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Sep 25 / Matthew Fredericks

MLIS Practicum at Eastern Michigan University

By: Samuel Schmaltz

            My time with Eastern Michigan University gave my valuable experience with handling collections that expanded on what I had learned through my masters program by giving me practical examples of archival principles and gave me a chance to provide access to a large collection of archival materials.  Working with Eastern also helped me work to achieve a personal goal of making sure that valuable information is not lost and is made available to a public that can make use of it.  The experiences I gained from my time with Eastern will surely be valuable for many years to come.

            The collection that I was managing, a collection of materials from Eastern’s communication division, contained a vast array of materials in several different formats and containing footage of many different subjects.  Creating a finding aid for a collection like this that houses thousands of items gave me a valuable real world experience of the implementation of the More Product, Less Process approach.  Often working by myself meant that I often had to make independent choices in categorizing material when information regarding where it belonged was scarce.  Material would occasional have a very simple label, such as an individuals name and nothing more.  Cataloging material like that required me to learn to make difficult choices regarding arranging items on my own, increasing my ability to work independently.  On a more personal level, I found value in being able to work with a collection containing such a diverse range of formats, some of which I had never seen before.  Working in this collection has given me a better look into the history of a/v materials and how many diverse types of material were created throughout that history.

            I was also given a first hand experience of how many steps are required to complete arrangement of a collection.  Physical arrangement and descriptions via A Space were both required, occasionally putting me in positions were multitasking was necessary.  If I had focused on arranging material first and only then began describing the materials, I would have quickly run out of space to work with.  Working with EMU’s collection gave me experience with being able to work in a flexible manner in order to produce an optimal workflow. 

            This practical experience was extremely valuable for me, but finishing the collection was worth it in it’s own right.  The collection contained material on athletics, speeches, events, lectures, Eastern original programing and more.  The vast array of subjects held in the collection mean that the material could be found and used by a wide variety of different people for a wide variety of different purposes.  Sports enthusiasts could look up noteworthy games from Eastern’s past while those looking up the history of person who was influential to Eastern for academic purposes could find lectures made by that person, or events that person participated it.  The varied nature of collection makes it a valuable resource and something that was important to make available. 

            My motivations for joining the MLIS program were to make sure that valuable information could be protected from being lost to time, and my work with Eastern gave me a practical example of working towards that goal.  The lessons that I learned while working on the Collection for the division of communication will be helpful to me in my future endeavors and help me preserve and make available other collections of valuable information in the years to come.  Working with EMU was not only valuable on a personal level, but helped me feel like I was contributing to a bigger picture in the field of information science.  

Collection Boxes: Before and After