In a twist on the Year in the Life series, this year we’re including a Mosaic Fellow who is also a second year archival student. We recently recapped the SAA session that spotlighted the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program, which encourages recruitment of archivists of color. JoyEllen Freeman has graciously agreed to write a six-part series for us this year on her experience.
Name: JoyEllen Freeman
Position: 2015 – 2017 ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellow
Host Institution: Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center
Education: University of Georgia (BA – English, Minor – Spanish); Clayton State University (MAS – Master of Archival Studies [anticipated May 2016])
Hi there! My name is JoyEllen Freeman, and I hail from Atlanta, Georgia. I am a graduate student at Clayton State University pursuing a Master of Archival Studies degree. I am also a 2015 – 2017 Association of Research Libraries/Society of American Archivists Mosaic Fellow. As a part of the Mosaic Fellowship, I work as an intern in the Archives Research Center at the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center. On the side, I volunteer at the Flat Rock Archives, a small community archives in Lithonia, GA. Between internships, graduate school, personal blogging, staying active in professional organizations, and preparing for my future career, my life as a Mosaic Fellow is somewhat of a balancing act. I am very excited to blog for SNAP over this next year as I share my path toward becoming an archives professional. My hope is that these posts will be a source of encouragement as well as a sounding board for those of you who, like myself, are attempting to establish a place within the archival community.
Whenever I meet people in our profession, I always like to ask them how they got there. I’ll pay homage to this habit of mine by providing my own archival autobiography. In a nutshell, my love for and involvement in research introduced me to archives. During my undergraduate years at the University of Georgia, I served as an undergraduate researcher, writer, and editor for various digital humanities initiatives including the Civil Rights Digital Library, the Digital Library of Georgia, and the Freedom on Film: Civil Rights in Georgia website. Through these experiences, I conducted historical and literary research with nineteenth- and twentieth-century archives documenting African American history. In addition, I helped make these primary sources available to K-12 educators and the general public through technology. Though my original career goal was to become an English professor, it did not take me long to realize that connecting others with records from the past was both my passion and my purpose in life.
So what is this “Mosaic Program” I keep talking about, and where does it fit into my story? Well, let’s fast forward a few years. It’s 2014, and I am a second-year graduate student at Clayton State University studying to become an archivist. Shortly before Christmas, I found out about the Mosaic Program while conversing with my wonderful mentor/friend Holly Smith, the archivist at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. The ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellowship is a special program funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The goal of the Mosaic Program is to promote diversity within the library and archival professions. As a part of the program, Mosaic Fellows receive financial support, practical experience through internships at host institutions, leadership development, and mentoring. Upon reading about the program, I almost felt like it was too good to be true. Though I desperately wanted to be a part of it, it was so easy to convince myself that anything, something, ONE THING was going to go wrong, so why even apply? After all, that year I’d been turned down for job after job. Though I was confident in my passion and calling to the archival field, I was disillusioned about actually getting an opportunity to experience it. Part of me felt as though I’d be forever stuck in my current situation—working 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. five days a week as a preschool teacher to keep up with my graduate school tuition; burning rubber after a full day at the preschool trying to make it to my 6:30 p.m. graduate school classes on time; cramming virtually all of my homework into Saturday and Sunday, leaving little time to spend with family and friends; and remaining in a constant state of exhaustion all the while.
But something in me said, “apply.”
As you can see, the rest is history. God answered my prayers, and today, I find myself interning at one of the most incredible academic libraries in Atlanta, staring down graduation next year, volunteering my time to support various archival initiatives around the state, and most importantly, spending lots of time thinking about where I belong in this dynamic profession we all know and love.
This year, you’ll see me toggle with many things as I attempt to prepare myself for the future. My internship ends in May, and I graduate from school in May, so I am anticipating some major life changes about seven months from now. But until then, I am along for the ride, not knowing what my next step will be. Perhaps it will be landing a full-time job? Perhaps it will be achieving my long-time dream of pursuing a PhD? I simply have no idea. Instead of letting this uncertainly pull me into whirlwind of anxiety and stress, I am committed to enjoying this time in my life where the possibilities are endless. I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me.