By Vicki Denby, Manuscript End-Processor, Houghton LibraryFor the seventh consecutive year, Houghton Library has had the opportunity to hire a paid intern from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (CRLS) to learn about our work by helping end-process our collections. Through the School-to-Work program (STW), the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) coordinates with the Cambridge Office of Workforce Development, Harvard schools and departments, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School to provide job training and learning opportunities for high school students.
Joie Gelband (HUCTW) helps select students to work in departments for three afternoons a week as paid interns. Each student has a supervisor who is an HUCTW member. The supervisor gives the student an overview of the work and specific assignments, explaining how the student’s work fits with the mission of the department, and checks in regularly with updates and feedback.
This year, we had the pleasure of working with Sarah Ikram, a CRLS junior, at a time when the library was really busy processing and shifting collections to prepare for our impending renovation. Sarah had to learn the basics quickly, helping process and pack numerous plastic bins of material bound for offsite storage at the Harvard Depository. She also learned to work independently, affixing barcodes to folders in the many drawers of oversize artwork housed in the stacks of Houghton’s Harvard Theatre Collection. This was a great help towards improving access to these collections.
Every manuscript volume stored offsite must have a protective enclosure. Because of the renovation, the library boxed a huge number of books and manuscript volumes this year. Sarah contributed by assembling custom boxes of all kinds, including some difficult oversized ones to house the various bound volumes and manuscript collections that the library maintains. It is always a welcome surprise to find an occasional unexpected format among them, like the board game pictured below. It is reminiscent of how we had to balance carefully to “juggle” so many tasks along with our usual activities, but managed to laugh at ourselves and have fun while doing so!
Sarah says that once she arrived at Houghton, “I was overcome with relief because I was a little nervous to meet everyone there. But, my feelings were almost immediately put [at ease] because everyone was so welcoming and nice. I always felt comfortable asking for help, or just to chat. Something I learned how to do was to work in an ‘office’ environment.” She added, “My overall experience here has been very positive.”
Though the library was very busy this year, we are glad we still had the time to plant another “seed” by providing a safe environment for a young person from the community to flourish and grow.