A Happy Ending: Last days at Burke

For the last couple of months at the end of every week, I greet the guard, shove my belongings in a locker and head to the archives. Although there are some days that I am exhausted, I enjoy coming to work at the Burke Archives. The fact that every day at the Burke is interesting sounds like a cliché, but it is indeed true. I often find cool things in the archives and daydream about interesting research projects that would reveal the awesomeness of Burke's collections to the world. There are times that I have felt like Indiana Jones like the time I had a chance to see old Bibles with unique calligraphy and a document from the Spanish inquisition. I also pretend to be Sherlock Holmes when I conduct research and put together fragments of someone's life to create a finding aid. At this point my friends are tired of hearing my stories about cool maps, interesting personalities and speeches I come across while working with archival collections. It is quite obvious to them that I enjoy my time here.

This last week at the Burke Library Archives, I reflect back on what I have learned. When I started I did not know anything about ecumenism and I did not imagine that a seminary would have such a diversity of records. I knew little about how academic libraries functioned and had limited practical experience working with archival collections. I leave here with practical experience and an understanding of archival administration.

For most people the idea of observing pest control measures and participating in open access week does not sound relevant to the field but the exposure to these tasks was a valuable opportunity to see how an archive functions within the larger scope of a university and how maintenance of the space in which they are housed affects the collections. My supervisor, Brigette always made sure I understood how every task fitted into the larger goals of the institution and related what I learned to library administration.  These were real issues that library and archive professionals had to face and it was important for me to learn about them.

My experience working here put into perspective the notion of serving users and their information needs. I had a chance to participate in a way finding study and learn how libraries communicate with their patrons. While writing finding aids, I learned about the library’s resources and that helped me create a user friendly document that could serve as a resource for further research. I also received training on EAD, a coding standard that expands the possibilities of access and assists with the preservation of archival information. Other great things I learned was how new acquisitions are transferred and the process it involves, including packaging and delivery. I also attended a workshop on Viewshare, a software used to visualize data which gave me the opportunity to see how visual tools can enhance collections. I even learned smart tips for installing library exhibitions. At Burke I have had the opportunity to wear many hats and apply what I have learned in the classroom. Beyond this, I have learned about the current state of the field and real-world scenarios.

I am very grateful for the Burke staff and the time they have taken to teach me new things. I am particularly grateful for my supervisor, Brigette Kamsler, who, in addition to teaching me about archives took the time to teach me practical skills for my job search. As a soon to be graduate of a library studies program, I look forward to taking what I have learned here and applying it to a future position as an archivist. I am sad that this internship is coming to an end but I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

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About Rossy Mendez

Rossy Mendez is a graduate student at Pratt Institute. She is completing her Masters in Library and Information Science with a specialty in Archives. She holds a B.A in Art History and an M.A in Visual Studies from the University at Buffalo. In addition to her internship at Burke, she works part time in the archives department of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. When she is not working with records or stressing over ambitious school projects she enjoys exploring New York City restaurants, museums and landmarks with random people as well as traveling to as many countries as she can.

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