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James Leland Dirks, Jr. Internship

James Leland Dirks, Jr. Library Preservation Intern

Established by James Leland Dirks, Jr. in July 2012, the James Leland Dirks, Jr. Library Preservation Endowed Fund provides students in the UW Information School with hands-on learning in preservation.  Applicants are expected to have a demonstrated interest in preservation and to be enrolled in the UW iSchool.

Depending on the interests and strengths of the intern, they may contribute to a number of preservation initiatives including collections disaster planning, improving collections care, environmental monitoring,  surveying or reformatting vulnerable collections, or preserving digital assets.

This is a part-time (10 hours per week) internship during the academic year (fall through spring quarter).  The position is typically advertised in late summer or early fall.


2022 Intern, Emma Clarkson

Emma Clarkson

My year as the James Leland Dirks, Jr. Preservation Intern had a transformational impact on my MLIS and the work that I am pursuing in this field. After completing the first year of my program remotely due to the pandemic, it was a joy to be on campus and working in the Libraries, and the internship provided a rich, rewarding, hands-on experience that brought the second year of my MLIS to life.

In the fall quarter, we started with the history and theory of preservation and an overview of the range of activities it includes. Shadowing members of Preservation Services gave me an appreciation for the wide variety of expertise and activity that goes into caring for and providing ongoing access to collections. In the fall and winter quarters, this ranged from sewing fragile materials into pamphlet bindings and completing a detailed condition report in the Conservation Center to assessing brittle books for reformatting or digitization (and then completing some of that digitization!), assisting with a film condition survey, and learning about commercial binding, shared print programs, legacy digital media formats, disaster preparedness, and more.

In the spring quarter, my intern project entailed research and development of a workflow for imaging optical media formats from Special Collections. This was an opportunity to hone my digital preservation skills by investigating a range of hardware and software tools, developing process and metadata recommendations, and doing a deep dive on the technical specifications and preservation considerations for a single family of media formats. I learned a lot from writing the documentation and I hope that it will be of use to the department in its ongoing work of caring for UW’s collections.

The Dirks Internship gave me a unique opportunity to develop a robust, practical skillset in an exciting area of the field—this experience was the key to my successful job search and I am so grateful to all the Preservation Services staff for their generosity, patience, and expertise.

Emma Clarkson is originally from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and graduated from Yale University with a BA in English. She has a background in music and worked as an opera stage manager and production manager in New York City before moving to Seattle for her MLIS. She is thrilled to be returning to NYC to combine her new enthusiasm for digital preservation with this love of music by working with performing arts collections in the Digital Research Division of the New York Public Library.


2020 Intern, Christy McCall

Christy McCall

My three quarters in preservation as the James Leland Dirks, Jr. Preservation Intern were both meaningful and educational. I learned a great deal about the various aspects of preservation and was reminded of the importance of preservation knowledge and practice in libraries.

During my first two quarters, I completed tasks such as assessing the physical condition of a sample set of books in preparation for a large scale digitization project, digitizing rare opera scores, and shadowing staff members to learn about the different aspects of the preservation department.

My final quarter, though impacted somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic, was spent on my intern-led project, a tool that would help to streamline the process of assessing and determining next steps for brittle or damaged books. This tool not only helps to make the process faster, but also alleviates some of the workload for librarians and preservation staff involved. Other benefits of this project included creating a deeper understanding of the pre-existing review process and creating reference materials that will improve consistency as well as improving speed.

Throughout this internship, I have gained not only knowledge, but also hands-on experience in performing preservation tasks. It grew my interest into an intent to pursue a career with preservation.

Christy McCall is from Northern Maryland and graduated with a B.A. in Music from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA in 2016. She completed her Master in Library and Information Science in 2020, having focused her studies on preservation and academic librarianship. Christy’s interest in libraries and reading began at a young age with participating in and volunteering for her local library’s summer reading program. The librarians and library staff at her local library inspired her to become a librarian.


2019 Intern, Erika Wigren

Erika Wigren

My time as the James Leland Dirks, Jr. Preservation Intern was full of new experiences and knowledge.  I was able to get hands on experience in the unseen side of the library field. I handled tasks like reviewing materials for preservation replacement, collation, and reviewing materials that show signs of brittleness and damage. In addition, I learned the ins and outs of digitization, the steps of digital preservation, and I spent a few days counting the number of silver fish hiding away in old library stacks.

My respect for the role of preservation in libraries has grown as I worked alongside librarians who tackled water leaks, moldy materials, and creepy crawlies, all the while also navigating and learning the digital side of the preservation world.

My main project during my internship involved a survey and assessment of the material and digital preservation needs of the UW Tacoma branch campus library. This project entailed interviewing library staff, a physical survey of the library space and buildings, and surveying the digital repositories used by UW Tacoma Library.  The final deliverable included two assessment documents with recommendations for improvement for the UW Tacoma Library to consider, as well as a final presentation to the UW Tacoma Library staff.  This project taught me how to conduct a preservation assessment, formulate ideas for improvement, and communicate those findings and ideas to library professionals. In the future, it is my hope that this will allow for better collections care at UW Tacoma Library and the preservation of UW’s materials.

This project, as well as the other tasks I performed during my internship, have taught me the ways in which preservation is implemented in libraries and the importance of preservation methods, collections care, and collection storage.  Finally, this internship introduced me to the difficult, tedious, and niche work done by those who work in preservation. The knowledge, skills, and patience shown to me from the library staff during my internship will make me a better librarian and archivist in the future. I anticipate that this hands-on experience will prove useful as I enter my profession.

Erika Wigren is from Federal Way, Washington and has her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, Tacoma. She went on to receive her Masters of Library and Information Science at the iSchool, University of Washington in June 2019. Her love of books and libraries can be attributed to her childhood crush, LeVar Burton, and his show Reading Rainbow. Her professional interests include archives, preservation, community history, and climate justice.


2017 Intern, Katrina Belton

Katrina Belton, Dirks Intern

My time as the James Leland Dirks Jr. Preservation Intern started with a splash! In my first week, I was called on to help respond to a leaky ceiling over book stacks, and with that, my year was off to an intense start, helping me gain professional hands-on experience with the various facets of preservation.

One of my largest tasks as an intern was to help prepare the 2017 Disaster Plan for the University of Washington Libraries. I was excited to help complete the plan, and contributed by researching various materials, supplies, and local resources that would be needed in an emergency. I also worked on the disaster supply list, helping to stock Preservation Services with the materials and equipment that are needed for emergency use.

Reviewing materials for commercial binding gave me the chance to see the full circle of Preservation work. By determining materials that are brittle, materials that can be reordered, as well as the many types and styles of binding, I am better able to discern which preservation methods might best ensure long term access to the materials and information they contain.

Outreach is another area that allowed me to see the importance of preservation services. During my time as intern I worked on a website from a former exhibition at UW titled Time Will Tell, for the purpose of highlighting and promoting Preservation Week. Throughout this process I was able to share tips with our patrons for preserving their own collections, and through this we helped our patrons better care for the UW Libraries collections.

This hands-on internship has cemented my intent to work in the preservation profession. I have enjoyed getting to know and work with the UW Preservation Services staff.

Katrina Belton, is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and graduated with a BA in English from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2012. Graduating with a Master’s of Library and Information Science in August 2017, her area of studies at the University of Washington centered on preservation and archives. Katrina’s interests in archives and preservation come from her work as an undergraduate student and her love of libraries from her grandma, Grace Belton who was a librarian with Hennepin County Library.


2016 Intern, Marissa Gunning

Marissa Gunning, intern

The James Leland Dirks, Jr. Library Preservation internship introduced me to many different facets of preservation and strengthened my understanding of the field.

It has given me a chance to work on triage of incoming damaged materials, commercial binding, boxing, preservation replacement for brittle books, surveys of digital media and rare books in Special Collections, environmental monitoring, and outreach. The scope kept me busy and engaged, while giving me the chance to practice and learn new details each day.

Being a part of the department has been rewarding. I have enjoyed the hands-on aspects especially. One of these tasks was compiling more than 20 years of intermittent correspondence and data about the temperature, humidity, and other environmental vulnerabilities for a particular collection area. I then accompanied Preservation staff doing a physical evaluation of the space. Looking at both historical data and the current space provided me a better understanding of how materials are affected by their environment.

The internship also reinforced and expanded my knowledge of the physical construction of books by assessing the needs of books sent to preservation for repair. Learning how to recognize the many kinds of bindings as well as brittle paper were particularly interesting. Being able to share in the experience of taking care of collections has been both fascinating and fulfilling.

The scope and guidance of the internship has given me a knowledge base of preservation as a whole while introducing me to the many pieces of a preservation program. I look forward to continuing in this field for many years to come.

Marissa Gunning grew up in Boise, Idaho. She received her BA in Applied Linguistics from Portland State University in 2013. She became interested in pursuing a career in libraries in high school and graduated from the Masters of Library and Information Science Program at the University of Washington in June 2016.  Her interest in preservation, archives, and metadata developed while studying linguistics. Marissa is particularly interested in how languages change over time and how these language changes are revealed and preserved in all documents.


2015 Intern, Jesse Stanley

Jesse Stanley, intern

As the James Leland Dirks, Jr. Library Preservation Intern, I worked closely with Preservation staff on a variety of projects covering the many diverse areas of library preservation. From environmental monitoring to sorting damaged materials, I enjoy preservation because it is an active and ongoing process that helps to ensure that library collections survive are accessible and useable.  It isn’t just putting things away in boxes for an undefined future use.

Some of the notable projects I participated in were creating a Preservation Research Guide, updating the library disaster response plan to include more information on modern digital media, and preparing an information sheet for library staff on mold identification and response. I also worked with Special Collections staff to determine current lighting levels in their exhibition area and created lighting guidelines for future displays to help ensure the safety of the materials. An extremely damaged accession of mid-century materials from Vietnam was processed in order to determine the potential for preservation or replacement.

It’s also not just about books and journals and old photos, but increasingly about how we will preserve the artifacts of our digital lives. With that in mind, I was fortunate enough to be able to integrate digital preservation into my Capstone Project, the final requirement for my degree. Under the guidance of Preservation staff, I looked into the digital preservation possibilities for a small collection of thesis materials on floppy disk and cds from the late 1980’s to 2011.

Whether crawling under shelves looking for pest monitoring traps or soaking example materials in preparation for disaster response training, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on training and guidance I’ve received during my time here and I look forward to continuing on in the field after graduation.

Jesse Stanley is originally from Northeastern Ohio and graduated with a BA in History from Earlham College. After many years working in the environmental community, he decided a career change was in order and was accepted into the Masters of Library and Information Science program at the University of Washington where he has focused on archives and preservation. Jesse graduated with his MLIS in June 2015. He credits his interest in the ephemera of history to his parents, who never listened to him when he complained about having to visit yet another museum, antique show or historical reenactment as a child.