Working at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) as a student assistant has been a unique and enjoyable experience. I’ve met people from many groups and departments at Mason while working at the front desk, and have encountered books that were older than my great grandmother while working in the stacks. My position as student assistant was extremely simple and yet has still provided me with many, many valuable skills.
While at SCRC, I completed basic receptionist tasks while also retrieving all varieties of materials for researchers, which I’d say was the primary basis of my position as a student assistant. Outside of receptionist tasks, I regularly helped draft text and take pictures for social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well as writing a few piece for this blog. As a communication major, making these posts really helped me build up essential skills for working with social media in a professional setting. I completed other tasks as requested by my supervisor, but researchers were always the priority when they were present. The other tasks I completed included some preservation, such as covering book jackets with Mylar, shelving both new and old materials, preparing books for cataloging, and occasionally photocopying for researchers. There was a bit of learning curve for a few of the tasks, but just like with learning anything new, practice makes perfect.
Prior to working here, my expectation was that the materials I would retrieve for patrons and researchers would primarily, and possibly only, be rare books – I was extremely wrong. I have shelved and retrieved many manuscript collections and rare books during my time here and yet it feels as if I’ve only seen the tip of the ice berg in the amount of material SCRC has to offer here at Mason. The collections I have found to be the most interesting additions to SCRC have been the ‘Guide to the Music, Theatre, and Spoken Word Sound Recordings collection 1949-1986’ and the ‘Guide to the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria photograph collection, 1923-1933.’ I really enjoyed these collections because they were about subjects that truly interested me and included materials that I did not expect SCRC to have (i.e. photographs, LP phonographs). Even with the collections I have grown to enjoy, I still feel there are even more unique and interesting undiscovered materials currently at SCRC.
Being a student assistant at the Special Collections Research Center was actually my first ever on-campus job, and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted it to be anywhere else. The SCRC is a hidden gem in the Fenwick Library and it’s definitely an experience that I will treasure.