by Erin Anderson on Tue, 20 May, 2008
When I was a young girl, and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to work for the Federal Government. I had reached this conclusion because of my father, who was himself a third-generation federal employee. My father worked for the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Growing up, I saw what kind of opportunities his job provided for our family. My grandfather worked as a civil engineer for SCS, and his father began working for SCS right after its inception in the thirties. I have a strong sense of family, and tradition, and I wanted to be that fourth generation federal employee. How I decided to become a librarian came a bit later, and under the influence of my mother. She exposed me to reading, nurtured my love of books, and started working at the university library when I was in high school. I was able to see first hand the inner workings of a library, took the library class at my high school, and worked a summer at the university library doing shifting and shelf-reading.
I entered college at Oklahoma State University, and decided to major in psychology. I chose psychology because of my inherent curiosity to know and understand and explore the mind. I had enjoyed science as well, and psychology gave me the opportunity to read scientific studies, and conduct small experiments. I also chose to take physics my first semester, because my mother had given me one of Richard Feynman's books and I found him and his subject fascinating. I worked my sophomore year in the Government Documents Department at OSU Library. I received a broad exposure to government publications, and to librarians at work. One of the librarians in the department became my mentor. She was a graduate of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee. She heartily sang UT's praises to me. I ended up surprising myself and graduating from OSU with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in German in three years.
When I subsequently decided to apply to different library schools all across the country, I was actually past or very near the deadline, but amazingly enough I was accepted to them all. My mentor called me one day, and told me she had spoken with one of her former professors at UT, a Dr. Robinson. They had been awarded a prestigious grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to address the gross lack of science librarians. It is very much fate that she called, and that UT had had one person drop out of this grant program known as Science Links. The Science Links grant would provide full tuition, an internship at a local science and information related agency, and a stipend. Since I am also a card carrying member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma the faculty at UT were excited to bring a person with a different perspective into the program. They offered me acceptance, and the spot in the Science Links program. That is how I ended up in Tennessee, at the School of Information Sciences, in the Science Links program, and at OSTI.
Two years ago, in early August, I found out that I would be placed at OSTI for my science agency working experience, as part of the Science Links program. I was not quite sure what to expect, but when I first met my OSTI mentors I was thrilled and excited. Everyone was so welcoming, and the work being done was so enthralling. Over that first year, I was able to train under various product managers, and learn about the following OSTI products first hand: ECD, IB, R&D Accomplishments, EPN, and ERLE. I was also tasked with studying various products for usability, and was excited to be able to pull my academic-psychology and information sciences-backgrounds into real-world application. That is what has been wonderful for me about OSTI, being able to work with something on the job, for example Dublin Core, then turn around the next night to learn about it in class, and vice versa. At OSTI I felt that my work was valuable, and had an effect on the world. I also felt like part of the family, and at the end of my first year at OSTI, the school was petitioned to allow me to continue my work experience at OSTI instead of moving to another location. In addition to my Science Links work, I was offered a Federal Internship, which I will finish up this summer as I complete my last class, comprehensive exams, and Master of Science degree.
I am looking forward to contributing all that I can to OSTI. It will be interesting to see where our endeavors into social media, web 2.0, and other future technologies take us. We will be invaluable to domestic science, and global science, and providing the tools to train the next generation of scientists. I firmly believe that OSTI has a vital role on two fronts: preserving the past, and forging into the future. I never imagined, even several years ago, that I would be living out my childhood dream, and carrying on my family's tradition of civil service. I am honored to be a part of the OSTI family.