Andrea Boltz Reflective Essay The decision to return to graduate school was not one that was taken lightly. Nearly 10 years from the date of my undergraduate graduation, I had been working for over 5 years for the same company, and with some little effort could likely have moved up into various management positions with the organization. Returning to graduate school would change that future from one that was relatively set, to one that had few guarantees. Nevertheless, I had been looking for greater fulfillment than my previous position offered and after some reading, volunteer work and an aptitude test, I determined that Library Science was the field I wanted to pursue. In the two years since I began my education in the field of Library and Information Science, I have taken many classes and had many learning opportunities. While those learning opportunities do not end with the completion of my Masters degree, the courses I have taken have provided me with an education in several important areas of the field. Each example provided in this portfolio demonstrates an education in at least one of the following areas: information and its organization; provision of information services; organizational, leadership and management issues in information agencies and services; application of technology and research to evidence-‐based practice; and lifelong learning and professional development. Information and its Organization During the spring semester of 2011 I took Preservation Planning and Administration. The main project of the course was to write a research paper or complete a research project pertaining to various areas of preservation. After submitting my proposal, it was suggested by the professor that I complete the
Andrea Boltz literature review portion of the paper, and potentially work on the complete project at a later time. The result was the paper selected for the Information and its Organization category. As my education in the field of Library and Information Science has grown, I have found an interest specifically in digitization. I therefore decided to focus on the issues surrounding digitization in archives and cultural institutions. Digitization will continue to be an issue for archives and other institutions, and I wanted to understand the arguments both for and against using it as a preservation method. The literature review summarizes the available literature regarding the use of digitization as a preservation measure. This is a controversial topic in the archival community, because it can be hard to justify the cost of digitization, in addition to the ongoing physical preservation of the original object. In writing the paper, I explored several areas including the creation of digital surrogates, the preservation of born-‐digital documents, the justification of the continued expense, copyright issues and archiving the web. Ultimately, the review concluded that despite the arguments against digitization, it is clearly an important part of the future of archives, one that will need to continue to be researched and explored in order to best employ it in the archival community. The literature review provided me with the basic information on where preservation currently stands as a preservation method in the archival community. The results of the research and the paper convinced me that despite the trepidations of many in the archival community, digitization will continue to be a growing area in the field of preservation, one that will need to be studied further. Unfortunately, I
Andrea Boltz was too ambitious with my original project. The original research proposal suggested a survey of archives to determine the ways in which various institutions are using digitization as a preservation method, something that there was not time to complete. If I had the opportunity to take this course over and do this project again, I might speak to the professor early in the semester about my idea to determine if a survey or other method of information gathering could be used, so that I could complete the entire project, rather than just the literature review. This literature review on digitization as a preservation method allowed me to explore an important area in the preservation of materials. Along with the full course, I attained a good overview of the preservation process. This is an important part of information and its organization. In addition, it allowed me to explore an important issue in the field of archival science, that of preservation and the concerns surrounding the practice. The completion of this project started me on the path to getting a Digital Archive Specialist certificate from the SAA, a goal I will be working towards over the next two years. It is shaping the positions I apply for as I start to focus on becoming a digital archivist as my future career. I will use this project as a stepping-‐stone to a new focus, and while I will still work in and study the archival career as a whole, it directed my focus to an area I had not truly considered before. In the future, as I work on projects, I can take the information gained in this project, and use it to build new research and new projects. I can work with an institution to see if completing the entire project, including the survey originally planned will be possible, and it will help me to better judge the time needed for a project when writing proposals.
Andrea Boltz Provision of Information Services An important part of the MLIS program is learning about the provision of information services. Libraries and other institutions need to be able to determine what their patrons need, and how best to provide them with that information. During an early course with the program, I was required to create a database on a topic of my choosing. The database had to contain links to various websites that could provide information to potential users. The description of each website had to explain why the website was included as a trusted source of information. Finally, the database had to be coded into HTML, and use buttons created for the specific topics, to guide any users to the appropriate sections. When completing the project, I decided on genealogy as a topic for two reasons: first, I had a personal interest in genealogy; second, although most archives do not focus on genealogy for a collection, many have researchers who seek to use their collections to research information on their extended family. I was able to select several websites that could be justified as legitimate sources, and the database was created. During the creation of the database, I struggled with determining what sites to use. There are government agencies that have web pages dedicated to genealogical research, but there are also many corporate and personal websites dedicated to the subject. It was important that the information contained in this database be accessible to as many people as possible, whether they could afford to pay for access or not. As a result, many good corporate websites had to be dropped from the list. Many personal websites lacked the information needed to justify them as credible sources, and so they had to be left out as well. Finally the decision on
Andrea Boltz how to build the site had to be made. I had to decide on a background and create the website so that it would be aesthetically pleasing but still relatively easy to read. In my goal to make the information accessible, I believe I was mostly successful. Although the final two sites have information on hiring a professional genealogist, something many people would not be able to afford, the majority of the sites selected were completely free, and run by either government agencies, well respected genealogists or corporations that have a reputation for genealogical research. The design of the website while readable and with good color use, could be better. We had a very basic plan that we had to follow for this website that allowed us very little freedom in the layout. While I can understand that the project was intended to give students a very basic understanding of how to code, and that the chosen information was more important, with some further courses completed, I would like to be able to go back and redesign the website. This project gave me the first experience I had really working to validate the information available on the web, and to provide information on why certain websites were better for an official database created by a library or archive for use by their patrons. It is important for me as a librarian to be able to explain to patrons why some sources may be a better choice than others. It was also important to realize that the information gathered needs to be accessible to a particular organization’s patrons. This database was structured from the point of view of a public library or similar organization. Not all of the patrons will be able to afford memberships at some of the best genealogical websites. It is therefore important for me to design any databases that I build with my audience in mind. In this database, I
Andrea Boltz chose primarily free websites to accommodate those who cannot afford to pay. In the future, when developing a database for use at my institution, I will need to make similar decisions. Who needs to use the information, and what is the best way for the users to access it? Finally, I can use my displeasure with the layout of the site as future inspiration. I have taken additional courses that give information on creating web resources for patrons. These courses go beyond the basics, so that I am able to create websites with better layouts and that are more aesthetically pleasing. If I decide to focus on creating web resources, I can continue with further education, both online and classroom based to become a better web developer and design pages that are both functional and well laid out. Organizational, Leadership, and Management Issues in Information Agencies and Services The primary project of the Special Libraries course, I took during the Summer I session in 2010 was to draft a proposal for the construction of a new library. This proposal covered everything from the reason for the creation of the library, the organization the library was being created for, the proposed staff, to the budget and the development of services, as well as staffing policies. Though the project was completed in stages, and by the end of the course, a completed document had been created detailing the reasons for the creation of the library, and how that library was going to be funded and structured. Although the library could be for an imagined institution, I chose to create a library for the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Over the course of the semester, using guidelines laid out by the professor, various sections of the project were developed. Using
Andrea Boltz financial documents available from the Virginia Conference, I was able to estimate a budget for the creation of the library. Using the Virginia Conference’s website, I was able to determine the existing hierarchy of the staff and determine where the staff of the new library would fit within the existing structure. I determined the approximate number of books that would be needed to start the library, and the services that the system would want to provide to the clergy of the church. These services included an Inter Library Loan service, a program allowing clergy to use the libraries of colleges and seminaries nearby, and a distance lending program, so that those at a distance would not have to drive hours to have access to the library. The timing on when these programs should be implemented was developed and proposed along with expected dates of completion. The completion of this project allowed me a greater understanding of the hierarchy of libraries and the work that goes into the development of a library program. Over all, the project was interesting and went well. By the end of the course, I had gained a much greater understanding of the organization and management of libraries whether they are a special library, as in the library proposed for the course document, or a larger public or academic library. I was able to assess the need for a library system, and who in particular would use the library, create goals for the project, and develop various policies that would allow for the proper management of the new library program. Despite this, I felt very rushed during the creation process. The summer courses are only five weeks long, and I was taking the course with the special permission of the instructor, as I did not have one of the necessary prerequisite courses. Perhaps the thing that I would have liked to alter would be to
Andrea Boltz take the course again during a regular semester, where there would be more time to complete the project. It ended up nearly twice as long as originally requested by the professor, which was another concern. I struggled to find anything to pair out to shorten the final document, and in re-‐reading it for the portfolio, still cannot find anything I find superfluous. However, considering the original expectations for the length of the project, it seems that there is likely some material that could be removed to shorten the document. I did learn the process for proposing a new library or similar organization, the development of a budget, staff positions, and the programs that would be needed for the institution. This project served to teach me a great deal about the management of a special library. Although not my main career focus, there are likely similarities between a special library and an archive in terms of management, if not in basic procedure. I can use this information as I begin working in the library science field. While I will likely not be creating a library in the immediate future, it is certainly possible that I might be asked to develop a new department or program. As I work towards becoming an archivist, this information will become useful, as many institutions will require me to be able to write a budget and handle staffing issues that may arise. Building on this information, in the future I may take continuing education courses to assist in developing my management skills, and I can use the information I learned towards grant-‐writing and institutional advancement projects. Application of Technology and Research to Evidence-Based Practice The development of the Crave Hill Farms website was a group project for my digital images course. The group consisted of 5 members, whose job it was to
Andrea Boltz develop the theme of the site, create the images and the metadata to go with them, develop the metadata schema for use and determine how to implement the data on the website. As a member of the group, I served as a scribe, organizer, software researcher and group photographer. This website was developed for an imaginary museum, and so in addition to the website, a final report detailing the necessary software and equipment was written, as well as the process for the development of the metadata schema. As a part of the project, I researched several museum content software programs and reported on the programs to the group, ultimately recommending the PastPerfect software for use in the project. This software is good museum database software that can hold images as well as catalog entries. That feature was important in the decision, as this project was to develop a continuing online exhibit for the Crave Museum. The development of the online museum exhibit was important for my continuing education. As I completed courses at SLIS, I found myself more drawn to digitization as a focus for my archival career. It was important to have taken a course that dealt so heavily with technology. The creation of the website required the group to essentially build a knowledge base of information on the chosen topic of farms and farm products. The metadata schema was developed with group input and each group member created the metadata for his or her photographs. The group had to determine how the Crave Museum would display the online exhibit and the best way to produce that content. After the original photographs were taken, group members had to duplicate the photos and crop them twice, once for the standard size photo shown on the site, and once for the thumbnail image. As a group, we had
Andrea Boltz to determine what sizes we would use for the various images. Photographs directly from the camera are too large to be embedded in a website, so a uniform size had to be chosen. When complete, the website layout was approved by the group, though the code was written primarily by one member of the group to prevent problems. Although other courses had taught me about metadata and the development of an online database, it was nothing on the scale of this project. The project allowed me to see the creation of a major online exhibit from the ground up. Although we were not able to use all of the software and equipment that the final report recommends, the use of our own existing technology allowed us to see the basics of the project, and develop a functional website, with a clear goal in mind. The instructions were very specific, in that we were redesigning the Crave Museum’s online exhibit, and that the institution needed to know all of the information we used for the development. As I am very interested in digitization as a focus for my continuing archival studies, the creation of a digital exhibit such as this one was very important for me. While there are some institutions that are well funded and can afford to hire someone to create a website or an online exhibit for their institution, others cannot. There are a few aspects of the project that did not work as well. The group decided to use Google chat to communicate but it would probably have been better to use Blackboard or another similar program. Some of the research on the camera equipment was rushed and had to be completed a second time at the last minute due to poor communication with a team member. The completed website has a few formatting issues when viewed with a browser other than Internet
Andrea Boltz Explorer, something that should no longer be a problem with the use of web standards. In the future, as I work in the library science field, I can use this experience to develop online exhibits for my own institution. As I move forward with continuing education, I will look into some courses on building websites, in case I decided to focus in that area, or I work for an institution that does not have a web master to create the online exhibitions. I can use the experience researching the equipment and software in future endeavors. One thing we learned was that is important to have up-‐to-‐date equipment, but not to spend exorbitant amounts of money because of the constantly evolving state of technology. The metadata schema we developed is fine, but the way it is displayed on the website may be confusing for those who have not studied subject headings, so it will be something to look at during future projects. While I do not expect to make web development my primary career focus, this project laid the foundation for future education if it becomes necessary, or a future interest. Lifelong Learning and Professional Development At the end of the first semester in SLIS, we were required to write a philosophy statement. This statement was supposed to be unique and individual to us, and it had to describe why we had decided on library science as a career, and our philosophy of learning that we would use to reach that goal. In my statement, I discussed the events leading up to my decision to work towards a degree in Library and Information Science, from an archaeological dig in 1999 to the aptitude test I took only a few months before applying.
Andrea Boltz The philosophy statement I developed really reflected who I was at the time I took the class. I knew I wanted to focus on archives and preservation, but I had not taken enough specialized courses to develop a deeper interest. The area surrounding my continued education was good, but when viewed more recently was no longer accurate. The exercise was a good one; it required me to really think about why I had chosen this career path, and what I would do in the future to attain my goals. Unfortunately, over time some of the information in the original statement becomes less relevant, and so the statement needed to be revised. Prior to posting the statement in my portfolio, I revised the final paragraph with newer information on what I would do to continue my education and professional development. I changed the names of some of the professional organizations I am a member of, and included my current goals of completing a Digital Archives Specialist Certificate and becoming a Certified Archivist. In the future, I will continue to look at my philosophy statement once a year, and change it as I have changed. I will add my new goals for professional development and education, and create new short-‐term goals, as the previous goals are completed. Conclusion The professional portfolio that this document is a part of reflects my time as a student at the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science. It also shows my evolution, from some works as an earlier student, to more current documents. It reflects a well-‐rounded education, with background in the 5 major areas shown above. Despite this, my education is far from complete. As I continue on my career path, I will be taking continuing education courses from
Andrea Boltz professional organizations. I am also considering a certificate program, either with SLIS or another institution, as I continue to develop my interests. This career is a lifelong process, that is only just beginning, and the course work shown here, is just a portion of my overall development. It has provided me with a great deal of education, and the building blocks to a career and a continuing education plan.