School of Library & Information Science Alumna, Davis, Uses Coursework to Land Dream Job

Davis poses with the first broadcast master of Julia Child's "The French Chef" on 16 mm film.

Davis poses with the first broadcast master of Julia Child's "The French Chef" on 16 mm film.

01/08/14

Contrary to the widely accepted, end-of-semester, disgruntled and overworked student belief, those time-consuming and highly stressful class projects are actually valuable endeavors aside from making or breaking a passing grade.

Just ask Casey Davis, an LSU School of Library and Information Science alumna, who has found over and over again during her first year post-grad that the work she performed at LSU proved to be invaluable in terms of providing real world experience. She advises current students not to dismiss the projects they do in class as a waste of time.

Davis completed her MLIS in May 2012 with hardly any practical archives experience. She interned at Hill Memorial Library on LSU’s campus making outreach videos and at the State Library of Massachusetts doing reference and building exhibits.

“While studying for my master's degree at LSU, I learned all about librarianship, but also how to be a professional,” she explains of her internship in some wonderful contacts at the library that were very well connected in the archival community in Boston. My supervisors took me to archives events and helped me create my own network in the New England Region. I also gained experience working in reference and building an exhibit while continuing my job hunt. Potential employers saw this as dedication.”

Upon graduating, Davis took an entry-level position working for the history documentary series American Experience at WGBH, the PBS station in Boston. Specifically, she worked on the “Abolitionist Map of America” project which developed an iPhone app and website that told the story of the Abolitionist Movement across the U.S. Davis says the skills and knowledge she received by doing class projects was invaluable. She was in charge of identifying where the abolitionist movement took place across the US and identifying organizations, including libraries, archives and museums that had archival materials related to the movement.

“I managed the outreach to those organizations and assisted them in contributing their materials to the map. I really enjoyed this job and after my six-month contract ended I was promoted to Acting Web Producer,” she recalls. “I later began working on the Engineering Map of America project, which was the second mapping project as part of the Mapping History initiative. I really enjoyed working for American Experience but knew that I ultimately belonged in an archive and everything I did up to that time was helping me work toward that goal.”

Davis is now Project Manager for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, which is a partnership between WGBH Boston and the Library of Congress to identify, preserve, and make accessible to the public the archives of public media. She recalls how her class projects during her time at SLIS helped her rise above the rest of the applicants at a recent interview for a digital archivist position.

“In preparation for my interview I brought along with me several materials that I had created during my coursework in SLIS, including my hand-coded EAD finding aid and the data management plan we created in Digital Curation,” she says.

This was a wise decision as Davis was eventually awarded the job. Her now-boss confessed that walking in to the interview she did not think Davis had enough archives experience but she was so impressed by the interview and Davis’ explanation of how her coursework and related experience made her qualified, the she confessed to being proven completely wrong.

In 2012, WGBH completed the American Archive Content Inventory project, during which they worked with 120 public media stations across the US to inventory the items they had produced throughout their history as public broadcasters. They ended up with 2.5 million inventory records, of which 40,000 hours of content are now being slated for digitization and long term preservation at the Library of Congress. For the next two years, Davis will oversee the digitization project and the addition of 5,000 more hours of born-digital material to the archive. She will also manage the development of the final, public-facing American Archive website, assemble a PBCore Advisory Group to further develop PBCore as a metadata standard for media materials, and strategize opportunities for sustainability and growth of the archive. To learn more about the American Archive initiative, visit www.americanarchive.org.

Davis says that networking and seeking experience opportunities within a chosen field will help students immensely. She has three core tips for current students:

“First, put 100% effort into class projects. Second, don't lose them once you finish and thirdly, use class projects as evidence of your experience,” she says. “That's one great thing about LSU -- we gain so much experience in the classroom. It's very different at other schools. Most students come out of school with just the theory. Be proud of your LSU education and all of the experience you gain during the program!”

About SLIS
The LSU School of Library & Information Science prepares individuals for positions of responsibility in the field of library and information service and strives to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field.