Student Spotlight: Carrie Wilson, Special Collections Graduate Desk Assistant

Carrie Wilson ('22) has worked as a Special Collections Graduate Student Desk Assistant since June 2021.

The Special Collections Research Center blog series "Student Spotlight" features student employees who contribute to the work of the SCRC. Guest author Carrie Wilson, class of 2022, is a graduate student in the Master of Library Science program at North Carolina Central University. Carrie has worked as a Graduate Student Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room since June 2021.

Please describe in a sentence or two the work that you do in the Special Collections Research Center.

I monitor research appointments, assist with archival circulation, process analog collections, update online finding aids, caption A/V materials, and fulfill digital scan requests. I also wrote a blog post last year for the Walter L. Smith Papers.

What has been most interesting to you about your work?  What new things have you learned? Have you made any surprising discoveries?

The most interesting aspect of my work has been seeing how metadata and finding aids are created for new archives collections. As a graduate student on the digital and academic librarianship tracks, I know that subject headings and content summaries are important to my own research, so getting to peek behind the curtain and help generate metadata for archives collections has been fun and fascinating to me. I’ve learned that both detail and concision are equally important, which has helped me to practically apply what I studied in my professional writing classes as an undergraduate English student. In terms of discoveries, I think the ones I have made have been more heartwarming than surprising, like finding former Board of Trustees member Walter L. Smith’s affectionate letters to colleagues in the military. I think that is what attracted me to archives work in the first place–being able to showcase the humanity and relationships built in the lifetimes of records we leave behind.

If you met someone who was unfamiliar with archives and special collections, what would you want them to know? What should new researchers know about the work you do?

I would want this person to know that the needs of researchers are always the first thing on my mind when I begin processing a new collection. Archives work to me isn’t just about the preservation of materials for their own sake–it’s about preserving cultural memory for those who will need it when they have questions about anything from a class project to a genealogical mystery.

What are you studying, and what do you hope to do in your future career?  Has your work in the SCRC changed how you look at your studies or your future career plans in any way?

I am a graduate student studying digital and academic librarianship. I’ve used my classes to dig deeply into how archival and library description practices can be made more equitable and sustainable, and I hope to be able to take what I’ve learned to any archives or library system to help them with their discovery systems and end user support. However, I also have a deep passion for public libraries and would be happy to work as a public librarian in adult services so that I can help with technology and digital programming. The SCRC has changed how I look at my future career by giving me experience working with metadata because I mistakenly assumed that it was a simple, standard task associated with cataloging when I was a new library science student. Now, it is something I’m legitimately passionate about because it is one of librarians’ and archivists’ best tools for facilitating discovery of resources.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with the SCRC?

It has been and continues to be a truly enriching experience! From helping with research appointments to digging into new cartons of materials, the work is all at once challenging and rewarding.