By Mackenzie Anderson
I always love hearing library employees’ stories about how they came to work in libraries. The world of Library and Information Science attracts people from diverse backgrounds and with many different skills and interests. This is one of the things that I love the most about the field. My own path to working in digital collections has been exciting but complicated and, at times, challenging.
I first became interested in libraries during my junior year of college. Prior to that, I planned on going to veterinary school. I love animals, and I was attracted to the idea of helping people in need and alleviating animals’ pain. During my first year of college, I loaded up my schedule with biology and calculus classes, determined to pursue my dream, but it did not take long for me to discover that as I had grown older, I had developed a severe squeamishness towards needles and blood that would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for me to enter into any kind of medical profession. This realization was devastating, and for the next year and a half, I felt very lost and directionless. I took classes in just about every subject offered at my university, unsure of what career I wanted to pursue or even what I wanted to study. Then, in the fall of my junior year, a close friend told me that she would be attending graduate school for Library and Information Science the following year. Although I had never considered a career as a librarian and knew very little about the field, I was instantly intrigued. I reached out to the public library in my hometown to find out about summer volunteer opportunities, and a very kind librarian offered me an internship in the library’s archives. Even though I knew essentially nothing about archives, I jumped at the opportunity.
I spent the summer cataloging a collection of memorabilia donated to the library by a historical high school’s alumni association. For hours at a time, I sat in the cool archives poring over pictures, yearbooks, student newspaper publications, graduation pamphlets, war ration books, and letters, organizing the materials and writing item descriptions. I loved every minute of it. By the time August rolled around, I was determined to follow in my friend’s footsteps and enroll in a master’s program for library and information science in hopes of becoming a special collections librarian or archivist. I spent my senior year applying to graduate programs and trying to get as involved as I could in my university’s library. I joined a library ambassadors’ program and interned in the library in the spring, putting together a social media project for the library’s fore-edge painting collection.
The summer after I graduated, I interned at the Missouri State Archives, where I worked with microfilmed genealogy records, state fair correspondences from the 1920s, and 19th century state Supreme court documents. Each of these experiences solidified my interest in libraries and made me feel excited for the future.
I began graduate school at the University of South Carolina in the fall with the intention of getting involved in the Library. When I saw that the Library’s Digital Collections department was looking for a student scanner, I applied and was extremely excited to be offered the job. Working for Digital Collections has been the highlight of my first year of graduate school. I love getting to work with beautiful artwork, learn about the artist Giovanni Piranesi, and complete post-processing work such as photoshopping images. Like my other jobs in libraries, working in digital collections has reassured me that I am going into the right field, and it has also shown me that I have an interest in working with digital materials. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work in digital collections, and I am excited to see what the future holds.