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Meet the MLA ’24 Presenters of Collective Collecting and the Challenge of Preservation

In the weeks leading up to MLA ‘24 in Portland, we’ll profile the experts leading each of the symposium sessions by sharing their answers to questions about themselves and their session. We continue the series with the moderator and presenters of Collective Collecting and the Challenge of Preservation: Melissa DeSantis (MD), Vida Damijonaitis (VD), and Alison Wohlers (AW).

Join them for their session on Monday, May 20, 2024, 9:00-10:15 a.m., pacific time. The session will be streamed live. Please see the Symposium Session Schedule to learn about all the Symposium sessions and their presenters.

What are you most looking forward to seeing/eating/experiencing in Portland?

MD: Visiting Salt & Straw for ice cream. Visiting Rogue Brewery’s Eastside Pub for beer.

AW: I grew up just south of Portland but have moved around quite a bit since. I now live about two hours south in Eugene, Oregon. I don’t get up to the city proper very often, but it’s a beautiful cityscape. I hope we’ll have some clear views of Mt. Hood! For anyone who is visiting Portland for the first time, these are my top three recommendations:

VD: I had an amazing hot pot dinner in Portland last year and am really looking forward to going again with colleagues.  

What’s a fun or surprising fact about large-scale collaborative collection development and preservation of resources?

AW: Serious fact: It’s always incredible to me how unique library collections are. There are absolutely opportunities to strategically manage commonly held resources, but there is also so much we can learn about the diversity of collections and how to make those collections known and available more broadly.

Funny fact: The process of physically consolidating and validating print collections for shared stewardship can surface some very interesting artifacts. Arizona State University has discovered everything from photos and bookmarks to a snake (!) in a large shipment of volumes sent to fill gaps in their local serial runs. 

How did you get started in librarianship?

MD: I got a student worker job in a health sciences library when I was an undergraduate. I literally only applied for the job because my roommate was already working there.

AW: I came into librarianship in a roundabout way. I did my BA in Anthropology and my MA in International Studies, but I kept coming back to libraries. When I spent a year in Fez, Morocco after my undergraduate studies, I gravitated to the Médiathèque Municipale de Fès (Municipal Media Library of Fez) and supported collaborative programming between the library and the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange. During my graduate studies, I was more interested in supporting the research of others and learning from our department’s subject librarian than my own research. I found a place for my skills in library collections analysis and particularly enjoyed collaborative problem solving, working across departments and institutions. Ultimately, my anthropology and international studies background prepared me well for the work I do now in figuring out how people and organizations can partner effectively for mutual benefit and the greater good.

How did you get started in publishing?   

VD: My first job in high school was in the local public library. I started out as a library page, putting books back on the shelves (I knew the Dewey Decimal System backwards and forwards). Eventually, I got promoted to the magazine room and acted as a junior librarian there. That was the beginning of my work in publishing!

What’s the main thing you want participants to take away from your session?

MD: Even if your job duties don’t have anything to do with the library’s collection, it is important to have a basic understanding of collective collections. Everyone benefits from the preservation of collections.

AW: There are lots of flavors of collective management and development that help ensure the preservation of the print scholarly record, broaden access, and extend resources of individual libraries. Libraries can join existing collaborations or leverage existing models and resources to spin up something new and targeted to their needs.   

VD: Preservation is somewhat of an invisible task in our industry and we don’t think about it until we realize it hasn’t happened. We need to approach it in a collaborative way.

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