Welcome to Season 5 of Beyond the Stacks! We hope you enjoyed your summer and are as excited as we are for more episodes! Kicking off this season is an interview conducted in May 2017 with Carolina Gardner who works for New Balance as Digital Asset Coordinator.
Caroline Gardner earned her BFA in Fiber & Material Studies from the Tyler School of Art and her MLIS in Library and Information Studies from Simmons College. She has worked in a wide variety of library-related institutions, from the Arnold Arboretum Archives to NPR’s RAD team. She has extensive experience with metadata, DAM administration, and user-training. When she is not maximizing digital asset organization potential at New Balance, she is a cat-mom of two, scotch drinker, knitter, and feminist fiber arts enthusiast.
Tune in to learn about what it’s like to work in a corporate library, life as a recent MLIS graduate, and why so many art majors end up in the LIS field. Thank you so much for listening and your continued support of this project!
Length – 56:12
See below the fold for a full transcript of the interview. Links to things discussed in the interview like blogs, resources, and other websites are included throughout the transcript.
Elizabeth: Hello. Welcome to Beyond the Stacks: Innovative Careers in Library and Information Science. I’m your host Elizabeth Reilly and today I’m talking with Caroline Gardner. Caroline earned her BFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the Tyler School of Art and her MLIS in Library and Information Studies from Simmons College. She has worked in a wide variety of library-related institutions, from the Arnold Arboretum Archives to NPR’s RAD team. She has extensive experience with metadata, DAM administration, and user training. When she is not maximizing digital asset organization potential at New Balance, she is a cat-mom of two, scotch-drinker, knitter, and feminist fiber arts enthusiast.
Elizabeth: Thanks for joining me today.
Caroline: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Elizabeth: So how are you?
Caroline: Good, I’m excited to be here!
Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s awesome! So why don’t we talk about your educational background? So tell us a little bit more about what you studied at Tyler.
Caroline: So I went to Tyler school of art which is in Philadelphia it’s part of Temple University. It’s a fine arts school under the umbrella of the University. And I changed my major about 1,000 times. And finally graduated in fiber and material studies and I also had a dual degree in art history, which was sort of accidental so I never include it in stuff. Because I had a minor and then I took one more class and then I was a major in Contemporary 20th century American modern art.
Caroline: Which basically means I wrote a lot of papers and made a lot of weird fiber art. I feel like everyone has to go through a weird fiber arts phase if you go to art school. Like making stuff out of trash, or tampons.
Elizabeth: Ok I was gonna ask what fiber art is exactly.
Caroline: It can be a lot of things. But traditionally weaving, sewing knitting, dying, et cetera embroidery. I tended to do a lot of that and a lot of other stuff. So after I graduated I basically with a BFA was qualified to continue waiting tables at the restaurant where I worked, so I did for a while. I interned a couple of places, like textile type places, small local businesses that needed interns for very little money. And just felt like I didn’t really have a lot of joy in the, like, commercial textile world.
Caroline: Either there wasn’t a lot of freedom or there wasn’t a lot of practicality. There were just like all these…it just didn’t mesh well with what I wanted to do. So then I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do.
Caroline: So I just waited tables for a while, I picked up odd jobs here and there. And then I found out that one of my art school professors had gone to Drexel University and gotten her MLIS.
Elizabeth: Oh ok. Uh huh.
Caroline: And I was kind of like that’s a thing? I had no idea! I thought you just had to know somebody or get a job as a page and work your way up.
Elizabeth: I didn’t know it was a thing either until somebody told me like I think this degree would work well for you and I was like whaaaat?
Caroline: I didn’t even know it existed! And then it was like a light went on not just in my head but in the room, it was like a whole room illuminated. And I was like ok I love old things and art so I’m gonna be like an archivist and specialize in cultural heritage, I didn’t know it was called cultural heritage, but like artsy stuff. So I was like well before I spend a zillion dollars on a master’s degree I should find out if I actually want to do that. So I emailed, cold emailed, like every place in Philadelphia that had some kind of archive or library and asked if I could work with them. And almost every single one of them was like unless you’re enrolled in a program, we can’t really help you. Which on the other side of the masters degree I now understand but at the time I was like what do you mean? I’m free labor! So I finally found a place that is this teeny tiny museum called the Seaport Museum, it’s like a maritime museum on the port of Philadelphia.
Elizabeth: Yeah, by Penn’s Landing, right?
Caroline: Yeah, Penn’s Landing, exactly.
Elizabeth: I’m originally from that area.
Caroline: No way!
Caroline: That’s crazy.
Elizabeth: Yeah when I saw you went to Tyler I was like I wonder if she’s originally from…
Caroline: Yeah I’m from Lower Merion!
Elizabeth: Oh ok, I’m from Wallingford-Swarthmore, Media area. I went to Bryn Mawr College.
Caroline: You and Katherine Hepburn!
Caroline: Yeah so I found the Seaport Museum and they take volunteers because they had like one Library employee. And I talked to her she’s my age and was basically like I think I want to do this would you be willing to let me come in once or twice a week and take on maybe a little bit more than some volunteers do and like learn. And for some reason she said yes.
Elizabeth: Well, that’s awesome.
Caroline: So for um, like, not quite a year, like 9 months I interned with her. She wrote me a recommendation letter to get into Simmons. So I was all gung ho, I came up here I visited a friend living up here. My best friend was living up here at the time so I didn’t move up here for her, I moved here for Simmons, but I sort of jokingly refer to her as my training wheels.
Caroline: And then once I’ve been up here for a year, my other best friend moved up here to go to North Bennett Street school for book binding and conservation. So it was like, it all sort of worked out. So she and I took a trip up here to visit our respective schools, check it out, make sure this is what we wanted to do. And we were both like hell yeah this is what we wanna do! So I come to Simmons and its orientation 2014, all like, archives everything is amazing. I get into a couple of archives classes and I’m like cool but like a little tired, a little sleepy in these basements.
And then I took Danny Joudray’s 415 class which is like information organization and I was like oh, I can organize stuff. Naming conventions? Those are cool! And sort of started to go off course a little bit. And then I took, I did some stuff with oral history and I still took some archives classes but I decided to change my official track to general to give me a little bit more leeway.
I got an internship at NPR. I’m sort of really weaving around here but I got an internship at NPR and I was doing a lot there with usability, search-ability, taxonomy, metadata, ways of tagging things, ways of organizing information that was incredible. Like they have, it’s sort of an archive but it’s sort of up to date modern but like as soon as an episode of something airs, it’s now archival, it’s not current anymore because it’s the news. So that was amazing! They have an incredible team, their RAD team that I mentioned in my bio is research archives and data strategy. And they, my intern class with me was someone who’s a public historian and she got hired on as NPR’s first historian. And she’s been doing these incredible projects actually because of her and NPR just had the first, an early episode of All Things Considered, with Susan Sandberg, which is like the founding show on NPR, entered into the Library of Congress audio library. And you can read about it Carla, Dr. Hayden, just initiated or inducted several, I think like 10 of 12 audio items into this Library. So every Library of Congress like picks a few, I think, I don’t know the specifics but it’s not like other things in the Library of Congress where things get cataloged. This is like you have to be chosen and put into it and wouldn’t have happened without the work the other interns and I did.
Elizabeth: So where were you in your program when you got that internship?
Caroline: In between my first and second year. It was so incredible. And now they’ve expanded the internships so there’s also this audio preservation internship. The work they do is just so cool. So I did that and that super opened up and changed things for me. Then I got an internship digital asset, DAM company who is actually llocated here. And another SLIS grad, student at the time, was working there and she put in a good word for me, she’s a good friend of mine. So we both worked there all of my second year and then I but I decided that I wanted to keep moving and see what would happen. So I left, I didn’t stay on. But I left on good terms with them and everything. Which I always feel like is such an awkward thing when you’re graduating and someone doesn’t hire you on, it doesn’t necessarily mean there were problems. But that came up in every interview I ever had.
Elizabeth: Like why’d you leave?
Caroline: Yeah. Not a big deal. And they are like a digital asset management company, that’s what they do. That showed me a lot. I took a digital asset management class with Peter Boticelli, DAMS for Lambs and I took Metadata with Kathy Wisser. I should probably say for the record that I’m totally biased but I wanna be Kathy Wisser when I grow up. That metadata class was one of the best classes I’ve ever had. Everything was like a fun puzzle, even the stuff I wasn’t good at. It was like ok so cool, it was so much fun. I mean it was one of the hardest classes I’ve taken so I should preface by saying that but I learned so much. It was just so awesome. That’s sort of my educational background.
So sticking within the sort of education, I think you talked about this a little already but I don’t know if you want to elaborate why you did choose to get your master’s degree in library science and I’ll combine that with where did you see yourself going with that degree?
So it sort of, once I found out it was a real thing, it was like I was obsessed. I couldn’t believe I could get paid to do something that I loved. Not just reading, organizing things and managing those things and research! I’m always the person who wants to find something out right away and dig into it and evaluate the source. You know I’m the downer who’s like actually no, you’re incorrect and here is why and here are 19 sources that are verified and not just from Wikipedia. But I’m also the person at a party who when someone is like I don’t know the answer and 4 people are around them are on their phones on Google putting in a search to find out the answer. I want to know not the answer but what are the 4 different search terms those people have used, to get to the answer and what results differed in what they got based on their search terms. Like that stuff fascinates me. But I really thought I was going to be an archivist…100%. Which is part of why I chose Simmons because it’s so archives focused. And I just thought, Boston, it’s historical, I’m from Philly, it’s historical. And maybe there’s not a ton of jobs out there right now, but who knows!
So I truly thought I was gpoing to be an archivist and I was gonna come here and make the connections and if I wasn’t gonna stay in Boston, I was gonna be in New England, I was gonna be really committed. And I did all types of research, of course. And I was reading about the majority of people stay in the vicinity of where you get your master’s. You know you should plan to be there longer. Probably your first job is going to be in Boston or the New England area. I was looking at UT Austin but I was like I don’t wanna be in Texas. UNC, great, they waitlisted me anyway. Do I really wanna be there? Not so much.
Elizabeth: Boston is a pretty great location. That was also one of my deciding factors.
Caroline: Yeah. So that’s why I ended up here and Simmons archives reputation is amazing.
Elizabeth: And then so it was really that Organization of Information class that changed your mind?
Caroline: I think it planted the seed, I think NPR changed my mind. As NPR is wont to do. And then I just decided to go for it. And taking DAMS for Lambs and metadata classes it was just like ok let’s jump on this horse and go for it.
Elizabeth: Do you want to talk more about what you did for NPR and their RAD team?
Caroline: So when I got there they had just gotten a new intranet. Previously it had just been a series of linked Wiki pages. Which are horrible to navigate and even worse to search. They gotten a new internet and they really wanted to maximize internet search capabilities and organization so that people could find things in as few clicks and searches as possible to cut down on the routine emails and calls that they got for simple things that could be found on the internet because there are really small team and they were so busy they help shows with research they help with finding archival Clips to be used as like when they have like old clip of something or helping find music and getting the rights to that as well as cataloging every show getting transcripts and kissing and plus the historical work plus the audio reformatting that they do their small team. So they were trying to maximize the workday of people on the team and so trying to make things valuable intuitive to cut down on requests like where can I find Bloomberg or where can I get into LexisNexis or how can I search for the PR repo for this guest? All stuff that they have subscriptions to, there is a database for but if it’s not tagged right and it’s not searchable, that’s a problem. So that’s a project I help take on to update.
The Sound Library and the pronunciation Library needed to be migrated in an updated and made sure it was in the right stuff and things were current and all that. Helped with that. They had a physical collections room which houses archival CDs, records, video, all kinds of resources and transcripts and run downs, which are sort of like agenda for the show so something isn’t digitized yet and it’s digital because it’s from a CD but it’s not been manually the Rundown hasn’t been digitized the transcript hasn’t been at it because it’s from 2011 marino 2011 secret example was 2015 when I was there we’re gearing up for election stuff you want to be looking at 11 to gear up for election stuff for 2012 maybe some of that hasn’t been to the ties yet and so you could go into the collections room and look through the rundowns and Co on this day there were three segments on all things considered and each segment had nine parts to it or whatever I’m making that up there’s probably like public radio people oh my Caroline now but long story short you could find what you need and that’s something some of the researchers would help you do on the team I helped other interns when they were looking for stuff so the room was kind of a mess because they had moved recently and storage is always an issue everywhere so part of my job was to come in how to make it easier for people to self serve and find stuff without again needing help to find it and then once we did that I did tours and trainings with the other interns because interns are sent a lot to go find stuff for the full time on these shows or in these research departments so I helped held tours and trainings talk to you a lot of self serve so people would be more independent and then the things that the red team really needed to do they were utilizing their time in the best way I feel like I did other there’s a lot of other stuff those are some of the biggest projects that went on.