Thursday, February 5

How 'bout them Stillers?!

There's no denying that Pittsburgh is a sports fan's city. You've got a calendar year chock full of pure, unadulterated sports enjoyment - from the Pens, to the Bucs, to a little-known football team we like to call the Stillers (maybe you've heard of them?). All boast histories of humble beginnings and are symbolic of the things that make me proud to be a Pittsburgher - dedication, diversity, and determination.

...That being said, I must admit that I am far from what you'd call a sports fan. I'd rather read a book than jump on a couch shouting for this so-called Big Ben or Polamaluwhowho? I tend to think that overindulging in alcohol, red meat, and gratuitous violence is barbaric and a sign that the human race has not evolved as much as we pretend. But I cannot deny that Sunday, February 1, 2009, I found myself ecstatically shouting and pumping my arms in the air. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the Yuengling, but I felt for the first time that I might understand how fans catch the Black-and-Gold fever.

I doubt I will ever spend thousands of dollars on a football ticket. And I truly don't see myself sitting outside in 8 degree weather to cheer for anything, but somehow...somewhere...there is a Steelers fan lurking inside me. Maybe it is best said that I am a tried and true Pittsburgh fan. That anything showcasing this city is something that can make me feel wholly good. Whether it is the greatness of a city or a team of small-town heroes - believing in something and being proud of something makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. And isn't that a great and comforting feeling?

And here's where the archives come in...Archives are a part of something bigger. They are rooted in our human nature, a collecting tendency that seems programmed into (almost) everyone's DNA. Sports memorabilia and paraphernalia can make up a large portion of many archival collections. Better yet, many people (my father-in-law, for example) have created their own archives in their basements and attics...unaware of the connection to our profession. I think these sports fans are closet advocates for archives and could be a great source of patronage.

Unfortunately, here in Pittsburgh, these fans (or amateur archivists and museum curators) seem relatively untouched by the stories collected and displayed at the Heinz History Center's Sports Museum. Located in a relatively unassuming brick building at the end of the Strip District, too many Pittsburghers are unaware of the museum's existence. I don't know if I'm just completely oblivious or if the Heinz History Center is doing too little to promote its events and collections but I've heard very little about what the Sports Museum is doing to celebrate the Steelers' victory. There is mention of events on the museum's website but how is this reaching the people of Pittsburgh (and any other Steelers fans) if they don't look at the website?

But how should the History Center go about making itself more well-known? Are there untapped possibilities for connecting to the collectors hidden in their basement galleries?

Baseball card expos hosted at the History Center?
Tutorials for taking care of sports-related ephemera?

...Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Thursday, January 15

Reflections on the new year

So the holidays are officially a thing of the past. Now we look to the future. Where will I be in two weeks? Six months? A year? Who knows?!

My husband and I are shaking things up - we're going to take advantage of this miserable economy! That's right folks, we are looking to buy a home. A part of me feels awful for those who have to sell during this dismal housing market but another part of me realizes that Tim and I have had some bad breaks in the past. Maybe it is time to grab what we can, when we can.

The idea of taking on yet another sizable loan is daunting to say the least. We've spent a lot of nights pondering whether or not we can do this. In the end it always comes back to my current predicament - where do you draw the line when holding out for a professional job?

So far, my husband and I have been lucky in that his job is stable and our loans are "few" (a relative term). I have spent the last 4 months working several part time library jobs while volunteering at the local archives just so I can keep up with the required years of experience and know-how written into most job descriptions. Unfortunately, these part time jobs have suffered at the hands of the 2009 budget axeman and I now find myself in the less than lucrative position of being a professional volunteer. In the past I've heard supervisors tell others not to take staff (vs. library faculty) positions or unrelated/non-professional jobs because you will eventually need to explain these away when trying to re-enter the library and archives world.

So I ask those of you who sit on the other side of the interview desk - will this economy (and its inherent cuts to many institutions' hiring budgets) and the simple needs of putting food on the table and a roof over your head suffice as a reason to turn to jobs unrelated to my chosen profession?

This is not to say that life is all bad. As I've mentioned, there are things for which I am eternally grateful - I love living in Pittsburgh and am even more in love with the idea of moving closer into town. My family and friends are supportive and helpful (not everyone will read over your resume and cover letters 20 times a week). And thankfully, we all have our health. I do believe that 2009 will bring a bounty of good's just a matter of finding the balance between needs and wants, dreams and realities.

Thursday, December 18

The life and times of a New(B)ie

With the new year quickly approaching, I thought it best to get a head start on my resolution. This year I am making an effort to document my life as a new archivist in this big, bad world of financial, technological, and intellectual obstacles. I will be using this venue to do just that - document what it is to be me, a newbie in a sea of seasoned archivists/librarians and fresh MLIS grads annually pumped out of Pitt's system into a bloated professional pool in this tiny drop of water that is Pittsburgh.

Currently, I work in several libraries. I piece together my time as a substitute for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and as a ULS intern at the Katz Graduate School of Business. I have also spent the last year interning/volunteering with Library and Archives Division of the Heinz History Center. Through it all I have learned more about librarianship, archiving, and Pittsburgh than I ever thought I'd know.

When I first began researching library schools I admittedly didn't even know what an archive was. Yet the explanation of archives found on Pitt's LIS site struck a chord with me. As an undergraduate, I had majored in the Classics where we linked the individualistic and nationalistic identities of ancient civilizations to the marks they'd left behind. These documents - be they buildings, sarcophagi, epics, or verse - laid before me a pattern of memorializing detectable in so many later cultures and hinted toward the archival tendencies in us all. The idea of working in the archives field, where I could help preserve and maintain American documents of history and culture, was too enticing to pass up (not to mention, it lent an air of practicality to my five years of studying Homer and Virgil), so I applied to the MLIS program at the University of Pittsburgh.

One year (and many student loans) later and here I am. The idyllic thoughts of what it might be to work as an archivist have clashed with the reality of trudging through dusty, dank storage and hours spent making redactions of SSNs and checking account numbers. But the importance of what I do and what we strive for in our profession is not lost on me yet.

This is where I begin - in media res I suppose. My blog will undoubtedly follow personal reveries, although I hope to have something intelligible to contribute to the world of information management now and then.

Please feel free to suggest topics of discussion and ask questions!