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Student Spotlight: Amy Snyder Lands Fellowship with Library of Congress

Amy Snyder smiling with her arms crossed while leaning against a brick wall.Featured student: Amy Snyder

Location: Knoxville, Tennessee

Education: Undergraduate degree in English and minor in art history from University of Virginia

Why information sciences?

I went to undergrad at the University of Virginia and was an English major over there and an art history minor. I started working in the small special collections library and I fell in love with it, I was a cataloging assistant. It was really cool to work with all the old books and I was like, I want to do that.

I worked at two other positions in the library, shelving books and scanning things. I started working at the rare books school in Charlottesville, I worked there for three years as a cataloging student assistant. I helped plan sessions for classes (logistics) and they have a fellows program for graduate students to take classes with them, so I helped with that as well.

Why SIS?

Covid kind of blew everything up and I moved out to Nashville and was just working retail. Then I was like, I really want to work in libraries, and I kept applying for jobs and for the things I wanted to do, you need a graduate degree. I looked around and saw that University of Tennessee has a really great program and I applied and got in. I also applied for the Oak Ridge Laboratory position and got that, so I moved to Knoxville last August.

What is the ORNL assistantship like?

I love the assistantship, I have learned a lot of really great skills there. I work the reference desk twice a week and I help catalog and I handle all the acquisitions with the new journals that come in, and I work on special projects as they come up. All the researchers and scientists at the lab publish. so I’ve been compiling the SCOPUS and SciVal metrics for them.

You got a Library of Congress internship for the summer—what will you be doing with that?

It is called Insuring Access to Rights Restricted Digital Collections, so basically what I’ll be doing is working with a program called STACKS, which is their internal system for compiling metadata for their online materials. I will be going through metadata and ensuring it’s correct and that links go to where they are supposed to go, and I will be making sure that regular patrons and anyone who wants to access materials can do so easily. Then I’ll compile materials at the end to best show my work.

There were two other projects that I also applied to, there were 33 different projects you can apply for and you have to pick the top three, the one I got was the first one of mine, but the other two also touched on [access to information]. This is neat because I’m going into the metadata and fixing things from the inside. I am currently in a metadata and cataloging class so I should be more prepared to do that; when I told them I was taking metadata this semester, they said that was definitely a plus.

Why is being a librarian so important to you?

Being a librarian, for me, is that I really want to help people and help people find the information they want to find. I enjoy doing it behind the scenes because it helps people bolster their own learning and intelligence and I gave them an extra nudge that they don’t even know they’re getting.

It’s important for me for people to be able to do it themselves, they learn more if they have that drive—there is a hurdle in asking someone for help, a fear of being looked down upon. It’s an internal anxiety and if we can let people do it for themselves, it’ll give them more confidence in themselves. Librarianship is all service for me, that’s why I want to do it.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

My goal is to work at the Library of Congress at a cataloger and the internship is one step closer to that. The actual fellowship project is allowing people to view information and making it so that it’s easier for them to view the information, and that’s really why I want to be a cataloger. I want to help patrons and users of whatever system I end up working with. I want to make it so it’s easier for them to get the information they need.

There’s been so many times where I was doing research for this program or others where I knew the information was out there and I couldn’t find it. So I want to help people find things on an easier path than they might have previously.

I also still really like rare books and I want to learn more about the art cataloging world because I have a background in that. I love graphic novels and art and it would be cool to translate that into my career. The goal is to be a cataloger at the Library of Congress, but as long as I’m with books and helping people, I’m happy.

Rare books are just neat. When I was at the special collections library, I handled this book that was from 1300 and it was so cool, I was like, this thing is older than my country. It was neat to see books that were printed on the printing press and now computer generated books. Books were these works of art in the past and that has been sort of lost now.

What has your experience in the MSIS program been like?

It’s been great, I’ve been really enjoying it. Last semester it was harder to talk to people as much but it’s been exciting being able to get to know other people in the program.

Right now I’m in the graphic novels course and I love that class, it’s been so much fun and everyone has been really animated and all of our discussions have been really great, it’s been my favorite class so far.

When I was doing all the cataloging student assistant stuff, I was learning how to do this on the job. So I knew beforehand how to fill in fields, but it’s nice to learn the facts. Now I’m getting the “why” and it’s nice to retroactively be able to know, oh, that’s why I do different things. We had an in-class activity last night and it was pretty easy, you just have to plug stuff in and that’s kind of how my mind works anyway.

I’m also helping Dr. Zhu with research, working with her as a research assistant. They’re focusing on how different countries have handled the spread of misinformation and fake news and if they are implementing laws and restrictions on that sort of thing or if they’re laissez faire/hands off on that.

They are focusing on United States, China, and Germany, [Zhu and her co-researcher] are both Chinese and can speak and read Chinese, but they couldn’t read or speak German. Dr. Zhu mentioned it in class and I was like, well, I’m fluent in German, I took it for eight years, I’ve been there twice. So about five hours a week I go on different German political websites just reading through laws and regulations. I’m learning a lot about what their priorities are as a society but it’s really interesting research just to see the progression during the age of covid and going back as far as 2000 to see the change over time.