Reflections on a year as an OCLC Diversity Fellow

[This post was written by Julianna Barrera-Gomez. I hope you will join me in congratulating Julianna on a successful year as a Diversity Fellow!]

Having just wrapped up my stint at OCLC Research as a 2012 OCLC Jay Jordan Diversity Fellow, I can now pause to reflect on my time there and the amazing opportunities I had. In my year-long position I got the chance to work with a lot of great people at OCLC, both inside and out of Research. The following is a sampling of things I got to do while here and some of the people I got to work with.

I started at OCLC as a member of Senior Research Scientist Lynn Silipigni-Connaway’s team, where I got a hearty dose of qualitative research support experience working with her various projects that evaluate the information seeking behavior of users (such as the Visitors and Residents and Cyber Synergy projects). Hours (and hours!) of team member time goes into devising methods of collecting and evaluating information. This includes things like formulating questions for phone interviews and online surveys, coming up with methods of analysis for the answers we receive, putting results and interviewee information into NVivo (a qualitative analysis software tool) and running queries, then hours more of analysis to come up with findings. All of that work is made worthwhile when we get to discuss findings and put them into a finished product, such as a paper or conference presentation. In addition to working with Lynn’s project, I also got to work with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Ixchel Faniel on her project titled Dissemination Information Packages for Information Reuse (DIPIR). I was very interested in working on these projects because I wanted to understand how users interact with various information systems (such as web-based databases and repositories) and what their expectations and issues are when finding and using online information. As an archivist, I leaped at the chance to be a part of these projects so I could learn how to replicate this sort of data gathering and analysis with archives users.

Poster from the DIPIR project presented at the 2013 iConference in Fort Worth, TX.  “A Comparative Study of Data Reuse among Quantitative Social Scientists and Archaeologists,” see the abstract at https://ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/42099.

Poster from the DIPIR project presented at the 2013 iConference in Fort Worth, TX. “A Comparative Study of Data Reuse among Quantitative Social Scientists and Archaeologists,” see the abstract at https://ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/42099.

Outside of the main office in Dublin, OH, I was able to work with the San Mateo, CA-based OCLC Research Library Partnership (RLP) members on an exciting archives project. I got an amazing chance to work with Program Officers Jackie Dooley and Ricky Erway on a report for their Demystifying Born Digital program, where I created experience-based recommendations (from our wonderfully helpful expert advisor group) and detail-rich advice on accessioning born-digital material. The report, titled Walk This Way: Detailed Steps for Transferring Born-Digital Content from Media You Can Read In-house gave me the chance to learn even more about archiving born-digital material and to respond to an identified need for support from RLP members. We’re hoping the report will provide further assistance and hopefully stimulate discussion in the archives community that will in turn help those who read it. As always, Jackie and Ricky welcome feedback and ideas — they really want to hear from you!

One of the most enjoyable opportunities I had this year was the time to meet and work with people outside of OCLC Research. I couldn’t resist vising the OCLC Library and I was thrilled to get the chance to work with Curator Kemberly Lang, helping her process, arrange and describe archival collections. I got to surround myself with collections documenting the history of OCLC and the Dewey Decimal Classification System, including records from the Forest Press Editorial Policy Committee and theDewey Decimal Classification Editor’s Office.

An example of a digitized collection I worked on, the OCLC Pacific Network’s News Updates span from 1978-2004 on CONTENTdm

An example of a digitized collection I worked on, the OCLC Pacific Network’s News Updates span from 1978-2004 on CONTENTdm

I’ve had the opportunity to work on teams with researchers and partners of OCLC Research from several leading research universities, with member bases spanning several time zones. It’s been demanding, but it is so invigorating when we’re able to produce something that’s interesting and useful. It was an intense year, and the experience has given me numerous occasions to realize the importance of research. At conferences I was heartened to hear from attendees at our focus groups or our talks how much they appreciate our user focus and the data-driven outputs we share. Working at OCLC has also given me a unique view of the power of collaborative efforts to provide information and services to those who need it. I leave OCLC armed with new knowledge and anointed with zeal, ready to continue the effort to make archives and special collections more accessible and illuminating for users.

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