Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Notes from my last day as a PACSCL surveyor

Christine's right -- it is really hard to believe this project is wrapping up. I'm going to miss the surveying, which was completed a month ago, but I'll also miss some other things: doing the crossword puzzle at lunch every day with John, habitually speaking in first person plural, having keys to the stacks at HSP, to name just the ones on my mind at the moment.

I feel truly fortunate to have been involved with the survey. Over the last 28 months, I've had the opportunity to work at some of the area's most prestigious and interesting institutions (if I listed them all out on my resume, I'd look very accomplished, but also very flighty -- can't this girl hold onto a job?). A quick search of the database shows that 2100 collections (19,417 linear feet) have been surveyed since the beginning of August 2006, when John and I hired on. I personally had my hands in 1763 of these collections. A few of them were snoozers, but for the most part, I wanted to spend longer looking at the papers, letters, diaries, and photographs than I had time for. At nearly every institution, I found at least one collection that made me want to volunteer (if only there were more Saturday hours...). And several that made me want go back and pick a new topic for my senior college thesis.

After working with staff members of 22 institutions, what really strikes me most (and gives me the greatest feeling of optimism about my future career in archives) is how happy people seem with their jobs. In addition to being generally smart and helpful people, the archivists and librarians I've met during this project all really seem to like their work and to be engaged with the materials in their collections.

The conference (Something New for Something Old) that PACSCL hosted earlier this month was a good opportunity to touch base with many of the people we've worked with over the course of the project (though like any big gathering, I didn't get to talk to as many people as I intended to). The conference also gave me a chance to hear more about the kinds of issues that archivists are facing in managing their collections and making them visible and available to researchers. For anyone who didn't make it to the conference, I'd encourage you to check out the website for information on the impressive array of speakers -- and check back soon for presentations and other information that will be added to the site.

All of this -- the great people I've met, the cool collections to be found on the shelves, and the energy and ingenuity with which people are addressing challenges in the profession make me feel like I've really found the right field. Now there's just the little matter of getting my degree...