Learning the Profession

Over the past several weeks we have continued to process the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  In particular we were able to finish processing the legislative aspects of the collection which include staff files, committee files, speeches, and other materials.  The aspects of the collection related to the January 8th shooting are now being processed.  The bulk of January 8th material consists of newpaper clippings and correspondence.

This shelf was full of boxes and is now almost empty as materials have been processed.

This shelf was full of boxes and is now almost empty as materials have been processed.

Processing the Giffords collection has allowed me to partake in archival processing in a new and exciting way.  Because of the experience I have gained over the past year I have been more active in planning how to process the collection.  I have conducted research into other congressional collections and using my new skill set I’ve participated in conversations about processing in a much more integral way.  I have been able to provide input on how to process the committee work Giffords completed as well as how to handle post-January 8th materials.

The end of spring semester provides an opportunity to reflect on a year of unique work experiences.  When I look back on having processed the Clarion Records in August I realize how much my knowledge and skills have improved over the year.  I have had the opportunity to create archival exhibits, learn to process notoriously challenging congressional collections, participate in outreach, and contribute to the special collections blog.  Each of these experiences has provided opportunity to gain new and valuable skills as well as learn more about the archival profession.

The majority of my time this year has been spent doing congressional collections processing.  The Jim Kolbe collection allowed me to learn the skills I needed to take a stronger role in planning how to process the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  This exemplifies how pivitol my time at UA special collections has been to my growth in archival processing.  Each collection I have processed has allowed me to gain more skills that I can then use to take a more active role in processing other collections.

Plans for processing the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  I was glad to have played a role in developing this organization.

Plans for processing the Gabrielle Giffords collection. I was glad to have played a role in developing this organization.


From Apprentice to Pro

As the semester wraps up, we graduate assistants are either ready to move on to the real world post-graduation or, as in my case, stick around for another year of Special Collections fun. Lisa Escobedo Duncan, assistant librarian and former Knowledge River Scholar, was our go-to mentor for processing of congressional collections. Lisa recently landed a position as Archivist and Special Collections Librarian with the ID Weeks Library at the University of South Dakota, where she will head the archives, oversee the Oral History Center, provide outreach to diverse communities, work on digital projects with members of the staff, and supervise a staff of three. Sad as we all are to see her go, we were curious to find out all we could about how she approached the job search, interview, and salary negotiation. Always the mentor, Lisa was only happy to share.


Lisa’s Tips:

Job Search: Keep an eye out for job openings every day. Spends 5-10 minutes on a site like Archives Gig and focus on job descriptions that are appealing and locations that you can handle living in—having roots in those places makes you an attractive candidate too. Consider timelines: if you need a job by summer/fall, best to start looking by Nov/Dec, since 4-5 months is a typical wait period in academia. Don’t pass up jobs even if you don’t feel fully qualified or if something in the title turns us off; you just never know. Make sure your resume/CV and cover letter are flawless and, above all, don’t obsess. It will happen when it will happen, sometimes right away, but more often it will test your patience.

Resume/Background: Employers are looking for multiple years in one place, experience supervising staff/student workers, variety and challenge level of the projects you’ve worked with (being in charge is important too), experience with born-digital materials as well as software like CONTENTdm, DSpace, Archon, etc. Go after internships, just make sure to network, network, network—it usually comes down to who you know. Work hard and be ready to pay your dues: the dream job may not come for many years, so temp, work part-time, apply to residency programs, volunteer, do what you have to gain enough experience to appeal to employers out there.

Interview: The first round will be over the phone or Skype, by committee members. Be ready with examples that correspond to the skills listed as required and preferred, as well as a couple questions for them too. The In-person interview setup is similar for all academic libraries: you arrive in the evening and have dinner with people from the search committee, followed by a day of nonstop meetings, a 45 minute presentation by you, and a tour of the campus and departments. You either stay the night or leave the next day. Keep your game face during rides to and from—even the people assigned to drive you will weighing in. Don’t forget to ask about salary and professional development; you will need to know this to negotiate later on.

Accepting the Job: You will likely be offered the minimum salary they can pay, but remember that universities usually have room for negotiating salary and professional development, so do some homework ahead of time. Be prepared to say what you deserve based on (1) your experience and (2) the nature of the job (know what others in similar positions make, info that is publicly disclosed for most universities). Consider whether the position offers tenure track, continuing status, or if it simply is an academic professional job. Once all is agreed upon, start date can usually be delayed by up to two months.

Thanks to Lisa Duncan for all her help this past year, for the amazing tours of local archives that she organized for us, for having the best attitude one could ask from a mentor. Congratulations and we wish her the very best in her new job!

University of South Dakota, Lisa's soon-to-be home!

University of South Dakota, Lisa’s soon-to-be home!