Tag Archives: student assistants

1091 Project: Student Perspectives, pt. 2

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we hear from our student assistant, KellyNoel Waldorf, who started in Conservation as part of the enabling project. We were lucky enough to get her to stay on and continue working after that project was finished. She has been a great addition to our team and we love having her in the lab.

Written by KellyNoel Waldorf, Conservation Student Assistant

I dig my headphones from the recesses of my backpack, drop my bag into a locker, and press play on the new Mumford album. I let the music fill up my mind and my hands glide over the familiar tasks of collecting tools, snapping in a fresh scalpel blade, shaping boards and paper into folders, envelopes, binders, and boxes. For the next two hours I can relax.

As a senior at Duke University, a Linguistics and International Studies double major studying Spanish and German and working on a creative writing thesis, it seems that every minute of my day is scheduled.  At work I don’t have to think about homework or job searches, meetings or finances. I get to work with my hands and listen to music, audio books, or TV re-runs. By the end of two hours I’ve picked out my favorite songs from the album and I’ve got a nice stack of old books freshly housed in tuxedo boxes. It’s gratifying. Holding the tangible evidence of a finished job gives me a weird sense of accomplishment.

KellyNoel foldering brittle newspapers.

Three years ago I was looking through library positions and stumbled across the conservation posting. At first, I was hired to work on the Enabling Project (moving the Rubenstein Rare Books collection before impending renovations). I spent hours in the stacks sorting through books and discovering some of the hidden gems of the extensive collection. As the geek that I am, I felt cool about being one of the last people to ever work in the rare books rooms or to ride the creepy old elevator hidden among the Rubenstein stacks.

Eventually I moved down to the lab and started working on more hands-on projects. One of my favorites was a binder project housing old newspapers. When I started it was slow and I could only make a couple of binders in my shift. After about 200 hundred of them I was making stacks at a time. I would continue working with newspapers in a boxing project. For months there were endless carts of newspapers, I thought we would never see the end of them. Finally we boxed our last paper and I internally rejoiced. I had gone through several seasons of Buffy on that single project.

As a lover of languages, writing, poetry, and books, I am delighted by some of the pieces that my co-workers show me in the lab. My favorite discovery is Duke’s extensive Walt Whitman collection. My mild obsession with transcendentalist literature was intensified when I got to look at notes that were hand written by Whitman himself.

Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to hear from one of their student assistants

1091 Project: Portrait of the Student Technician

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we discuss an essential part of almost every conservation department, student technicians. Without our students we could not keep up with the sheer amount of materials that come to the lab. This week is spring break, so I can’t show you pictures of our wonderful students, KellyNoel, Kaiti and Jessica (on loan from ERSM for a project), but I can tell you about the work they do and what we look for in a good student assistant.

Students in the lab do a lot of boxing, pamphlet binding and CoLibri covers.
Student work, finished and in-process.
Student Workflows

Our students start out learning how to bind pamphlets, make simple enclosures, create CoLibri book jackets, make pockets and do simple repairs such as tip ins, cut pages, and binding musical scores. They also help with the tracking and physical moving of materials.

If the students have the abilities and interest they can  learn more complicated repairs and enclosures. These might include recasing or rebacking books, or making four-flap or corrugated clamshell boxes for fragile materials. We have had a couple students who stayed for several semesters and because they had the skills and interest, they were able to learn multiple conservation rebinding techniques and cloth-covered clamshell boxes.

Newspaper project
Newspapers ready for boxing.

We currently have students helping specifically with renovation projects. These students are primarily getting the newspapers ready to go to the Library Service Center. This involves jogging brittle paper into place, fitting the bindings into pre-made boxes, and making spacers in the boxes so the brittle papers don’t shift around during transit. This is a very labor intensive, dirty and repetitive project but all of our students are working hard to meet our fast approaching deadline.

What We Look When Hiring Student Technicians

Most of our students are undergraduates, but every now and then we hire a graduate student. We of course like it if they have state or federal work study, but that isn’t a requirement. We prefer to get the right student with the right skills regardless of their funding. Occasionally we will get a UNC-SILS student who wants to intern with the department and we will work with them to develop a project that fulfills their school requirements but also helps us move our department forward.

There are basic job requirements that are listed in all of our positions including being able to use sharp instruments and large binding equipment safely, lifting heavy boxes and moving full book trucks, and being able to work in a potentially dusty or moldy environment.

Beyond that, what I look for when I interview students is the ability to learn quickly and be productive, to work independently but to know when to ask questions, and to have a good attitude and work well with a diverse staff. It is rare that we find students who have bookbinding experience, so I look for interests or past work history that involve eye-hand coordination and attention to detail. It might surprise you that gamers have very good eye-hand coordination, students with musical backgrounds are excellent at following instructions, and research science students are amazingly skilled at detail-oriented work. If you are a student, you don’t need to be a crafty person or an art major to work here. We can teach you the skills you need to be successful if you have the ability to learn the craft.

Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to read about their students.