Maps & Embracing the Unknown

As I alluded to in my post about the Illinois History & Lincoln Collections, I’ve been doing a practicum (which is basically an internship for academic credit) there this semester. While my practicum consisted of many separate projects, it culminated in a special project that involved organizing and cataloging the library’s map collection.

Drawers upon drawers full of maps!
The tables I took over for weeks to work on my project.

This project turned out to be much more involved than I’d initially estimated, but was definitely worth it. I’d never taken a cataloging class before, so I really had to do a lot of independent reading about map classification and call numbers. I’ve also never had a course or job that explicitly addressed handling maps, so I had to turn to my practicum site supervisor for resources on map preservation and organization.

Had to update the card catalog first so that someday it can all go into the online catalog. Old school!

While there were certainly days that I felt very confused and out of my depth, I really enjoyed the independent nature of my practicum. It really made me seek out new resources, both online and in person, to learn what I needed to so that I could  get the job done. From what I’ve heard and read that is pretty much what I’ll often be expected to do as a librarian. With new technology and tools available every day, librarians have to be willing to adapt and learn new skills even after they leave library school. While I certainly hadn’t initially planned it that way, I’m glad my practicum gave me a small taste of what my professional life will probably be like.

The best part of my project: working with awesome maps, some of which were very old!

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