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Oct 24 / LaTeesa James

SLIS Alums Pioneer Seed Exchange Programs in Urban and Rural Libraries

Melissa Armstrong (left), MLIS ’10, Caro Area District Library Assistant Director.

Melissa Armstrong (left), MLIS ’10, Caro Area District Library Assistant Director. Image from

In the farm country of Michigan’s “thumb”, the Caro Area District Library’s Seed Lending Project, now in its 4th season is steadily taking root. The program was initiated by SLIS alum Melissa Armstrong, MLIS ’10, the library’s Assistant Director. Though first introduced to seed saving by her grandmother a long time ago, the idea to implement such a program at her library came to Armstrong when she participated in a webinar in Iowa (through the Seed Savers Exchange) that gave information on seed sharing.

The program cost very little money to start, since most of the seeds are donated by the local seed exchange for free. Armstrong also plants and harvests seeds in the one square-foot garden located in the library’s backyard. She said it provides a good break in her work day.

All of the seeds are heirloom seeds and open pollinated seeds. “These aren’t the kind of seeds you get from Walmart,” notes Armstrong. For example, one type of seed available for exchange is Blue Jade Sweet Corn from 200 years ago or longer.

The library keeps the seeds directly on the floor where books are located. Patrons can fill out a piece of paper labeling what they are “borrowing.”

In the first year of the program the library had a “Seed-Pass out” where a local gardener came in to talk to the community about seed sharing.

In the second year of the program, Armstrong worked with the Michigan State University Extension office, which serves 12,000 people, to arrange additional assistance with the program. They came into the library and taught classes on topics such as, canning, composting, cooking and bee keeping. This was a free service the library offered to the community since MSU provided the speakers at no charge. A class in August covered “How to Put Your Garden to Bed.” Armstrong said that the classes always have good number of people participating.

If someone were interested in starting a seed exchange program in their library, Armstrong advises them to start by visiting the website and by viewing the webinars for the Seed Savers Exchange at:

Overall, seed saving provides a good opportunity to “bond with the community, reach out and network,” Ms. Armstrong said.

Armstrong will share her knowledge of seed libraries at the Michigan Library Association Conference in October 2016 in a presentation called “Select, Sow, Share” – Seed Libraries for Community Engagement and Wellness. She will be part of a panel with her co-worker Mary Russell of Caro Area District Library and Tamarack District Library, and organic farmer and heirloom seed enthusiast Ben Cohen. They will answer the “root” question: why have a seed library? Additionally, they will share best practice tips, program tools, and practical expertise, and describe the many ways in which their programs have benefited both the library and the community.





SLIS alum Katherine Bryant, MLIS ’10

600 miles south, SLIS alum Katherine Bryant, MLIS ’10, coordinates the Seed Exchange Program at the Bellevue Branch of Nashville Public Library where she is the Branch Manager.

A former volunteer with WSU’s SEED Wayne with a longstanding interest in issues of food justice, Bryant’s interest was sparked when she found that a lot of other US public libraries were starting seed exchange programs. She began planning to implement the program at her library in 2013. The seed exchange program took off in early spring of 2014.

“The goal of the program is to get people gardening and helping them to develop self-sufficiency by growing their own food,” Bryant said.

Bryant started by soliciting seed donations from local farmers and national seed companies. For the last 2 years they have purchased some of the seeds because donations from the community members that borrow the seeds have been slow.

The seed exchange works by allowing patrons with Nashville Public Library cards to “check out” a packet of seeds. The seeds are not actually catalogued or coded though. A Google form is used to keep track of what kind of seed has been borrowed. Patrons are not required to bring seeds back.

Some of the programming for the seed exchange include: seed starting, how to save seeds, fall gardening, container gardening, bee keeping, composting, etc. The programs are led by local county Master Gardner’s Group, which is an organization that provides volunteer services centered on informing the public in the area of residential and consumer horticulture. The organization offered to facilitate 2 free programs each month out of 10 months of the year.

The program has not changed much since it started. However, at the end of this fall, they will have a season wrap up, which will include a session dedicated to improvements and new ideas for the program.

The programming always gets lots of participation from the community, to date boasting over 550 total attendees. Overall, the seed exchange program has been very successful with over 1,100 people having “checked out” seeds and over 8,000 packets of seeds have been “checked out.”

If a library wanted to start a seed exchange program, Bryant says, “they should start by surveying the community to see if it is something that the community wants and/or needs.” Next, she said she would find people who are enthusiastic and passionate about gardening to support the program. Currently she and her staff along with other librarians do the work of sorting and packaging seeds.

In June 2015 Bryant shared details of Nashville’s program at the Allied Media Conference which is held, coincidentally, on Wayne State’s campus right across from the Kresge Library where she had once taken LIS classes. Her presentation, Public Libraries & Food Justice: Plant Seeds of Success, argued that libraries should “join the fight for food justice and sustainable agriculture.”

Sep 13 / Veronica Johnson

Archival Fellowship at Institute of Jazz Studies

This past June I completed a two week fellowship at the Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. Every summer, IJS recruits three MLIS graduate students with an interest in archives and music to be a part of their Archival Fellowship Program, which was established in 2011 to support archival career development, as well as to promote diversity in the archival field. As an avid jazz fan and aspiring music archivist, I am very interested in working at a music archive once I graduate, so this was an amazing opportunity to be able to intern at IJS since it specializes in jazz scholarship. During the fellowship, two other fellows, myself and the IJS archivists processed a collection belonging to jazz pianist Andrew Hill.

SLIS Student Veronica Johnson

SLIS Student Veronica Johnson

Hill was a jazz pianist during the 1960s, and made a resurgence on the music scene during the late 90s and early 2000s before passing away in 2007. His widow Joanne Hill donated the collection to IJS to be made available to researchers. The items in his collection included professional and personal items collected throughout his lifetime including news clippings, correspondence, honorary degrees from various colleges, photos, awards and sheet music. After the processing took place, we ended up with 27 boxes of material. We also created the finding aid for the collection, which is titled the “Guide to the Andrew Hill papers, music and audiovisual recordings, 1956-2011.” Each of the fellows worked on a portion of the finding aid and used the EAD finding aid software Oxygen to code the document so it could made available online. I had previously learned about Oxygen and EAD in my Electronic Archives class so it was very cool to be able to get some hands on experience using the software. We also created an online exhibit of the collection using Omeka, which is an open source web-publishing platform that allows libraries, museums, and archival institutions to create web exhibitions of their collections.

In addition to working on the collection, we took field trips to other area archival institutions.Some of the places we visited included the The New York Public Library Archival Processing Center, the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center and the National Jazz Museum of Harlem. We were given private tours of their facilities and learned more about their collections. My favorite trip out of the bunch was visiting the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archive. The Louis Armstrong Archive is located at Queens College, so we were given a tour of the archive by archivist Ricky Ricardi, and we toured Armstrong’s house which is located in Corona Queens.

Completing the IJS fellowship at Rutgers was an amazing experience and one that I will forever be grateful for. I learned so much about processing and the steps it takes to make a collection available to users. Working on the Andrew Hill Collection was great, and it really gave me the opportunity to process a larger collection, which I had never done before. I learned a lot about Hill and quickly became a fan of his work, which was very innovative.

The IJS Fellows program really gives graduate students the opportunity to be archivists for two weeks and get a real sense of the day to day tasks of the profession. The IJS staff is awesome and really made me feel welcome and a part of the team. I also developed some great friendships with the other fellows and am so thankful that I was able to take advantage of this great opportunity.

For more information about the program and the 2016 IJS fellows, check out the Rutgers University Libraries news article below:

The Andrew Hill finding aid at Institute of Jazz Studies:



Aug 9 / Kimberly Schroeder

Résumé Tips for Filling Out Your Skills

In looking at your résumé, it is important that you remember that the reviewer
(whether a person or a computer) is looking to understand what skills you bring to the position.  A bullet point listing of duties at a job does not differentiate you enough from others.


Think about who you are.   Have you been given increasing responsibility?  Have you proposed process improvements?  Have you volunteered in the community? Have you managed volunteers or events?  Have you handled a problem patron?


Think about what your MLIS or Graduate Certificate gives to you?  Is there a key student project or paper that fits in with the potential job?  Is there a link to a project that you can include?  Are there niche courses that would differentiate your skills for that particular job?  Have you written a process manual?  Have you evaluated a new technology?


Think about the technologies in which you are most competent.  List everything that you have been exposed to on every level.  Grade your comfort level as you would a foreign language.  For instance, you may have basic knowledge of DSpace or Millennium but feel advanced in HTML or Omeka.


Think about your other life experiences and what skills they bring to this job.  Were you in retail?  Then you may have a strong customer service background.  Were you a community activist?  That shows strong community involvement.  Were you a teacher?  That shows an ability to instruct patrons.  Were you a computer technician?  That shows an ability to problem solve technology.


Most Common Weaknesses:


1) Résumé written for past careers

Your résumé needs to show your information skills now.  You can present past jobs but re-write them to emphasize the information skills that you utilized then. You want to build your case as an information professional.


2) Résumé lacking commitment to community or profession

You need to be involved in conferences, student groups, regional professional groups, etc.  Get involved in committee work, publish a small article in a regional newsletter or submit a research poster proposal to a conference.    Work with a colleague and write a full article.  Do a survey and publish the results.  Show your interest in making the field better.


Common résumé questions:

1) Can a résumé go to a second page?

Yes!  If you look at the complexities of job postings in our field, it is necessary to cover extensive skills.


2) Should I apply if I don’t meet all the criteria?

If you have about 85% of the skills, then apply.  With the complex postings it is unlikely an institution will find the right person with all of the skills so focus on your strengths and apply.


3) How far back in my chronology should I go?

There is no universal answer for this.  It depends on how you can relate that experience to the current job posting.  You can skip some jobs that are not as directly reflective of the information skills for a position.  Feel free to note a really key skill from an older position.  Remember that the employer wants to know what you offer for this job and some other positions may not be relevant.  Include what makes sense for this job.


4) I have a diverse background will it look like I am undependable?

In this case, you may consider a skills based résumé which focuses on your depth of skill regardless of job title or discipline.

Here are some examples of this type of résumé.


Feel free to set up an appointment with Career Advising to help with job application materials or for more information look to the Career Advising page:


Jun 22 / Matthew Fredericks

Why Should I Hire You? Defining Your Message

careerBy Kim Schroeder, SLIS Career Advisor

I have been exposed to the profession in different ways. First, as a library user and then as a graduate of the WSU LIS School I saw the skills needed for the work that we do. When I became a librarian and archivist myself and hired many of our graduates I better understood the customer service aspect. Now in providing Career Advising for the last few years, I see the struggle that most of us have with job hunting.

There seem to be certain trends in the way people apply for jobs:

  1. The Worrier – This is characterized by anxiety and a determination to research every possible circumstance in which they may be rejected. Typical comments are “I am probably not qualified for this but..”, “I have not heard anything from my application, I must need to re-do my resume.”, or “Why didn’t they call me for an interview? It must be my cover letter!” This method indicates a need to take time to better understand what you have to offer. From there you can develop your skillset to understand what you should be applying for and increase your chances of a perfect match.
  2. The Overconfident Blamer – “They obviously have overlooked my resume, I will call them.” “There must be something wrong with their email/phone/etc.”, “I don’t have the skills that they need but I can do the job. Why haven’t they called me?” In this economy, you need to be a “can-do” person that is agreeable, positive and skilled. You cannot shotgun job applications. Narrow your search to what you can match point by point. Overconfidence without proof of the ability will waste both your and the potential employers’ time.
  3. The Overachiever – This can be an asset to a certain level. Sometimes people use this as a way to paralyze their job search. They research institutions, employers and trends so thoroughly that they never feel done. They also might tweak their resume and cover letters so often it is hard for them to actually get to the step to send them.
    Taking some workshops and meeting with mentors or Career Advisors can help to waylay your fears.

In order to move past a lack of confidence and/or knowledge, below are some thoughts about how to successfully sell yourself. There are some really key things to consider as you design your job hunt, cover letters, portfolios and resumes. Note that I did use the word “design”. This is the same activity as a corporation designing its communication message to sell it new product or service.

Think of yourself as a brand. What are your best selling points? What can you do? How would you accomplish tasks? What do you bring to the existing team?

Do not focus on the negative. How often have you seen a successful marketing campaign with the motto “Buy my product because the other one is worse?” Be sure to develop your communication in a manner that defines you as a positive force.

Many students and alum feel uncomfortable with “bragging” about their skills but this is a backwards perception. A potential employer is not psychic. They have not lived in your shoes and they know absolutely nothing about your abilities. You have to educate a potential employer about where you have been, what you learned, how you handled yourself and where you want to go. This is similar to the basics of journalism which is the how, what, why, when and where.

As mentioned in our Career Fair earlier in 2011, you can not “sell” yourself by issuing a boisterous line. It has to be backed up by concrete examples of how you tackled a problem, learned a new skill, resolved a patron complaint, etc. Think about how your life experiences have formed you as a potential employee. What value can you offer this institution? How can you give them examples of other situations that helped to develop your skills to achieve a goal?

Remember that a lot of your skills from other professions can be portable and of value. Customer service is very portable to archives and library science. We are a service profession. If you can masterfully deal with people, that is of great value. If you have management, education or technology experience that is all valued. If you look deep within your experiences you can develop a list of valuable skills that you offer.

The other advantage of examining your life experiences, is that it will increase your confidence. This will show in the execution of your cover letters, resumes and interview. It will help you to think about how you want to present yourself and define your message to answer “Why do I want to hire you?”

May 16 / Danae Dracht

Paper Presentation for the Imaging Science and Technology (IST) 2016 Archiving Conference

DrachtThe Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T) Archiving Conference is annually held in various destinations throughout the world, bringing together “an international community of imaging experts and technicians as well as curators, managers, and researchers from libraries, archives, museums” (as cited in the Preliminary Program). This year, the National Archives hosted the conference in Washington, DC, and the program focused on aspects of the digitization of cultural heritage and archiving. The Preliminary Program also explains that, “The conference presents the latest research results on digitization and curation, provides a forum to explore new strategies and policies, and reports on successful projects that can serve as benchmarks in the field.”

I was given the opportunity to present a paper I wrote focusing on the Wellcome Library, located in London, UK, where I studied last summer. I was selected to be a part of the Interactive Paper presentations. Not only was this an outstanding professional experience, it was opportune timing to network and meet other information professionals as I was graduating this May and entering into the job market. I designed a poster for the conference and also gave a brief PowerPoint presentation to conference attendees.

The conference began with short courses on Tuesday, April 19th, which consisted of lectures, demonstrations, and discussions to provide a brief overview of topics such as computations photography techniques, scanner and camera imaging performance, program management of digitization and curation for cultural heritage professionals, fundamentals of image and video compression, special imaging capture and processing, assessing formats for preservation and use of web archives, and digital collection development.

On Wednesday, April 20th, I was scheduled to give my Interactive Paper presentation: Going Digital at the Wellcome Library: “The Evolution of Digital Imaging and Innovation.” I was one of twelve Interactive Paper presenters. Following the presentations, there was an Interactive Paper session and exhibition, where I stood by my poster, met other professionals, and explained my work. During this time, I was thrilled to meet Dave Thompson, head of digital projects at the Wellcome Library. He was appreciative of my research and emphasized that it is important to bring awareness of where the digital “evolution” began to better understand how best to direct it in the future. Other lectures were given after the paper exhibitions that covered advanced imaging techniques, asset management, and preservation formats and frameworks.

The following day, April 21st, additional lectures discussed imaging standards and quality assurance, strategies and workflows, and dissemination and use. In the afternoon, the conference organized behind-the-scenes tours. I had the opportunity to see the work that goes into the preservation department at the National Gallery of Art in order to make digital representations of paintings as close to the originals as technologically possible.

Finally, on Friday, April 22nd, the lectures in the morning were more closely related to my area of interest, covering metadata standards and implementation. The afternoon focused on image color science and analysis tools and the role of digital collections in scholarly communication. Other highlights from Friday include a job offer from the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center (USA). I was invited to lunch and spoke with Julia Hickey, an archivist from Defense Media Activity.

Overall, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience and I am profoundly grateful for Wayne State University’s generous support in making this trip a possibility.



May 13 / Mike Dutkewych

Alternative Spring Break at the Smithsonian Archives Center

This past March I participated in the School of Library and Information Science’s annual Alternative Spring Break program, which pairs LIS students with national institutions for week-long mini-internships. I was fortunate enough to be placed at the Smithsonian Archives Center in Washington, D.C., where I contributed to its recently launched project, Organize It and Link It: Sharing Digital Content Using Archivists’ Toolkit.

The Smithsonian Archives Center, located in the National Museum of American History, is home to more than 1,300 collections made up of a variety of physical and digital media formats. The Organize It and Link It project that I worked on was initiated to create a bridge between the Archives Center’s existing cache of digital assets and the institution’s online finding aids, which are publicly accessible through its website. To do this, the project utilized a number of software applications for first creating digital folder hierarchies that mirror the physical collections’ series, box, and folder arrangements, and then for disseminating the digital surrogates (which are predominantly scans of papers and photographs) through slideshows connected to the online finding aids.

During my time as a SLIS student, I’ve been very interested in the growing impact of technology on the archival field, and my week at the Smithsonian Archives Center provided me with a window into the opportunities and challenges that repositories are encountering when leveraging technology to achieve institutional goals. I gained hands-on experience with a number of software platforms, such as Archivists’ Toolkit 2.0.0 and the SirsiDynix Horizon 7.5.3 collection manager, as well as the Smithsonian’s D.A.M. system, OpenText Media Management. I also got work with more than 20 different collections, creating hierarchies for and links to over 5,000 digital objects.

The staff at the Smithsonian Archives Center was exceptionally generous with its time and guidance during my week there. Particularly hospitable were my two supervisors on the project, Alison Oswald and Kay Peterson. Though most of my days were spent working at a computer, Alison and Kay frequently coordinated additional activities and personal “behind-the-scenes” tours of the museum to supplement my experience.

When I decided to pursue my MLIS, I really didn’t think I’d someday find myself doing archival work for a prestigious institution like the Smithsonian—and certainly not while still a student. But that’s exactly what I got to do this spring break. Beyond providing valuable work experience and a flashy new line on my resume, my week at the Archives Center also gave me a fresh perspective on my own competencies as an archivist. I’m proud to say that I exceeded the expectations of my supervisors and delivered quantity and quality to the Organize It and Link It project. As I look forward to graduation later this year, I do so knowing that I’ve developed a skillset that will allow me to not only be a competitive candidate for employment, but also one who can contribute quickly and in a meaningful way, wherever I may land.

Thank you to the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science for sponsoring my trip to Washington, D.C., and to my hosts at the Smithsonian Archives Center for an incredible experience.

For an example of Mike’s work on the Organize It and Link It project, click here to view the digital objects from the Kenneth M. Swezey Papers via the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA).


SLIS student Mike Dutkewych at the Smithsonian.

Apr 27 / Jessica Hertle

Alternative Spring Break 2016- National Archives and Record Administration

Spring break is often known as a ‘breather’ or ‘time to relax’ for most college students.  However, this year I was provided the opportunity from the School of Library and Information at Wayne State University to participate in a condensed internship with the National Archives and Record Administration in Washington D.C.  The opportunity was exhilarating and the possibilities of what we were going to experience were endless, happy to say that the actual time there lived up to the hype.

My week long experience would mostly be conducted in College Park Maryland, where the second archive building is located, referred to as Archives II. For a little background information, this NARA building is dedicated mostly to researchers and is not a museum compared to the National Archives in D.C.  Archives II contains textual, cartographic, microfilm, and electronic records. There is also motion picture film, sound, and video recordings and photographic/graphic works.  The materials are designated by floor level for researchers and equipment is provided when necessary.

The small project we were assigned for our week of work is a part of a much larger digitization program that is being completed by NARA.  There are two main goals associated with their plan, which is access and furthered preservation.  The digital access is for the benefit of researchers that come into the archives but also for those who cannot make it to the archive, allowing them to conduct their research online. Also, from a preservation concern, the plan is to no longer pull the records once they have been digitized.  It was interesting to learn that the standards/requirements for the scanning are purely for  access, not as concerned about quality but more about quantity.  Stephanie and I got the chance to work on declassified army records, specifically the Vietnam War, roughly six archival boxes containing 5-10 folders each.  The records contained war bulletins, operation reports, combat experiences from the U.S. forces in Southeast Asian from 1950-1975.  After being brought up to speed on scanning requirements and specifications, we got to check out the equipment we would be using! The two of us took turns alternating the scanners, so we could gain good experience with both. I had never seen or used either of them before.  There are six different types of scanners that one has access to in the scanning room.  The two new scanners, for me, were the ScanSnap SV 6000 and the Zeutschel, below is a picture using the ScanSnap.   The Zeutschel was an amazing piece of equipment and probably one of my favorite things to learn to use during my time there.

NARA did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and give us an all encompassing experience.  Along with our project work, we participated in various tours, workshops, and presentations.  The tours of both Archive I and Archive II were beautiful, “both behind the scenes” and what all visitors have access to. There was a special opportunity for us to meet Sam Anthony, assistant to the Archivist of the United States, who conducted the Archives I tour.  He took the time and was eager to talk to me and Stephanie, giving guidance and advice on how to network/market ourselves in the D.C. arena.  Our supervisor also took us back into one of the stacks at Archive II, another highlight.  The career workshop specifically stood out for me, we had to opportunity to learn how to build our career profile and cater it towards government jobs.

The week went by in a flash, but it was an experience I will never forget. Along with the work at Archives II from 8:00am to 4pm, we didn’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the city.  Several of the Smithsonian museums had extended hours for the summer so we took every chance we got to explore those, highly recommend the American History Museum.  We also took the chance to explore the Holocaust Museum and International Spy museums, all of the (most, I am sure I missed something) monuments, The Library of Congress and experienced different restaurants in the areas.  A fun little side note, we also got to experience the first Metro shutdown, for something other than a weather emergency since 1976, it caused for a crazy Wednesday!  Needless to say, it would take pages and pages to go over every detail of the trip, but this synopsis covers the experience SLIS provided for me over spring break 2016.


Apr 26 / Jordan Sparks

A Week with ISOO

For Spring Break, I decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone and applied for the week long internship with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Upon being accepted, my placement was with the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) working even more significantly with the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). My main project was to create the Wikipedia page for the PIDB highlighting all of their efforts in declassification policy. I sat in a working group meeting on Tuesday March 15, 2016 which had senior government officials from the CIA, NGA, and NSA all discussing how to work with inter-agency policy to release information to the public. What was being said, is that they do not have enough bodies to complete this and that it is very difficult to go through each document that has a classified, secret, or top secret distinction and determine if any of the information on the record would be harmful for public use.

Later that week, after the completion of the project, I sat in a separate meeting with the PIDB members which were all discussing the actions needed to advise the president on different executive orders. They have previously assisted the president with different tasks that went on to aid in the review of Executive Order 12958. They held a forum asking for input on the matter and even went as far as reaching out to the public. They determined in this meeting that there are many steps needed for declassification of records and documents, and went on to further discuss this matter later that afternoon with other presidential advisors at the White House.

Overall my time in Washington D.C. was absolutely amazing and could not have asked for a better experience. I have met so many different individuals who are still keeping in contact and even going as far to help me form the perfect resume and even aid in a career search for me. I have met so many incredible individuals and am forever grateful to Wayne for giving me this experience! I hope that so many others take the time to do this program!


Jordan Sparks

Wayne State University MLIS Candidate



For further information, please visit the websites below:

SLIS Student Jordan Sparks at the West Wing of the White House March 18, 2016

SLIS Student Jordan Sparks at the West Wing of the White House March 18, 2016


Apr 18 / Maria Nuccilli

Alternate Spring Break: Digital Preservation at NARA

Stopping for a picture before crossing the Potomac into Georgetown via the Key Bridge.

Stopping for a picture before crossing the Potomac into Georgetown via the Key Bridge.

This past March, I was fortunate to participate in Alternate Spring break with a handful of other SLIS students. When I heard there was an internship related to digital preservation at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), I knew I had to apply—couldn’t pass up the chance to experience firsthand the digital preservation strategy at such a significant institution.

Though many folks thinking of NARA naturally think of the Washington, D.C. location (known as “Archives 1”), the majority of archival work actually goes on at their location in College Park, Maryland (known as “Archives 2”). My classmates and I stayed in Washington, D.C., but as a digital preservation intern, I spent my time working at Archives 2—just a shuttle ride away every morning.

Under the supervision of Leslie Johnston, the Director of Development and Tool Management, my project entailed assisting a NARA team as they create and edit “ERA 2.0,” their new Electronic Records Archive system currently in development with IBM. My job during my week-long internship was to refine existing “user stories” and create new ones using guidelines for Trusted Digital Repositories.

Some background for readers that might not be familiar with a lot of these terms: NARA is responsible for government records of all kinds. On the most basic level, the Electronic Records Archive allows users to upload digital objects directly, seamlessly transferring them to NARA. The Agile method is a form of project management commonly used in software development. The Agile method utilizes “user stories,” which are short, one-sentence descriptions of a capability desired by a system user. They generally follow the format: “As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.”

In regards to ERA 2.0, many user stories focused on creating an intuitive interface that allowed for flexibility for archivists and administrators, while still maintaining principles like provenance. For the refining of old and writing of new user stories, I focused on the preservation functions of ERA 2.0, utilizing TRAC and Drambora guidelines. I enjoyed my project greatly, especially since I had the opportunity to work at the intersection of traditional archival principles and the development of cutting-edge software. Additionally, I directly viewed the substantial amount of work that goes into ensuring the long-term preservation of digital objects at a large, government-accountable institution.

My favorite part of the internship was getting to sit in on meetings with IBM developers and see the collaboration between IT and archivists—something that is inevitably valuable in today’s tech climate. Most people I spoke with at NARA expressed similar dissatisfaction with the current ERA system, especially on the user experience side—common complaints referenced its clunky interface and the substantial number of clicks required for regular commands. After contributing to the new user stories, I was pleased to leave NARA knowing that my work will directly positively affect the countless users of ERA 2.0.

My second favorite part of the internship? That would be sight-seeing around D.C.—I had never been before! Alternate spring break at NARA was a wonderful experience and I am thankful I gave it a shot. Gaining a glimpse into the goings-on at NARA was an amazing privilege, and I know what I learned during my week of work will continue to aid me as I advance in my LIS education, and, soon after that, my career.

One of many unique murals on the Luther Place Memorial Church in Thomas Circle.

One of many unique murals on the Luther Place Memorial Church in Thomas Circle.

Apr 18 / Mark Prindiville

Annapolis and the Alternate Spring Break Experience: My Time Working for the Maryland State Archives


My name is Mark Prindiville, a graduate student in Wayne State University’s Library and Information Science program. I was one of the lucky few chosen to go on the Alternate Spring Break program under SLIS, specifically to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. Admittedly I was nervous about this opportunity, as I had no previous exposure to government archives and I did not know what to fully expect traveling solo. However, it is safe to say that my travels and my work experience were well worth it.

Upon my arrival at the government building, I was introduced to all of the staff working within the Appraisal and Description department and was given the grand tour of the facilities. Before I knew it, I went from exploring the different facets of a government agency to digging elbow deep in a box of dusty wills. My first assignment was organizing the Register of Wills from Baltimore County, roughly during the time period of 1876-1883. Upon completion, a secondary task was assigned to a local volunteer to complete the process of arranging these particular records, so I was given another assignment. While the volunteer was working on the box of wills, I was assigned to help review content from a selection of microfilm. According to my supervisor, Kathryn Baringer, Director of Appraisal and Description, there were some errors surrounding the information pertaining to microfilm uploaded onto their online repository. For example, the uploaded information could say that the first part of one slide had 75 images/parts to it, but the slide itself might actually have more, or even less. So I was assigned to review the film strips and to mark down corrections where they were needed.

I was also assigned work within the conservation lab, where I was introduced to the concept of ‘vacuuming’ documents. I was assigned one box, filled with documents that had been irradiated of any mold and other contaminants, and my main duty was to unfold everything so that I could vacuum as much of the material as possible. The end goal was to clean off as many documents as I could so that they may move on to the next team, who were to scan the documents for digital access.

My final assignment was an indexing project dealing with Marriage Records across the different counties in Maryland. The dates were narrow, however, ranging only from July to August 1950. By the end of the week, I would guess that this project, along with the conservation lab, was where I had spent the most time. I would estimate that I completed about 3-4 cubic feet worth of marriage record material.

At the end of the week, the Appraisal & Description team invited me to join in on their department meeting. Here I was able to better understand the daily work done by the different members of the department and I was able to piece together how different and diverse the types of assignments each member works so hard on.

My time at the Maryland State Archives was short, yet very fulfilling. I was able to take a glance at behind-the-scenes work of a government archive. I was able to take part in ongoing preservation projects, as well as being able to work alongside staff and volunteers who have the experience and archival knowledge for which to make these project goals seem possible. And I was able to gather insight on different archival practices and techniques, which I may put to good use during my studies and beyond. My colleagues here might say that I was working, while my friends might say I was enjoying a nice getaway, all the while my family might say that I was on cloud nine. I say, why not all of the above…

– Mark

SLIS student Mark Prindiville processing materials at the Maryland State Archives