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.

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!