Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview Series: Awesome Alumni

This post introduces our  interview series with Drexel iSchool's 'awesome alumni'! Through this series, we hope to show current students what they can do after graduation with their MLIS. We also want to show students what it takes to get that elusive full-time job, and what that job looks like on a daily basis. For our first entry, we spoke with Doreva Belfiore,  who graduated from Drexel with her MLIS in 2011.

Doreva attended the iSchool as a part-time student from 2008-2011, and was a co-chair of SCALA from 2009-2010. Throughout her program, Doreva had four internships: digital collections management internship at the Internet Public Library (ipl2), a general library internship at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Library of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), a digital libraries and circulation internship at the Rutgers Camden Law Library, and an electronic resources licensing and cataloging internship at the University of Pennsylvania.

What is your current job?
Dorevea: I work as a bibliographic assistant in the Digital Library Initiatives Department of Temple University Libraries. This is a relatively new department that is charged with digitizing materials from the Special Collections Research Center and other specialized collections at Temple Libraries.

Temple University Digital Collections website:

How did you find your job?
Doreva: I found my current job via a combination of networking and tracking job ads. I had been an intern at the University of Pennsylvania in the Information Processing Center (technical services department) for slightly over one year. I had met my current supervisor while she was working at Penn, and I knew that she had moved to Temple University to be the head of digital projects. After graduation from the iSchool, I saw that a position had come open at Temple University. I contacted her for more information about the position, and subsequently applied for it.

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job?
Doreva: My typical day involves managing up to four students in various projects related to digitization: scanning print materials, organizing scanned materials for cataloging and upload into our digital management system (OCLC’s ContentDM), or editing metadata for cataloged materials.  I generally attend anywhere from 1 to 3 departmental or project meetings per day that are related to the management of specific digital projects going on throughout the library. At other times, I may be found testing and troubleshooting software for our future upgrade to a new version of ContentDM, or I may be reviewing and editing metadata for sets of digital objects. Currently, I am learning Drupal to manage websites and import data from external systems using XML.

Overall, this is pretty much exactly what I expected to be doing. One thing that surprised me is the amount of planning and team effort that is required for large scale digitization projects. Much of digitization is entirely dependent upon a robust hardware, software, and support personnel infrastructure in order to be successful. Also, in a large system, metadata choices can have long-term implications, so you generally want to get it right the first time.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Doreva: Primarily, I enjoy being able to work on multiple projects that have a diverse variety of subjects and materials. I love the fact that in this field I get to learn new things every day on and off the job. It’s very satisfying to be able to show a digital collection or a thematic exhibition website as the final product of many hours of effort and teamwork.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about your job or your area of librarianship? 
Doreva: I often wonder if other people think of me as “one of those people in the basement (archives) who run the scanners”.  Of course, I do work with scanning materials, but our work is much more than that: we are actively involved in cataloging digital materials, maintaining and configuring the software which supports our projects, and ensuring the long-term access to our digital materials by configuring a robust server hardware infrastructure that will support large-scale storage with future format migration over time. I believe that digital librarians and archivists are really members of an institution’s collection development team. As academic libraries in particular move away from collecting tons and tons of print materials, and instead focus more on specialized collections, people working in the realm of digitization are important partners in the efforts to develop, maintain, and promote such special collections.

I think that members of the general public may wonder why librarians are needed when one can just Google anything on the internet.  Well, if your website and your digital collections do not have specific metadata and specific data structures, Google might not be able to find your digital objects. It’s important to have knowledgeable people behind digitization projects who can manage these types of details so that digital collections are actually discoverable. You cannot use what you cannot see.

What was the most valuable thing that you did or learned while in library school?
Doreva: I think the most valuable thing that I did during my time at Drexel was to seek out a variety of internships related to digital libraries. In particular, I took an internship in which I had to work an inconvenient schedule that involved evenings and weekends. While the schedule could occasionally be frustrating, that experience gave me direct experience in computer programming and digital library infrastructure. It enabled me to complete relevant, real-life projects and then publish a paper about my work in an online professional journal, Code4Lib Journal.  I would argue that there is no “perfect” internship, and that you get out of the internship what you put into it.

In terms of classes, the most important things that I learned came from areas related to my concentration – Digital Libraries.  Every week I utilize skills that I learned in various classes, including HTML editing, MARC cataloging, Dublin Core metadata, and XML and XSLT transformations. In a greater context, I also am called upon to have knowledge and appreciation of database architecture, archival processing, archival materials preservation, copyright, and professional ethics.

What inspired you to choose this career?
Dorevva: For many years I worked in information technology in technical support, network administration and project management. I enjoyed that work but I knew that I had a longstanding interest in digital preservation, especially film and media preservation. When exploring changing careers, I decided upon digital librarianship as the perfect combination of librarianship (materials access, public service), archives (materials preservation and access), and technology (hardware, software, and computer programming).

What do you wish you had learned more about?
Doreva: I wish that I could have taken more Archives classes beyond Archives I and II, and I plan to go back and take more classes online as continuing professional education. I would have loved to have learned more about content representation, instructional design, teaching methodologies, and XML.

I have found that an important component of my work has been HTML, web design, and computer graphics. Knowledge of a scripting language like perl, python, php, cgi, or javascript is also highly useful.

I highly encourage any iSchool student to take the Introduction to Web Design class, or some type of web design class, if you do not have direct experience in creating and maintaining websites.  Before attending Drexel, I took some local classes in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, and this knowledge has proved to be directly relevant to my everyday work.

To supplement my knowledge of perl programming, I have been studying javascript programming free online as part of the CodeYear project sponsored by Codeacademy. For those in the Delaware Valley area, I also highly recommend the free classes in python scripting offered for women and their friends from Pystar Philly.

Any tips for current students?
Doreva: I highly recommend that current students try to find at least one internship or volunteer experience in the area of librarianship that interests you. It’s not always possible to obtain a paid internship, but even unpaid or volunteer experiences can be highly valuable for building skills. During my time at the iSchool, I was a part-time student by choice, so I was able to get a total of 4 internships (2 paid and 2 unpaid) over 3 years. In your internship, whenever possible, document a list of the skills that you acquire or the projects that you have worked on, and add that to your future portfolio.  If you internship is located at an academic or public library, take advantage of any opportunities for professional development that you can, which might include software training classes, lectures, and training webcasts.

One of the things I do that I recommend to any students is to identify job descriptions for positions that interest you, even if you are not qualified for them. Keep those descriptions in your own personal database (PDF, word, text files, whatever works for you). Use those descriptions to identify the experience, skills, and traits that are sought for that type of position and think about ways that you can get that experience and develop those skills and traits.

Consider joining either a student chapter or a local chapter of a professional library or information organization.  You never know what valuable information you might find in a speaker’s presentation or what connections you might make at a networking mixer. I enjoy hearing presentations on a variety of topics related to library science even if they are not related to my specialty, because I get to experience other aspects of librarianship that broaden my perspective of the profession.

Connect with Doreva at:
Twitter: @dorevabelfiore

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Joint membership in ALA

ALA just made it even easier for students to join- through a joint membership, students are able to join both ALA and their state ALA chapter for $35 from now through August 31st. Also, ALA has moved the joint membership forms so that students can now apply both online and by mail. With all the benefits that ALA can provide, joining your state ALA chapter at the same time gives students local opportunities to get involved as well.

To take advantage of the joint membership program, visit:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting Involved with ALA

In this series, SASCO liaisons and leaders will share how they became involved with ALA and its Divisions. Each of us became involved in our own way and maintain individual levels of participation. We hope that by sharing our stories it will help you find your own place in the organization.

Part 1: Conferences and Committees

By: Lindsay Sarin, Academic Librarian, Committee Nerd
I started my involvement with ALA as an executive board member of the University of Maryland ALA Student Chapter. The experience helped me learn a little about the inner-workings of ALA, but it wasn’t until I attended an ALA Annual Meeting that I really got involved. Lots of people contribute without going to conference, but for me it was essential. Here's how I used Annual to jumpstart my ALA participation.

Preplanning/Trying to Find Your Niche

ALA is overwhelming at first, especially at Annual. There are so many groups, sessions, and meetings; it can be tough to find your way. I started planning my visit by spending a lot of time on the ALA website looking at divisions and groups (with ALA Connect this is now a little easier since all the documents are in one place). I picked out the groups I thought were interesting and planned to attend their sessions.

New Member Sessions

My very first session was ACRL 101 (I went to the ACRL session because I've always been into academic libraries but NMRT's is great too). ALA 101 sessions are invaluable because they are friendly spaces for new members, presenters help clarify the ALA structure, and usually there is an opportunity to mingle.

Go to Meetings and Not Just the One's on Your Schedule

During Annual I went to some of the committee meetings and presentations on my schedule, but I ended up going to more that I heard about from those at the 101 session and from socials. Most importantly, at the meetings/sessions, I participated. As a newbee it can be a little scary to speak-up, but people pay attention if you do. If you want to be involved either on a committee or in the discussion you have to be willing speak (Steven Bell thinks so too). Don’t be afraid to speak-up, shake someone’s hand, or ask about being involved.


Socials are the bread and butter of conferences for a lot of reasons; one they're fun and casual ways to meet new people; two you never know who's going to be there; three they're good places to find out what's going on behind the scenes. They're also great opportunities to ask someone who's been there. During my very first session I struck up a conversation with an ACRL member who was willing sit down with me and quite literally outline the committee structures and suggested some groups to check out (I now co-lead one of them).

The Hard Part

If leaders in ALA don't know you want to be a part of the process, you'll never will be. You have to actually contact them. Send an email, post to a group on ALA Connect, find someone on Twitter, friend someone on Facebook. It doesn't take much. Just let the right person know that you're willing to contribute, and they'll probably take you up on it. For me it was just a matter of sending a few emails after the conference.

From ALA NMRT's SASCO Update #3. Check out the SASCO Update #4  and the SCALA blog later this month for Part 2.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Finding a summer internship

Doing an internship over the summer is theoretically a great way to gain experience in librarianship, but realistically can be difficult to obtain. Competition is fierce, and paid positions are often far and few between. As summer quickly approaches, here is a compilation of resources and tips on how to get a valuable  summer internship experience.

There are two different kinds of internships that you should explore: paid, and unpaid. If you are able to do an unpaid internship, then you have a great deal more flexibility. If you need to do a paid internship, there are a number of resources available for you to use.

Paid internships: One place that updates its internship list constantly is Drexel's iSchool Career website. While not all the positions listed on the page are paid, many of them are. Another benefit to this website is that some of these internships are open only to, or first to, Drexel students.

Hagerty Library's website also provides career resources for library science students. There are two different guides that are useful: the first one is the Library Science guide, which lists job search resources, blogs, and salary information (among other things). The websites included on this page are some of the major job resource websites in library science, and oftentimes the search function can be restricted to internship positions rather than professional positions. The other useful guide that Hagerty Library posts is the Internship and Co-op Search guide. This guide lists internship resource websites and print directories, along with some useful books. While these websites are internship-specific, the search results returned for library science are often non-traditional or seemingly irrelevant. However, if you are interested in exploring different areas of librarianship and information science, these websites are a great place to start your search.

Outside of Drexel's resources, there are a number of comprehensive library and information science job websites which update daily or weekly. These websites tend to list more progressional jobs than internships, but internships are often included when they are available (they also tend to be paid, when they are listed). Some of the major resources to check are: I Need a Library Job, ArchivesGig, and ALA JobList.

Unpaid internships: If you are looking for an unpaid internship, you have a little more breathing room. First, do some research and decide on a handful or organizations or institutions that you would like to work at. Then, start contacting people within the organizations that you think might be valuable resources; this could be someone whose job you could see yourself doing eventually or a hiring manager or director. One great way to get in to meet people is to call or email and ask to do an informational interview, where you go in and ask questions to learn more about the institution. Then, at the end (or afterwards, when you write your thank you note) ask if there are any volunteer opportunities available. That way, you have had some interaction with the people who work there, and they can put a face with your name.

Unpaid internships are a great way for MLIS students to explore areas of librarianship that you could see yourself working in one day, without having to fit into an existing program. It provides more flexibility for you to create your own program or project, which is more valuable in the long run. Also, having volunteer experience looks great on resumes and can help you land a competitive, paid internship later on.

Two related resources that can help you get an internship: 

Before applying to internships, take a look at these two blogs: Hiring Librarians and Open Cover Letters.

The first blog, Hiring Librarians, is a series of interviews with hiring managers or library directors and what they are looking for in job candidates. There is a lot of valuable advice, and a job search resource page was just posted a few days ago.

 The second blog, Open Cover Letters, is a compilation of cover letters written by people who got the job they applied for. The examples posted are a fantastic resource for when you are feeling stuck on wording or how to explain a relevant experience.

Internships of any kind of a grab way to build your resume with related library experience. If you have any other internship resources that you would like to share with us, please comment them below!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Online Social Event- Friday, April 13th

You’re Not Alone! An Online Social Event for Drexel iSchool Students Nationwide.

To ring in the new quarter, SCALA and DUSLA would like to invite all iSchool students to an online social gathering on Friday, April 13, from 7:00- 9:00 pm EST (4:00 - 6:00 PM PST). Join us to a put a face to all those BlackBoard names, chat about new classes, network with classmates, and learn about opportunities through the student library associations.

How to participate:
  • Log in to the meeting at
  • Join us for video chat if you have a webcam or through the chat discussion if you prefer.  
  • There is no software to download, but the meeting works best with a hardwired ethernet connection and earbuds.
  • RSVP are appreciated but not required.  Please email

Monday, April 2, 2012

Get Involved during the Spring 2012 Quarter!

The Benefits of Joining a Student Organization     

SCALA would like to welcome new and returning iSchool students to participate in our organization during the 2012-2013 academic year. Whether you are new to the iSchool or have been enrolled for some time now, it is never too soon or too late to participate in a student organization. While your future professional success depends largely on how well you do in your courses, joining a student organization increases your chances of finding employment after graduation. An invaluable pre-professional opportunity, joining a student organization helps you establish connections with other library and information science students, learn more about how the information profession is developing, and share advice on how to best prepare for your future in the profession.

A Few Tips for Your First Term    

Participating in a student organization, of course, is just one of many pre-professional activities available to you. Although there is no guaranteed recipe for future success in the profession, there are several recommended pre-professional activities that all library and information science students should consider doing in addition to their coursework. For a brief overview, we recommend that you read the Hack Library School’s Library School Starter-Kit—The First Term. This step-by-step “How to” guide gives first-term library and information science students manageable goals to help establish themselves as future information professionals. We also recommend this guide to students who are further along in their library and information science education but who would like to become more involved in pre-professional activities.

Upcoming SCALA Activities    

SCALA officers will visit classes to introduce the organization and explain the benefits of joining during the first week of classes. If you are an online student taking INFO 515, 520, 521, and 522, you will see a post in from SCALA that presents the same information. We encourage participation from both on-campus and online students. Additionally, SCALA is hosting an online social event on Friday, April 13th from 7:00- 9:00 pm EST (4:00 - 6:00 PM PST). To join the meeting, visit More events, both in-person and online, are in the works, so please keep visiting the SCALA blog for information.