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A Week in the Life of An Archivist

A Week in the Life of An Archivist


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Astute readers may have noticed a new name join Jan (the College Archivist and Records Management Coordinator) and Sharon (the Special Collections Outreach Librarian) here on Around the D – mine, as a matter of fact! I joined the staff of E.H. Little Library as the Associate Archivist back in October, and inspired by my old graduate school colleague Stephanie Bennett‘s recent post on what archival processing is all about, I decided to write about what I do on a day-to-day basis. So, notes and highlights on what each day of the first week of classes for the Spring 2014 semester held for the Associate Archivist of Davidson College:

MONDAY (January 13)

Generally, the first thing I do when I get into the office each morning is make a cup of tea and catch up with my inbox. On Monday mornings, there’s usually several dozen unread emails – in part because I subscribe to an assortment of professional listservs.

Post-email-checking, I updated the Archives & Special Collections Twitter, and then went to a Discovery Systems departmental meeting on student workers (possible projects, how many summer students, etc.). I spent the rest of the morning preparing for a class visit to the archives later in the day (including selecting documents and setting up their display with Jan), and working on the Around the D entry to post on Wednesday morning. Sharon and I nailed down a few details related the illumination live demonstration event (set for January 28th, from 11 AM to 12 PM).

After taking a late lunch, I drafted a short news blurb related to the blog topic for the library’s homepage and updated the Archives & Special Collections Facebook. Then Jan and I hosted the first archives class visit of the semester, Dr. Anelise Shrout‘s HIS 458: American Environments to 1893.

HIS 458 students checking out campus maps in the rare book room

HIS 458 students checking out campus maps.

After the class ended, Jan, Dr. Shrout, and I discussed ideas for digital exhibits, future projects, and the next archives class visit, then cleaned up and re-filed material from the class. Once back in my office, I Tweeted again, read emails, and pondered a workshop application before heading out for the day.

TUESDAY (January 14)

I started off my day with a walk to the campus coffeehouse, followed by email (both the checking of and the sending of), and reviewing rights usage statements for our institutional repository in preparation for a meeting. I dropped into Jan’s adjacent office (as is my wont) to chat about basketball schedules and how to best tie archival sports material with current events, in order to market the archives to the college community.

Jan and I then headed across the hall to our weekly Discovery Systems departmental meeting. This week’s topic: rights statements. After the shorter-than-expected meeting, I went back to work on the blog entry (editing and resizing images, background research, and transcribing notes from the interview that the blog is based on), followed by the second coffee run of the day.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I cover the Archives & Special Collections desk/ office during lunch, which means that I’m the first line of contact for any users. On this particular Tuesday, there were no visitors to the archives while I was there, so I spent most of that time working on an email reference question.

After lunch, I finished writing the blog post, delivered a draft to the subject of the blog for any factual corrections, and then scheduled the post to be published overnight. I spent the last hour of the day working on a bibliography for potential future research project.

WEDNESDAY (January 15)

This morning followed a similar pattern as Monday and Tuesday – caffeine, emails, listserv reading, preparation for a meeting followed by that meeting. In this case, the meeting was with the Library Director to discuss that potential future research project. I then hightailed it back upstairs to my office, to discuss the project with Jan (and also rehash our Monday conversation by brainstorming possible Southern Conference-related future blog posts, as Davidson is moving to the Atlantic 10 Conference in Fall 2014), and to do a bit of research for several now-ongoing projects.

After lunch, I covered the Archives & Special Collections desk, answered a reference question, and did more research. I finished off the day by beginning to process a small collection of letters from two brothers who briefly attended Davidson in the 1870s.

The "processing corner" of my office. There are documents in laminated folder sleves with a note pad and pen next to them

The “processing corner” of my office.

THURSDAY (January 16)

I began the day by posting an announcement on the internal campus news site (first time ever!), and with my standard email and listserv checking. Since I didn’t have any meetings scheduled until the afternoon, I spent most of the morning alternating between research proposal preparation (including bibliography formatting and some metadata cleanup in Zotero), catching up on professional news, and preparing for that afternoon’s meeting.

After an early lunch, I covered the Archives & Special Collections desk and made a few minor updates to the Archives & Special Collections landing page. I sent a bunch of emails, and then scheduled a phone meeting with a fellow Simmons GSLIS alum. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to a meeting with the Assistant Director for Discovery Systems, the College Archivist, and the Special Collections Outreach Librarian to discuss goals, followed by some more project research and quick email check before heading out the door at around 5:15 PM.

FRIDAY (January 17)

The morning was occupied by checking email, Twitter, and listservs, followed by an attempt to clean off my desk and a solid hour or so of research project reading. I then decided to (finally) install the driver for my desk scanner (a HP Scanjet 8200), scan the caption for a photo from next month’s Smithsonian Magazine, and then Tweet about it.

Henry Mouzon's "An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina..." (1775), as featured in February 2014's issue of Smithsonian Magazine ("Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives," naturally!)

Henry Mouzon’s “An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina…” (1775), as featured in February 2014’s issue of Smithsonian Magazine (“Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives,” naturally!)

After lunch, I answered a reference question and sent several emails, before diving back into processing the student letter collection I began to work with on Wednesday.

So, that’s it: a week in the life of this archivist! As you can see from this sample, the majority of my time isn’t taken up with what many consider the heart of the archival profession – processing collections. Rather, I spend quite a bit of time on outreach (both on social media and face-to-face on campus), research, and reference. Some of these foci change from day to day or week to week, and I expect that my processing time will increase (particularly during times when much of the community is off the campus). For now though, if you’d like to know what this archivist is up to, poke your head into my office on the second floor of E.H. Little Library!

Caitlin Christian-Lamb next to a sign that says her name with an arrow pointing to her

Follow this sign to my office!

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