Meet Annemarie Iker, a Ph.D candidate who completed Princeton’s University Administrative Fellowship at PUL

Annemarie Iker

Photo credit: The Museum of Modern Art

Taking your first steps into any one of Princeton University Library’s (PUL) spaces can be daunting. Millions of items line the publicly accessible shelves, and millions more can be requested from the ReCAP storage facility. Searching through databases or attending research workshops might take countless days, as more than 50 subject specialists are available to support any and all research efforts. 

Though fifth-year graduate student Annemarie Iker was well-acquainted with Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology as she pursued her Ph.D. in Art and Archaeology, she received a crash course in the entire PUL collection development system through the University Administrative Fellowship (UAF).

The UAF is offered to graduate students through GradFutures, a professional development organization within Princeton’s Graduate School. As the number of tenure track positions in higher education continues to decline, the UAF and the Graduate School seek to provide students like Iker with skills and mentorship, while exposing them to career options beyond the traditional scope of academia.

Iker’s research focuses on 19th- and early 20th-century art, with a special interest in turn-of-the-century art and literature in France and Spain. The UAF program, however, brought her out of her comfort zone, introducing her to a wide range of PUL departments beyond her oft-traveled nook in Marquand.

Iker participated in the fellowship in spring 2021. “It was so special to see the Library from a different vantage point,” Iker said. “I had always seen it from the perspective of a researcher but didn’t have a sense of what went on behind the scenes.”

The fellowship paired Iker with Patty Gaspari-Bridges, Assistant University Librarian for Collection Development, who served as her PUL mentor. With nine branches and countless collections and resources, Gaspari-Bridges recognized just how challenging getting acquainted with the operations side of PUL can be.

“Working at a research library of this complexity can be overwhelming but exhilarating, especially with Collection Development, which touches all facets of the Library and is shaped by teaching and research needs at the University,” Gaspari-Bridges said. “We have 50 subject selectors and curators who shape the Library’s collections, each of whom think about collection development differently. How do you go about introducing someone to the department’s work?”

Likewise, Iker had her reservations. “When I began the fellowship, I thought perhaps it would be difficult because of the pandemic,” she said. “I had never started a new experience remotely. Any doubts I had were quickly resolved. I felt like we were sitting across the table.”

Throughout the fellowship, Iker would meet with staff from around PUL. One week she’d sit down with Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Librarian Thomas Keenan. Next, she’d chat with Librarian for Latin American Studies, Latino Studies, and Iberian Peninsular Studies Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, or former Graphic Arts Librarian Julie Mellby.

These meetings not only supported Iker’s introduction to a broad scope of PUL departments and staff, but also her eventual project to examine diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in academic libraries.

“I spent 10 weeks with Annemarie, teaching her the policies and procedures of collection development,” Gaspari-Bridges explained. “The underlying goal of collection development is that we want to develop the Library’s collections in subject areas using a variety of sources, print, digital, electronic, media, ephemera, that not only cover the past and present but look to the future whenever possible."

From there, Iker began examining DEI at university libraries around the country. Eventually, the project focused on members of the IvyPlus Libraries Confederation, a partnership of 13 academic research libraries.

What was originally a daunting task became manageable work and well worth it. “This project was a wonderful learning experience for me to zoom out a little bit and get a broader sense of how libraries are grappling with the most important issues today,” Iker said.

“Patty was a wonderful mentor. She provided the best possible introduction to library work at Princeton and more generally at university libraries,” Iker added. She advises anyone considering participating in the fellowship to apply. 

“This fellowship shaped the way I see research unfolding in the future,” Iker said.

To learn more about the University Administrative Fellowship, visit the GradFutures website.

Published on November 1, 2021

Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications