Monday, 19 November 2012

Week 23: All are Welcome

In my eleventh week at MCLM, I trained three more people on the processing of Mayme’s papers, prepared the catalog edit list from the book duplicate project, and worked on my second long distance HistoryMakers evaluation.

On Saturday, Michael, Keith and Jason offered to help me with the processing of Mayme’s papers. Jason is in the sixth grade and he volunteers with his dad, Keith, on Saturdays. Keith has a graduate degree in history and has been helping at the MCLM for several years. Michael is in his 20s, has a mild form of autism and has been inventorying CDs and albums for the past several months. I explained my process to all three of them and then gave individual assignments. Keith helped me to file papers according to the organizational schema. He also made folders for some of the biographical materials that I had identified. Jason helped me to put the Western States Black Research Center correspondence in chronological order. I told him that he was doing better than any other volunteer that I had asked to do it. The others made it way too difficult, trying to separate handwritten letters from typed letters. Jason finished one and a half folders in the 2 hours that he was there. Michael was tasked with sorting the contact cards alphabetically. He finished so quickly, I had him organize a few correspondence folders as well. All three of them did an excellent job and moved the project forward for me.

As soon as we finished compiling the list of duplicates to share with the auction, I had a lot of data to reconcile. Our volunteers noticed a lot of discrepancies and anomalies with the information from the catalog and the reality of the shelf. In some cases, the Library of Congress call numbers would be different for the same book or the same for different books. I understood that the book cataloging project has been going on for several years and not all of the volunteers may have known that the call number should reflect distinctions in publishers and editions of the same title. In cases where the books are indeed the exact same copies, the catalog should read quantity “2” instead of two identical entries in the catalog. I had three volunteers checking the shelves and making notes this week, and compiled all of their notes on one spreadsheet. I do not have the access to make changes to the catalog, but I am hoping to find some time next week to sit down with Cara, share the findings, and discuss the database in more detail. We all have a lot of tasks to complete but I believe that we can integrate this book catalog clean up into our daily workflows.    

Demonstrating why these titles are not true duplicates

The good news is that I currently have a schedule to process my remaining HistoryMakers interviews before the end of the fellowship. The bad news is that I am already behind in the submission of my second one. My second long distance interview is Dr. Ella Mizzell Kelly. She is a social science researcher in the pediatrics department at Howard University. Dr. Kelly is very intelligent and the majority of her interview is about her school experiences and her career. The last thirty minutes is essentially a public service announcement about sexual responsibility as a result of her research on adolescents and the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Kelly cites many of her peers and partner organizations which made me pause and rewind the video often, to pull out the details. When Dr. Kelly talked about the perceived risks that she has taken in her career, she says: “I’m supposed to be smart, I can figure this out, if all else fails, I can always type”. I agreed whole-heartedly and it speaks to the confidence that a quality education can give a person. It has been over a month since I have completed an evaluation, hopefully my pace will pick up in the next few weeks.

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