By: Ellie Campbell, JD and University of Alabama MLIS graduate student
Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series profiling the graduate students who work in the Division of Special Collections. Haley Thomas was interviewed for Cool@Hoole over two posts back in November 2013. Alex Goolsby contributed her thoughts on her time at Hoole on May 5, 2014.
Hello! Thank you for agreeing to talk to us about your role at in the Division of Special Collections. First off, how did you get started in this field?
I first worked in archives as a student worker at the University of Mississippi. I was a graduate student there in Southern Studies, and I got a part-time job working for their Modern Political Archive on the papers of former U.S. Senator James O. Eastland. I was later hired in a full-time position as the Senior Library Assistant for their Modern Political Archives. I’ve also worked in circulation as the Senior Library Assistant at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, and as the faculty research assistant at the Bounds Law Library at the University of Alabama. I enjoy learning about different academic fields and helping our patrons research across those fields, so I hope to continue to have a career in libraries.
What is your current position here at the Division of Special Collections at UA?
I am the graduate teaching assistant for outreach and exhibitions here at Hoole Library.
What is the most surprising item you’ve seen during your time in the stacks?
Hoole has a couple of collections that surprised me – in particular, their collection of quilts and their collection of comic books. [Editor’s Note: Ellie previously wrote on a Gee’s Bend quilt at Hoole] Before I came to work here, I had not particularly thought of either as an archival collection, but I have come to appreciate how fascinating they are, and how they can be of use to many different researchers.
Out of all the items you’ve come across, which is your favorite?
I’ve enjoyed getting to learn more about rare books. My previous special collections experience was with political and literary papers, so it has been fun to learn about a totally different kind of archival material and all the ways in which rare books compare and contrast with other types of collections.
My favorite individual item is the Armed Forces edition of Oliver Twist. I found this item while pulling material to use for my upcoming exhibition on children’s literature, which should be mounted in June 2014 in the Pearce Lobby of Gorgas Library.
During WWII, the American military printed a series of novels in condensed form for our servicemen, and Hoole has an almost complete collection. A typical copy of Oliver Twist might run over 600 pages in tradeback, but this one is only 160 pages and about the size of an index card! I find interpretations of classic stories fascinating and I think this speaks to the power of the archive to present many different narratives or voices for study. Even stripped to the bone, Oliver Twist remains a powerful story that resonates across temporal and geographic boundaries.
Can you describe your average day in Special Collections?
It depends on what project I’m working on at the time, though it usually involves some kind of research. I might compose a blog post on an item from our collections, pick out books for an exhibition, write text for an exhibition, or pull materials for an instructional session.
What are your goals for your career?
I hope to stay in archives and special collections, and I would particularly like to work with materials related the U.S. South.