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  • Heather Parkin in front of Thomas Cooper Library

First recipient of Joel Myerson Internship learns hands-on at Libraries

Maryland native Heather Parkin, a visual and material cultures major at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, visited UofSC Libraries this past spring for a celebration of life event after the passing of her grandfather Dr. Joel Myerson.

Described as the “dean of Transcendentalist scholars,” Myerson, a Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus, world-renowned scholar, author, collector, curator and friend to University Libraries, passed last November.

“I was getting closer to Joel when he died. He took me to the D.C. antiquarian book fair, and he knew I was interested in books and libraries,” says Parkin.

At Myerson’s celebration of life, Parkin mentioned to UofSC English faculty member Paula Feldman that she was looking for an internship for the summer.

“Paula is quite the mover and shaker. She immediately organized a fundraiser to create the Joel Myerson Internship for the Study of the Book at the Libraries Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. I’m so honored to be the first recipient. I really cannot thank everyone enough who helped fund the internship,” says Parkin.

Parkin just wrapped up the final week of her summer internship before she begins her senior year at Goucher College. She plans to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science after graduating.

Over the course of the summer, Parkin was exposed to multiple aspects of librarianship at the Irvin Department, from conservation to digitization.

“I’ve worked with lots of rare books. I check the call number in the system to make sure it’s assigned to the correct book, that it’s given the correct shelving location and make paper ‘flags’ with that information that are then put in each book,” she says.

She’s also been processing books from James Dickey’s personal book collection, which is held by the Libraries.

“Some books with dust jackets need a dust jacket cover, so I make them. In about a week and a half, I probably went through a 300-foot-long roll of dust jacket cover material,” says Parkin.

Parkin’s grandfather was a well organized and observant scholar who carried his enthusiasm and passion for literature into his collecting. He spent 50 years building the more than 11,000-volume Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth-Century American Literature, which is held by the University Libraries Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Throughout their world travels, Myerson and his wife also built The Greta D. Little and Joel Myerson Collection of Multi-Cultural Children’s Literature, which is housed at the Irvin Department.

“I’ve also been working with my grandfather’s literature collection. It’s made me feel more connected to him. I’ve been comparing what’s in the collection guide to what’s in the digital collection and am scanning collection items that haven’t been digitized yet,” says Parkin.

Working in the Irvin Department has gotten Parkin thinking a lot about what direction she’d like her career to take.

“I think I might get into cataloging because it’s an exact science and it’s very interesting. But I also like digitization of materials and the idea of writing metadata, because that’s a big part of the future of librarianship,” says Parkin.

Parkin also learned a lot about libraries and librarianship during her internship.

“On a practical level, I've learned a lot about what happens to a book once you give it to a library and that oftentimes, it's not a simple process. I've learned about all the moving parts that make up a library. I’ve also learned a lot about how a big university handles special collections,” says Parkin.  

“On a more conceptual level, I've learned that there are a lot of things that can make a book a rare book, and that it's sort of an ever-changing term. A book can be considered rare because it’s the only copy in existence, or because it’s interesting, or because it represents a turning point in history. Lots of things can make a book special, and exactly what that is is important, especially since libraries are trending toward decreasing physical resources and increasing digital resources,” she says.

Parkins’ grandfather’s legacy at UofSC goes far beyond his scholarship. The impact that his collections, held by University Libraries, will have on students, faculty, literature fans and researchers worldwide will last for generations to come. And because of Feldman’s work to establish an internship in his name, students like Parkin will have the opportunity to get hands-on work experience with rare books and materials in the Irvin Department.

“The impact Joel had on people was incredible. I know how generous he was as a grandfather, but I never realized just how generous he was as a scholar. I feel so grateful that people have seen fit to pass that generosity on to me through this internship so that I can pursue what I love,” says Parkin.

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