A Day in the Life: Maya Lerman, Processing Archivist at the Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Maya Lerman

A Day in the Life is a series featuring individuals working in the library and information field presented by the Indiana University Department of Information and Library Science. Current students and alumni will find profiles of professionals involved in all aspects of librarianship. If you are an alumni and would like to be featured in A Day in the Life, please email or Katie Martin at

“Librarians must be able to work in groups, appreciate the content they work with, understand metadata, and have the ability to learn new things.”

Educational Background: Anthropology with a minor in History from McGill University in Montreal, Canada; MLS with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from Indiana University

Previous Experience: EAD Graduate Assistant in the Lilly Library/IU Archives and Project Assistant for the Sound Directions Project in the Archives of Traditional Music

Maya has always been interested in the intersection of music and culture. As an undergraduate, she majored in Anthropology, minored in History, and took several courses in the music school. She first encountered “folklife” as a discipline during an internship with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University. She spent her summer conducting oral histories to document and gather potential performers for the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (for the “Appalachia, Heritage and Harmony” portion of the festival).

As an MLS student at IU, Maya cultivated her interests by working at the Archives of Traditional Music where she worked with ethnographic collections of sound recordings, performing quality control of digital files, marking content divisions, gathering metadata, and creating derivative files for access. During this time, Maya also served as the EAD (Encoded Archival Description) Graduate Assistant in the Lilly Library and University Archives. These student jobs taught her much about audio preservation, provided her with a greater awareness of the archives field, and allowed her to work with collections that she enjoyed.

In Maya’s current position as Processing Archivist at the Folklife Center, she arranges and describes multi-format analog collections, performs preservation activities, and creates finding aids. The Folklife Center is home to archives of sound recordings, moving images, still images and manuscripts from all over the world, including the Woody Guthrie Manuscript Collection, recordings collected by celebrated folklorist Alan Lomax, and the StoryCorps collection. Maya’s work is not limited to processing analog materials. She also performs digital preservation activities, from ingesting and transferring collections to long term storage to preparing collections for online presentations and collecting file-level metadata. In addition to these duties, Maya provides reference services to folklore researchers and writes blog post for the Folklife Today blog ( With so many projects, prioritization can be the biggest challenge. Maya’s hard work is rewarded when she comes across interesting materials or when she can help patrons find interesting materials from the archive. Her favorite work experiences are moments of discovery – this might include finding a letter from someone famous or listening to a unique recording for the first time.

Maya’s advice for current students: Maya believes that in order to be successful, information professionals should be detail-oriented, resourceful, and make an effort to stay informed of trends in the field. She suggests that aspiring librarians and archivists get as much hands-on experience as they can (internships, part-time jobs, etc.) so that they understand the realities of the field and can see what kind of work they are interested in She says library science students should seek professional opportunities, such as becoming involved in professional organizations and attending workshops. Digital preservation is an evolving field, and she believes it’s important to keep updated of new developments and of the skills that we will need to effectively do our jobs.

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