MLIS student Heather Bilodeau was appointed to the Maine Historical Records Advisory Board in October 2011 to help support the preservation efforts of local libraries and historical societies.
Bilodeau was selected by Maine Governor Paul LePage to serve on the eleven-member Board, which provides guidance and training to cultural heritage institutions.
“It’s such a great opportunity not only for professional networking, but also for using my grant-writing skills,” said Bilodeau.
In addition to surveying the condition of historical collections and promoting their access and use, the Board also reviews grant proposals to state and federal agencies. The Board can make recommendations to award state funds to applicants, and works with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
Bilodeau developed her grant-writing experience as a member of the Board of Directors for the Lincolnville Historical Society and as the Director of the Edward J. Walsh History Center at the Camden Public Library. She’s obtained funding for several preservation and conservation projects and successfully applied to host the ALA traveling exhibit “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” in Camden in 2014.
Bilodeau is currently the Director of the Edward J. Walsh History Center at the Camden Public Library, where she is developing a large collection of local history and genealogical materials for mid-coast Maine and New England. The collection includes vital records, county histories, published genealogies, and a huge set of historical photographs.
“I’m always uncovering new treasures,” said Bilodeau, who is an expert in Camden history. “We just acquired a set of about 30 legal documents created by the first settlers of Camden, dating back to about 1781. Many of them were property deeds to various pieces of land, which are important for researchers.”
Bilodeau first started working at the History Center as a volunteer in 2005, after a local benefactor provided funds to support the growth of the public library’s archive. When the History Center’s Director retired two years later, Bilodeau was asked to take on the position. Her work with the History Center inspired her to earn an MLIS so that she could pursue a career in archives.
As the nearest graduate school for library and information science was in another state nearly 200 miles away, Bilodeau had to rule out an on-campus program. “I started researching online programs, and I liked the variety of course offerings and instructors at SJSU SLIS,” Bilodeau said. She completed her first semester in Fall 2011 and is planning to follow the Archival Studies Career Pathway.
Bilodeau recommends volunteering as a way for students to learn more about the archives profession and to gain experience and opportunities. “It’s a good idea to try to get a sense of what you would be doing in that career, and to learn about a specific area like photograph preservation or manuscript curation,” she said. “I’m also seeing a huge push to get collections digitized and put online, so gaining skills in web technology is going to be even more important going forward.”
Bilodeau has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in History from the University of Maine. She plans to graduate from SJSU SLIS in Spring 2013 and hopes to work in a federal library or archives.