My experience as the Digital Programs Graduate Student Intern

black and white photograph of Amherst, MA featuring Amherst College, 1800s

Post by Jessica Dampier, Simmons University MLIS ’19

I have been working in Frost Library as the Digital Programs Graduate Student Intern since fall of 2016. Things have changed a lot in our department over the past three years, and for a variety of reasons the work I was doing when I first got hired has expanded and evolved along with the department. If I can think of one word that describes us in Digital Programs it is “adaptability,” both on a micro and macro level. Since I will be leaving my position here soon, and passing the intern torch to another LIS grad student, I’m writing this post to reflect on my time and work here, and share my experiences with others in the library. Ultimately, I am incredibly grateful for my time here, and the amazing people that work here in Frost. I am continually moved by everyone’s commitment to Amherst, commitment to their own work, and the overall feelings of compassion and support I have felt over the years.

One of the biggest changes I have seen since I started in Digital Programs has been the equipment upgrades in the digital lab. When I started, I was trained on the flat bed scanners and the Zeutschel, and select student workers used the cameras. When Tim Pinault was hired as the digitization coordinator, he reevaluated the lab with an expert eye, and we purchased new camera stands, the Phase One camera, and new software for color correction. We no longer use the flatbed scanners. It was challenging for me at times to learn everything new, but ultimately that helped me grow professionally and personally. Tim’s expertise brought our digitization lab up to date and it improved our quality and output. I’m grateful for being an intern in Digital Programs during that time of experimenting and growing, and being able to learn from others in the department.

I was also impressed with how much creativity and expression is encouraged and explored in the Digital Programs department. Each person has their own unique creative projects and interests outside of work, and we bring that together as a strength to the department. As department head, Este Pope recognizes that and fosters it as a strength by organizing retreats each year focused on bringing together our artistic interests and connecting that to our work in Digital Programs. In 2018 we visited the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections for a day, making zines and looking at their riot grrl zine collection. In 2019 we visited The Clark Museum art research library. We got a fantastic tour from my previous supervisor, Andrea Puccio, and we looked at interesting special collections they have as well as a tour of the art museum and a special pass to an exhibit of antique iron works. We just finished recording interview podcasts of each other and that will be available soon for the library staff to listen to.  We also host or participate in library wide events, from guiding our summer students in their digital humanities projects to throwing a “coloring party” in the staff lounge featuring images from the Henry J. Van Lennep collection that we just added to ACDC. Creativity abounds in Digital Programs and it only makes the department stronger and encourages us to approach our work from many angles.

Everyone in the department brings their skills and life experience to their work, and has had a positive impact on my professional development as I begin my career in academic libraries. Sarah Walden McGowan and Bethany Seeger have been there since I started, always available to teach me with patience and always supportive and helpful. Bridget Dahill joined us last year and brings her enthusiasm and fun, as well as her great work. I have been lucky to have such an inspiring team to work with in Digital Programs.

As I move into my new position as the Norfolk Charitable Trust Transition Archivist in Archives and Special Collections here at Amherst, I know that my years of growth and experience in Digital Programs has prepared me well for this responsibility. I hope to be able to be part of the training process in some way when they hire a new graduate student intern, and I know that whoever accepts that position will learn and grow as much as I did while I was here.

Jess was the Digital Programs Graduate Student Intern from fall 2016 to summer 2019. She graduated from Simmons University with her Master of Library & Information Science in 2019.