Reflecting back on my incredible summer at Smithsonian Libraries

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As the weather in Central New York is getting colder, and the winter is inevitably approaching, I can’t help but recall the humid summer of Washington, DC. Over the summer of 2016, I interned at Smithsonian Libraries. As a summer intern, I worked at the Department of Digital Programs and Initiatives on the “Cataloging across collections” project. The project was focused on metadata and cataloging. During my internship I worked on digital curation of the records in Biodiversity Heritage Library as well as cataloging field notes for the Field Book Project. Both aspects of my internship were coordinated by mentors assigned by the Smithsonian Libraries – Bianca Crowley, Digital Collections Manager of Biodiversity Heritage Library, and Lesley Parilla, Cataloging Coordinator of the Field Book Project. During my internship I met with Smithsonian Institution staff members, toured different departments, attended the staff picnic, and, most importantly, improved my understanding of the technical services in libraries.

Although working on metadata projects was quite challenging, it helped me to gain confidence as an information professional. As a librarian, I’ve always known that the information organization is important, but I didn’t realize how much properly maintained bibliographic descriptions can improve the user experience. Especially, when the audience can only interact with online assets. Biodiversity Heritage Library is a unique digital collection of the resources in Natural Sciences. My work focused on editing metadata for existing records, which included author merging, editing of volume information, title merging, and linking of the serial records. I received training in 2 internal systems, the Gemini Issue Tracker and BHL Administrative Dashboard to work on these tasks.

On the first week of my internship, I needed to link several volumes together. “Den Norske Nordhavs-expedition, 1876-1878” gives an account of the Norwegian North-Atlantic expedition in the 19th century, commanded by Carl Fredrik Wille, Captain of the Royal Navy. Since I have interest in Scandinavian languages, I enjoyed interacting with this resource. This and many other assignments throughout my internship taught me the importance of metadata standards. Seeing both librarian and user perspectives on the information-retrieval systems became an eye-opening experience for me.


Further into my internship, I was trained to upload the scanned images into the Internet Archive, the platform that hosts the BHL assets. I used another internal system, Macaw, for this purpose. As I was uploading the new images, I assigned page-level metadata. One of the publications I was working with was Bonn Zoological Bulletin. I had so much fun working on the metadata-level description of William Mann’s scrapbook from his trip to South East Asia for the Field Book Project. One of my favorite serials was Canadian Forest Industries, a magazine that was renamed at least 6 times before its current title. While I was adding volume information and page level metadata, I encountered amazing illustrations and advertisement campaigns from Florists’ Review, that is a wonderful compilation of the marketing tools of the past.




In addition to learning many essential skills for technical services in libraries, during my internship I worked with Camtasia software. Screen-casting was used to develop tutorials for BHL Staff about working in the BHL “Admin Dash.” I recorded one video that focused on merging author records together. During the internship I also presented at a Brown Bag presentation in front of Smithsonian Libraries staff, my mentors, and other interns.

I would like to express gratitude to my mentors – Bianca Crowley, Digital Collections Manager at Biodiversity Heritage Library, and Lesley Parilla, Cataloging Coordinator of the Field Book Project, and the entire Department of Digital Programs and Initiatives for their guidance and support. I would also like to thank LIS Program Director at Syracuse University – Jill Hurst-Wahl, and my Academic Advisor – Barbara Stripling, for their invaluable insights on the US library system. My boundless gratitude goes to Cultural Vistas and the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program that made it possible for me to intern in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2016. Being a part of the Smithsonian Institution was an unforgettable life experience, which I will proudly carry with me throughout my library career!

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Nura Agzamova was an intern at Smithsonian Libraries for the Biodiversity Heritage Library and The Field Book Project in 2016.