Megan Ó Connell is the Rubenstein’s Reproduction Services Manager. Megan has been a part of the Duke library system since 2006, when she served as a University Archives intern. She joined the library full-time in 2009.
Tell us about your academic background and interests.
I have always been interested in the cultural record left by humans. I studied Anthropology, with a focus on American archaeology, and I worked in Southeastern and Gulf Coast archaeology for many years. After studying what can be learned from the unintentional record left by artifacts, I wanted to interact with the intentional/communicative record, as it was left in the past and continuing into the “futurepast,” that is, the present. Rare books and archives satisfied that wish.
What are the main projects you work on at the Rubenstein?
I manage the patron reproduction requests, including those made by both onsite and remote researchers, ensuring that the most appropriate technology is used based on the specific items and desired output; liaise with onsite and offsite services; and deliver requests as efficiently as possible while maintaining high quality and providing RL’s acclaimed customer service. Exponentially increasing numbers of library users want digital versions of our materials, and these researchers often cannot do the reproductions themselves, so I help ensure that they get what they need for their research, whether they live in Durham or Durban.
What does an average day look like for you?
On most days I log new reproduction requests; route materials to be used in requests; examine materials for reproduce-ability; discuss options and approaches with technical specialists, RL staff, and my student assistant; and communicate with staff and patrons about technical considerations and goals. I may do some reading on specific media types, technologies, or techniques; troubleshoot imaging equipment maintenance issues; train staff on processes; or communicate with vendors. I assist researchers about 12 hours a week on the Reading Room desk, and also work on general reference questions, many of which lead to reproduction requests.
What do you like best about your job?
I love seeing (and hearing) the panoply of treasures we hold at the Rubenstein — pamphlets, photographs, beautiful bound volumes, maps, vintage sound and film recordings, broadsides, artists’ books, zines, ads, papyri… and I enjoy learning about how researchers are using this richness to ask intriguing questions and shed light on cultural phenomena. People might be surprised to know that our library is so busy that we produce around 20,000 digital reproductions per year for patron requests! I enjoy helping our diverse researchers, from students to professors to authors to genealogists, and working with people all over the globe, learning about their lives – and often connecting with them on a personal level. It is gratifying to be able to be a part of so many efforts to illuminate aspects of human existence.
Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?
I love the H. Lee Waters films because while Waters intended to create a record, unlike most documentaries, the intended audience was the subjects themselves. The films’ subjects were caught in their everyday activities, yet they were very aware of the camera’s presence, and many behaved as if they were amusing their friends, rather than consciously creating a historical record. It’s just fun to watch the subjects ham it up, although the quick cuts can be a bit dizzying after a while.
Where can you be found when you’re not working?
I enjoy nature walks, photography, reading, hiking, canoeing, gardening, fishing, and playing music.
What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?
Interview composed and photographs taken by Katrina Martin.