maybe in another few years it will have been fixed!
5. What is your advice for readers interested in librarianship?
If you’re not in library school, I’d say give volunteering or something similar a try. Most libraries and archives are grateful for the free help in this economy, and you can really figure out if this is the field for you.
If you’re in library school, I’d say pursue your interests inside and outside of class. Tailor your projects in class to help you investigate the topics that are most interesting to you; for example, I’m interested in Native American archives and collections, and so I have now been able to research and write papers about that topic from a metadata perspective, an appraisal perspective, an ethical perspective, and so on.
Outside of class, work to broaden your experience. I was interested in A/V archives, so I decided to do a field experience and contacted my now boss at the SFC and basically told him that I didn’t know anything about A/V materials, but that I really wanted to learn and please, oh, please, did he have any jobs for me? Not only did it get me the field experience, but it got me my current job, and helped me get an internship at the NMAI media archives last summer. Go after what you want to do, don’t wait for someone else to give you the experiences you want!
Camile blogs about her professional experiences at the excellently named arrrchivist.tumblr.com.
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