Summer Internship First Impressions: Emilia Mahaffey

July 18th, 2011 § 0 comments

In the middle of June I began an internship with the preservation department at UCLA. The internship started the way all jobs do – with a lot of paper work. I began my morning with a trip to library HR to fill out 1-9s and W-2s and learn all about the intricacies of working for a UCLA library. Finally, a couple of hours later, I got to meet Jake Nadal, the Preservation Officer, in person.

Jake was friendly and welcoming, taking me to lunch at the Faculty dining hall and introducing the internship and the schedule for my first week on the job. That schedule made it clear that Jake believed in “throwing me in the deep end” in order to help me find my feet. The schedule consisted of meetings and conference calls, part of Jake’s routine, and a way to get me immediately integrated into the work environment. Jake explained what each meeting would entail and I quickly discovered how much I would be learning over the course of the summer. The lunch proved to be both delicious and informative.

After lunch we boarded the campus shuttle once again (I was already completely lost – despite the map clutched firmly in my hand) and made our way to the Preservation Department. There Jake gave me a whirlwind tour and I got confirmation of the number of activities encompassed by the preservation umbrella. Jake showed me the Bindery, Contract Services, Collections Care, and even Conservation, all of whose activities are necessary for successful preservation.

In the next two days my education in preservation administration continued. During this week I attended two conference calls about WEST planning and two Business Continuity Plan meetings.

┬áBusiness Continuity Planning is what I will spend much of my summer working on. Business Continuity Planning (or BCP for short) allows a department or organization to get from a disaster to normal operational status once more. Tara Brown, the business continuity planner with whom I’ll be working, invariably starts her pitch with a story about UC Berkley. When UC Berkley surveyed their campus they discovered that there is a fault line that goes right through the center, running from goalpost to goalpost in the football stadium. This obviously led to consternation and, eventually, prompted the development of UC Ready, a tool which helps organize business continuity plans. Imagining an earthquake literally tearing a campus in two allows administrators and faculty to embrace the importance of a plan. Without a concrete and well-organized plan an entire university can fall apart, as important information and responsibilities inevitably fall through the cracks. Going through the UC Ready process point by point with Tara and Jake shows the ways that a well organized plan before any disaster can mitigate any horrible results.

You can see a screen capture from UCReady in this post, to get a sense of what is in this tool. If you want to learn more, UCReady has been released as “Kuali Ready” open-source software by the Kuali Foundation.


The conference calls, however, were related to WEST -Western Regional Storage Trust. WEST’s goal is to establish a shared print archive amongst academic libraries west of the Mississippi. As space becomes even more of a premium, libraries are looking for ways to open up as much space as possible by removing duplicate holdings, while also preserving the scholarly record. The program is still under development and there are many questions and decisions, often very nitpicky ones, to consider before it will be ready for use. These decisions include definitions of terms, vocabulary use, and MOU wording. This conference call consisted of four preservation librarians and three WEST project managers discussing terms and definitions for describing the retention commitments that WEST archive-builders will make. There was genuine give and take during the decision making process, making this one of the best examples of committee work that I have seen.

Besides seeing groups of librarians at work and learning about a new development in the library world, it was important for me to understand WEST so that I can begin a survey of some of the journals that UCLA will store for the WEST project. Through Jake’s teaching, I learned survey techniques from a tool that Jake had used in the past. This tool helps codify book structures, as well as damage ordeterioration. These include, the differences among bindings (allowing me to learn these distinctions), the ways that double-fan adhesive binding looks different from oversewing and burst binding, the differences in types of paper, and a variety of other characteristics of books. In my preservation classes at UT-Austin I had seem videos about these techniques and differences, but having them pointed out to me in a concrete fashion greatly helped my understanding of them. Using this tool, and the knowledge I gained from Jake’s instruction, Jen Martinez (UCLA’s summer intern in conservation) and I have started a survey of journals at the Charles Young Research Library (YRL). As most of my experience is in archives, where surveys are not practicable, it was informative to see the very real advantages in a preservation and library environment.

Overall, the things that I learned during my first week on the job had been touched on in my preservation class, but not explained in a comprehensive fashion. It is also true that since most of my experience is in archives, it was important to go through and see the ways that preservation actively aids (and affects) libraries. In broader terms Jake and Tara showed me the importance of Business Continuity Planning in all types of business, libraries and archives included, and the ways that these administrative tools can and should be used by all levels and types of people.

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