By. Emily Valentine
Queens College, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies
Certificate in Archives and Preservation of Cultural Materials
At the start of my internship at the Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections, I had little hands-on experience. All of the classes that I have personally experienced during my time as a Library Science student have been theory. I can proudly say that I have a better understanding of archives because of the great experience I have had interning at the Brooklyn College Archives.
I started volunteering my time during the summer of 2014. Marianne LaBatto was my supervisor. She was great and extremely helpful. During the summer, Hilary Clifford (another intern) and I started to assist Steven Calco with a preliminary survey of the newly acquired Brooklyn YWCA Collection. The number of boxes was overwhelming, especially because I didn’t have prior archival experience. The room that the boxes were stored in was comically small. We spent days rehousing materials into archival boxes, and of course trying to avoid hitting our heads on low hanging air ducts.
When my internship officially started in the fall of 2014, Marianne LaBatto created an action plan for me, which stated what I would be doing during my time as an intern, as well as end goals that I was expected to meet. The action plan stated that I would be responsible for processing the sub-group Financial Records from the Brooklyn YWCA Collection. Once I started on this, Marianne realized that there were more boxes than anticipated (74 boxes plus multiple ledgers to be exact), so she made some modifications to the action plan. Marianne decided that I would look through the entire sub-group and decide how to organize it. She then wanted me to process just one series in the sub-group Financial Records.
After sorting through all of the boxes and creating some kind of order, I decided to process the Payroll series. Some of my tasks included rehousing documents and placing them into acid-free enclosures, identifying items that have been contaminated with mold, and writing a series statement and a container list for the Payroll series. I really enjoyed getting the hands-on experience. I was finally able to connect what I learned in my classes to real-life archival situations.
The following is how I decided to organize the Financial Records Sub-Group:
Sub-Group VI: Financial Records
Series I: Payroll
Series II: Financial Records/Ledgers
Series III: Fundraising Records
Difficulties. I didn’t come across many difficulties. I initially felt overwhelmed by the amount of boxes. I also felt a little insecure about not having prior archival experience. Once I got past my insecurities and started to get hands-on, I did just fine. Another difficulty I came across was some water damaged items in the Financial Records Series. I put five boxes containing water damaged materials aside and consulted Marianne about them. She suggested I contact Slava Polishchuk, Conservator/Preservation Officer at Brooklyn College, to see what he thought of them. I showed them to him and he found dry mold on some of the documents. He didn’t think they needed to be sent out to get cleaned because they weren’t in horrible condition. He took the materials one box at a time to clean and conserve them.
What I liked most about interning at the Brooklyn College Archives was that everyone was committed to helping me learn. Marianne and Steven were so helpful and were always willing to answer questions. I never felt afraid or intimidated. I also loved that I was able to attend meetings with the various different library units. I attended a meeting with Professor Bowdoin, Head of Serials. She discussed subjects such as Technical Services, Serials, Cataloging, and etc. I also joined Chief Librarian Stephanie Walker at a meeting discussing the administration and management of an academic library. I was able to learn about all of the different aspects in an academic library, not just the archives, which I thought was extremely helpful.
Overall, my experience at the Brooklyn College Archives is something I will always be thankful for. Every one was so comforting and friendly. It truly felt like one giant family. Marianne, Steven, Slava, Pam, Izabella, Theresa, and Ted welcomed Hilary and I with opened arms and truly made our first archival experience special. I enjoyed every minute of interning there and I will take everything I learned with me on my next journey.