For thirty years the Library of Congress has offered undergraduate and graduate students from across the country the opportunity to work on projects focused on expanding access to and use of the Library’s collections. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Junior Fellows program continued to be entirely virtual in 2021. The Digital Content Management Section was thrilled to have Emmeline Kaser, a graduate student from the University of Michigan’s School of Information, and Alex Reese, a graduate student from the University of Texas at Austin’s iSchool, working on a digital content management project focused on improving access to the Library’s rights restricted collections. In this interview, Emmeline shares about her work and experience as a Junior Fellow with Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz, Assistant Head of the Digital Content Management Section.
Andrew: Howdy, Emmeline! It’s great to have this conversation with you. Could you share out a bit about the project you have been working on?
Emmeline: This summer I’ve been working with the Digital Content Management (DCM) Section supporting one of their collaborative projects with the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access (ABA) Directorate. This project aims to expand and improve access to the Library’s e-serial collections using web archiving. Working alongside Alex Reese, another Junior Fellow with DCM who is contributing to this project, I reviewed titles from the Directory of Open Access Journals to identify which titles had been previously acquired by the Library. I then gathered the relevant information to put those titles into the web archiving workflow, and narrowed down that list to a set number of selected titles that are geographically diverse and represent a wide range of subjects. I also focused specifically on e-serials from smaller publishers that are less likely to be eligible to submit titles to the Library through the copyright demand process.
Andrew: What are some of the main things you have learned from participating in the Junior Fellows program and as part of the Digital Content Management Section?
Emmeline: The Junior Fellowship has been such an amazing learning experience that it’s hard to narrow it down! At the institutional level, it’s been really interesting to learn about the structure of the Library and how the different sections interact and collaborate with each other across such a large organization. DCM is also a particularly collaborative section; it deals with digital content from across the Library’s general collections, so DCM staff are always working with people from across the Library and dealing with a wide range of digital materials. It’s been eye-opening to see how many people and how much expertise is involved in making the Library’s digital collections accessible and useable. As a recent library student, it has been fascinating to see how the institution is handling an ever-increasing volume of digital content, which brings with it a host of challenges to preservation and access. DCM and the larger Digital Collections Management and Services Division (DCMS) have created robust online resources, like the Digital Collections Management Compendium, that other institutions refer to when faced with these challenges. Having used these resources in my graduate coursework, it’s been really interesting to see how this content is created and managed.
Andrew: 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 or Library of Congress that you found unexpected?
Emmeline: The scale of the Library is still a little hard to wrap my head around, not only in the number of staff, but also in the sheer volume of collections material. When I was cross-referencing journal titles with the Library’s records for this project, I was amazed by how many of those titles were already in the collection — anyone searching for serials in the Library’s catalog has decades of scholarly publishing from across the globe right at their fingertips. I’m excited to have been involved in a project that will make those materials even more accessible to users. And speaking of involvement, I expected to feel a bit siloed or out of the loop doing a remote fellowship, but that hasn’t been the case. The DCM team has made such a consistent effort to keep the fellows engaged with the team’s work and oriented within the Library, and I’m so grateful for their patience and willingness to explain the complex work they do. The Internships & Fellowship Programs (IFP) team also provided a robust programming schedule that allowed fellows to engage with presenters from different Library divisions and meet interns working in other areas. I’m also very grateful to my project mentor, Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz, who has been such a helpful resource during my project work. He’s always suggesting new ways to engage with the Library’s resources and has gone out of his way to arrange meetings for us with other Library staff. Those meetings have been a highlight of this fellowship experience — I’ve met people with such interesting and diverse backgrounds, all of whom seem really passionate about the work they do for the Library and who have been extremely generous with their time and expertise. All of this has made me feel involved at the Library better than I ever would have anticipated from a remote setup.
Andrew: What of your graduate coursework has been the most directly useful for your work on the team?
Emmeline: My coursework in information organization, digital curation, and web archiving was particularly useful for this fellowship. Having an understanding of batch metadata processing and some of the tools used for that work gave me valuable context for the way DCM handles metadata for large volumes of general collections material. This project also called on my ability to design workflows, generate consistent metadata, and organize that information, which are skills I’ve gained from a background in both librarianship and digital curation coursework. I was also very happy to have taken a class in web archiving and a class in intellectual property and information law — familiarity with those concepts and their terminology was really helpful for understanding how the information I was organizing would be used in the web archiving workflow.
Andrew: You have just finished your graduate program. 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?
Emmeline: I graduated this spring from the University of Michigan with a Master of Science in Information, where I studied archives and librarianship and completed my capstone project in digital preservation planning. I knew when I applied for the Junior Fellowship with DCM that I was interested in working with digital collections material, and I wanted to contribute to this project in particular because it would improve access to rights-restricted content. My time with DCM has definitely reaffirmed my interest in working with digital content and further piqued my interest in web archiving — this fellowship has given me a sense of the kinds of challenges to access that these materials pose, and I think that problem-solving is really interesting. DCM’s role creating workflows and guidance for the management of digital content also appeals to me because it tackles larger questions about how to manage a growing universe of digital resources. I hope to push my career in a direction that allows me to work with publicly-available digital collections material and tackle the emerging challenges of digital preservation work. Most importantly, I’d like my work to actively improve the discoverability and accessibility of digital resources or archives.