SLASC Members Tour Disney Animation Research Library

iStudent Blog

Published: September 4, 2018 by Priscilla Ameneyro

Several members of the Special Libraries Association Student Chapter (SLASC) had a rare opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at the Disney Animation Research Library (ARL) in Southern California. Motivated by a love of Disney and a curiosity about special libraries, these iSchool students got together (some travelling a considerable distance) to take a tour of a one-of-a-kind special library. In this post, I feature some of the highlights and insights of this tour from the participants. I also focus on the professional development benefits of signing up for these extracurricular activities and suggest ideas on how to take your own tours of places that interest you.

Highlights and Insights
The highlight of the tour for SLASC executive committee member Sharon Vigil was viewing the original drawings for the Disney movies (shown right). Shanese Williams, former SLASC Assistant Programming Director, enjoyed seeing the maquettes, which are clay models animators use for character reference. For both of them, taking the tour strengthened their professional interests, with Shanese commenting that “the tour was very inspirational in the sense that it reenergized my interest [in digital asset management at an entertainment/media company] and made it seem even more achievable.” Another tour participant, Marguerite Greiner, who is pursuing a career pathway in archives, found the experience “an extraordinary opportunity to see original Disney artwork and get a peek at the storage and preservation practices of a world-famous archive,” inspiring her to do an archival internship this semester at the American Film Institute. MLIS student Caroline Sinay Gudiel currently works as a cataloger and after visiting the ARL, plans to apply for a job there once she completes her studies.

The group also learned more about special libraries; Sharon discovered that this work environment “requires an incredible amount of attention-to-detail. It also requires a considerable amount of patience, as digitizing a collection is a long, tedious process.” For one student, Brenda Hernandez, the tour actually enhanced the learning experience in her summer classes. Hearing about Disney’s thesaurus complemented her INFO 247 Vocabulary Design class and finding out about the photographic preservation methods they use really boosted her understanding in INFO 284, Seminar in Archives and Records Management. The tour compelled iSchool student Monica Solis “to work harder in the archive of the organization where [she] currently volunteer[s].” She described how after the tour, she “went back in the archive just to see what I might be dealing with and actually found some very old and rare recordings from the early 1950s. I’m currently working on an assessment of these materials and researching preservation grants.”

As a virtual student, it can sometimes be tricky to interact with your peers face-to-face. The Disney ARL tour attendees got to spend some quality time getting to know other students with similar interests during the tour but also after the tour, over appetizers at a nearby restaurant! Signing up for these types of events offers an excellent networking opportunity. Getting involved in the student chapters is a good way to hear about these types of events, or even organize an event yourself! Shanese organized the Disney ARL tour partly based on her own interests and background (her undergraduate degree is in animation), but also because she thought it would be a great place to visit. 

Creating Opportunities
Visiting diverse work environments can open your eyes to the many possibilities of your MLIS/MARA degree. You don’t have to get a job or an internship to get a window into a library or archive. Taking a tour can be a good first step without the commitment. Many libraries and archives are open to the public. For INFO 287 Seminar in Information Science, I spent some time at a community college library assessing the environment and observing the students. This was an invaluable experience because even though I’m quite familiar with academic libraries, it’d been a while since I’d set foot in one (as an online student). I’m sure you all know your way around your local public library, but why not branch out (pun intended) and visit other locations in your area. No two libraries are the same! Consider your vacations too; take time out of your busy tourist schedule and pop into the library to see what it has to offer. It can be a great way to get programming ideas too.

Many government libraries and archives also offer free public tours. You might not be able to just show up to these though, check the website for instructions. One event I’m looking forward to is the Sacramento Archives Crawl in October. Another way you can get a look inside an organization you’re interested in is to reach out to professionals that work there for an informational interview (LinkedIn is good for this). If you’re lucky, they might show you around!

If you don’t already work in the field you’re interested in, taking a tour can be a helpful way to imagine yourself being there everyday and determine if it’s the right fit for you. Another benefit of visiting these places is getting the chance to chat with the people that work there, learn more about what they do and ask questions. Connect with them on LinkedIn or find another way to maintain the relationship afterward, you never know, they may be the one to let you know about an exciting job opening! It’s never too late to get out there and explore the exciting destinations your master’s program can take you.

You can read more details about the tour on the SLASC website. Have you taken any tours or are you planning one? What events coming up have you heard of that other students might be interested in? Feel free to comment below.

Tour images courtesy of Sharon Vigil and Caroline Sinay Gudiel

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