A Day in the Life: Pamela Pierce, Digital Library Coordinator and Archivist

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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

“I have the best job in my field. I have the opportunity to be an Indiana Jones of the Archives. I’m literally traveling the country and seeking out items. I also have the opportunity to attend conferences, form panels on the issues I care about, and present my own research.”

Educational Background: BA in Gender Studies from the University of Arizona, MA in American Studies from Utah State University, MLS from Indiana University

Previous Experience: Freshman Composition Instructor; Wells Library Reference Assistant; Cataloging Assistant at the Kinsey Institute; Tutor at IU Writing Tutorial Services; Foster Care to Success, DC-area non-profit

Pamela never intended to work in a library. Her original plan was to pursue a PhD in English upon completing a master’s in American Studies. Instead, while researching her master’s thesis at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, the Library of Congress, and Oregon State University, she came to the realization that she loved handling primary sources more than teaching. Upon earning her MA, Pamela went home to Arizona and applied to library science programs. She was accepted to Indiana and moved across the country to pursue her goals.

As an MLS student at IU, Pamela gained hands-on experience as a reference desk assistant at Wells Library, an art cataloguer at the Kinsey Institute, and a writing tutor with IU’s Writing Tutorial Services. She cites these work experiences as the most important part of her time at IU.

Pamela moved to Washington, DC shortly after graduation and started working at a nonprofit while she was applying for library jobs. When she was hired in her current position, Pamela moved from DC to North Dakota to begin her job as the Digital Library Coordinator and Archivist at the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in North Dakota.

In this role, Pamela’s day-to-day tasks revolve around maintaining the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library, which has over 40,000 items currently online. She and her colleagues are creating a comprehensive digital archive of primary sources connected to TR. The TRDL houses digital surrogates of items from libraries and archives across the country, including materials like campaign buttons, postcards, and silent films. Pamela corresponds with contributing institutions like the Frick and the Denver Public Library to obtain high resolution tiff files of images. Staff at the TRDL then works to create metadata for each item.

Pamela’s favorite item in the collection is a Theodore Roosevelt commemorative razor. Although the razor reminds her of something out of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, she says it speaks to the variety of material held in the digital library.

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Commemorative razor, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

In addition to sustaining the digital library, Pamela has a variety of other tasks. She responds to reference questions and reviews items that have been cataloged in the digital library to ensure that they adhere to the library’s standards. She also puts her institutional knowledge to good use by teaching a 300-level history class on Theodore Roosevelt in the evenings.

One of Pam’s most difficult duties is supervising eight interns remotely. Nothing she learned in any class could have instructed her how to explain a whole system to people who are not in the room with her. As a supervisor, she’s learned that you need to be approachable enough for people to be able to ask you questions while still adhering to what needs to be accomplished.

For Pamela, the most satisfying part of her job is that she gets paid to travel to incredible libraries like the New York Public Library, the Huntington, the Newberry, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. She inspects TR-related items in their archives and then works with the institutions to obtain digital versions. Not surprisingly, she finds the most challenging part of her work is balancing between all her job’s various components and making sure she’s staying on top of everything that needs to get done.

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Inaugural March, Dr. Danny O. Crew Theodore Roosevelt Sheet Music Collection

Pam’s advice for current students: Be seriously persistent. The job search can be painful and long, but it will end and you can succeed. To be most successful in finding a good position, I would get as much practical experience as possible while in library school.

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