Notes from a Summer Intern at Butler

Jennifer Ferretti writes:
I’m one of ten extremely lucky individuals enrolled in a library science program chosen out of an applicant pool from both the U.S. and Canada to become an Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program Fellow for summer 2013. I’m carrying out my fellowship in the Humanities & History Division at Butler Library. I attend meetings, catalog dissertations in the institutional repository (Academic Commons), and participate in a digital humanities project on Columbia’s neighborhood of Morningside Heights. Not surprisingly, whenever I speak of my duties in H&H with people outside of the library and information science profession, I receive looks of slight shock and approval. People of this demographic generally don’t picture librarians as having a large hand in research projects that are technologically advanced and dynamic, but I predict this will soon change. As research methodologies evolve with new technology, digital humanities projects will become more popular and advanced, with librarians at the helm.
A great example of the kind of work library and information professionals are involved with these days is the Developing Librarian Project (DLP), created by the H&H librarians. Each person on the team has chosen a structure, topic, or place to research that is directly related to Morningside Heights from 1820-1950 and will curate their research in the content management system/web application Omeka as a permanent resource that is publicly accessible. While the team will create an attractive, educational resource, we will also acquire new skills and methodologies in the digital humanities. What is essentially happening is the acquaintance of challenges and questions that come up in the age of digital research to better serve the Columbia community.
The topic I’ve chosen for the project is the history of the natural and built environment of the neighborhood. If you’re familiar with Morningside Heights, you may have seen a large rock sitting behind a fence in the 600 block of 114th Street, between Broadway and Riverside Drive. The rock is schist, a durable type of rock commonly found all over Manhattan. The rock sparked a few research questions for me: What did Morningside Heights look like before Columbia University was built? What did it look like before anything was built? How has it evolved? I’ve begun my research in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library as well as utilizing the databases offered on the Columbia University Libraries website. I’m excited to see where primary sources take my research and to be part of such a forward thinking team.
Jennifer A. Ferretti is concentrating on digital humanities at the School of Information and Library Science at Pratt Institute.