Learning about the Library Profession

Dodd Hall Library, c. 1964
Dodd Hall Library, c. 1964.  See here for more information

In addition to my work as a Graduate Assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division, I’m a full time student studying for a Master of Science in Library and Information Science at The School of Information at Florida State University.  As a Graduate Assistant, I’ve been able to apply the academic knowledge gained from my library classes to the different projects I’ve worked on as a Graduate Assistant in Special Collections & Archives.  Additionally, my work in Special Collections & Archives has given me a richer, more practical understanding of the opportunities and challenges that librarians face today.

As a graduate student, I’m gaining the knowledge needed to succeed in the library profession.  I’ve taken a number of great courses, but some of the classes that have been particularly relevant to my work in Special Collections are the following:

LIS 5703 Information Organization

This is a required course in the School of Information’s Master of Science in Information Science program, and for good reason.  After taking this course, future librarians better understand the theoretical framework for organizing and accessing information.  Much of the first half of the course focuses on the organization of various systems–such as article databases, like JSTOR, and the FSU Libraries online catalog.  Understanding how records are organized in the library catalog means that I’m better able to help Special Collections patrons find the information they need.  Sometimes patrons only have a vague idea of what they need, or a topic they’re researching and are not aware of all the resources Special Collections has to offer.  And while I might not be an expert in every area that Special Collections encompasses, as a librarian, I am able to find you the resources that that you need.

This course also introduces the concept of metadata, or “data about data.”  Understanding the administrative role that metadata plays in the access and retrieval of a resource was essential for the work I did with the Digital Library Center, in which I digitized 12 issues of The Girl’s Own Annual , and made those issues available to the broader community through FSU’s Digital Library.  You can find out more about that project from this blog post.

LIS 5472 Digital Libraries

This is an elective in the School of Information, and provides students with the guiding principles behind the construction and management of a digital library.  This course also provides students with some “hands on” experience.  Using the open source platform Omeka, students in this class create their own small-scale digital library.  There has been a lot of overlap between my classwork for Digital Libraries and the work I’ve done as a Graduate Assistant.  For my second project as a GA in Special Collections, I created an online exhibit with the platform Omeka, which can be found at fscwscrapbooks.omeka.net.

HIS 5082 Introduction to Archives

Because it is my hope to continue working in a Special Collections & Archives department after graduating, I wanted to take the opportunity to take formal coursework in archival science.  This course is offered through the History Department, and is taught at the State Archives of Florida.  My work in Special Collections & Archives provided me with a solid foundation to start with, to which this course has given me a richer understanding of the principles that guide an archivist’s work.

LIS 5511 Management of Information Collections

One major focus of this class was the Collection Development Policy, the formal document which guides a library’s collecting policies.   As a GA, one of my projects this semester has been to make an initial assessment of various rare book donations, according to FSU Special Collections & Archives procedures.  Understanding the role and purpose of a Collection Development Policy has been helpful in understanding the process for donation to cataloged item.

This is just a sample of the coursework I’ve completed for my Master of Science in Library and Information Science.  It has been a privilege to apply the knowledge I’ve gained in my classes to my work as a Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistant.  Moreover, working as a Graduate Assistant has given me a better understanding of the practical applications of the knowledge I’ve gained.

Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

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