This was originally posted on the Syracuse University iSchool blog, Information Space
I am here in Washington, DC doing my internship at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries Digital Services Division. Aside from fulfilling the internship requirements, I am here because I was appointed to a Professional Development Internship position. This was a lengthy procedure, but well worth it. I started the application process sometime around the end of December filling out the standard forms and writing the requisite ‘Why I want this internship’ essays. This was followed by a lot of conversations, a lot of emails and finally a provisional appointment. I still had to pass the background check. Fast forward another month and a half (and successfully passed background check) and I get the official appointment. Then a steady deluge of paperwork, the end of the semester, a brief heat wave, and I’m in DC.
Unlike other internships, this one is paid and very structured around achieving specific work goals and projects. The name of the assignment I am working on is ‘Scientific Publishing and Workflow’. The project entails data survey, aggregation, refinements, and analysis. It is a part of a departmental effort to track and assess the research output of the Institution via several methods (e.g. publication impact factor, h-index, etc.). This is a new initiative for the department and is part of a broader initiative to identify key, historical metrics that will enable senior leadership to understand the value of the Smithsonian’s researchers. The project primarily consists of four parts – data survey, aggregation, refinements, and analysis – and involves endless thousands of records. I will also be doing bibliometric research, which is a research method that utilizes quantitative analysis and statistics to determine the influence of a single writer, for example, or to describe the relationship between two or more writers or works.
I see a lot of passion and a lot of dedication here. There are researchers who are into their nineties and still come in to work. I have seen a lot of what is behind closed doors. My office is located in the National Museum for Natural History (in no way affiliated to the one in New York City) on the second floor – right next to the Korea exhibit and the US Census exhibit (slated to open later this month). In the morning, before the public is allowed in (10 am), the partitions are down and I get a chance to take a look at what they’re doing to get it prepared.
What is funny is, now that I have my United States Credential Badge, visitors automatically think I know where everything is. I do not. By a long shot. As big as this place is to the public, it is dwarfed by what is behind closed doors. There is GYMNASIUM SIZED rooms with shelving and storage systems neatly stacked to the top of what must be a 30-foot ceiling. The type of storage systems in the ‘rooms’ vary depending on what specimen, artifact or collection is being stored there. What is totally nuts is that some of these ‘rooms’ will be filled with squirrels. That is it. This massive space housing nothing but the scores of squirrel species found. I am still having a hard time getting a handle on the scope of what is here. There is also a massive storage space just outside of DC that stores more stuff. I read somewhere that there are over 136 MILLION specimens here. More than double that of any other research institution.
It has been really challenging thus far as well as really rewarding. Moreover, the iSchool has superbly prepared me for this and I will talk more about that in my next post.