This post is part of our Student Experience Series, which features current and former archives students as they reflect on graduate school, internships, and early career issues. If you would like to contribute a post for this series, please email me.
Jennifer Devine graduated from the University of South Carolina with an MLIS specializing in Archives and Preservation. She currently works as an Assistant Archivist in Washington D.C. and is a Head Editor at I Need A Library Job.
1. What year will you graduate?
I graduated in August of 2013
2. How did you end up in this field?
I was inspired by a research project that I did as Undergraduate History major and found out more about the profession through my University, which conveniently has an MLIS program.
3. What do you wish you had known before you started graduate school?
I wish I had known to attend professional conferences and about the options that are available to finance going to the conferences.
4. Did you have any experience in libraries or archives before you started graduate school?
Yes, I started out working as a receptionist at the University Museum and I met a history professor while working there who was going to be teaching a course in documentary history. I signed up to take his course the following semester and worked closely with the university archivist. There were no job openings for undergraduates at the university archives. I then had a course where we had to interview someone in our prospective career field. I chose to interview the archivist for the state of South Carolina and he introduced me to the preservation manager. I was set up with a volunteer internship to help me determine if getting a master’s degree and working in the archive field was what I really wanted to do.
5. Have you (or will you) completed any internships or practicums as part of your studies?
Yes, I interned at my University’s Department of Digital Collections as well as being a Graduate Assistant at the Universities Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. I also volunteered at the University’s Department of Moving Image Research Collections.
6. What classes have been most valuable to you so far?
The classes that have been the most valuable in knowledge and application to my experiences have been Preservation Planning & Administration, Introduction to Archival & Records Studies, Special Libraries, Academic Libraries and the History of Information Organization & Technology.
7. What does your program do best?
The best part of my program is that there are a variety of available classes that are offered and you can specialize your degree. The classes are flexible and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the archival and library communities.
8. What could your program do better?
I feel that my University could offer classes more often. I found that I was unable to take some of the classes I wanted to because they did not offer them every semester or I had other classes that conflicted with the courses that I needed to be taking for my degree specialization. One semester, I was taking a required course and I had one more course to take for the semester but there weren’t any courses in my specialization or of much interest to me. I ended up having to take a course that wasn’t as valuable to my field as it was to someone more interested in the IT part of the field.
9. How do you stay informed about trends in the profession?
I stay informed through professional organizations, listserves, Twitter, LinkedIn, conferences, workshops, and webinars that I have learned about through these sources. I am active on social media and I join conversations that other archivists and Information professionals are having. While in grad school I also participated in my student chapter of ALA. Unfortunately, the SAA student chapter had shut down the year before I started, and we were unable to start it back up due to lack of a faculty sponsor.
10. What would you tell a prospective student who is thinking about becoming an archivist?
Volunteer, join professional organizations, attend conferences and get involved in the archival conversation through social media!
For more posts in this series, check back here.