Revving Engines for the Master’s Project

Now that my summer field experience is winding down and my courses have ended, I’ve begun to take some time to explore my upcoming master’s project.  Last month, my dear friend and peer Julia Feerrar invited me to co-author a post on Hack Library School about capstone projects and papers for master’s programs.  The post was useful for me as it forced me into some self-reflection about my project, and my goals therein.

At Carolina, all graduate students are required to complete some form of a capstone project, and in the School of Information and Library Science (SILS), that is achieved through either a master’s paper or project.  SILS describes this beast of a task as a “culminating experience for master’s degree students, who engage in independent research or project effort and develop a major paper reporting the research or project under the supervision of a faculty member.”

After discussions with several SILS faculty members and a handful of practicing librarians, I have elected to go the “project” route so that there is a deliverable that can immediately be put into action once my work is finished.  So, what, I throw together a project and write a paper about it?  Hardly.

Photo c/o Morguefile

In the past, I’ve touched briefly on my experiences at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.  The staff there, and Tara Murray (the Director) in particular, dedicated a lot of time and energy to helping me to get to know the library field when I was an undergraduate with virtually no experience, and the American Philatelic Society (its parent organization) provided me with funding for an internship.  As such, I thought that my master’s project would be a great chance to try to say ‘thank you.’

Before I delved too far into the idea of helping the APRL, I contacted Tara to see what the institution needed to determine whether or not I might be able to provide them with valuable assistance.  It turns out, there was an opportunity for me to build on some of my current skills to create something: a Use Policy for the Archives held by the library.  It’s worth noting that the APRL and APS have impressive Archives and documents on file — that in and of itself is a blog post and a half.  The beauty of a Use Policy is that it works alongside an existing Collection Development Policy for their Archives and Special Collections to create access, which I am (predictably — I love accessibility!) completely on board with.

Now comes the foreboding part: getting the whole thing together.  My research is going to begin with a survey of Use Policies for other Archives and Special Collections.  Next, I will review literature related to use of Archival and rare materials (likely with generous quantities of help from my brilliant faculty advisor Rebecca Vargha, who is fantastic at giving me points to spring from).  Finally, I will — with oversight from Tara, upper-level administrators from the APS, and Rebecca — construct a Use Policy that will enable patrons to utilize all of the awesome philatelic artifacts the APRL has to offer.


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