Bright Young Librarians: Jasmine Clark

Image Courtesy of Jasmine Clark

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Jasmine Clark, Digital Scholarship Librarian at Temple University in Philadelphia:

What is your role at your institution?

My current title is Digital Scholarship Librarian at Temple University Libraries’ Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio. As part of my duties, I help students, scholars, and researchers examine ways to integrate digital tools, methods, and technologies into their scholarship. This also includes helping these stakeholders plan their projects, think about accessibility (for disability), and identifying other resources within the library that may be of use to their work.

How did you get started in special collections?

My first job out of high school was as a student worker at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, a member supported library and museum founded in 1814 with collections that focus on 19th to mid-20th century America , particularly focusing on Philadelphia history, arts, and architecture. I worked there for four years doing a range of work that included cataloging, library work, archival processing, museum cataloging, and administrative work. The collections there are amazing and I learned a lot about special collections, how they’re maintained, and organizational leadership and logistics. I eventually ended up taking additional jobs in Temple University’s digitization department and at the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree? 

I earned my MLIS from Drexel University. At Drexel, the library program is housed within the College of Computing and Informatics. As a result, I was able to take courses in database administration, web design, and other information science oriented subjects. I also worked at Drexel’s Metadata Research Center as an assistant curator for Dryad for a time while also managing digital archives at the Presbyterian Historical Society (both were part-time jobs). This is where my interest in digital work really began.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

While working at the Athenaeum, there was a Japanese book whose pages were all made of handmade rice paper with beautiful calligraphy and illustrations. It sold at auction for quite a lot of money, but it was so beautiful and well preserved.

What do you personally collect?

I love decorative cloth bindings, particularly in the Art Nouveau style. I have a couple of books with covers by designers like Margaret Armstrong. When I cataloged, I always added information about the bindings and their designers. Much of my undergraduate research focused on the visual depictions and styles of decorative cloth bindings (Art History degree). I had really heavily flagged copies of Richard Minsky’s three volume set, American Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1872-1929, on my work desk at all times.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to attend cultural events. I love the programming at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and try to make it to smaller art and craft shows when possible.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

I am fascinated by the materials from a material culture standpoint. I love to learn how things were manufactured, marketed, and received. I wrote a whole paper for an undergraduate art history class on the evolution of the depictions of Black Americans on the covers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin from the time it was published in 1852, through the early 20th century. The emphasis was on the shifting attitudes towards Black Americans before and after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and through the first World War and Great Depression. I also emphasised the increase in readership and availability due to the rise of new manufacturing methods, as well as the rise of leisure culture at the turn of the century.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

Plenty! I’m actually working on a virtual reality project now with the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. I think that there’s a lot of room for exploring new ways of providing digital access to special collections with the rise of COVID-19.

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

For the Hip-Hop lovers out there, the Blockson has the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Two of them, though they’re now current:

Black Lives Always Mattered!: Hidden African American Philadelphians of the Twentieth Century Project—A Preview, Co-Curated by Eric Battle

Hip-Hop and Rap in the Blockson Collection