A Fall 2022 graduate of the UWM School of Information Studies MLIS program with a concentration in Archives, Brendan Dooley would tell current and future students to get out in the field. “Get some experience in the area you think you want to work in. Do some real work and do it for a while, learn about the ups and downs of the work to see if what you are doing fulfills you, not just makes you happy, there’s a difference.”
Gaining real-world experience while pursuing his studies and finding a profession that makes him feel fulfilled is exactly what Brendan did. A trade journalist for 20 years, Brendan entered the MLIS program in the Spring of 2021, just after the Covid-19 pandemic. He had been considering graduate school for a few years, and circumstances related to the pandemic created an opportunity for him to return to school full-time.
During his time at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM), Brendan took full advantage of the opportunity to gain real-world experience by participating in three different internship opportunities. During his first Summer in the program, he participated in a three-credit fieldwork class in the UWM Libraries – Archives Department. This fieldwork experience then led to a part-time internship with the Archives.
One of the projects that Brendan worked on during his time in the Archives was a collection on Jim Northrup, an Anishinaabe newspaper columnist, storyteller, poet, and performer from Minnesota. “Working on the Northrup collection really solidified for me that I wanted to be here. I wanted to help tell people’s stories, to help build collections that shared the lost voices or marginalized voices, and to help people gain access to the information we had in our collections.”
Brendan’s exploration of the profession and hands-on experience continued with an internship as a digitization archivist with the Ward Irish Music Archives and a reference internship at UWM’s American Geographic Society Library (AGSL). As the AGSL’s first-ever reference intern, both Brendan and his supervisor – AGSL’s Public Service Librarian and SOIS Alum Georgia Brown, learned a lot from each other, “Brendan was the first intern I hired in my role at the AGSL, and he taught me quite a bit about being someone’s advisor. Having him ask me questions about how I handled a reference question or why I chose to put out certain materials for a class reinforced my own knowledge.”
The knowledge that Brendan gained from his internship experiences goes well beyond the process, procedures, and technical aspects of the job. From resume advice to reviewing cover letters and job leads, the professional mentorship of his supervisors has added immeasurable value to his experience.
Brendan’s internships along with his MLIS coursework has given him a new perspective on his role as a librarian and archivist, “Even though many of the classes in the program have a different focus such as foundations, or processing, they all touch on the underlying nature of the profession – which I’ve come to think of more as an activist role rather than a neutral role. The coursework touched on not only what libraries and archives hold in their collections, but also what they don’t hold. What voices are being heard and what voices are not being heard.”
“Thanks to my SOIS studies, I understand more clearly how important it is to seek out and promote the marginalized voices and stories through the archives by what we collect and how we promote it.”