I guess this marks the last entry to my blog concerning my internship at the Pritzker Military Library.  I came in on a Wednesday this time (fancy that!), and through that got to see what the library is like on a not-Saturday.  And let me tell ya, it was buzzing with activity!  People walking around, patrons researching, employees getting things done, it was pretty wild compared to my lazy Saturday worktime.  Truth be told, the quiet nature of the library is great on the weekends, but today’s session was just as great.

It’s a shame my internship has ended when it has, for Pritzker seems to be putting the last coats of varnish on their new website.  It’s much more user-friendly, and once the transition is complete it will be an amazing addition.  As such, my work today was concerning the new site, by going through another round of edits and beginning to retro-fit past Discovery Page information to fit the new Topics Page style.  It focuses a lot more on the library’s holdings and how the different books connect to one another, meaning there’s a lot of work to be done in researching the books even deeper.  I only had time to work through two (dealing with the French Indochina War) in the latter half of my time here, and honestly, I wish I would have been forced to do them for the Discovery Page work.  Instead of looking for superficial similarities, the new system is looking for similar styles, subject matter, presentation, the whole shebang.  It’s very work intensive, but I think it will pay off extremely well in the long run.

Regardless, now I guess is time for tearful goodbyes.  My time at Pritzker has been incredibly insightful, eye-opening, and definitely worth the 8 a.m. wake-up call every Saturday for the past few months.  I’ve learned more than a class worth of material on a number of topics I never knew I would be interested in.  What has truly been the best part, though, has been the experience away from the classroom.  There’s no jockeying other students to get on a professor’s good side, nor any mindless reading assignments simply for the sake of a syllabus.  My interactions with employees, volunteers, patrons, and everyone in between has been great, and about an honest desire to help people through research, not reach for that elusive grade.  I’ve learned so much in the field of professional development, and about what my life could look like after I leave the “comforts” of a dorm room.  All I can say is that in the future when I’m in need of research material, sage words of wisdom, or just a quiet place to read, Pritzker will be at the top of my list.

(Pictured below: A wish for all to have a great holiday, in true Pritzker fashion).

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Getting towards the end of the semester means getting closer to Winter Break.  It seems schools and institutions alike are realizing this, and are pulling back a little in terms of intensity (well, aside from finals week, but we all knew that was coming, right?).  Consequently, I’ve been all done with my Topic Page research for a few weeks, and have just been helping out Pritzker wherever they need it.  Last Saturday was the first day I felt less like a student intern at Pritzker, and more like a librarian.

My duties included doing research on the dates several Virginia Confederate Regiments were created, and facing the library’s holdings (essentially making sure all the books were positioned towards the front of the shelf and flush to the left).  In the end, it still felt like I had put in a full days work for Pritzker.  This was mainly due to moving up and down stools a lot more than I’m used to, but also because it felt like I wasn’t just there doing research for class credit.  It seemed I had enough knowledge on the library’s day-to-day procedures to simply complete tasks.  All in all, it was a great feeling to know that, to some degree, I was seen as a part of their process instead of just an add-on student.  Sadly, though, my last session is approaching fast.  As in 19 hours from this post fast.  I’m sure it’ll be another great session!

The slowness of Saturdays continued at my last session with the Pritzker Military Library (11/24).  However, I did get something accomplished I never thought I would take pleasure in doing: editing.  It’s the part of being a future teacher I’ve dreaded the most.  Knowing where the fine line exists between giving helpful, constructive feedback and being overly critical is quite tough for me.  Thankfully, the new PML website that’s still under construction needed a going-over with a fine-tooth comb, mostly for conventions edits (capitalization, verb tenses, etc.).  

For a professional website like Pritzker’s, leaving things unchecked because you don’t want to be too critical is actually quite the detriment.  Making things as precise as possible is essential.  Best of all (for my psyche), you know there won’t be any calls of “Unfair!” once all the edits are done.  I knew that the corrections would be beneficial, and that Pritzker employees would see it as such.  I can’t always say the same for other students when I become a teacher.  In the end, it will all have to be on a case by case basis with students; getting to know them and their writing habits, then adjusting the level of critique necessary to foster growth, not necessarily a perfect paper

(Pictured below: What I expect students to look like when receiving their grade)

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It was a moment of great personal pride, but while collecting the ever-necessary Letters of Recommendation for college applications, one teacher wrote that I was a “Renaissance Man,” or a jack-of-all-trades.  Because of that, I’ve come to truly appreciate the people who devote themselves to a particular hobby or interest, and just thrive in it.  I feel, to a certain degree, these are the kind of people that come to Pritzker Military Library; those who know they have an extreme interest in military history, and know that Pritzker is the best place to find it.  

I’ve come to develop this “theory” of sorts while sitting at the information desk and observing the patrons that peruse the stacks at PML.  As I’ve stated numerous times in this blog, the one constant of working on Saturdays at the Pritzker Military Library is a lack of foot traffic.  It was just such a situation during my time there two weeks ago.  There are a fair number of people who walk in to see the PML for its cultural relevance, which is just as worthwhile.  Yet it’s those patrons who walk in looking for books concerning Explosive Ordinance usage in the Gulf War, or Swedish military practices that get me excited.  They know what they want, and obsess over it.  It’s this kind of dedication to certain topics, and history in general, that I want to foster through my time in college, and especially at the Pritzker Military Library.  In my endless pursuit to foster my professional skills, the personal drive to investigate certain topics is the one that has eluded me the longest.  However, being surrounded by Pritzker, and its patrons that all express an outward, profound love of history, it’s only a matter of time before I cultivate that drive too.

(Pictured below: various matchlock and flintlock rifles, an oddly-specific aspect of research that has piqued my interest).

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As I predicted with my last blog, I was able to finish the information and summary editing of my final Discovery Page on the French Indochina War.  However, this was not without experiencing my first bout of technical difficulties while at the Pritzker Military Library.  Considering the number of things done online (searching for books through their online catalog, the book check-out service Sirsi Dinex, simple research online through various website), it has been a blessing more hasn’t gone wrong with my handling of it all.  However, with about two hours left in my session, the internet mysteriously stopped working. No website could come up, I couldn’t check any books out, I couldn’t even search for books through the catalog.  Thankfully there weren’t many patrons at the library that day, so we were able to help out the few that were there regardless of the internet troubles.

However, the problems we had coincided with an interesting point the reference coordinator, Paul Grasmehr, brought up.  By now I’ve been able to memorize most of the talks he gives while taking groups of patrons on tours around the library, but at my last session he brought up the point that a lot of libraries are going digital to some extent, having collections of e-readers that people can access books from.  Although he said Pritzker would also be doing this to some degree in the future, the majority of their collection would remain in the “original” book form.  That I feel is quite the accomplishment in today’s day and age, and one I never thought would actually happen.  E-readers are great for some extent, but the library is about so much more than simply finding books for a research project.The stores of books and endless aisles of quiet isolation provide an area to just get lost in the idea of knowledge, and honest-to-goodness paper books fill in the walls of that space.  Having a library look more like an Apple store may be more convenient, but it seems like there wouldn’t be any plush chairs at the end of a hidden corner of the stacks of books (such a place exists in Loyola’s library, and I make an effort to go there all the time to study).  I can greatly respect Pritzker Military Library’s mission to offer such a niche collection of books, while maintaining what to some is antiquated, but for others is a way of life.

As it’s probably easy to tell, this blog is a little late.  And by little, I mean a lot.  As this semester is winding down, my class work seems to be just getting started.  Numerous tests, quizzes, essays, and projects are all rapidly approaching their due date, and I’m running left and right like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get it all done.  But the one constant throughout it all is my time at Pritzker, working diligently through my Discovery Pages and enjoying the calm the library provides.  Even if it means getting up at 8:00am, and riding the noisy train for 40 minutes, the breath of calm studying at the Pritzker Military Library is well worth it.

Regardless, last Saturday was my first true time spent as the sole intern at the 3rd Flood Circulation Desk.  I thought I would never get a chance to sit still, constantly being forced to check out books and find holdings in the stacks for patrons, with me hopelessly out of my element constantly calling my fellow Pritzker employees for help on simple tasks.  In the end of the day, that didn’t happen.  I did check out a book, but only one, and I was able to find that and the other books a particular patron wanted with relative ease.  The patron was especially happy I was able to find a narrative on a Luftewaffe Pilot with over 300 Allied aircraft kills.  All told, I was able to help anyone that came around, and still make considerable progress on my final Discovery Page concerning the French Indochina War.  I should be able to get it done during the session I’m currently in, and write about its success in the following blog post.  It’s telling for me of my need to ramp up my work ethic to match the work load I am faced with.  But with the weekly decompression session Pritzker provides, and the time I get to refocus on pure study tactics, I’m sure I’ll be able to get everything done.

(Pictured below: An accurate representation of my face when I realized I was one blog behind schedule)

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I came into the latest session at Pritzker Military Library to find a shock of sorts: I went through a minor test of the library’s holdings, and found out I would begin to be weaned onto running the third floor desk by myself.  Despite some early worries about checking out books, knowing the library’s hours of operation, and how to look for a particular book, I realized I would actually be prepared to run it.  I’ve been taught extremely well by everyone at the library, so once I got put to the test, everything turned out alright.  It’s a great feeling to know I am trusted enough to take care of multiple duties at the library, and I am more than willing to do everything possible to help out the Pritzker.  My one slip up was the networked phone systems used to communicate between the various library employees.  Transferring calls is not one of my strong suits, and they will forever be the bane of my existence.

But now onto the more interesting pieces: the Discovery Pages!  I just recently finished the summary for the Indochina War of 1946-1954, and the more I look at battles that place a large emphasis on guerrilla warfare, the more it intrigues me.  For the Vietcong, it was employed because the French troops had such a huge advantage in artillery and naval strength.  Fighting them head-to-head would’ve been impossible. Where most everything I’ve learned and read about prior had been valuing the large-scale, Civil War-style battles where waves of enemies run head on into one another for the glory of combat.  However, guerrilla warfare places an emphasis on the exact opposite; small scale attacks that pester the enemy into making a mistake.  One book I peeked through while doing research placed a high value on public discontent to properly engage in a guerrilla style war.  If done correctly, an enemy force like the French can find little refuge in such areas.  They were forced to a small section of land in the northwest corner of Vietnam by the midway point of the way, because they could not compete with the mobility of the Vietcong.  Closely related to this was the French’s underestimation of the strength of their enemy.  It was seen as a simple revolutionary insurrection, not a full-scale war.  As such, they made such calculated errors like sending troops down an unprotected highway, where they saw massive casualties when the Vietcong attacked.  What interests me the most is that element of not appreciating one’s enemy.  In the French’s eyes, if they couldn’t fight such large-scale wars with artillery shells, they weren’t a proper enemy.   However, the Vietcong took what was supposed to be France’s return to military glory after WWII and handed them yet another embarrassing situation.

Phones: Transferring calls shouldn’t be this hard!

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