I am an academic librarian at the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library, where I serve as subject specialist for English language and literature, and “functional” specialist in digital humanities. I use my Princeton graduate training every day in evaluating collections, teaching workshops, and pursuing scholarship. The pace and focus of life is different from an English professorship—patron needs set the agenda—but I really enjoy the service orientation of the profession. Consulting with people on their research generates an exciting energy, similar to the classroom, and it is fun to dive into a broad range of projects.
One of my first initiatives at Notre Dame was putting together a small showcase of Shakespeare editions from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections to accompany a traveling First Folio exhibit from the Folger Library. This entailed literary research, writing, and collection development, but I couldn’t linger too long in the early modern: humanities scholarship marches forward in all eras and subjects. One month I was purchasing Alexander Pope’s six-volume Shakespeare, another month I was assessing Fluxus artifacts from the mid-late twentieth century. While weighing such acquisitions ancient and modern, I might also be introducing undergraduates to literary research, teaching digital text editing to graduate students, or leading a cross-departmental DH discussion group on sentiment-analysis algorithms. I find this frequent context-switching energizing.
My colleagues in the academic departments have been wonderful partners in the scholarly process. I am collaborating with English professors and graduate students on theorizing and producing digital editions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poetry, a form of scholarship that aligns nicely with my disciplinary training. But, switching contexts once again, one of my newest ventures is investigating early micro-computing from archival and textual-historical perspectives. How did ephemeral “paratexts” such as packaging inserts affect the narrative experience of software in the 1970s and 1980s, and what role should libraries play in preserving these artifacts for future generations?
So I depend on the lessons in scholarship and pedagogy that my professors instilled, especially my advisors Susan Wolfson, Claudia Johnson, and Sarah Rivett, and I draw heavily from so-called side interests. Through part-time work with English librarian John Logan and Lewis Library GIS specialist Berthalicia Harvey, I glimpsed the library world from the inside, getting a taste for bibliography and metadata. Then, with encouragement from Meredith Martin and support from Jean Bauer and Natasha Ermolaev, I started on digital scholarship at the CDH. This was not a pre-scripted route, nor did I know where it might lead. The takeaway is that one should not ignore hobbies that are tangential to the dissertation. Don’t neglect writing, of course, but for me, side interests only enriched the marathon of dissertation development. Engaging in the intersecting networks of my academic advisors and “side advisors” also proved a more encouraging communication chain than the cold-call of graduate career fairs. These fairs can be worthwhile, but they did not lead directly to the right alternative job fit. It turns out I had been pursuing it all along.