StaffOct 11, 2018Campus News
By: Frank Conserette

Introducing Our Staff: Rebecca Dzikowski

Rebecca joined the Special Collections department staff in September 2017 as a part-time metadata specialist.
Introducing Our Staff: Rebecca Dzikowski
"I knew it would be a privilege to be associated with the University."- Rebecca

This article originally appeared in Information Update, the Weinberg Memorial Library's newsletter.

Rebecca joined the Special Collections department staff in September 2017 as a part-time metadata specialist. Frank Conserette (FC), editor of Information Update, recently interviewed Rebecca (RD).

FC: Tell us about the work you do as the metadata specialist.

RD: My work varies from day to day, depending on the needs of the department. I may help set up or take down an exhibit, head down to the basement with my colleagues to look for requested materials, sort through a box of donated items and describe them, or write a blog post announcing the completion of a digitization project. In addition to the changing daily tasks, I am a part of several ongoing projects. I arrange and describe additions to the University archives, catalog and process archival videos that have been transferred from VHS tapes to DVDs, and catalog books that are being added to Special Collections. It’s enjoyable work. Even within the ongoing projects, nothing feels routine, because of the uniqueness of each item.

FC: Could you tell us about your background and how you got into librarianship?

RD: I grew up in a family of frequent library patrons. We were committed summer readers and story-time attenders. In the days before Google, when we had discussions about trivial facts and reached a dead end, my mother would always say, “I’ll have to go to the library and look that up!” It became a family joke because she said it so often (and actually did go and find the answers!). My sisters both worked as pages at the library in high school, and when I was 15, I started my first job shelving books in the children’s department. I continued there until my high school graduation. Still, I never seriously considered a career as a librarian until I was in my last year of college. I had majored in English mainly because I love reading and discussing literature. It occurred to me that, as a librarian, I could continue to do both of those things in an official capacity, and could be a part of a larger institution committed to fostering a love of the literary arts in the wider community. I decided to go to library school, and I’m so glad I did. It’s been a great fit for me.

FC: What interested you about the metadata specialist position and The University of Scranton?

RD: While in library school, I made the unexpected discovery that I loved cataloging. I find it satisfying to organize information in such a specific way. I had been able to do some cataloging in my previous positions, and wanted to do more. When I saw the metadata specialist position listed, I noted that it included cataloging, and that drew my interest first. I also am fascinated by the idea of the library as the repository of community memory. It’s such a weighty responsibility to be entrusted with historical items, to maintain them as carefully as possible, and to make them accessible in the most beneficial ways. I found the chance to be a part of work like that very exciting. I had only worked in public libraries, and I wasn’t sure how different the atmosphere at an academic library would be. But in the short time since we moved to the Scranton area, I had heard many good things about the University. I was aware of its reputation as a top-tier center of learning and that its presence had had a positive impact on the city in many ways. I knew it would be a privilege to be associated with the University.

FC: How has your work experience in an academic library been different from your experience in public libraries?

RD: In Special Collections, I have much less direct contact with patrons. Although I sometimes assist in finding information for researchers, I am not their primary contact, and they are often not physically present while we find the information needed. Most of my work is behind the scenes, helping prepare items for accession. Especially when cataloging, it can be quite detailed and require extended concentration. In my public library experience, by far the bulk of my time was spent at the reference desk. There was naturally more of a sense of immediacy as I took each inquiry as it came, and I had very few extended projects.

FC: You certainly have some wellrounded and interesting experience. Do you have any particular professional plans for the future?

RD: I’d like to continue learning about archives, special collections and cataloging. It’s been a steep learning curve for me this past year, since I had never worked with historical items or really even digital collections before. I’ve done plenty of Googling about the history of the book and printing in general, and more specific searching about subjects that came up, such as the differences between etching and lithography, what incunables are, and how a fine art facsimile of a work is made. Michael Knies, Special Collections Librarian, and Colleen Farry, Digital Services librarian, have been wonderful about answering my questions, and I’ve been fortunate to attend a few classes that Michael taught. Additionally, Cataloging Assistant Marleen Cloutier has been incredibly helpful with cataloging issues. I know that there is so much more to study!

FC: Tell us about your life outside the library. What do you do when you are not working?

RD: I like music, and in the spring, I sang with the Choral Society of NEPA, which was fun. But most of my time outside of work is spent with my family. My daughter, Julie, is 14 and will be a freshman in high school this year, and my sons, Justin and Jesse, are 12 and 10. We have a pop-up camper and have a great time taking it for weekend trips. Lately, we’ve been appreciating the slower pace of summer around the house. I planted a (very small) garden, which I’ve never done before. We’ve been playing more board games. I’ve had a summer stint as the banker in LIFE, I think mainly because I am the least competitive and therefore the most trusted not to cheat!

FC: Finally, you mentioned you chose to pursue a degree in English and then a career in librarianship because you love reading and discussing literature, so I have to ask: What is your favorite literary work and why?

RD: That’s such a hard question for me, because it changes all the time! Usually my favorite is whatever I have read most frequently! I’ll narrow it down to two current favorites: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The Count starts out as an adventure story, with a plot very similar to The Shawshank Redemption, but the bulk of the novel takes place after the main character has escaped from prison and, under various aliases, exacts revenge on those responsible for his suffering. As he sees the effects of his actions on those he has blamed, he slowly begins to change from a man bent on vengeance to one aware of his unworthiness to inflict it. The novel explores the ideas of justice and revenge, suffering and grief, and grace. It’s a masterpiece. Gilead is beautifully written. It captures the thoughts of an elderly retired minister, who is aware that he is dying and is writing a journal of sorts for the benefit of his young son. As the minister struggles with situations both within and without himself, the author also wrestles with themes of law versus grace and the fairness of the doctrine of predestination. Although I hadn’t thought of it before, the ideas of the novels are kind of similar. Both have protagonists who have reasons for wanting to see justice done, and in both cases, grace interferes and changes their desires. Maybe I like the concept of the power of undeserved favor.

FC: That’s fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to share a bit about yourself with us. We appreciate having you on our staff.

Frank Conserette is the editor of Information Update.
Frank Conserette is the editor of Information Update.
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