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Emilie Barrett ‘20 Pursues Passion for Library Studies through Archives Internship


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Emilie Barrett '20 Pursues Passion for Library Studies through Archives Internship

Emilie Barrett ‘20 Pursues Passion for Library Studies through Archives Internship

Emilie Barrett '20 came to college with a vague idea of some activities she enjoyed. With the guidance of professors and staff, she has transformed that idea first into a passion, then a career goal, and now a plan complete with achievable steps, mentors, and resources.

Her latest step on that path is an internship with the archives in the Knox Seymour Library, where Barrett is cataloging a massive collection of documents with signatures from famous people throughout history.

“Sharon basically built the internship for me,” Barrett said, referring to Sharon Clayton, associate librarian at Seymour Library. Clayton has used independent studies and internships to help students toward careers in library studies before, the most recent case being with Jenny Ripka '17. Clayton also serves as a supervisor for many of the library’s departments and has extensive knowledge of medieval documents. 

“I’ve always loved history and organization,” said Barrett, who is a history major and classics minor. “Back home, my friends and I would go to museums, just to look at cool old stuff for fun. When I first came to Knox, I thought that I wanted to go into museum studies, because I thought it involved me sitting in an archive going through pieces of paper and objects and describing them. That’s not a fun image for a lot of people, but it is for me.”

Barrett said when she met with Visiting Professor of History Jennifer Donnally and described her interests, Donnally helped her figure out that library studies might be the best fit for her. Clayton then told Barrett more about the different careers in a library and what pursuing those careers would practically look like. The library staff even arranged for Barrett to shadow one person from each department.

Clayton gave Barrett the letter collection project based on what Barrett most enjoyed from that experience. The internship has convinced Barrett that she’s found what she wants to do.

“I am really excited about it—I love it! Every other day I’m sending a new picture to my mom, like, ‘Look at this cool autograph I found.’ George III, Oliver Cromwell, all the way up to Charles Dickens. My favorite so far is Queen Victoria,” Barrett said.

Barrett now aspires to a master’s, or even Ph.D., in library studies. She has been accepted into the ASSET program, a graduate school preparation program that offers seminars on graduate school and the funding for an independent research project. Barrett will complete her project this summer.

“I have to take the steps to find the things that work for what I want to do,” Barrett said. “These are [steps] I can add to my applications and resume. They look good, and they give me experience in what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

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Printed on Friday, June 5, 2020