Robbins, Illinois: home of black flight


It’s been such a long time since I posted, I know. But, I’m still plugging away at that Master’s degree. This summer I am interning at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, working on some digitization and digital collections projects. Today, while working on the Black Aviators Videohistory collection, I discovered some interesting things about Robbins, IL. Let me preface my discovery by saying that Robbins, IL is connected to my mother’s side of the family. My gg-grandparents were Frank Witcher and Amanda Powers Witcher. Their daughter, Daisy Witcher Aycox, would go on to become  my maternal great-grandmother. Daisy had an older brother, Armstead Witcher, namesake to his grandfather, Armstead Powers.

Armstead Witcher was born around 1881, one of nine Witcher offspring. They were raised in Clarke County, Georgia, in the rural community of Sandy Creek. Like many young African American men of the time and region, Armstead didn’t learn to…

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Webwise 2014: Reflections on the convergence of education and information science

by Alyse Minter

Webwise is an annual conference hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS). This year, February 10-12, it was held in Baltimore, Maryland. Webwise allows library, archives, and museum (LAM) professionals to come together and learn, network, and discuss trends and issues connected to operating digital platforms. The focus this year was Anchoring Communities. It enabled LAMs to think about programs and their impact on users, as well as utilizing current spaces and programs in innovative ways to connect with and impact communities, such as the MakerSpace movement. Twitter conversations around Webwise 2014 can be found at #WebWise2014.

The conference opened on Monday morning with a keynote address from Nick Poole, Chief Excutive Officer of Collections Trust in the UK. Poole spoke about the importance of creating ownership between communities and organizations. Many times, LAM professionals tend to view institutions as an “our,” effectively making institutions restrictive to the staff, rather than inclusive of the user community. Services, platforms, and programming should be geared towards what individuals need, want, and love. This will go a long way towards public support of institutions, as people tend to stand up for what they love. Curating institutions towards user needs also ensures the public will be more likely to fund necessary support, versus if the public is not kept informed and only those on the inside are in the know. In terms of innovation, Poole gave the example of using a hammer responsibly and “smartly”. The hammer in this analogy represents digital tools and resources available to institutions. Instead of just gleefully banging the hammer around because we can, LAM professionals should seek the best way to utilize tools, rather than embracing the new in-thing and not utilizing it the fullest potential. (The hammer was a favorite analogy among attendees.) When it comes to planning for institutions, collaboration is the key. Rather than shutting oneself away and engaging in the “silo of the LAM,” professionals should learn to work together and effectively problem solve and create solutions. The long range goal in any institution is to impact its users for the better, whether through education, research, or relationships. In order to achieve this goal, institutions must learn to be transparent, flexible, and passionate. Be open about developments and ideas. Change is okay; not everything can or should stay the same. The way things were done in 1975 most likely will not work in 2014. The mission and goals of the institution should be accessible and broadly known. People are the most important indicators of success and institutions should work towards cultivating relationships.

Speaking of change, one of the things that struck me was the repeated discussion surrounding pedagogy as it relates to information and user services. As an education major in undergrad, it was interesting to hear the terminology with which I was so familiar being tossed around as this new, grand approach to information science. For example, creating community ownership is about creating learner driven processes in which the user takes ownership for his/her creativity and innovation in research or exploration. This includes the aforementioned inclusive language and programming to distill the mystery surrounding LAMs. Just as the push in information literacy is to equip and empower users to make informed choices about information needs and results, the focus is less on the LAM or LAM professional and more on the individual or community. It’s less of a librarian as the great authority model and more of a networking, collaborative model. This was particularly obvious in the session on MakerSpaces. Because of the heavy emphasis on creativity, invention, and innovation, MakerSpaces provide for a very close relationship between information science and education. The focus is more on working together and working through the process, providing a safe space in which “failure” allows individuals to problem solve and come up with new ways to arrive at workable solutions. I think this concept is applicable to any area education, scholarship, and outreach. I personally count myself lucky to have received a strong foundation in pedagogy and student-centered learning. I’m excited to see this approach begin to intersect with the library field and am excited to see what future developments hold, particularly in the area of LAM collaboration and educational/information building for community support.

Why Professional Organizations?

A post from my (Alyse Minter) blog, An Emerging Archivist:

I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by my graduate student organization in Library Science, AGLISS, in which professionals from the library field shared their reflections on professional organizations and how those organizations can have a positive effect on building a career. unfortunately, we didn’t have a very large audience turn out. But nevertheless, I wanted to share a few of the highlights, in case it could be of help to someone.

1. Professional organizations allow you to network. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard so much about networking that perhaps we start to tune out when we hear the n-word. But seriously, professional organizations allow beginning professionals the chance to link up with others who shared their interests and career goals. It can also provide a chance to “shadow” a more experienced professional and learn tips of the trade.

2. Professional organizations allow you the opportunity to build skills in areas that may not be available through your job or practicum/internship. Practicums and internships are wonderful, but they are temporary. You’re usually in a race against the clock to absorb as much as you can before the clock strikes twelve and you return to normal life. Or at least, that’s how it felt at times this summer. Lovely experience, I learned a ton, but it was over so soon. Through professional organizations, for example, you may be able to boost management skills through heading a committee. Speaking of committees, many organizations are eager to have young, fresh individuals as participants. So figure out your interests, and drop an email.

3. Not all professional organizations cost an arm and a leg. Many of us are still perilously close to that “poor, struggling grad student” phase…or we’re just flat-out still in it. Before you despair, check out the local counterparts of national organizations. For example, MARAC may provide a cheaper alternative to SAA and DCLA may be more cost effective than ALA. Also, most professional organizations offer reduced student rates.

4. Local chapters or local organizations provide a more intimate involvement with local professionals, so you will be better able to connect and (get this) network! Also, local chapters will likely host conferences, workshops and events close in vicinity to your state of residence, so it will be easier to attend. That’s not to say you shouldn’t join national organizations. I’m an SAA member and have gotten some great benefits from that membership. Just keep the local organizations in mind, as well. The people you interact with on a local basis, however, will be your colleagues or bosses in a few years, so make yourself known now. 

5. Make yourself known now. By being involved in professional organizations, you allow your name and face to be recognized. Because of this, if you commit to something, make sure you’re able to carry it out. It would not be a good thing to gain a reputation as a quitter or a person whose word means nothing. Remember, these are your colleagues and bosses of the near future. Leave a good impression.

6.  Of course, you can always put it on your resume. But why stop at just having words on a piece of paper? Try to shape your time now to reflect your future goals. What do you want to do with your career? What steps can you take now to ensure you receive the experience and professional skills necessary to get to your next step? The work force is competitive, so you have to be proactive.

I hope this was helpful to you. I greatly enjoyed hearing from our professionals and count it as well worth my time. Oh, that was my last point: listen to the people who are in the field now. They have good advice. I guess that counts as networking, but you get the point.

Have a great day! :)