Profile on MLIS student Alyse Dunavant-Jones

Published: October 31, 2017 by Katie Kuryla

As students of MARA, as well as MLIS, at SJSU, you’ve come across posts in the Facebook group regarding VCARA, the Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration, posted by Alyse Dunavant-Jones.  Dunavant-Jones is one semester away from finishing her MLIS degree in which she is following a combination of the Archives and Preservation and Digital Curation career pathways with additional interests in Digital Services and Emerging Technologies. Dunavant-Jones has many interests along the lines of her career pathways, as an information student she is “borderline-obsessed with the creation, organization, management, preservation, use, and reuse of information” but as an archives student, she is very interested in virtual job opportunities that tie in with capturing and preserving materials relating to the human experience.

Dunavant-Jones was mentored by her middle school/public librarian, who advised that if she wanted to be a librarian, she needed to obtain an ALA-accredited MLS degree but she should focus on a career path involving IT, like digital libraries. She found the iSchool through ALA’s list of accredited institutions offering a specialization in digital libraries and began the MLIS program in Fall 2014. She plans to work as a virtual world librarian once she graduates, a job she is already volunteering for, as well as a reference volunteer and the Vice President/Assistant Director at the Community Virtual Library (CVL).

Dr. Pat Franks had originally founded VCARA in 2009 for MARA students as a virtual, community in Second Life. It was a chance for MARA students and faculty to network and partake in immersive learning; however, MLIS students expressed their interest in the space as well and Dr. Franks opened the space up to the entire iSchool. Since meeting Franks in 2015 through VCARA, Dunavant-Jones has gone on to become a VCARA student leadership representative. She represents VCARA at student leadership meetings such as the semesterly Director and Student Leadership Committee meetings; she creates and curates virtual exhibits, and organizes VCARA’s annual conferences, webcasts, and other events. As part of the VCRA Team, she also helps maintain the VCARA blog and VCARA’s social media networks. Through her work with VCARA, in the Spring of 2017, Dunavant-Jones began working as a virtual Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) for Dr. Franks on the InterPARES Trust project, and after Dr. Franks is back from sabbatical, she will resume this position. For InterPARES Trust, Dunavant-Jones assists Dr. Franks in researching social media and citizens’ trust in government. As part of the experience, she also conducted research for her own tangential project related to smart cities and e-governance.

Her work with VCARA also lead to her first physical conference presentation at My Internet Librarian. Usually speaking live from presentations at virtual conferences like Library 2.0, Dunavant-Jones was able to present this on the 10th floor of the Monterey Marriott hotel with 20 people in attendance. Her presentation focused on “virtual world” and “Metaverse” and how 3D virtual worlds like Second Life are finding their “place” among emerging worlds in Virtual and Augmented reality. She addressed challenges for virtual world librarians, and ways that CVL’s Metaverse Libraries initiative is tackling these types of challenges by using three active, professional virtual world communities (VCARA, CVL, and the web-world CybaLOUNGE). Check out her VCARA blog post to learn more about her presentation with links to the slides and transcript. And hopefully she will get to give this presentation as a VCARA-hosted iSchool webcast in the near future.

Dunavant-Jones is not only busy with VCARA duties and the GRA position but she is also a researcher for the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA), a book serving the purpose of  source of information about 198 National Archives spanning the globe.containing information on National Archives. slated for publication in 2018 and edited by iSchool’s Dr. Franks and Dr. Anthony Bernier. Dunavant-Jones did not want to pass up this opportunity when she heard about it through Dr. Franks in a VCARA meeting. For IDNA, she, along with  approximately 60 other iSchool students and alumni, researched and drafted entries on several national archives; and she has also written articles on the experience published on the IDNA blog and in the Society of California Archivists (SCA) Fall 2017 newsletter. With her BA in writing and with her interests in Archives and globalization, she applied for a chance to conduct research. As an IDNA researcher, Dunavant-Jones was given hand-on experience researching national archives in Africa, her choice of focus. She would reach out to the national archives and working directly with the staff, she found the cultural and political histories of Africa fascinating.

Research for IDNA wasn’t always a walk in the park, but her new skills and great research advice from Drs. Franks and Bernier will serve her in the future. She had never conducted professional research on an international scale, and she expected a linear research process that would, more or less, begin with the Archives website followed, by Internet and academic research filling any gaps, and finish by writing the entry based on the information she found. She learned that the process was anything but linear and differed depending on the countries and resources available. Her best example is that many countries in Africa do not have websites and some do not even have national archives. She got creative with research for this project; how do you research something that does not exist or that has been hidden or badly damaged? She would comb country government sites, news sites, and social media, relying on Google Translate and the Wayback Machine and contacting researchers from other institutions near the Archives. This all lead to presenting her portion of the IDNA presentation for International Archives Day. She included a diagram of her actual research process with several paths with multiple levels and arrows stretching throughout. Check out the diagram in the presentation at:

Her biggest accomplishment through school has been an online CVL-curated database, Virtual Worlds Database, that resulted in part from a group project in her Fall 2016 Digital Curation course with Dr. Megan Winget. Dr. Winget assigned students to locate a real-world digital curation issue, evaluate the issue based on the DCC Data Curation Profile Toolkit and create a Project Plan to solve the issue. Through Dunavant-Jones’ work with CVL’s President/Director, Dr. Valerie Hill, she knew that CVL wanted to create an open, online database to catalog education-oriented virtual world communities. In particular, Dr. Hill was searching for a platform to host the database. Throughout the semester, Dunavant-Jones and three other students worked with Dr. Hill and Dr. Winget to locate a platform for the database, research metadata categories, and create an entry form for the database.
This accomplishment, the Virtual Worlds Database, is now live, and Alyse Dunavant-Jones is the lead curator. This helps lead to her future as a virtual world librarian. While she knows that it isn’t an easy path because CVL and most other virtual world libraries and educational organizations are nonprofits funded by donations, she is hoping that her course in grant writing that she will be taking in Spring 2018 will help better prepare her for her career choice. While Dunavant-Jones is a MLIS student, the VCARA program, a MARA creation, is the reason she got into the virtual librarianship. Along with Dunavant-Jones’ use of many of MARA’s resources and webcasts, because they are relevant to her, she has integrated herself throughout the MARA programs. She is a huge fan of the MARA program and how it is making strides in developing standards for archives and records education.  If you would like to learn more about Alyse Dunavant-Jones, check out her blog.

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