August 26, 2015 - Comments Off on In Process | My Summer Exploring the Universe and Information Science

In Process | My Summer Exploring the Universe and Information Science

In Process, our blog series that highlights the activities and experiences of current archival studies students in the Los Angeles area, is back! Our students took a summer break and some may continue to contribute, however WE ARE LOOKING FOR NEW CONTRIBUTORS

By Mary Priest


Not your average workplace signage.

Summer: that magical time of year filled with beach trips, barbecues, and documentation of ringsail parachute drop testing. That is your summer, at least, if you’re a Digital Curation Intern with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). When I heard about the position in the Entry, Descent, and Landing Repository (EDLR), I thought that this summer internship would be a great opportunity to explore work in digital archives while also seizing photo opportunities with a full-sized model of the Curiosity Rover. Exposure to the immense diversity within the information science profession, however, was not something I anticipated. Consequently, thoughts of professional development have been swimming in my mind more fervently than scrawny kids escaping a cannon-balling bully at the deep end of the public pool.

Being the kind of person who frequently stares longingly into the night sky, I was over the moon on my first day, squealing excitedly on the tour while trying to wrap my head around being even the smallest part of the JPL universe. I could likely fill pages with my raving fan-girl-like accounts of fun adventures, like hanging out in the Mars Yard, watching the New Horizons Pluto fly-by with spimageacecraft engineers (!), or attending the seriously awesome lectures offered on lunch breaks. However, the summer hasn’t been entirely removed from my MLIS studies.

Excitement about space exploration has been coupled with professional exploration throughout my internship. A large portion of my time at JPL has involved meeting with professionals who are working across all areas of the information science spectrum including: reference, information management, records, historical knowledge, data management, storytelling, knowledge management, academic libraries, and yes, archives too. Although each of these roles involve aspects of information science that I recognized, these meetings also made me realize how multi-faceted and specialized the field can really be.

I initially felt overwhelmed in realizing that the concepts presented during my first year of the MLIS program were only a rough foundation of what I could be doing for the rest of my career, and that I’d need to learn so much more to be really adequate in a specific role. However, I’ve also realized that, despite the specialized materials and projects, many of these professionals are facing similar goals and challenges. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection: finding the funding to preserve information and knowledge for re-use and making those items quickly and easily accessible are fundamental LIS issues. Emerging technologies, data storage, and electronic materials have been recurring talking points all summer as well.

Mission control

Mission Control, the center of our universe

Finding creative and innovative ways to address these issues in the context of a particular institution is what emerging professionals, like myself, will have to consider. It’s certainly a little intimidating to think that I’ll be wrestling with the same information management issues that JPL employees are trying to solve, but it’s also exciting that I’m entering into the field during such a dynamic time. Narrowing down my archival informatics specialization and finding my unique path in field will be the main goals of the coming school year. After a summer of encountering so many useful technological skill sets that lie just outside of the IS field, it’s also clear that I’ll need to launch myself into some extracurricular studies this year. The last weeks of my summer, though, will be filled with (astronaut) ice cream and plenty of time basking in the rays of our nearest star.

Mary Priest is a future archivist and current graduate student in UCLA's MLIS program, specializing in archival informatics. She holds a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Cal State Northridge and Shakespeare is her homeboy. When she's not busy with classes and/or celebrating awesome archival finds, she is gluttonously overstuffing her “to-read” shelf on Goodreads.

All photos courtesy of author.

Published by: Los Angeles Archivist Collective in In Process

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