Eric Nielson & Laura Jewett – Student Spotlight

What degrees are you pursuing at the KSU iSchool?

Eric: Master of Library and Information Science

Laura: Master of Library and Information Science

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

Eric: Metadata, cultural heritage informatics, and information management.

Laura: I’ve been working in public libraries professionally for the past ten years, but academically I have focused my coursework on archival studies, with a particular emphasis on metadata structures, conservation and preservation.

You’re both interning with the American Film Institute. What’s that like? What are you working on?

Eric & Laura: For the Spring semester, we were fortunate enough to have been accepted into a Remote Archival Internship with AFI, the American Film Institute, where we helped to create descriptive metadata related to digitized and born-digital materials.  It was a challenging year to find available internships due to the pandemic, particularly remote opportunities, so it took some dedicated searching before we discovered this position through an online job posting for moving image archives. As the Louis B. Mayer Library at AFI remains closed to the public, they were forced to adapt their internship program to a new model, allowing us to participate through a unique online platform.

With AFI, we have been responsible for organizing print, photographic, and moving image materials (seminar transcripts, audio and video files, production materials), as well as creating and arranging metadata in a collaborative setting with other archival professionals. This involved defining, representing, and managing metadata electronically as it relates to physical holdings, incorporating AFI’s catalog of film history and educational resources into the broader information landscape. We also addressed existing metadata and archival holdings through several data clean-up projects, which required us to create organizational spreadsheets, cross-reference multiple databases of information, and to consolidate the institution’s previous efforts in collection management.

What iSchool classes have you enjoyed the most?

Eric: All of Dr. Zeng’s classes! Specifically, Cultural Heritage Informatics, Knowledge Organization Systems, Linked Data, and Metadata Architecture and Implementation, which were all immensely helpful in expanding my understanding of and passion for metadata. I would also like to shout out both Preservation and Conservation as well as Foundations of Museum Studies for being a lot of fun and for giving me a greater perspective of what archivists are truly capable of.

Laura: I agree with Eric! All of Dr. Zeng’s classes were fantastic and I really discovered a love for working with metadata and information organization in Metadata Architecture and Implementation.  I also feel fortunate to have taken some wonderful elective classes, and particularly enjoyed Preservation and Conservation and The Special Library.

What issues related to information interest you most?

Eric: As an LIS graduate student, I have come to value the importance of metadata and to appreciate its ability to preserve our historic and artistic achievements. Future generations may now have the same opportunity to learn and grow from the influence of these achievements as we have, and I hope to use my education, experience, and passion to ensure their legacies live on.

Laura: Following the Cultural Heritage and Informatics pathway in the program, I have always been particularly interested in issues related to preservation of heritage collections and archival holdings, but also in creating and facilitating information access for these physical collections.  My classes at KSU have helped to show me how to utilize information organization and metadata in addressing these issues, and I hope to continue to pursue this in my future career.

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

Eric: For those with any interest in the field, the podcast Archivist’s Alley is a fantastic resource for what’s happening in the industry and a really fun listen to boot! 

Laura: While it has a somewhat narrow focus, I’ve found The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) website to be an incredibly useful resource for anyone interested in information roles in the film industry and related fields.

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

Eric: Hiking, biking, and really just being out and about as much as possible. Far too often, in information professions, I feel you can get caught up in the digital world and lose sight of what’s going on around you, so it’s important to have a healthy outlet to the natural world and to stay grounded in the here and now as much as you can.

Laura: I try to get outside as much as possible; we’re fortunate to have a fantastic metroparks system in central Ohio and I love to hike when I get the chance.  I also love going to the movies, and hope that I get the chance to be back at a theater soon!

How do you balance school with work and/or home life?

Eric: Lots and lots of meditation.

Laura: I try my best to create separate spaces for each, and set aside time for myself as well. Working in a library while also being in school can oftentimes feel overwhelming, so it’s important to me to establish a schedule that prioritizes time to de-stress, usually by getting outside and spending time with friends and family.

What career paths are you considering?

Eric: Professionally, I’m hoping to build a career as a research librarian and archivist with a particular emphasis on metadata and cultural heritage informatics. Through this incredible opportunity with AFI, I’ve been able to experiment with and merge my passions for education and art history, and it’s my goal to create a pathway which would allow me to continue that work for as long as I can.

Laura: I’m open to whatever opportunities come my way, but I would love to be in some type of archival setting and it would be amazing to find a career in the film industry similar to the metadata work I was doing for the AFI internship.  I’m excited to start exploring the different roles available for information professionals in cultural heritage institutions. 

Do you have any other advice for other students?

Eric: Take as many classes with Dr. Zeng as you possibly can!

Laura: Be persistent about looking for opportunities that you’re passionate about.  Information professionals occupy roles in so many different fields and organizations, and my internship has helped show me that I can pursue and find work that inspires and challenges me. 

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.

Aubrey O’Brien – Student Spotlight

What degree are you pursuing at the KSU iSchool?

I am pursuing a Master of Library Science degree at iSchool and am graduating in May.

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

My background is in contemporary art museums and non-profits, specifically within curatorial and collections departments. My main interest is in collections management and I love the marriage of art objects and information management that registrars and collection managers work in.

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

I’m currently completing an internship with the Sculpture Center’s project, Ohio Outdoor Sculpture. It’s a public online database of all outdoor public sculptures in Ohio. I initially discovered OOS for a course I was taking, Cultural Heritage Informatics. The course’s culminating project was the creation of a metadata record and website for a public cultural heritage object in order to increase user discovery. I came across OOS when gathering initial information about my chosen sculpture, and thought it was a really fun and rich project with a lot of potential. Later on at the end of the semester I received an email from the iSchool calling for applicants to an internship with OOS, and I immediately signed up. 

I’ve been able to work with the internship team to grow, expand, and update the OOS database, and even managed to do some outreach through a local news interview. It’s great to collaborate with information professionals that have different specialties and areas of focus. I get to learn and grow from them. 

What kind of projects or research have you been working on?

I’ve been working on a small-scale digitization project of Instax Mini photographs for my Digital Image Collection Management course that I’m very thrilled about. The photographs are from a collection of images documenting the disparate and converging Midwestern DIY art, music, and queer scenes. I’m also attempting to overhaul the Cleveland Cultural Garden sculpture entries in OOS in order to relate and link them all together in the last two weeks of my internship. It involves a lot of field work plus some old fashioned data entry which I love. Once you get in a groove, data entry isn’t so bad.

What issues related to information interest you most?

Right now I’m really big into open access, Web 3.0 and Linked Data for my two digital curation courses. I am traditionally focused on digital and open access for art collections, any new ways for users to connect with art, either through gamification of metadata creation, crowdsourcing of information and tags from casual users, or mashups. Sophisticated automation is pretty interesting as well, though, as it removes the need for experts and allows casual users to carry out high level analysis of data.

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

I play in a band and like to play at bars around Cleveland, but have been taking up more dog-walking and video gaming during the pandemic.

What career paths are you considering?

I love to work directly with art, and my goal is to get a position as registrar or collections manager at a collecting art institution or special collection. Art libraries are just as exciting as museums so that would be fun, too.

Do you have any other advice for other students?

Information management is an exciting profession to be in considering the rapid and unrelenting technological changes and advancements. Blockchain processes, trustworthiness of information, crowdsourced metadata. . . the amount of overlap information science has with computer science isn’t ending anytime soon. Find your niche in contemporary information management practices using STEM and stand out. Learn some web dev, take some SQL courses. You’ll look relevant and competitive amongst your peers.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Information science is a hugely critical discipline to digital information, whose ease of access we sometimes take for granted. An MLIS doesn’t limit you to the public library (shout out to public librarians!) and there are many exciting avenues to take in the MLIS program, especially for cultural heritage and STEM applications.

Sara Ross – Student Spotlight

What degree are you pursuing at the KSU iSchool?

Master of Library and Information Science

Tell us a little bit about your academic and/or professional background and area(s) of focus.

I graduated Ohio State in 2009 with a BS in Human Development and Family Science. After realizing my initial career choice was a poor fit at the time, I spent the next 5-7 years teaching pre-K and preschool, working a retail job, and acting as a caregiving companion for an elderly family acquaintance. I eventually went back to OSU for a few postgraduate courses, starting with Manuscript Studies, which reignited my love of history and research. I started wondering if I could make some sort of career out of that, but without needing the language background. After talking to some of the university librarians, I decided to apply to Kent State’s MLIS program.

It is funny because when I was around 10-12 years old, my mom had suggested that I would make a good research librarian. But like most preteens, my head was still in the clouds, where my career goal was to simultaneously be an actress/scientist/Girl Scout leader. (I did work for the Girl Scouts for a summer after graduating college!) The memory of her suggestion only resurfaced when I was writing my personal statement to apply to library school! Welp, life lesson learned.

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

My work with The Sculpture Center’s Ohio Outdoor Sculpture database ( has me and four other interns roving different areas in Ohio, hunting down public art pieces (within a set of parameters that took us a few months to tentatively settle on). I was given five southeastern counties to focus on (Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, and Perry). So, for the last four months, I have been researching, photographing, and cataloging outdoor sculptures, statues, memorials, half-buried Volkswagen Beetles, supposedly haunted cemetery figures, and tombs designed to prevent a spouse from dancing atop them. The day trips for photos have been fun, and in one case, utterly terrifying when Google Maps rerouted me down a partially-washed-away dirt road with a ditch on one side, a ravine/river/ (something I could not determine because I was too scared to take my eyes off the road) on the other, and very deep ATV/truck tire tracks that had solidified in the mud down the middle. There was also a downed tree or two and hidden mud-filled potholes, as the winter’s ice and snow had only begun melting the day before. I spent 45 minutes on a 2.5-mile road, alone in a forest, with no cell service at all. I was not entirely sure I would make it to the end, and there may have been tears at one point. All because I diverted from my planned route to look at a memorial for a historical cemetery. Apart from that, though, it has been great. The program runner, Bill Barrow, has been awesome and supportive, and working virtually with four other interns has been great, although I am fairly sure we all regret that we changed our weekly Zoom meetings to 9 a.m. on Saturdays so we could spend the rest of the day taking photos. I have gotten to visit places I did not even know existed and learned about historical figures and events I had never heard of. As a born-and-raised Columbus girl, it was jarring to visit county seats that only had a couple of thousand people, but a good reminder that Ohio is more than the 3 C’s of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Many of the smaller towns had gorgeous murals as opposed to sculptures and statues, as they are more accessible, achievable, and most importantly, affordable. While this project is not including flat murals in the database, I would eventually like to enter some of them online somewhere, as many of the rural villages need tourism, especially after this past year. The skills and knowledge I have gained from this experience has made me much more confident in contributing to online projects like this in the future.

What iSchool classes have you enjoyed the most? Did you have any favorite projects?

LIS 61095 Selected Topics: Information Services to Diverse Populations was one of my absolute favorite courses. It was a chance to gain insight to the information needs of communities that may only be briefly covered in other courses. The unit on people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity was incredibly insightful, and it opened my eyes to challenges I had not previously considered.

I also enjoyed my LIS 60635 Cultural Heritage Informatics course, where we spent a semester thoroughly researching and cataloging a cultural object or location. It gave me the chance to indulge one of my biggest passions, historical research, while teaching me how to incorporate the information I found into actual records and metadata.

If you had one superpower:

Teleportation. Think how many places you could visit.

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

I spend time with my family and my two cats, Nemo and Dory. I like doing puzzles, researching my family’s genealogy, and watching true crime and history documentaries.

Do you have any other advice for other students?

Be open to different opportunities, even if you are an introvert like myself or if you think you know exactly what you want to do. You never know what might interest you.

Zachary Baker – Student Spotlight

What degree are you pursuing at the KSU iSchool?

Masters of Library and Information Science

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

I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in social sciences along with five years of public library experience, fifteen years of customer service experience, and eight years of non-profit organization experience. My focus has been on reference and adult services but I have taken other classes in different areas.

You’re interning with Ohio Outdoor Sculpture. What’s that like? How did you get this internship opportunity?

I am at the tail end of my internship which I found through an email from my advisor, Belinda Boon. It was through The Sculpture Center’s online database of Ohio Outdoor Sculpture. For this internship, I traveled over six different counties in Ohio in search of entries for the database. I would take pictures of them, research their history, and then add the item to the database with as much of the metadata as I could find. The research was a large part of the project along with creating the rules and procedures for the metadata elements. The 150 hours have been flying by. 

There are five other interns and communicating through Slack and email; we discuss all matters of sculptures and the many facets of them. The travel has also been a great experience. You get to see many parts of rural Ohio one wouldn’t normally travel.

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

Your local library or college library website first. Their resources can be invaluable. Next comes everything else. Whatever interests you. Follow those interests. I subscribe to Game Informer and Library Trends, both physical. Do not forget about the physical resources.

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

Video games, hiking, kayaking, reading, writing, running, traveling, and most importantly petting all the creatures that will let me.

Do you have any other advice for other students?

Work will never offer you a mental health day and school will always have due dates. They look out for themselves, so you need to look after yourself.