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ASB- Alternative Service Break

Grehan Building

ASB- Alternative Service Break

Some college students go on Spring Break to exotic locations around the globe. Other students stay closer to home and use the time to relax, unwind and get caught up. And still others use the time away from school to improve the world around them by participating in UK's Alternative Service Break. 

Our School of Library Science studetns volunteered their break interning in Washington, D.C. 

Kamryn Wies, Smithsonian—Biodiversity Heritage Project
When I learned of the amazing opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian Libraries, I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of it. I was lucky enough to be chosen to be the Biodiversity Heritage Library In-Copyright Intern. I knew the BHL was a digital library but, having no previous experience with a purely digital collection, I couldn’t begin to start making a guess. What I ended up doing was so much cooler than anything I could have anticipated. I got to spend the whole week pushing my attention to detail and love of consistency to the limits. Now that may sound boring to some but this is the kind of thing I do at home for fun.

Because BHL is a digital library, copyright plays a huge role in their work. Some of the materials being digitized are still under copyright, which means that the BHL has to get permission, in writing, for the materials to be added to their collection.

Getting permission is just step one. Some copyright holders ask that there be what’s called a “moving wall” (or embargo). In academic publishing, access is sometimes only allowed to paid subscribers so publishers may not want their most current materials to be made accessible for free. This can be a one year moving wall or even a fourteen year moving wall. It all depends on the wishes of the publisher.

Once I completed that introductory task, I moved on to the process of ‘reconciling moving walls’. I had to review each moving wall issue in the tracking system to make sure they were up to date. There were so many little steps and details to pay attention to and I had fun delving into each issue. 

This week was so interesting and informative. I had so much fun not only doing the project for the BHL but meeting all the different people who make the Smithsonian Libraries run smoothly. We did tours of multiple libraries and learned so much about the collections and how the librarians help the researchers. I can only hope that when I graduate I find a job that is as much as fun as this internship has been.


Matthew Noe, National Library of Medicine—NLM Learning Resources API Project
During this year’s Alternative Spring Break at the National Library of Medicine, I worked primarily with Sarah Helson, a librarian in the Bibliographic Services Division, on evaluating and creating documentation for the NLM Learning Resources Database ( When completed, this database will be the home location for all of NLM’s learning resources – which range from interactive tutorials to Medical Library Association webinars. Creating the user documentation – essentially a “how to” guide for searching the database – was an excellent opportunity to put my coursework (particularly LIS 621 and 625) to work in a practical, valuable way. I look forward to seeing the completed database when it goes live and hope to continue to build upon the new professional relationships made over the course of the week.


Ash Skipper, Smithsonian—Artists’ Files Project
For the Alternate Spring Break, I interned at the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library. I worked on updating the online records of the Artists Files for the artists that created book art. Book art includes art that is created from books or in the shape of books. After I made sure that the online records were updated, I created vertical files for those artists who did not have a file. Finally, I researched the artists online for artist statements, biographies, mentions of the artwork that the Smithsonian has, etc. Not only did I have fun working on this project, but I learned a lot. My supervisor also had plenty of great advice on what I can do to further my studies. I now know for certain that I want to study more art history. This was a great experience!


Megan Lucy, Smithsonian—Scholarly Communication

For Alternative Spring Break 2016, I worked in the Scholarly Communications department of Smithsonian Libraries under the supervision of Alvin Hutchinson. The opportunity to work inside the Smithsonian and see behind the scenes of this world famous museum system fulfilled a lifelong dream for me. Smithsonian Libraries has 21 branch libraries, 5 of which we were able to tour. I was also able to tour three of the Smithsonian Museums, the Museums of Natural History and American History, and my favorite, the National Museum of the American Indian.

More importantly, though, Alternative Spring Break provided me with an important opportunity to clarify my academic path and career goal. I am only four classes into the MSLS program, and had not quite decided on an academic track yet. Additionally, I am trying to build a bridge between my current career in academic administration and faculty advancement and a possible future career in academic libraries. The exact structure of that bridge was not always certain to me. At the Smithsonian, I worked on an institutional repository and database of Smithsonian scholars. Seeing the similarities between this database and the databases I work with at University of Kentucky clarified for me the importance of computer science and information systems to the future of both academic libraries and universities. I came away from the experience with the hope of pursuing an Information Systems academic track. It is amazing that in only one week’s time, I received such clarity and learned so many important things that will truly impact my career.


Teresa McGinley, National Library of Medicine—Assessing Publisher Supplied Information PubMed
Emily and I worked with the PubMed Central group. They are trying to standardize the process of reviewing publishers for addition to the PMC repository. So our project was two-fold, the first was to evaluate multiple publishers using preset questions. Secondly, we evaluated the review questions to make sure they were appropriate and understandable to reviewers. It was definitely a lesson into the questionable practices and ethics of some publishers out there, predatory and not. We also learned a lot about publication ethics standards and organizations. This project was a lot of fun because we had to sleuth out answers, which led down rabbit holes of information more often than not.


Emily Elkind, National Library of Medicine— Assessing Publisher Supplied Information PubMed
We did indeed work to verify information provided by publishers about various types of materials. I am unable to elaborate beyond this point, but I can say that the experience is wonderful and provided me with an entirely different view of the work I am doing in the library system and helped me use one of my strengths: handling detailed information.

On Wednesday, because the metro was shut down for maintenance, I explored Chinatown and went on a tour with the interns at the Smithsonian to learn about the rare books kept in the Museum of Natural History. We learned that some people could request the exact same book either in black and white pictures or in color pictures, but the books would look very different. Often, people with less money could cover the book with slim paper or, if they had more money, they could cover it with leather. Also, in the early days of printing, copper plates were used to help people to put the pictures in with the text. The same book could have the pictures placed in different areas of the book. Rather than having a title page, the book was signed off with the author’s name and the date it was finished. Overall, the rare book room was an extremely interesting experience.

The last two days were spent working on the same project that I began earlier in the week. I enjoyed the experience very much and enjoyed meeting everyone. I am glad that I had the chance to go and work there for a week. It was fantastic, and I would recommend it.


Bailey Schrupp, Smithsonian—Advancement

I was afforded the opportunity to intern with Smithsonian Libraries for a week in the Advancement Department, as part of the schools Alternative Spring Break program. Before coming to the Smithsonian I knew very little about the Libraries, another than there were many of them, and I knew nothing about advancement for the libraries. However, the Advancement team quickly helped to demystify how they contributed to the libraries. Given my background in Environmental Law, I was able to work on a project geared towards helping with funding for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Through research and a series of meetings I was able to find out how important the BHL is to the scientific community, especially researchers, and how the advancement team helps to keep it funded. I did not just learn about Advancement for one library however, I learned about advancement and its importance for all libraries. On a lighter note, during my time at the Smithsonian Libraries I, along with other UK interns, were given tours of some of the amazing Libraries of the Smithsonian. Some highlights included seeing a page of the Gutenberg Bible and Euclid 3-D geometry book from the Dibner Library and a piece at the Cullman library which included an article on Unicorns from a 1550 animal encyclopedia. Also since we were housed in the Natural History Museum, so our group was able to explore the museum every day, which was nice to me able to take our time and really appreciate the exhibits.