Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meet the Staff - Jennifer Randles

Meet Jennifer Randles. She is the Digital Materials Librarian with the Digital Workgroup.

How long have you worked here?

A little over one year, since August 2016.

What are some of the things you do as Digital Materials Librarian?

I lead the Digital Workgroup (DWG), which is the go-to group in the building for digitization and consulting on digital projects. We work mostly with other staff, although we do regularly talk to patrons who order hi-resolution scans or professional prints of our materials. You may not see the members of the DWG very often, but you’ve seen the results of our efforts. We collaborate with other groups in the building to digitize the fascinating items in the Library and Archives and make them available to the public. Whether it’s in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA), online exhibits or even our website pages—if you’ve seen it online, it has most certainly come through DWG at some point.

In addition to supervising staff, I manage the library’s digital collections and consult on digital projects. Somedays I am busy uploading new items to TeVA, and other days I’m consulting on how to best set up a new database or plan a digitization event. I also consult and guide other organizations who want to start digitization on how to start and maintain digital project and collections.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Often I tell people my favorite part is touching cool old stuff! I really love working with original materials and making them accessible to the public through the digital collections. It is such a thrill to take an item through the digitization and uploading process, then get feedback from people who are actually using what we’ve put online. I love hearing we have provided resources that assist someone in making progress in their research or learning more about their family history. It’s very satisfying to know you’ve helped make someone else’s life better in some way. I also must say I love working with the members of the Digital Work Group, as they are an awesome group of co-workers who can always make me smile.

Do you have a favorite collection?

I’m still learning about the collections here, but I think my current favorite is the Grassmere Collection. Several of us are working with Tori Mason from the Nashville Zoo to publish part of the collection on TeVA in the spring of 2018. It is a long process, but it has been so much fun! I’ve actually been able to do research on this project, which is something I don’t get to do very often so I’m having a ball.

Elise and Margaret Croft, who owned the Grassmere historic home and the land the Zoo is currently on, willed it all to the Nashville Children’s Museum to be used as a nature learning center after they passed on. The sisters were very proud of their connection to their land and passionate about sharing that love of nature and animals with the city. This collection has a great variety of materials, including photographs, recipe books, correspondence and oral histories. It also encompasses so many interesting topics, such as Nashville family history, agriculture, animals and even life in Cuba. It is exciting to get to know the sisters better as we go through the materials. I’ve become very fond of them through this process and I feel proud to be involved in sharing their story with the world.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

The public needs libraries and archives more than ever, so we can sort through and make sense of all the information we are barraged with these days. The Library and Archives provides access to original historic materials and teaches others how to discover more about Tennessee and its people. I believe the more exposure you have to historic materials, the more you can see the same issues repeating themselves over time—and the better you can interpret the present and plan for the future. To me, providing access to materials that help people understand the world is extremely important and relevant. Luckily, in my job, it also happens to be a lot of fun.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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