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Introducing our Spring 2020 Intern

by Ishmael Ross, Intern

Greetings! My name is Ishmael Ross and I’m a Spring Intern at the Amistad Research Center. Currently I’m in my first year at LSU’s School of Library and Information Science, pursuing both an MLIS degree and a certificate in Archival Studies. At Amistad I work in two units: Research Services and Archives. I also work at the New Orleans Public Library as a Librarian Associate.

Our dedicated intern Ishmael Ross.
Our dedicated intern Ishmael Ross.

On any given day at Amistad, I usually split my time between the reference desk, aiding both students and researchers with their archival needs, as well as with the Center’s Archives Department helping to organize collections. I start my mornings helping those who come into the reading room by grabbing the manuscript collection, book, or microfilm reel that suits their needs. At times this task can be a bit intimidating, since visitors often have broad research questions and I myself don’t always know the answers. Still, with each visitor I learn something new and usually find what they’re looking for after I engage in a reference interview and consult with the Center’s staff. Coming from a library where we use Dewey Decimal Classification, I’ve also been able to learn more about the Library of Congress Classification System that the Amistad uses in their library stacks.

The most rewarding aspect of working at the reference desk is being able to talk to the visitors who come in. At times, they may be tourists visiting the Crescent City, who may just come in to take a peek at the current exhibition, but more often than not they are graduate students, professors, and researchers working on really cool stuff. You could be working with a researcher who is only coming in for a day, or someone who is camping out in the reading room for weeks at a time. The relationships I build with patrons may not last long, but making connections and talking about their work is always a fruitful experience.

I’m also currently helping with inventorying an incoming book collection donated by Kalamu ya Salaam. A native New Orleanian, Salaam is a professional editor, writer, and arts administrator. His collection includes a wide range of ethnic literature, history, poetry, and language materials. I’ve been tasked with sorting them by relevancy (pertaining to the Amistad’s collection focus), and assigning them categories based on genre. On the processing side of the aisle, the manuscript collection that I’m assisting with is the personal papers of Marguerite D. Cartwright. These papers mostly pertain to her career at the United Nations, Peace Corp, and African American Press, but there’s also a significant amount of work on interracial marriage, higher education, performing arts, and more.

I was eager to start at the Amistad because of their mission. It respects the social and cultural history of Black folks around the world, and also focuses on underrepresented groups from various backgrounds. Before knowing that I’d be pursuing a master’s degree in library and information science, my undergraduate education focused on law and the ways in which it impacts people of color. I majored in Legal Studies at U.C. Berkeley and minored in Human Rights, so being in space that focuses on African American and Civil Rights-related materials is a dream come true. I have to say, the best part about interning is definitely talking to the staff and our visitors. There’s so many like-minded individuals who are passionate about history. It is truly an amazing work environment to intern in and I’m proud to be here.

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