Maryland's iSchool and National Agricultural Library Collaborate in New Fellows Program

Maryland's iSchool and National Agricultural Library Collaborate in New Fellows Program

A new and innovative collaboration between the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies, Maryland's iSchool, and U.S. Department of Agriculture's  National Agricultural Library is providing iSchool students with invaluable experience in the burgeoning digital curation field. In this project, iSchool Assistant Professor Ricky Punzalan and MLS students Erin Antognoli and Christian James are working collaboratively to help NAL develop various strategies to solve the library’s digital curation concerns.

In 2013, the iSchool established the Fellowship in Digital Curation at the National Agricultural Library (NAL) to provide an opportunity for students to engage in research and practice towards developing and implementing policies, strategies, and work plans to solve real-world digital curation problems. Fellows are given hands on experience and work closely with NAL staff as well as iSchool faculty to design and implement digital curation projects.

NAL provides extensive infrastructure, staff expertise, collections and programs. In this setting, Fellows are given a unique opportunity to design and implement projects. Two students in the University of Maryland's master of library science program, Erin Antognoli and Christian James, have gained valuable digital curation experience since they began the Fellowship in January 2014.

As a Fellow, Antognoli has been creating policy for the library’s newly formed aerial imagery collection. By collaborating with different divisions within the NAL as well as image submitters outside of NAL, she has established a strategic plan that can be used in other visual collections and digitization projects.  “My experience working as a NAL Digital Curation Fellow has been incredible. The fellowship provides a longer, more in-depth experience than a traditional internship,” she said, “I feel like I will be much better prepared to enter the digital curation field when I graduate as a result of this fellowship.”

James has been developing a Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection. His work is focused on establishing guidelines for selection and acquisition of content for digitization. “At the National Agricultural Library I have applied many of the concepts and skills that I picked up in the MLS core curriculum and the digital curation specialization, including reference, accessibility, cataloging, policy writing and more,” he said, “I have been honored to help contribute to the development of the National Agricultural Library Digital Collections and enhance public access to these valuable resources.”

Fellowship advisor, Dr. Ricky Punzalan has been thrilled with the success of the program so far. “The fellowship is an excellent way for the iSchool to collaborate with a national institution,” he said, “this project benefits not only the faculty and the partner institution, but more importantly, the students. I think the Fellows appreciate the opportunity to do collaborative research and create strategies to solve real-world institutional challenges.”

With a unique partnership with NAL, the Fellowship in Digital Curation is a prime example of a fruitful collaborative partnership between a repository with extensive digital collections and an academic program with a focus in digital curation. The iSchool is excited to continue with this partnership and offer students and NAL staff the opportunity for mutually beneficial learning and growth.

Students interested in becoming a fellow should be on the lookout for the announcement which will come out by the end of the fall semester. The next cohort of fellows will commence their work in September 2015. For inquiries, contact Ricky Punzalan at punzalan@umd.edu

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