A dispatch from M&PD
Showcasing new RBMS member work: Alison Clemens & Elizabeth DeBold
Today’s guest post is from Anna Dysert, liaison librarian at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, and member of the RBMS Membership & Professional Development Committee.
Preparations for Las Vegas are gearing up! As a foretaste of some of the discussions you can expect, we asked two new RBMS members to tell us about themselves and share a bit about their upcoming preconference presentations. Our interviewees are Alison Clemens and Elizabeth DeBold. Alison is an archivist at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Yale University. Elizabeth is the project coordinator for the Religion in North Carolina Digitization Project at Duke University’s Divinity School Library and a previous RBMS scholarship winner.
1. How did you get started in rare books/special collections?
Alison: I started working in special collections at my undergraduate institution, Scripps College. Denison Library at Scripps has wonderful holdings of manuscripts, rare books, and artists’ books, and I found myself continually enchanted by the collections. As my graduation date approached, I realized that I wanted to find a way to continue working with such exciting material. I was fortunate to benefit from a fantastic mentor at Denison who encouraged me to attend library school. From Scripps, then, I went to the University of Texas, where I specialized in Archives & Special Collections. Again, I was able to craft my custom specialization and my professional experience due to the support of strong mentorship.
Elizabeth: As an undergraduate, I constructed my own major in Medieval Studies and fell in love with rare materials. One of my favorite memories is of consulting a 15th century manuscript in Duke Humfrey’s library while I was studying abroad in England—I had an “aha!” moment where I knew that working in special collections was what I wanted most. However, what also sparked my passion was being able to consult high quality digital copies of medieval manuscripts, as well as to access added scholarship and digital tools built around these digital surrogates. After graduating I went to library school with the intention of working with digital collections and making primary sources more available to scholars, students, and the public, and I have been fortunate that my first professional position fulfills this wish.
2. What is your role at your institution?
Alison: I’m one of the Beinecke’s processing archivists, so my primary responsibility is to process archival collections and catalog small accessions of materials in our Western Americana collection and in the Yale Collection of American Literature. I also spend time providing direct user services by teaching classes using Beinecke materials and assisting our researchers with their reference questions.
Elizabeth: I am currently the project coordinator for the Religion in North Carolina Digital Collection in the Duke Divinity School Library. I manage the day-to-day tasks of this grant-funded, collaborative digitization project, in addition to assisting with outreach, education, and long-term plans surrounding the collection once the grant is completed. My role is an exciting mix of technical work, collection development, and community involvement. I very much enjoy being able to wear multiple “hats”!
3. How long have you been involved in RBMS?
Alison: I’ve been a member of RBMS since I started library school, and I’m a member of the Membership & Professional Development Committee and the Task Force Committee on Core Competencies in Special Collections Librarianship. I was able to attend the 2014 Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia, but Las Vegas will be my first RBMS Preconference!
Elizabeth: I joined RBMS as a student in 2011, and shortly thereafter saw a request on the listserv for volunteers for the Taskforce on Metrics and Assessment. I emailed the co-chairs to see if they would be interested in having a student intern, and they very kindly allowed me to be a part of their work for the following year. I had a lot to learn, and I still appreciate their time and guidance. I am currently serving on both the 2014 and 2015 Preconference Program Planning committees, so I hope everyone is excited about what we have planned for Las Vegas! I think it’s going to be an excellent experience, and I’m really enjoying the conversations we’re already having about Oakland.
4. Can you give us a brief “taste” of your talk or research?
Alison: Since my time at the University of Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we prepare future special collections librarians for their positions. I was in the (very robust) archives track at UT, and I was one of the only students I knew who was interested in and educated about the world of special collections. I find it very disheartening that there tends to be a rather strong divide between the library and archives worlds, and I’m passionate about creating a dialogue about the best way(s) to reconcile this. One trend that I find particularly inspiring is the trend toward creating special collections-focused fellowship positions in academic libraries. Such positions can provide a way for entry-level special collections professionals to learn more about the area, engage in special collections work within an academic library context, and gain skills from both the library and archives cadres. At RBMS, I’ll be talking about my experience in the fellowship program at the University of Houston, as well as my thoughts on the fellowship trend, in general.
Elizabeth: In addition to my other project coordinator duties for this digital collection, I am responsible for gaining copyright permission from rights holders for any materials that are currently under protection. While presenting its challenges, researching and contacting rights holders for this project has been an exceptional tool for outreach and education, as well as collection development. The rights holders we are contacting are a diverse mix of religious institutions, commercial publishers, and individuals, and as such many of them will and have become some of our collection’s most interested adherents and users. Inadvertently, copyright requirements are helping us to build a community, and I hope I can offer some insight into how we have tried to reach out.
5. What do you hope the audience will gain from your talk?
Alison: I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the RBMS community as a newer professional with a fairly firm grounding in both archives and rare books. My ultimate goal, though, is to spark a dialogue about how we can best educate and foster new professionals who want to work in special collections.
Elizabeth: I hope that my project team’s methods for approaching copyright holders will be useful to the audience in their home institutions, as well as for planning similar projects within their states.
You can hear Alison’s presentation on “Career Development for New Professionals: Fellowships and Internships as Alternative Sites of Education” during the papers panel on teaching/learning and Elizabeth’s presentation on “Permission to Launch: Seeking Copyright Permission for the Religion in North Carolina Digital Collection” during the papers panel on digital special collections, both sessions will be held on Thursday, June 26 from 3:30-5:00.