Second Semester Wrap-Up

I wrapped up my second semester of library school this week. This semester wasn’t as hairy or harried as the first, but it was still a challenging semester both in the type of work and the amount of it.

Here’s a brief overview of the three courses I took.

Archival Use & Access

This course built on concepts from the intro to archival management course I took last semester. It is a required course for those on the archives management track.

We reviewed and built upon our knowledge of archival concepts like arrangement and description, discussed users, dove deeper into subject analysis, and did more work with the Library of Congress Authority Headings.

The heart of the course was learning the archival standard DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), the schema EAD (Encoded Archival Description), and how to create digital finding aids using XML (Extensible Markup Language). We also learned how to create corresponding MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) records.

When it comes to acronym usage, Library Science might be second only to the U.S. Military.

I’m glacially slow at coding but find the work fascinating. I also enjoy subject analysis, which in this online class revolved around analyzing archival collections that were inventoried on paper.

Preservation Management

The New Practical Navigator
The New Practical Navigator, first American edition (1800) with some water damage at the top of the pages. Coast Guard Academy Library Special Collections.

Preservation Management is an introductory overview course. We looked at the structure and deterioration of materials such as paper, photographs, film, and digital items, and the best way to store these items.

We explored risk assessment, facility conditions, disaster preparedness and recovery. The semester ended with exhibitions and advocacy for cultural heritage institutions.

Some of our later readings revolved around climate change and how the field can be a leader in energy conservation. Two areas being rethought are the value of large international exhibits that consume great amounts of energy and building efficiency and energy use.

We read a transcript of a panel from a conference where a scholar made the point that it is ironic that LAMs (Another acronym! It stands for libraries, archives, and museums) want to preserve the past for future generations but in the present are contributing to climate change in ways that will potentially endanger those future generations. This is one of those ideas that will bounce around in my mind for a long time to come.

This was an online course. It would have been fun to take it in person to have hands on experience with the materials under discussion. Thanks to the relationship formed during my field experience last semester at the Coast Guard Academy Library Special Collections, I was able to look at some of their books that have water damage. I wrote a research paper about saltwater damage to paper collections.

Technology for Information Professionals

This was an in person course. I was psyched to be able to take it at Simmons’ West Campus at Mount Holyoke College. Both Simmons and Holyoke require vaccinations and masks. There were only seven students in the class, so I felt safe. It was a delight to meet new people in person and learn in a classroom. It was exciting to have spontaneous conversations that explore a concept from a variety of angles. Asynchronous classes can’t replicate that intellectual stimulation.

This is a hands-on course that introduces students to working with computer hardware and more conceptual things like how the internet works. We discussed tech in LAMs, how to support patrons, tech pros and cons, and ethical issues. I should note that ethical issues have been discussed in every course I’ve taken so far.

We also discussed backups, security, and explored a variety of tech “buzzwords.” I was surprised to learn that bitcoin uses a tremendous amount of coal energy. One assignment was a small group project to create an instructional video. I was on a team that made three short videos for an actual library in Massachusetts. The last couple weeks ended with a brief intro to Python, a tiny bit on XML, and how databases work.

Learning HTML and CSS was a big part of this course. The final assignment was to create our own professional website from scratch, one that is accessible and responsive (meaning mobile friendly).

Ready for a break

It was another great semester and my mind is reeling from all the information. Over the winter break I plan on exploring my interest in digital humanities and getting a jump on learning Python. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


  1. Oh that is so interesting, as someone who did their LIS Master’s in the mid-90s – also doing HTML, creating a web page (just one) and databases, no hardware, though! The stuff on climate change is fascinating, and I now feel all nostalgic about MARC – didn’t learn it at library school but was a cataloguer for a few years at an academic library, dealing with books and not archives, though I worked in a rare books and archives dept pre-library school.

    • Hi Liz! So far the only print-related assignment was creating a handout with visuals to accompany and in-class presentation. One of my local public libraries still creates pamphlets with reading recommendations for various subjects and genres, which I greately appreciate. We are learning so much technology in library school, all with a healthy does of skepticism. It is opening my eyes to the fragile nature of electronic information organization. I’m so happy we’ve connected!

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