It is nearing the end of the semester and so now I am in the process of completing the evaluations for the internship program and finishing up course work for the semester. What I want to report is that I was very pleased that the ILS department was thorough in its evaluations we filled out…I think these are important for helping make the program better. I would definitely like advise any incoming students to take these evaluations seriously. Overall, I have had a wonderful experience with my internship, it has definitely reinforced and invigorated my desire to become a Slavic librarian. Additionally, I do feel more prepared to enter the field and begin a career. Throughout this semester I have found that I still have much to learn, there are many resources I learned about that I did not know about before, but I feel in a much better position going into the job market. What I have learned throughout this semester I will definitely utilize as I search for jobs. The main challenge, of course, was the Covid situation, but I was able to work through this. My final thought about the internship experience would be always be adaptable and make it your own, that is the best way to get the most out of it!
This week I started designing the poster that will be on the 5th floor of the Wells Library as soon as the library is open again. I initially wanted to showcase the literature of the Strugatsky brothers, who are know for science fiction. After consulting with my advisor, we came up with the idea of showcases instances of pandemic or disease in Russian literature, as this would be very relevant. I began to search for this and did not come up with many fruitful results. Given this I turned to showcasing Russian authors who were also doctors, such as Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Bulgakov; both very famous Russian authors who were also well respected doctors. The influence of their medical background shines through in their work and so I wanted to bring this to light in the poster. The final iteration will not only feature these two authors, but two contemporary author-doctors as well. Going through this process, I would advise any interns to be open to allowing the project to change, sometimes drastically. I also want to forward another bit of advice my advisor gave me- follow your interests and strengths, this will make the project more interesting and enjoyable. I wholly agree with this, an enjoyable project that showcases the students interests and talents will be much higher quality!
As part of my internship I have starting learning more about the nuances of publishing in Russia and Eastern Europe, which has led me to the publication Knizhnyi Rynok (Book Market). This is yearly report that describes the state of Russian publishing. Overall I have noticed some interesting trends that are worth mentioning. For one, over the last 10 years there has been a steady increase in children’s literature and artistic books. It seems that serials comprise a large proportion of publishing that takes place in Russia. However, this is balanced by a lack of regulation, so statistical data at times can be skewed. This publication also suggested that there has been conversations about consolidating the publishing sphere, so that the majority of publishing is answerable to one entity and accountability can be enforced. This publication is in Russian, so not only is the topic very relevant for learning about Slavic librarianship, but this offers me a chance to continue to use my language skills. On a day to day basis I was working with book and serials in Russian and other Slavic languages, but because of the virus I have not had the chance to do so recently, so it is refreshing to continue to work with material in the target materials.
Given the COVID-19 situation, my internship has transitioned to me working remotely from home. This has not proven to be a problem as there are many things I can still do from home and my advisor and I have decided to hold weekly meetings via Zoom. I have been attempting to remotely access the desktop I was using in order to access some of the files I was working with, but this has proved to be difficult. I am utilizing IU’s tech services to help me figure that out. What I can say is that this experience has really expanded my knowledge of computers. I have experience with distance learning programs, so working on Zoom has not been a problem, but things such as trying to obtain remote access to things has been new. This has also given me inspiration to create a poster, or maybe at this point online content that will be on the website, taking epidemics, disease, and pandemics in Russian Science Fiction as my topic. Surprisingly, I have been having difficulty finding much, but I will simply need to delve more deeply into this. But in general, working remotely, though not ideal, has not held me back from making the most of my internship.
Today I learned about something interesting that can cause confusion when checking if a book is a duplicate or not. What can happen is that in some countries publishers will print out an initial run of books, and then go back and print another, potentially with changes. This can make it a new edition as opposed to a duplicate. This was something I ran into while processing the gift books. Also worth mentioning as an aside, given the emphasis placed on technology in the modern world, today for the first time utilized the overhead scanner. Besides this, I am excited to start figuring out how I want to design the poster on the 5th floor. Right now my plan for the topic is science-fiction literature-this is inspired by the topic of the conference I was going to present at before it was cancelled. Overall the internship is going very well and my advisor has been very supportive of my growth in the field beyond the internship and IU, he has taken a interest in both my endeavor to participate in the ASEEES Midwest Regional Conference, which was supposed to be held in Columbus this year, a summer workshop program at UIUC, and my upcoming attempt to get an article published in a scholarly journal. This has been such an amazing experience.
Today I began to more closely analyze the gift books we received, and I was able to look at them from angles I had not considered before, but which, in retrospect, are very obvious. For example, I looked at place and years of publication. Another aspect I took into consideration was the scholarly value of the items. It seemed to me almost pretentious to place a, for lack of a better term, value judgement on the works, but it was necessary. Firstly, the Wells is a research library, so it is no surprise that we would place a greater emphasis on works that would be of value to conducting research. Secondly, we receive such a high volume of material at the library from many different sources that, on a pragmatic level, selectivity is necessary. This exercise also pushed me to consider something very simple, but that is easily taken for granted after high school: the format and genre of the books. It is of course common sense that this matters, but I realized that this is something that in my graduate studies I do not count as important, or of secondary importance. I have gained a new appreciation for the value of these aspects of books as something potentially very significant for researchers.
This week I began working with gift books we received from an alum, and it was very illuminating. It was interesting to see how all of the books were centered around a theme, in this case Ukraine under the Soviet Union, and so it felt like even though I have never met the donor I knew something about them. The range of items was also quite interesting; there were items ranging from small obscure publications with next to no information about them to monographs from very renowned publishers that had robust records. There were not only Russian language items, but materials written in Ukrainian, Polish, and a few in English. It was also interesting to see that a majority of the items were duplicates of issues that the library already owns; my supervisor explained to me that these will be used for domestic exchanges later on. I have gained a new appreciation for gift items because it is a good way to acquire (possibly rare or difficult to find) books that the institution would otherwise have not considered but which could be useful to someone. On the other hand, it does create a lot of duplicate holdings, which take up the limited space of the library. This has taught me that there is a careful balance that needs to be struck between creating a robust, thorough, and expansive collection, and the need to be pragmatically selective.
This week I learned about another important aspect of librarianship that I used to associate only with museums-exhibits. Although I am not directly involved in this, my office is currently putting together and exhibit, which will feature a prominent Ukrainian author. I always knew that libraries created displays for books, but I did not know that exhibits were a part of librarianship. This is exciting for me because before I decided to pursue a career in library science I wanted to become a museum curator. This made me reflect on the many ways that library and museum work intersect and overlap. I chose to go into library science because I could more easily focus on Slavic and eastern European materials, so I would advise any student interested in the region who is considering museum work or anthropology to also consider library science. As an undergraduate one of my professors told me that if I like that kind of work, working in a library is almost identical to working in a museum, but there is a greater opportunity to work with Slavic material, and especially through this internship I found that to absolutely be the case. I do not know if this is the same for other regions of the world, but it certainly is for eastern Europe.
Today I want to offer a bit of advice for anyone in an internship: be a self motivator and be able to work individually as well as supervised or in a group. Today was a unique day because about half way through my shift my supervisor had to leave to give a lecture, and so I was left alone for a bit. This, however, was no problem since I could just keep going on my work. Currently I am working on data analysis regarding the geographical distribution of the places of publications represented in the offering of one of our vendors. I was not surprised that Moscow was overwhelmingly represented, but I was surprised to find a town in Italy that publishes a Slavic work. This is something I would have never anticipated.
To return to my supervisors lecture, I have found that this is another very important aspect of Slavic librarianship: that we have a specific knowledge set that can be utilized and shared with others. This translate to frequent talks, lectures, and classes about our unique area of expertise. I admittedly do not have the personality for being a professor, but I think this kind of teaching is something I could really sink my teeth into as I progress in my career.
A very important thing to be aware of, I learned, is to be prepared for unexpected questions. I was working and a student approached me with a question about reserving a study space. I did not have the answer so I directed him to the reference desk on the first floor of the library. My supervisor then showed me how to record this service interaction in qualtrics; he explained that is important to record any questions we receive so that the library can keep track of these. In the long run I know that this will help the library improve the patrons’ experience at the Wells Library. This interaction taught me that, on the one hand, there will be questions I cannot answer so always be prepared to do the best I can and refer the student to where they can get the information they need if I cannot, and on the other hand, that even though I work in an office and not directly in contact with patrons regularly, service to the patrons is still part of my duties and important in every part of the library. Luckily I am very experienced with customer service, having worked retail; I feel that anyone with a background in any service industry will have a distinct advantage in the library field.