Behind the Curtain: Jennifer Liss, Head of Monographic Image Cataloging

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. 

Title and Role: Jennifer is the Head of Monographic Image Cataloging for the Cataloging Department at the Herman B Wells Library. The Cataloging Department helps IU Libraries’ users discover the collections curated, purchased, and licensed by IU Libraries through tools such as IUCAT, WorldCat, Archives Online, Image Collections Online, and Media Collections Online.

Educational background: Jennifer wanted to study everything as an undergraduate, which is perhaps why she was an English major, with a heavy focus in Anglo-Irish literature, and minors in history and biology. While earning her B.A. at Rutgers, Jennifer spent a few weeks in Ireland and became fascinated with special collections and, to her surprise, the art of science of special collections librarianship. She moved to Bloomington to complete a M.L.S. degree with the rare books and manuscripts specialization at Indiana University.

Work Experience: As a graduate student at IU, Jennifer had the good fortune of being able to work at the Chemistry Library, the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab, and the Owen County Public Library. Shortly after completing a fascinating cataloging internship at the Lilly Library, Jennifer accepted her first full-time appointment as a copy cataloger in the Wells Library Cataloging Department. Although it was not her initial plan to stay in the Midwest, she quickly learned that there was MUCH more to learn about cataloging and metadata—and IU is one of the best public universities in the Unites States to do just that. Jennifer worked as an original cataloger before accepting a faculty appointment as a Metadata/Cataloging Librarian, where she managed multiple digital collections metadata projects. In what has proven to be the biggest surprise in her career thus far, Jennifer found that she loved managing processes and helping her colleagues succeed in their respective roles. She has worked as a Cataloging Department manager since 2013.

Work with the IU Archives: Jennifer has worked with IU Archives since 2011, when the Cataloging Department first began cataloging collections curated by IU Archives. She remembers that time fondly, not only because she got to play in the archives, but because it was her first real taste of developing metadata strategy in an environment that was new to her. Compared with books, archival collections have different description and access needs and Jennifer enjoyed learning more about how users of primary sources find information.

Favorite experience working with the IU Archives: Jennifer notes that “My favorite experience working with the IU Archives involved researching the history of the IU women’s residence halls in the early twentieth century. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to collaborate with IU Archives colleagues on the Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks. IU Archives staff possess an immense wealth of knowledge of institutional history and human stories. Their ability to weave these independent threads of knowledge together into a complex, many hued fabric representing the history and culture of Indiana University is an outcome of their rigorous professional training, extensive experience, and individual commitments to intellectual inquiry. Any day that I can head up to the Archives is a good day!”

C631 Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks – Forest Folio, 1938-1939

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: There are so many contenders but among my favorite is C631 Women’s Residence Hall scrapbooks mentioned above. I appreciated learning more about what it was like to attend a university, particularly as a woman, in the decades leading up to World War II. Which parts of those experiences were unique to IU? Which were typical of American higher education during that time? Fascinating!

Current project that relates to working with the IU Archives: Next up in my cataloging queue is the Parks House publications. The collection includes humorous publications created by the male student residents of the Wright Quadrangle on the Indiana University Bloomington campus from 1960 through at least 1980. As a cataloging manager, I find my time not only devoted to cataloging but also finding ways to shift the Cataloging Department’s resources toward providing access to unique, special collections, like those of the IU Archives. This is no easy thing to do, given that Libraries acquires and licenses more and more electronic resources, while still building its rich physical collections.

Learned by working with the IU Archives: Working with IU Archives led to insights in an area of my professional interest, the history of library discovery technologies. Although much of the early history of IU Libraries was lost to fires, IU Archives remains the best repository for information about how the Libraries operated.

Author- iubarchives

The IU Bloomington Archives is the largest and most comprehensive source of information on the history and culture of Indiana University. Questions? Like to see something specific on the blog? Contact us! archives@indiana.edu For more great IU history, follow us on Twitter! @iubarchives

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