As a new intern at the Burke Library, I have been asked to write a brief blog entry about my first impressions and expectations for the semester. I began my first day two weeks ago with a great sense of anticipation – it’s pretty exciting to be getting up to go exactly where you want to be at a particular point in time – despite the grim, sleety weather.
My internship at the Burke will serve to fulfill a requirement necessary to receive an archives certificate in my library science program, but I only chose to use the internship as a practicum in order to be able to devote as much time to it as possible this semester, given other commitments. In recent years, concerns about the ethics of hosting unpaid internships and its effect on the market for entry-level professional labor have been raised, justifiably, within the archivist community. Some students also question the wisdom of undertaking internships for academic credit, as I am this semester, as they see it of a case of paying one institution (a school) to work for another (an internship site) instead of paying for traditional classroom instruction.
While mindful of the thorny issues involved in these debates, I am grateful that the Burke has continued to take on archival interns and I have few qualms about foregoing a traditional course in lieu of this internship. The opportunity to gain experience in the processing of archival materials under the supervision of a professional archivist and to be exposed to the internal processes of a venerable library such as the Burke is extremely valuable to me and the one that I have been looking for since enrolling in a library science program.
As one of my intern predecessors noted in her first-day blog, this is “essentially . . . an internship for the uninitiated archivist.” By the end of this semester, I hope to become, if not “initiated,” at least fully introduced to the world of archival processing and to have put my best foot forward in trying to learn and contribute as much as possible while I am here.
Outside of my own experience, this should be an exciting time to be here at the Burke. Not only has a new year begun, but a new processing project is just beginning, as the Burke has just been awarded a three-year $190,000 grant by the Henry Luce Foundation to process the Union Theological Seminary Archive (see http://library.columbia.edu/news/libraries/2014/2014-12-16_Luce_Foundation_for_Processing.html), and I look forward to seeing how a multi-year processing effort begins to unfold.
Finally, sleet and rain aside, I couldn’t have asked for a more fortunate first day to intern at the Burke Library, as that day each of the 48 manuscripts comprising the Burke’s Syriac manuscripts collection were laid out, side-by-side, in the conference room – able to be viewed all together for the first time – and I was invited along!