Megan Calhoun – Student Spotlight

What degree are you pursuing at the KSU iSchool?

Master’s in Library and Information Science, with a focus on Archival Studies and Digital Preservation.

Tell us a little bit about your academic and/or professional background and areas of focus.

I have a BFA in Art History from Ohio University and an MS in Professional Writing from Towson University. My career up to this point has been in the publishing industry, mostly educational publishing, and for the past 13 years I have been a freelance writer/editor working in educational publishing. 

For just about 14 years, I’ve wanted to be an archivist. I love history, and one of the most intriguing aspects of it is the way we continually uncover new facts and perspectives that allow us to see points in the past in a new way. Archives are where history happens. Most people don’t get a chance to visit archives, and they might appear at first like just a bunch of old records and books, until that is, you go looking for something in one. Then the archive comes alive. It’s a mystery, treasure hunt, and adventure all rolled into one. But they aren’t just shelves of books and boxes of papers anymore, increasingly they are digital, whether born that way or converted. What I really love about digital archives is their potential to bring that mystery, treasure hunt, and adventure right into people’s homes and offer new ways that we can discover important parts of our lives and our cultural heritage.

You’re interning with Ohio Outdoor Sculpture. What’s that like? What have you learned during your internship?

I’m just finishing up an internship with The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, working virtually on their Ohio Outdoor Sculpture (OOS) database and website ( Bill Barrow, who coordinates the project, has a reputation for being a mentor to up-and-coming library professionals and he does a great job trying to provide students with valuable experiences. He works closely with the MLIS program at Kent State to find interns.

When I heard about the project, I was really excited. I’m graduating at the end of this semester and still needed an internship since the one I had lined up last summer fell through because of COVID.

OOS is an online database of outdoor sculptures in Ohio, which includes images, location information and maps, historical data, and more. Its purpose is both as a reference tool and a means to encourage communities to preserve their outdoor sculpture. No other state has anything like it. 

A team of four other interns and I were assigned 5-6 counties a piece and tasked with locating previously undocumented sculptures. The majority of sculptures included on OOS were clustered around Ohio’s major cities, and Bill really wanted to find out what, if anything, was in some of the more rural counties which had only a couple, and in some instances no, OOS-identified sculptures. 

After doing some initial internet research and contacting libraries, historical societies, universities, and other organizations we thought might have information about sculptures in their areas, we (the interns) then do site visits to get pictures of sculptures we have leads on and almost inevitably stumble across some we didn’t even know were there. Once we find the sculptures, there is usually more digging we need to do to find out information about it to include on the site.

It has been fascinating from both an art and history perspective and also a great way to explore some places in Ohio that I have never been, despite having grown up here. The other side of the equation has been figuring out the metadata for the site so we are entering information consistently, providing users with what they want to know, and organizing it in ways that makes it more discoverable and usable.

Describe recent projects or research that you’ve been working on.

Last fall, I worked with Dr. Karen Gracy in an Individual Studies course to turn a paper I had done for her Digital Curation course into a publishable article. The topic of the paper was on privacy and access in archives with a special focus on how the issue is handled in digital archives and what the implications are for that. It is a topic I have touched on in a few of my courses and one that I find particularly fascinating because of the really complex layers there are to this issue. I revised and resubmitted it after a peer review to The American Archivist and am waiting on pins and needles to hear back from them about whether it will be accepted.

What iSchool classes have you enjoyed the most?

One of my favorite courses in the MLIS program at Kent State has been the Preservation and Conservation of Heritage Materials because I got to work firsthand with a small historical organization to assess their museum space and collections and help them submit a grant application to get money to improve their preservation efforts, which they won! It was satisfying to have an impact with real people and collections. 

I also really enjoyed Dr. Marcia Zeng’s Cultural Heritage Informatics class. The project for the class was to create a website for a cultural heritage artifact of our choice, and I chose the Union Station Arch in Columbus ( It was so much fun learning the history of this item and exploring all of the different ways to present information on it to users.

Dr. Zeng’s Metadata Architecture and Implementation course also ranks right up there at the top. I was the kind of kid who spent rainy Saturdays trying to organize her pennies and button collection, so metadata is intriguing to me. At the outset, it can seem fairly straightforward, but there is a surprising level of complexity to it when you really set about implementing it, which I got to experience even further in the OOS internship.

Are there any websites, apps, podcasts or other resources you’d recommend other students explore?

I would recommend taking a look at your local library to see what kind of historical resources they provide access to. Libraries are a great way to get information for free, and they offer a lot more than just books. Columbus Metropolitan Library for example provides (just to name a few) a digital collection of historical photographs, digital access to The Columbus Dispatch all the way back 1871, and one of my personal favorites, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which if you haven’t checked out before, they are a wonderful way to visually explore the history of your city or neighborhood.

If you had one superpower

Invisibility. So much I could learn. So many places I could go. My husband always says flying, but no way. Invisibility for sure.

How do you balance school with work and home life?

It’s less about balancing and more about juggling. Some balls are going to get dropped from time to time, and when they do, you pick them up and keep going. My husband is also pretty good at telling me when I’m getting too deep with school work or work-work (as I call it), and thankfully my three daughters are pretty understanding. My five year old, however, is really looking forward to me graduating. She’s got big plans for us.

Do you have any other advice for other students?

If you get the chance, go to a conference for your profession, it’s a great way to see what’s happening in the field, get to know people, and demystify some of the more intimidating aspects.

Do you belong to any professional organizations?

Society of American Archivists, Society of Ohio Archivists, and Ohio Digitization Interest Group.

Tracey Johnson, MLIS – Alumni Spotlight

Tracey Johnson

iSchool Graduation Date


Professional Organizations/Affiliations

American Institute for Conservation (AIC), Southeast Regional Conservation Association (SERCA)

Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

As an assistant conservator in a state archives (Georgia), I am responsible for gathering and analyzing temperature and humidity information from environmental data loggers to ensure a stable environment for our collection. I also conduct surveys to assess the preservation needs of the collection, including the degradation of the reference microfilm and identifying candidates for digitization and removal to a more appropriate storage environment. A good portion of my job is performing conservation treatments on collection items to provide access to and stabilize them for use by researchers. I also assist the Conservator with developing and maintaining policies and procedures for emergency preparedness, preservation, etc.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

It’s the same advice that was given to me early in grad school: get out of your comfort zone when deciding on a specialty and try things you don’t think you’re interested in to make sure that’s really the case. I thought for sure I was going to be a cataloger in a public library, since that’s what I had done during my undergraduate program and really enjoyed it. Following this advice, I chose a practicum in digital preservation in an archives and loved it. When I started working in an archives shortly after, I was introduced to conservation and fell into my dream job!

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

By encouraging others to experiment and really explore their ideas no matter where it takes them, and by being open-minded about new ideas myself. We had an intern in the conservation lab this year that we were teaching bookbinding to and she was really disappointed with one of her books. Instead of giving up on it, we encouraged her to keep working with it and she ended up creating a small volume to collect sample materials in for reference during her conservation training. By continuing to work on the oddly shaped volume, she better understood how to work with complications a volume from the collection might have.

Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

I have had several excellent mentors in both my library and conservation training. Sure they taught me the day-to-day specifics of the work, but they also taught me how to be an excellent leader by demonstrating patience, understanding and importance of the larger picture, and how to support other staff and departments within the institution.

What do you wish you had done earlier or more often?

I wish I had gotten more involved in professional organizations and networked with colleagues. By being on various boards, I feel like I’ve contributed to the profession in a meaningful way. I wish I could have broken out of my shell earlier so I wouldn’t still be chiseling away at it.

How and where do you find inspiration?

Looking at leaders in the field of cultural heritage and adapting their ideas in ways that are attainable and/or appropriate for my institution. Looking at different fields and how their methods or materials might work for archives conservation. And talking with people I come in contact with from all kinds of professions to figure out how our careers and ideas might overlap.

To what values are you committed?

Dependability, Creativity, Growth, Dedication

How do you balance your work and home life?

Because the bulk of my job is treating collection items, much of my work physically stays at work. I am very passionate about what I do so it isn’t a burden when these overlap. However, I am very aware of burnout and take steps to prevent it, such as spending quality time with my family, knitting, and reading novels.

What are some challenges that today’s information professionals will face? And tomorrow’s?

Funding will always be a challenge. When state and federal budgets get cut, cultural institutions are the first to feel it. My institution is an example of this that after the economic downturn from the pandemic we were asked to decrease our budget significantly. With very little fat to cut, the result was a few layoffs and several other positions remaining indefinitely vacant as well as deferred maintenance of our facility.

How can the library remain important to the community?

By helping the community understand that we are curating and caring for collections specifically for their use. As information professionals, we analyze the communities we serve and create programs and exhibits, highlight collections, etc. that we hope they will find interesting. We exist to serve them.

What websites, apps, podcasts, or other resources would you recommend to explore?

The C-Word is a podcast by conservators for conservators covering a broad range of topics from a real-life perspective. Sometimes brutally honest about the life and experiences of a conservator, I think this podcast would be of interest to anyone in the realm of preservation.

What is a book you like that you have to defend liking and what is a book you dislike that you have to defend disliking?

I am surrounded by open-minded people, so I don’t have to defend liking anything I read. In fact, many of the books I read are recommendations from friends. One such recommendation was The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss, which is amazing!

It’s not so popular now, but I really disliked Fifty Shades of Grey. I was working in circulation in a public library when it came out and I decided I should read it to better understand the interests of our patrons. There was no suspension of disbelief for me and I struggled to finish it. The storyline seemed very flimsy and the characters totally unrelatable. I’m not against the genre, but I simply couldn’t understand what made this series so worthy of being made into movies over the many other novels of its kind. I still regret the 20 minutes I spent trying to get into the first movie before finally giving up.

Special thanks to the Kent State University iSchool Alumni Network for coordinating these profiles. Learn more about the Alumni Network on their Facebook page and group. Students are welcome to join and participate.

Megan Calhoun – Student Spotlight

Can you tell us a little about the grant you recently did a successful application for as part of your MLIS coursework? 

The course work for the Preservation and Conservation of Heritage Materials required us to find an institution that was willing/needed a preservation assessment done on a collection—a preservation assessment involves examining and reporting on the preservation conditions of the organization, facility, and collection and supplying recommendations based on that examination. The follow up to this was to complete an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Preservation Grant application. The nature of this grant meant needing to find a smaller institution to work with.

After a few failed queries, a colleague at the State Archives of Ohio (where I volunteered) directed me to the Ohio Local History Alliance, which is a member network of usually smaller local history institutions—historical societies, museums, etc. In scanning through member list, I was immediately struck by Indian Lake Area Historical Society (ILAHS). Indian Lake has a special place in my heart because it was one of the places we often vacationed as a family when I was growing up. Time spent on (or in) the lake with my brother, sister, and cousins are happy memories for me.

I discovered when reviewing the society’s website that they had just opened a small museum to display some of their artifacts and historical materials, which was open on the weekends during the summer (this was 2019 summer semester). So, I called society’s director, John Coleman, and right off the bat he was super enthusiastic about the idea of a preservation assessment and possible grant. Because they were just now bringing in all of these collections—photographs, postcards, memorabilia, newspapers—that had previously been stored in various locations, into a centralized space, it was a great time for someone to get in there and tell them what they were dealing with and what should be done from a preservation perspective.

The ILAHS is an all-volunteer run organization, and even though several of the board members had attended meetings and workshops dealing with preservation issues, they were very happy to have someone receiving college-level instruction take a look at what they had.

The collection on which I performed the preservation assessment was their postcard collection, but really all of their collections were in the same sort of preservation need. They had not yet acquired archival-quality housing or enclosures for the materials and were uncertain about what types of materials they needed. The museum, which they had just opened and relocated the resources to, was viewed by the society as a temporary location (they were offered use of the space for free) as a way to build up some recognition for the society and better share their collections with the community until such time as they could afford to find a more permanent home for them. As such, the location was not ideal from a preservation standpoint. They were also in need to additional shelving on which to store all of their collections and were uncertain about what was best.

I had a great experience working with several of the board members, all of whom were very excited to start doing something with the collections. Right about the time that I was getting ready to move onto the grant portion of the project, I became aware of the Ohio History Fund Grant, which had an application deadline in the early fall. I thought that this grant might be a better fit for my group than the NEH grant and they were aware of it and open to applying for it. They had never completed a grant application before and were a bit intimidated by the process (AS WAS I!!), but with the guidance of my professor, Rebecca Elder, we ended up with what we considered a small but good grant request. The grant required that we match at least 40% of the total project amount, but because ILAHS is an all-volunteer organization, most of our matching funds were in the form of personnel time.

They announced the winners of the grant (there were a total of 8 recipients) at a Statehood Day Ceremony on Feb, 26 2019, and John let me know that they had won!

The grant awarded was $2,849 and covers the purchase of preservation materials—housings, enclosures, UV protective covers for the lights, UV film for the windows, and shelving.

What do you plan to do with this grant in the future?

The money for the grant came in in May, and originally the plan was that I would contribute my expertise this past summer in helping the Indian Lake Area Historical Society order the preservation materials they needed. Unfortunately, COVID derailed that plan, as it has done with so much else recently.  Currently, ILAHS is still shut down, but when it is safe to do so, we will more forward, so they can begin rehousing the collections and providing a more preservation-friendly environment for them, so they’ll be around for a long time to come.

Why is this type of work important to you?

This type of work is important to me on various fronts. As someone who just loves history, getting a chance to be on the front line helping to make sure that the tangible elements of that history survive is very powerful. Collections like photographs, newspapers, postcards, and paper ephemera are especially fragile and vulnerable to the ravages of time if they are not kept in ideal conditions. Additionally, so much of this vulnerable historical material is kept by organizations like the Indian Lake Area Historical Society, small organizations in small communities that don’t have much in the way of funds to support the often expensive preservation efforts.

How has the Preservation and Conservation of Heritage Materials course helped you become a better student? Have any other course made an impact on you? 

I’m not looking to become a better student. I have been a good student for a loooong time. I got my undergraduate in Art History with a minor in History from Ohio University in 2001, I got a Master’s in Professional Writing from Towson University in Maryland in 2004, and now, here I am again…a student. I love learning and I love expanding my professional horizons. After receiving my Professional Writing degree, I worked for a number of years in the publishing industry and am still currently doing freelance editing work for the publishing company I worked for out in Maryland.

What the Preservation and Conservation of Heritage Materials course helped me do is get some real hands-on experience with archival type work. I loved that it got me out there helping people do something that actually needed to be done.

I have enjoyed most of my courses at Kent State, but the other one that I think had a big impact on me was the Cultural Heritage Informatics course that I took this past fall (2019). Like the Preservation and Conservation course, the Informatics course had a special project that you worked on for the duration, which really makes it more personal and tailored to the students’ interests. For that course I built a website ( around my chosen cultural heritage object—the Union Station Arch in Columbus—and implemented various informatics techniques that allow the users to learn more about and really experience this object.

What drew you to Kent State and the iSchool

I am a 41-year-old mother of 3, whose youngest daughter is still in preschool. I started this program when she was just 5 months old. I not only am their primary childcare provider, but I also still do freelance work when it comes in. Nothing but an iSchool would work for me at this stage in my life. The flexibility is great.

Kent State is also the only University in the state that offers an MLIS degree, and their program has a great reputation and doesn’t just cover library science—since I’m primarily interested in archival studies and digital preservation. My professors have been excellent, and I feel like I am not only learning a lot, but that the coursework is very up to date with the state of the information fields today. I have been very happy with my choice (Although I do feel a little bit bad that I have never actually visited campus!!!!)

Do you have future plans, upon receiving your degree? What would your dream job be? 

I’m currently enrolled in the final course that I need to graduate—Metadata Architecture and Implementation, and then all that remains is a practicum. I had hoped to fulfil that requirement this past summer with an internship at OCLC, but once again, COVID reared its ugly head. I’m working closely with my advisor and some professors to try and navigate those waters, but still plan to graduate this coming spring or summer. I’m also just working on the final edits to an article that will hopefully be published in the American Archivist about strategies used in working with privacy-sensitive digital collections. My dream job would be working with the digital side of the field, and metadata is a strong interest of mine.

Karen F. Gracy, Ph.D. – Faculty Spotlight

Tell us a little bit about your professional background and areas of focus.

I have been a faculty member at Kent State University’s School of Information since 2007.  My graduate education, including my MLIS and PhD degrees, were earned at UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. It’s been over twenty years since I was a working archivist, but my professional experiences include short stints at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, and at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, where I worked in preservation focusing on the Hearst Metrotone Newsreel Collections. My focus in teaching is in digital preservation, digital curation, archival description, and audiovisual archiving. Soon, I will be offering a new course in digital humanities and computational archival science.

Describe recent projects or research that you’ve been working on.

 I have a number of current projects that are ongoing. Here is a brief description of a few:

  • “Mobile Digitization for Community Memory Projects in Northeast Ohio:” promote community memory archiving in small and rural Northeast Ohio libraries via mobile digitization. Recent IMLS-sponsored studies indicate that smaller and rural institutions lack the human and technological resources for community memory and local history work. This project aims to provide assistance to fill these gaps in two ways: 1) providing institutions with access to digitization and digital capture technology through the implementation of a mobile digitization unit, and 2) human resources to kickstart community memory activities, in the form of trained MLIS students and local volunteers who can assist with digitization projects and local history archiving events such as scan days and oral history capture. To achieve these objectives, project staff and institutional partners will develop curricular materials needed to educate MLIS graduate students and local volunteers in the use of mobile digitization equipment, provide hands-on training opportunities in digitization and digital capture activities, and work with institutional staff to organize digitization projects and host community memory events.

  • Crafting History: Using a Linked Data Approach to Support the Development of Historical Narratives of Critical Events.” The problem addressed by this project is how historians and other humanities scholars can most effectively access and use the data hidden in the silos of digital archival collections to craft narratives about significant developments and critical junctures in historical events. This project has two objectives: 1) to investigate the efficacy of an event-based model of description that will facilitate search across archival inventories and textual documents found in archival collections, and, 2) to develop and test a software tool that will allow scholars to more easily discover and use these hidden nuggets of information about events, and facilitate the construction of explanatory narratives about historical phenomena.

  • Developing a pedagogical framework for audiovisual archiving education. A few years ago, I founded a working group composed of educators interested in audiovisual archiving education. This group aims to develop a set of competencies for audiovisual archiving education programs, including:
    • Graduate level programs, specializations, and certificates;
    • Continuing education offerings for professionals already in the field and archivists who wish to enhance their skill set to include audiovisual materials.
    • We may also consider potential skills needed by nonprofessionals, such as high school students, undergraduates, media studies researchers, volunteers, and laypeople with interests in this area, people working in cultural heritage environments, etc.

  • Developing knowledge management strategies for moving image archivists.
    I serve as a consultant for a multi-institutional international research project on knowledge sharing in the moving image archiving communities (participants include representatives of archives in Europe, Africa, and North America).  I lend my expertise in qualitative research methods (particularly ethnographic methods), and will be working with them as they gather and analyze data via surveys, interviews, and observation. The goal is to create a set of standards and best practices for documenting moving image archiving work so that knowledge can be transferred from one generation of archivists to the next.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

I love it when I see students have that “aha!” moment where a difficult or confusing concept becomes clearer to them. The key is to provide lots of different ways of approaching the concepts, because learning happens in a lot of different ways.

Do you have a favorite teaching moment?

I see myself as an advocate for the preservation and access to audiovisual materials, so it’s a real pleasure to introduce students to this specialty and raise their consciences about the plight of these materials, which often languish within institutional collections when no one with the right expertise is there to care for them. Everyone who takes my introduction to audiovisual archiving course comes away with newfound appreciation for the cultural and historical values of these materials.

How have your professional experiences influenced your teaching?

They are so important for making abstract concepts more tangible and accessible to students. When they see how something works in practice, that’s when everything crystallizes for them and becomes relevant to what they want to do. So, I love to weave in stories of my own experiences where I can, and encourage my students to do so via our online interactions as a class.

What issues related to information interest you most?

It won’t surprise anyone to know that preservation is near and dear to my heart as it is what first drew me to the LIS profession. I also have interests in learning about how people are capturing and preserving intangible knowledge and culture, whether it be the documentation of folkways or the performing arts like dance, music, and theater or other types of “knowledge in the body” that people tend to learn about by doing the work or movements (think about things like knitting–there’s only so much you can learn by reading a book about it or watching a video!)

In addition to preservation, I’m very interested in certain policy issues like intellectual property, most likely because it has such an influence over how people access material that has been preserved through digital means.

Are there any websites, apps, podcasts or other resources you’d recommend students explore?

It’s hard to know where to begin, since there are so many great resources out there, but here are a few that come to mind related to preservation:

  • Preserve This Podcast! (, a Mellon Foundation-funded project that provides a lot of excellent information about digital preservation of audiovisual content.
  • Graphics Atlas (  This is a cool website developed by the Image Permanence Institute to help cultural heritage professionals identify photographic processes of historic photographs and prints.
  • Library Carpentry ( For anybody interested in upgrading their technology and data skill sets, this website gathers a lot of very user-friendly introductions to things like OpenRefine, SQL, Python, and web scraping. Anybody interested in data mining and analysis, digital preservation, or digital humanities should check this site out!

If you had one superpower:

I’d love to have the ability to stop time for everyone except myself, so that I could catch up on my work and get some extra sleep! When I was kid, way back in 1980, I saw a TV movie called The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything, and in this movie the hero had a watch that could stop time. I never forgot that movie, and always wanted that special watch 🙂 It would be one hundred times better than a smart watch!

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

I spend a lot of time with my dog Pippa. She’s a cairn terrier mix, so she’s very high spirited and loves to spend time outside. Snow doesn’t faze her, so we are out and about in all weather. I also volunteer with a national Cairn terrier rescue group called Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network, for which I help with the planning of transports. Col. Potter rescues dogs from all over the country and they often rely on a network of volunteer drivers to get the dogs to foster or forever homes. It’s nice to be able to play a small part in helping these dogs get to a better place, and I also get to use my research skills and love of geography to plan the best routes.

Do you have any advice for students?

This is a difficult time for everyone and it has disrupted so many people’s plans and lives, so please remember to be kind to yourself and ask for extra assistance if you need it.

The School wants everyone to succeed and we often see students taking on more than they can handle. So, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you are capable of doing in your current situation. Maybe this means that you take it a little slower with the number of courses you register for, or maybe you will need to ask for more assistance from your instructor than you would normally need. We are here to help, so ask your advisor and instructors if you are starting to get in over your head.

What class(es) are you teaching next semester for Kent’s iSchool?

In the fall semester, I’ll be teaching LIS 60050, Research Methods in LIS, and LIS 60631, Introduction to Digital Preservation. I look forward to working with iSchool students again after the summer break!