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May 21 / Christine Illichmann

Alternative Spring Break 2018 – Walter P. Reuther Library

Alternative Spring Break offers students at the Wayne State School of Information Sciences unique, one-week internship opportunities in real-world settings. This guest post is by student Ellen Gleason, who spent her Spring Break at the Walter P. Reuther Library.

Over my spring break this year I had the pleasure of working at the Walter P. Reuther Library in Detroit, Michigan. As a student studying archival administration, it was wonderful to see firsthand how university, labor, and urban affairs archivists work together to provide access to and information about the history of Detroit as well as national labor groups.

Along with another MLIS student in the Wayne State program we were tasked with arranging and describing an unprocessed collection to create an online finding aid.  I worked on the St. Anthony Community Council Records and created the finding aid, which can be found here: https://reuther.wayne.edu/node/14087

During the week I was able to utilize my skills in research as well as writing in order to gather information on this lesser known community group. We worked in stages to do preliminary research, document our observations about the records, and produce an organizational outline for how the records would be kept. I later synthesized this information into the finding aid structure that all processed collections at the Reuther library follow. I learned how to author an organizational background, scope and content note, along with recording relevant metadata to be used in the Archives Space software.

I’m so glad I was able to have this opportunity to process and create a finding aid for researchers to utilize. Because this was a smaller collection (0.75 linear feet) I was able to finish in less than a week  (pictured at right), which left time to learn even more about the different tasks and roles archivists have. Over the course of the week we learned about the different types of archivists (union specific, urban affairs, audiovisual, outreach, field etc.) and sat in on a staff meeting. I was also able to observe a reading room shift to see how researchers interact with the records themselves.

This opportunity has only grown my excitement to continue with my MLIS and Archival Administration Graduate Certificate at Wayne State. It has been an invaluable experience to be able to work next to and talk to seasoned archivists who shared their experiences and advice for a student moving forward. I would recommend any students looking to expand their professional network and gain experience in an information professional setting to look into the Alternative Spring Break program. I know I will be applying for my next spring break as well.

Ellen Gleason
MLIS Archival Administration
Wayne State University