Old Books Gain New Life: Michigan Library Scholars 2018

     My name is Kathleen Moriarty. This fall I will be a senior majoring in Asian Studies with a sub-major in Korean Studies. During the 2017/2018 academic year, I joined the Nam Center Undergraduate Fellowship Program and am going to continue this next year as a research fellow. When looking forward to my future there seem to be plentiful opportunities. I try to not put limitations on myself or my future. However, I do hope sometime soon to travel to Korea and experience the culture and language firsthand. 

     For this internship, I worked within the University of Michigan Press. This is a division of UM Library’s Michigan Publishing which is the universities primary academic publishing department. The press works along with authors and series editors to publish from a wide variety of humanities and social sciences. For this internship, the focus was on Asian Studies. I worked under the acquisitions editor for Asian Studies Christopher Dreyer. The goals set for this project were to evaluate backlist publications of the Press and the Centers for Japanese, Chinese, South Asian, and South East Asian Studies to determine what titles would benefit from being released as open access, allowing for people around the world to access the information. We then wanted to develop a robust database of contracts, permission terms, library sales metadata, and descriptive copy to make the Asian Studies titles available to a broader and more digitally inclined audience. Going into this project I knew it would be a huge learning experience for me. With my past jobs being focused on scientific research, academic publishing was something I had never been a part of. However, I knew I wanted to get more work experience relating to my major. This meant there was a lot to learn. The main learning objectives included the workings of scholarly publishing, cross-campus collaboration, and intellectual property and data management. These were all major parts of this internship, but I learned much more.

     The Asian Studies titles backlist consisted of hundreds of books. To begin tackling the objectives of this project my first task was to go through the metadata that we already had about the books. This information was taken from the press’ website and the online database used by the press called title management. I then condensed the information that was located on multiple spreadsheets into one for each series. Once this was done, we were able to see how much metadata we were missing. Seeing as many of these titles were published starting from the 1960’s there was quite a lot of missing or unclear information. I then began searching this out online. Sometimes even basic information was missing, making more information challenging to find. To make sure anything that I found was correct, I would cross compare multiple websites, databases, and physical materials. This allowed me to find or create much of the remaining metadata we needed. Not only did I work with the metadata, but I got an in-depth look into what academic publishing is. Attending meetings with members of marketing, editing, acquisitions, and copyright broadened my knowledge in this field. Asking a lot of questions benefited my quality of work and the amazing number of new things I learned during this process.

     Much of my project lied within the realm of academic publishing. However, the internship is also part of the Michigan library. This meant that I was able to learn and gain experience from multiple areas. We as interns were able to experience different area libraries the university has, what different departments within the library specialize in, how area specialists do their jobs, and so much more. We got to see how interconnected everyone is how important the connection and communications are. A lot of the time these connections are what lead to being able to do a job efficiently and enjoyably. Through our meetings and tours within the libraries, I came to realize how much more there is to a library than a lot of people see or appreciate

     With no previous knowledge or experience in publishing, I was learning from scratch. Within the short few months of this internship I have learned so much, but still, have lots to learn. Through my work, I was able to gain more efficiency in managing data, spreadsheets and both physical and digital materials. This internship taught me to ask more questions when they arise to save time and effort later, as well as make fewer mistakes. With a schedule that varied quite a lot, and my project being mainly off campus, I had to be careful with my time management and being flexible. I think is a useful skill to improve upon and practice for school or work. One of the most interesting parts of this internship was getting to see the seemingly endless areas that makeup publishing. From this, I was able to gain the understanding of how important making connections matters within this type of work. There are connections between the libraries, the colleges, the degree programs, and more personal connections such as author to publisher, publisher to the printer, connections between editors and so many more. I was able to experience and make my own connections during this internship that will be useful in my future. 

     The span of this project seemed to be bigger than we had first thought. I was not able to complete all the data collection. However, everything I have done will make the rest of the project much simpler for those that come after me. The revisions to the spreadsheets and issues I was able to solve will make the future work easier. The spreadsheets with improved metadata will be uploaded to our database and the press’ website. The press and centers will work together to decide titles will benefit from open access. Those titles will then be made into eBooks and released. Once the project is complete and these key resources within Asian Studies are made open access, they will be much more easily accessible and useful for anyone to utilize. This will increase the breadth of knowledge available within Asian Studies which is something that will be useful for many people whether they are a part of academia or not for as long as the resources remain.