Lessons learned as a DLS intern

I have been working for many years in the Libraries’ technical services division as a cataloger, and more recently as a supervisor and trainer of other catalogers. As a consequence of supervising and of being involved in an arduous, and apparently never-ending reorganization of technical services, I had begun attempting to take the long view, asking myself what my job might evolve, or devolve, into as a result of such forces as outsourced cataloging, straitened budgets, the introduction of FRBR and metadata schemes other than MARC, the shift of researchers’ attention from the library catalog to the larger and more agile world of the Internet, and the Libraries’ desire to support digitization projects, perhaps at the expense of traditional cataloging operations.

Serendipitously, as I considered my situation the University’s internship program came to my attention and I found a ready-made means to explore other venues for my experience and interests. My proposal to work part-time as in intern in the Libraries’ newly-formed Digital Library Services department was welcomed both by my cataloging supervisor and the DLS staff. Library administration was supportive as well and expedited my request. My aim was to gain some understanding of the many facets of digital library services, and in particular, to focus on the cataloging of digital objects, with the goal of eventually assisting in training and dissemination of such work to other catalogers in technical services.

What has struck me most in the course of my internship is the energy, adaptability and inventiveness of the small DLS staff. The current staff of two, Jennifer Wolfe and Mark Anderson, with support from the former director of DLS and current head of Library Information Technology, Paul Soderdahl, have educated themselves in the technology, best practices, possibilities and pitfalls of digitization projects, have reached out to potential partners within the Libraries and the University, have struggled with problematic software, and have undertaken an astonishing number of projects, given their resources.

I have been patiently introduced to scanning, preservation issues, image editing and storage, metadata principles, practice, and resources, and some of the delicate politics of negotiating with other parties for content to be digitized and published on the Internet. I have been included in departmental meetings, in which issues about collaboration, scalability of tools and projects, and future directions for DLS have been discussed. Most importantly, my work with DLS staff has helped loosen my hold on long-treasured beliefs about cataloging priorities (e.g. perfection and thoroughness of records) and the role of the library catalog in the lives of its users (as opposed to its architects).

–Christine Tade
Intern, Digital Library Services