Library of Congress Internship Offers Great Experience

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to intern at the Preservation Reformatting Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., taught Rachel McPherson a lot about digital technologies that she might not have learned elsewhere.

McPherson served as a digital technology intern for about two months, from August through September 2014, while pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) degree in Kent State's School of Library and Information Science.

Her assignments varied from taking notes at meetings discussing specifications for digitization vendors to follow, to experimenting and writing step-by-step guides on how to digitize microfilm and how to rip information off optical discs using the Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED), to teaching others how to be critical readers.

“I got to see ‘where the magic happens’ in places I’ve only heard about, like the World Digital Library and the Manuscript Division,” McPherson said. “I got to chat with Erin Hawkins from the World Digital Library like she was an old friend, and Meg McAleer, in the Manuscript Division, gave me the grand tour of the treasures, like Teddy Roosevelt’s diaries and Alexander Graham Bell’s first drawing of a telephone.”

Before her internship, McPherson already had experience in a special library and academic library and archives in her part-time positions with both the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Ingalls Library and Case Western Reserve University's Kelvin Smith Library.

McPherson said she applied for the internship with the Library of Congress because “as both places of work are getting into or expanding on digital technologies to assist with research and scholarship at libraries, I wanted an internship that would introduce me to things that would make me an asset to whatever library I work at in the future. Having those kinds of skills would make me more marketable, and having been exposed to the Library of Congress would be an asset within itself.”

As only the second person ever to hold this internship, McPherson was also tasked with creating a curriculum for future interns so they can have a more focused experience. Although McPherson said she had hoped to gain more hands-on experience with the internship, she was able to learn a lot of different aspects of the digitization process.

“I love working with materials from Special Collections and Archives and making those things accessible and researchable in ways we had never thought possible,” McPherson said. “With my background in conservation and the skills I’m learning in my digital preservation courses, I’m trying to be as well-rounded as possible.”

McPherson holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and has a post-baccalaureate certificate in art conservation from Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy. She received her M.L.I.S. from Kent State University in December 2014, with a specialization in archival and special collections librarianship and digital preservation.

Recently, McPherson accepted a full-time position as the processing and digitization technician at the Cleveland Museum of Art.