Employee Feature: Mackenzie Anderson

Mackenzie Anderson
Mackenzie Anderson, head shot

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.

The Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library: The first library I ever worked at. I worked here the summer between my junior and senior years of college. https://tinyurl.com/ybqnhoqy
The Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library: The first library I ever worked at. I worked here the summer between my junior and senior years of college. https://tinyurl.com/ybqnhoqy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

A fore-edge painting from the Ralph H. Wark Collection at the Earl Gregg Swem Library that I photographed as part of my social media project.
A fore-edge painting from the Ralph H. Wark Collection at the Earl Gregg Swem Library that I photographed as part of my social media project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

At the Missouri State Archive, I worked extensively with genealogical records. Most of the records were on microfilm, but on occasion, we came into contact with handwritten documents such as the marriage records above.
At the Missouri State Archive, I worked extensively with genealogical records. Most of the records were on microfilm, but on occasion, we came into contact with handwritten documents such as the marriage records above.
A lot of the work I did at the Missouri State Archive involved preservation. We spent several weeks of the summer humidifying Supreme Court documents that had been folded up in boxes for decades. To flatten the documents, we created humidification chambers such as the one above.
A lot of the work I did at the Missouri State Archive involved preservation. We spent several weeks of the summer humidifying Supreme Court documents that had been folded up in boxes for decades. To flatten the documents, we created humidification chambers such as the one above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Introduction to the Center for Digital Humanities’ Piranesi Project

By Mackenzie Anderson

Hello! My name is Mackenzie Anderson, I am a graduate student in Library and Information Science here at the University of South Carolina, and I am working on the Piranesi project.

The Piranesi project was created and is spearheaded by Dr. Jeanne Britton, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections curator and Department of English Language and Literature affiliate faculty. The project itself is executed by both the Center for Digital Humanities, located in UofSC’s Innovation Center, and the Digital Collections department, located in the Ernest F. Hollings Library. Awarded an NEH grant 2019-2021, “The Digital Piranesi” digitally enacts graphic features of Giovanni Piranesi’s innovative works in a comprehensive digital collection and an interactive digital edition.

Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)

Although the project regularly continues to expand as the Center for Digital Humanities discovers new, exciting possibilities for showcasing the wonders within Piranesi’s works, the current goal is to create an interactive, virtual exhibit of 29 volumes of Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi’s etchings. Piranesi was an eighteenth-century artist famous for his etchings of Rome and his fictitious prisons (or Carceri d’invenzione). His work is breathtakingly beautiful and astonishingly detailed. Although I had little exposure to visual art before I started working in Digital Collections, I have since become a huge fan of Piranesi’s work. My favorite part of my job is opening a new volume and exploring the etchings inside for the first time as I scan each of the pages. You never know what you’ll find!

My work consists of scanning the etchings volume by volume to create TIFF copies of the images. I then convert these files to JPEGs and subsequently use Photoshop to create cropped copies of the images for the Center for Digital Humanities to use. The biggest surprise I have encountered so far is how difficult and tedious the scanning process can be. The volumes I work with are bound so that there are big gaps between pages, and the heavy ink can cause the etchings to warp. My job is to get as perfect of a scan as possible. Usually this means invoking techniques such as positioning foam or fabric underneath the pages, using weights to prop up the spine, pulling pages tight with a ruler, and adjusting the pressure of the scanning beds against the book, all while exercising great caution not to damage the books or pages themselves.

Occasionally, when I encounter very difficult pages, I have to take over ten scans to get a usable image. It is tedious and highly detailed work, and it took me several weeks to become fully comfortable scanning independently. Nevertheless, I love my job, and I am very excited to get to be a part of the Piranesi project. I hope that those who view the Piranesi exhibit after its completion find his work as captivating and interesting as I do. To learn more about the project click here. To view our work to date, visit the Piranesi project website.

Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de' Metelli sulla via Appia ... (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de’ Metelli sulla via Appia … (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)