For this month’s 1091 Project, we asked student worker Devin Koch to answer some questions about her position in the Conservation Lab at Iowa State University Library. Here’s what she had to say.
What is your major, and when do you graduate? How did you find out about this job?
My name is Devin Koch and I am an Integrated Studio Arts Major, concentrating in ceramics and painting, and graduating in December. I happened into my student conservation job by chance. I was already working in Preservations Services, which is another unit of the Preservation Department. During the summer of 2012, I was looking for more hours at the Library, and I was in luck: the Conservation Lab was in need of an extra student during the summer. First, I was told that my presence would be a temporary change, and I would just be doing minimal work to assist with the summer workload. Over the course of the summer, Melissa and Mindy gradually had me do more advanced treatments. I started by organizing cabinets, and cutting spine liners, and finished the summer with double-fan adhesive binds. Seeing how I had progressed, Melissa offered me a student worker position during the school year. I gladly accepted the position, and for the next school year split my time between Preservation Services and the Conservation Lab. This past summer, I decided to move my schedule exclusively to the Lab.
What are your favorite parts about this work? What has been the most challenging thing you have had to do in this position?
Everything about this job is interesting to me. The first day I arrived in the lab I was fascinated by the presses, guillotine, tissue, and array of books for repair. Being an art major, I love materials. The act of making is very important to me. So I greatly value having a job that permits me to do so. It allows me to maximize the hand skills that I have learned in my major. Working at the lab has given me a greater attention to materials and methods that have crossed over into my studio work.
I might have a very different attitude about the work I do if the staff and students here were different. They make it easy for me to learn new treatments, and are approachable when I have questions. Mindy Moeller, our Technician, is beyond patient when teaching. I’m surprised she doesn’t get annoyed at all the questions I ask. Melissa loves to share her knowledge of materials and treatments with the students. Mindy McCoy, our Preservation Assistant, and Martha, our volunteer, are very helpful with any other questions I might have about the lab and treatments. The staff makes this job easy to come to every day. The other student workers are enjoyable to work with. The collection of personalities working at the lab, while diverse, mesh together well.
The two treatments I enjoy the most are sewing and full repairs. Sewing is a relaxing treatment that requires patience and persistence, especially when the odd stitch breaks when pulled too tight. A full repair is the most advanced treatment that I can currently do. It is so enjoyable because it has taken everything that I have learned in the lab and put it into one treatment. The most challenging treatment for me has been making enclosures. A misstep in the final placement or a slightly crooked fold can take something that you have been laboring over and make you have to pitch it. It can be frustrating, but it is so satisfying when finished correctly.
Do you have a favorite project you have worked on?
My favorite thing so far was participating in the Order of the Knoll with fellow student Hope Mitchell and Head of Preservation Hilary Seo. At this event, Hope and I manned a demonstration booth and were lucky enough to talk to donors about what we do in the lab and why it is important to the University.
Hope Mitchell (left) and Devin Koch (right) at the Order of the Knoll on October 4, 2013.
Don’t forget to stop by Preservation Underground to hear the perspective of one of the student workers in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Lab!