Every year the Library of Congress brings on a cohort of junior fellows to help expand access and use of collections. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic this program shifted to be entirely virtual in 2020. We are thrilled to have Randi Proescholdt, a graduate student from the University of Illinois’ School of Information Science, working on a series of digital content management projects. In this interview we learn a bit about Randi’s work and experience as a junior fellow.
Trevor: Hi Randi, it’s great to have you on the team! Could you share out a bit about some of the projects you have been working on?
Randi: I have been working on several different projects, many of which have been centered on open access content. For example, some of my work has involved identifying open access e-books and e-journals in the Library of Congress digital collections as well as investigating creative commons licenses for e-books online. Other projects have involved conducting quality control reviews for metadata and online content presentation. This has included editing metadata spreadsheets for technical reports from the Office of Scientific Research and Development that will be made accessible onsite, noting content and presentation issues in the open access e-book collection on loc.gov, and reviewing digitized foreign newspapers to check whether they linked to the LCCNs for the print versions of the newspapers instead of the microfilm versions.
Trevor: What are some of the main things you have learned from participating in this program and as part of this team? Along with that, are there any members of the digital content management team in particular that you’ve learned a lot from working with?
Randi: Throughout my projects, I have learned a lot about some challenges involved with open access content, such as ambiguous and inconsistent information about rights and usage. I have also learned about various challenges, strategies, and workflows in digital content management. My project mentor, Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz, has been especially helpful in answering questions about my projects, DCM, and the Library in general, as well connecting me with other staff in DCM and beyond to learn about some of the different work that people do at the Library. Kristy Darby has also been very helpful, including discussing metadata with me and demonstrating MarcEdit. Lauren Seroka and Camille Salas have also answered a lot of questions and helped provide projects that have been great learning experiences.
Trevor: Could you tell us a bit about how the work you have been doing connects with your career goals? Along with that, has this experience helped you further develop or refine your career goals?
Randi: I am interested in working in technical services, as I enjoy the behind-the-scenes work that goes into bringing resources to users. This experience has allowed me to learn more about some of the work, such as identifying licenses and editing metadata, involved with processing and providing access to materials. It has also given me insight into the organizational aspects of library work, including how staff members communicate and collaborate to solve problems and how documentation helps to articulate shared goals and create standards for workflows. The internship has encouraged me to keep an open mind with my career goals, as there is often overlap between different types of work, and there are many career paths that would allow me to help provide access to library resources.
Trevor: Now that you have been working with the team over the course of the summer, are there things about working as part of the digital content management section that you found unexpected?
Randi: It was a little unexpected how much of DCM’s work is based in collaboration and experimentation. Because it is a relatively new section, they are doing a lot of work that hasn’t been done before and figuring out the best workflows and strategies to bring content to users. Based on my conversations with members of the team, solving new problems can be one of the most challenging parts of their work, but they enjoy collaborating to face these challenges.
Trevor: What of your graduate coursework has been the most directly useful for your work on the team?
Randi: My courses in metadata and cataloging have been relevant in understanding the types of information recorded in MARC records and how the various MARC fields correspond to the information displayed on loc.gov. I also took a course on Python last semester, and after learning about some of the work DCM does, I have a better idea of some of the practical applications of Python within libraries, such as editing MARC records. In addition, some of my courses, such as Technical Services Functions, have discussed the challenges of providing access to digital content such as e-journals that can be very pricey. This has helped me appreciate the effort to identify open access materials.
Trevor: You are halfway through your graduate program at this point, based on your experience as a fellow are there any things you are going to focus on getting out of the remainder of your program? That is, has this experience shaped your ideas about work to do in the rest of your program?
Randi: In terms of coursework, there are many classes I would like to take—too many to fit into one semester! I am planning to take E-Resources Management and Collection Development, which will allow me to further explore the processes and challenges of selecting and providing access to digital materials. In addition, in my work as a Research Assistant in informatics research, I hope to continue to build my data science skills and proficiency with tools such as Python, so that I will be better prepared to use these skills to transform metadata or accomplish other tasks in the future.