Until this week, I had only a vague concept of my project’s final form. That can be expected when you decide to center your whole project around case studies, and you want to leave room for the interviews to go in a variety of directions. It’s difficult to express the scope of your project when you need your subjects to define that for themselves. I don’t want to speak for my subjects; the goal of my project is to learn from them.
I got very lucky in that each of my three case studies represents a distinct aspect of librarianship. I’ve interviewed an archivist, a librarian, and a curator. The themes of their work and their most prevalent concerns regarding ethics in the field as a whole are both separate and intertwined. The interviews were highly informative and just so exciting for someone pursuing a graduate degree in the same field that these people have been so successful in. The scary part of this is now having to draft narratives around their experiences in a way that does these individuals justice and is contained within the bounds of my research. I know a fraction of what they know, but I have to somehow become familiar with a lot of it in the next few weeks.
What do I know about donor consent for archival materials? Archiving activism in the digital age? Systematic inequality within librarianship? The problem of the MLS degree? Digitizing material that wasn’t originally meant to be public? Undergraduates access to archives for research in a time when everything else is online? The answer is: very little. But my incredible case studies have taught me a lot and pointed me in the directions of notable primary and secondary sources for people who want to learn about these issues. I have a lot to learn before I can write successfully about where I see myself in this field.
My biggest fear with this project is not producing something that reflects my passion for librarianship and that does not adequately convey the respect I have for my case studies and their work. I’m worried the narrative won’t be clear, the project site won’t match the content, and that my case studies might be disappointed. At the same time, these interviews have been so exciting, and I’m feeling incredibly motivated in my pursuit of this career. That was the whole purpose of doing this project now, in my last semester of undergrad as I prepare for grad school. One of my case studies even offered to stay in contact for when I finish my degree and begin looking for a job. In that sense, it’s already a huge success. Fingers crossed all other big hopes for the project work out.