"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a librarian."
This is my standard answer unless I want to try to explain what an archivist is.
So, what is an archivist? In my case, it's someone who has gone to library school and specialized in caring for documents that were created by individuals or organizations. At the Congregational Library, that usually means ministers, charitable groups, churches, and missionaries. I also am responsible for preserving the items in my care. We are still pretty low-tech / low-cost, so our best bet is to house the records in acid-free containers, remove rusted (or potentially rusty) metal fasteners, and maintain a stable storage environment.
I am a department of one, like many in my field, a lone arranger. I'm responsible for answering reference questions, processing new collections, creating guides for those collections, cataloging, preservation, talking to donors, educating / providing outreach for our constituents, collaborating with the rest of the library staff on projects, and other administrivia. It also happens I'm the de-facto web designer and primary IT support.
Interns - One of the perks of being a Boston repository is that I / we have the chance to host Simmons library school (GSLIS) interns. The past 12 months have been fantastic for us and I've managed 2 students every semester. Supervising a student is something I look forward to every spring and fall semesters. I enjoy mentoring new professionals. I was grateful when I was a student to have supportive internship environments and while I am here to teach them, they inevitably help clarify my work and/or catalyze doing a project I may not have thought to do on my own.
Projects: maintaining one's usefulness and sanity means coming up with projects that go beyond the average reference and processing work. My current log includes scanning our Image Collection (800+ photographs, etchings and drawings that do not have a textual collection), assisting the rest of the library staff with the next stage of weeding our collection, and supervising this semester's interns.
I haven't gotten past the Cs in the images: scanning and cataloging is tedious, but the results are fantastic. I'm in the midst of surveying the US history section to determine what books do not fit our needs and/or are so outdated, they do not serve any useful purpose. We have set up a book truck in the library with the fruits of our combined labors -- I saw a Winston Churchill biography yesterday -- and request a donation for those taken away. If anyone has any interest in the list we have, please let us know.
With that, I will leave you with a snippet from an illuminated Bible that is in our collection.
- Cheers, Jess Steytler