Every week ISSA will post a new interview of an ISSA student, recent graduate, or professional in the information field. This week our featured interviewee is Sharon Wolff, an ISSA student on the Archives track, who will be graduating this semester! Check out her interview below!
- Tell me a little about yourself. Where is home? What brought you to Albany?
My name is Sharon Wolff and I am originally from the Capitol Region, but my family moved to Syracuse, NY in the early 2000s and I was raised there for the most part. I came to Albany because I liked the atmosphere on campus and I liked the program available to me. I am a grad student in my last semester for a Masters in Information Science with a concentration in Archives at the University at Albany, SUNY.
- Where did you go for your undergrad (or Masters) and in what field?
I went to the same school that I am currently attending for my Masters for my undergrad in Information Science: SUNY Albany.
- Why did you choose your field of study?
I chose Information Science as an undergrad because at the time I was aiming more towards librarian than archivist as a career choice, and Information Science was a good way to cover my bases. Had I decided on archivist sooner I would have majored in History! As far as archives goes, I’ve known that I wanted to be an information professional from a very young age. Though, that early all I knew was that I wanted to work with books. But as I got older I became more interested in the historical aspect of the field and I was drawn to archives for the opportunity to work with primary source material.
- What is something you wish you had learned in school?
I wish that more time had been spent dealing with actual archival tasks rather than theory. I’ve had only one class that addresses how to create a finding aid for collections, which is one of the more important aspects of our work.
- What current trends in the field interests you?
I am interested in seeing how the management and preservation of born-digital records develops given more time and room to grow. I am also interested in the digitization as preservation movement and seeing how archives and libraries will deal with the shifting mindset of their user base. On a somewhat related note, I am fascinated by the “record continuum” model replacing the “record life cycle” model and look forward to being involved in that process.
- What types of projects do you enjoy working on?
I enjoy working on projects that I can sink my teeth into, but are small enough that I can handle it on my own if need be. I like to be aware of or informed on all aspects of a collection I am working on, which is impractical if it is too large.
- What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a collection that has been arranged but not described; my job is to finish what the previous person started. I am also working on archived shows from the local WAMC in both born-digital and cassette format.
- Do you have an internship or assistantship?
I have had two internships: one at the place I currently work part time, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives, and one at the Smithsonian Institute American Art/Portrait Gallery Library in Washington, D.C.
- What advice would you give someone who is new to your field of work?
Become familiar with computers. Like it or not (I’m not a huge fan), digital records are the way of the future. For someone to survive in this field they need to be at least competent in the digital realm. It also wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit about cataloging, at least to get comfortable with some of the terms.
- What are your future goals?
My goals are to find a place to work where I enjoy and am interested in both the materials I am working with and the environment I am working in. I have had one experience where I loved what I was doing but was less than enthusiastic about whom I was doing it with, and that is not an experience I would like to repeat.
- What is your ideal job?
My ideal job is one where I get to work with historical primary source items or documents, most likely a museum, historical society, or archival repository.
- How did you get to your current position?
I interned at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives and they liked the work I did, so I was hired as a part-time graduate employee.
- What do you like best about your job?
I love the feeling of shelving a collection that I have totally finished processing, complete with crisp, new, acid-free boxes and fresh labels that I’ve just put on. There are very few things that give me greater satisfaction than that.
- What is most stressful about your job?
Probably the most stressful part is sitting down with a new collection to begin processing or inventorying and discovering that it’s a complete mess and that you’ll have to start from scratch. That or trying to help a researcher who doesn’t really know what they’re looking for.
- What was your greatest learning experience on the job?
My greatest learning experience was in the first collection I processed, because it had a little bit of everything. The collection was large enough that it required series, everything needed to be rehoused, there were some materials that had a little bit of inactive mold that I had to deal with, and some of the records had social security numbers that had to be redacted.
- What professional associations/societies do you recommend joining?
For archivists I recommend the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and any regional group that applies to you, for Albany this might include the Mid-Atlantic Region Archives Conference (MARAC).There is also an international organization that certifies professional archivists, the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA), that might be a good idea to at least look into.
- Do you present at conferences or publish any work?
I am hoping to present a poster at MARAC 2016 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, but I have yet to hear back on the subject.
- What is the one thing you would like to change about your field of work?
I would like to change the public view of information professionals. I think there is a fundamental lack of understanding in what librarians and archivists do, and I think that shouldn’t be the case. My favorite example to illustrate this point is when I was in high school and the reaction of one of my classmates to my statement that I was going to college to be a librarian was, “You have to go to school for that?”
- Would you like to add anything else?
Our field is currently changing in so many ways because of the information age; I can’t wait to see what it will become in the future. For right now though, I think we can take the changes one step at a time.