Meredith Wray: BHL Digital Content Intern, Summer 2019
My name is Meredith Wray, and I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a Biodiversity Heritage Library digital content intern this summer.
First off, a little bit about myself. I am from Richmond, VA and obtained my undergraduate degree in American Studies from William & Mary. I am working to achieve my master’s in library and information science from Rutgers University, with a concentration in archives and preservation. I am extremely interested in the work of digital libraries and archives. My program is remote, so I was very excited to find a learning opportunity like the BHL internship in which I could expand my librarian skill set and apply my coursework to the goals of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The remote nature of the internship allowed for a flexible work schedule on my part as I balance coursework and my job.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is an open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives that aims to improve research methodology by facilitating collaboration between biodiversity facilities. I quickly grew to appreciate the mission of BHL as a means to inspire biodiversity discovery through free access. I was able to work with and learn from my supervisor, Bianca Crowley, Digital Collections Manager for BHL. I had weekly video conference calls with Bianca and worked the rest of the week remotely to achieve progress on assigned projects, tracking assignments through digitization workflow tools.
The goals of the internship are to focus on metadata creation, cataloging, and gain experience with digitization workflows. I was taking a cataloging and classification course over the summer, so it was very rewarding to apply my coursework learning about MARC records and cataloging principles in a digital library environment like BHL. My day-to-day consisted of assigning MARC records to items, often finding them in OCLC; uploading items to BHL’s digitization workflow management tool, Macaw; and filling out item-level metadata, such as the sponsoring institution, author, or volume information, before passing them along to be uploaded to Internet Archive.
I would usually have several issues going at once — either uploading or assigning metadata to digitized items. Once uploaded, I would go through each item to assign page level metadata — page numbers, page sides, volume and year information. I would also assign page types to each, taking note of any tables, text, photographs, illustrations, and front or back matter (title page, cover, table of contents, or bibliography). This was to help researchers and users of BHL scan the item to see what its contents may hold.
My conversations with Bianca challenged me to think about the items from the perspective of a researcher — what information would be most helpful, as well as really taking and describing the item as-is and not attempting to make judgements on any of the items. This principle was emphasized in my cataloging class, but it was rewarding to apply in an online library environment. Although most of my day-to-day work consisted of cataloging and metadata creation, I was lucky enough to develop a better understanding of copyright issues and moving walls through my training and ongoing discussions with Bianca, who explained the ongoing partnerships and communications needed to obtain legal and physical access to materials for BHL.
The items I worked on ranged from International Congress of Entomology proceedings to nature journals focused on the biodiversity heritage of Wales. The most time-intensive and at times challenging items were compiling abstracts and conference proceedings from the International Congress of Entomology. Several of the items were several thousand pages long and required some patience uploading, but I was able to gain experience digitally stitching PDFs together and preparing them for upload.
My favorite item to work with was probably several of the Nature in Wales journals. These journals have a variety of content types and covered the biodiversity of the Welsh region with interesting articles, photographs, and illustrations, so assigning page-level metadata to these items was always interesting.
In the end, I contributed 28 items and 16,053 pages to BHL. The variety of materials and content was really exciting to work with, and I am honored to have contributed several items to BHL for potential use by researchers and students. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to work on BHL projects and appreciate the learning experience as it relates to my master’s degree and professional goals.