Swarthmore College ‘s Externship Program is an opportunity for a current student to spend five days at the workplace of an alumnus/a in order to gain practical exposure to a career field. Naomi Liang joined us in Special Collections this January:
From January 11 to January 15 I participated in an externship offered by David Conners, Digital Collections Librarian (Swarthmore alum ’03), at Magill Library’s Special Collections. The Swarthmore Extern Program entails five days of job shadowing to allow undergraduates to explore a particular field of interest. My current prospective majors are philosophy, English literature, and sociology/anthropology. Since knowledge accession, reading culture and, generally, the process of research have long been fascinations of mine, I was happy to be able to absorb librarian life during my five days at Magill.
I spent much of my time working with David on digital archiving – scanning and photographing photographs used for classes, scanning books, reformatting digital audio, and cataloging art. I sat in on a meeting of TAG, the Tri-College Technology Advisory Group, where librarians worked out the final logistics of the neat-looking new service Tripod Mobile (a mobile-friendly version of the catalog for use on smart phones). During this time I also shadowed Ann Upton, Special Collections librarian and Quaker Bibliographer, who, along with David, guided me around the rare book vault and allowed me to pull out random items out of curiosity (including a beautiful 1854 edition of Walden and Christopher Morley‘s German literature notes from 1910). Ann also showed me her process of deciding which rare books or Quaker books to add to the collection. We also answered emailed reference questions regarding Quaker genealogies, and I spent a few hours working on the beginnings of a new project in Special Collections – the digitization of 19th century Quaker fiction illustrations for an exhibit on the popular depiction of Quakers.
Of course, my gathered gemstones of experience at Magill were not all from work. During the coffee breaks and the all staff meeting I attended, “all staff” at Haverford consisting of only a little over 20 people, I was able to witness the collaborative and truly congenial atmosphere of a library workforce. I was amazed by and very grateful for the welcome I received by everyone, as well as for the stories I’ve heard from people in various stages of the library career – a current student, a recent graduate, and librarians who are well into their careers and love what they do, a number of whom began their life as college graduates with jobs completely unrelated to librarianship. I absolutely enjoyed my time at Haverford, and I am looking forward to my next visit to Magill’s Special Collections.