Why did you choose history as your major?
I had a disastrous first day of classes my freshman year, and I immediately hated every class I had signed up for. So, I decided to drop my philosophy course and take a “fun” class instead to make the first semester less horrible. I ended up choosing Professor Koven’s Europe, Sex, and Society course, and that class is the reason I became a history major. I loved how everything we learned was so interconnected and how diverse the range of materials and primary sources were that we examined. I continued taking history courses and decided at the end of my freshman year to become a history major.
What did you like most about majoring in history?
I really loved the variety of classes I had to pick from. Every semester there was at least one class I was really excited to take. And it was always deeply satisfying to be able to connect the course materials from different classes.
How and when did you decide your postgraduate field of study and your career path?
I didn’t officially decide on library science till over a year after graduating from Rutgers, but it was something I had been thinking about doing after taking some public history courses through the department. It was during my first cataloging job that I decided to apply to graduate school.
What was your first job after graduating from Rutgers and how did you get it?
After graduating, I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I applied to AmeriCorps and worked at a middle school in Newark the first year out of college. This allowed me some space to self-reflect and think about what I wanted from my future. I knew that I wanted to be able to continue studying history in some capacity or other, but I didn’t necessarily want to pursue a PhD. After finishing my year of service with Americorps, I worked at the Zimmerli Art Museum as their assistant cataloger. I had worked there as a gallery attendant as a student, so I was lucky enough to already know the head registrar. She had wanted someone with a background in history and research to execute this project because so many of the items that needed to be cataloged were unidentified and void of any contextualizing information. I had a lot of fun doing this work and ultimately, it is what led me to apply to graduate school for my masters in library and information science.
What is your current position? What do you do, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I recently accepted a position as the Assistant Archivist at Baruch College, where I get to do both processing work (i.e. cataloging, arranging, and housing archival collections) and reference work. I like that I get to work closely with the archival materials as well as with researchers and students who have questions about the collections. Archival work can sometimes be a trade off between one or the other, so I like that I can do all different kinds of projects in this position.
How did you move from your first job to your current position?
Attending graduate school and getting my master’s degree in Information Science (concentrating in archives and preservation) was a necessary step in getting me from that first job at the Zimmerli Art Museum to my current position at Baruch. While in graduate school, I was also lucky enough to get some fantastic internships and fellowships, where I learned a lot from very talented professionals in the field and was able to explore the many facets of library work.
What classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?
I think pursuing a thesis was a major contributor. For one, I learned and really had to practice research skills, and I had to figure out how to navigate library and archive resources. This made me familiar with library work from the patron side of it, which I do think is necessary to consider when you’re doing reference and processing work. Another benefit of doing a thesis project is that I gained some level of expertise in my chosen subject, which can be an asset when working at an academic library or at any museum/archive that has materials relating to that subject. And in general, the writing skills you develop when doing a thesis is invaluable when pursuing any field really.
Do you have suggestions for current or prospective history majors?
Take classes that interest you and take classes about time periods, subjects, peoples, nations, etc. that you know nothing about.
Ask librarians for help. As one now, I love helping students and researchers with their problems. You’re not bothering them and they’re not judging you. They want to help you with your project!
Visit special collections! They have cool stuff and getting to handle physical materials really enhances the research experience.