People: Spotlight

Anita Lai

The PSC staff recently won the 2018 School of Arts & Sciences Staff Recognition Award. In an effort to (re)introduce the staff, services provided, and professional interests, the PSC will be putting the spotlight on each staff member, beginning with Anita Lai.

What is your position at the PSC?

My position is the Information Coordinator at the Demography Library.

How long have you been working at the PSC?

A little over half a year ago, I started working here at the PSC in the beginning of March 2018.

Can you talk about three main services/responsibilities in your job?

I’m still learning new tasks and workflows here at the PSC. Several of my responsibilities over these last few months have come about somewhat serendipitously, as situations present themselves. My three main job responsibilities most recently include: assisting with tasks related to scholarly work generated at the PSC, managing various collection materials located in the Demography library, and updating the PSC/PARC website as well as helping with general website creation and design. 

The Demography Library offers reference formatting and copy-editing services for papers to be submitted to a journal. I assist with these requests as well as with the dissemination of scholarly work. In particular, I upload working papers to ScholarlyCommons. For those who may not be aware, ScholarlyCommons is the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository, which makes accessible scholarly output created by the Penn community. I help graduate students and Research Associates at the PSC and PARC to make available their working papers in ScholarlyCommons. 

As for managing collections in the library, I catalog new library materials and will soon be in the process of inventorying the collection and resolving issues with the holdings. The Demography Library also houses special collections from Research Associates. One of them being the Socioeconomic Survey of Twins collection from the Economics department, which is currently being inventoried before being transferred to the Penn Libraries’ off-site storage facility, Libra, in West Deptford, New Jersey.

Another main service the Library offers is website creation and design. Several of our Research Associates have websites for their research projects and conferences that we help to create and maintain. This is one of the tasks that I particularly enjoy, as it gives me the chance to learn about the projects and events going on at the PSC and PARC.

What is something you wish people knew about your position?

When I first saw this job description when it was posted last year, I really liked the fact that this position seemed to cover a lot of things. I really enjoy that there is so much variety to my role in the Demography Library. I am used to working in a smaller team, which means wearing a lot of different hats. I guess to answer the original question, I wish people knew that my position here is very fluid. It very much changes and adapts to filling the needs of students and Research Associates of the Center. I’d say that I like this aspect of my position-- that it’s not just one thing, but really problem solving and developing new skills every day.

What is a project you are working on that excites you?

There is not one project per se, but I would say that I am currently enjoying cataloging materials in our collection. I previously processed and cataloged unique collections when I worked in the Drexel University Archives. In the Demography Library, I am responsible for cataloging printed books-- something I had not previously had the opportunity to work with. Most recently, I cataloged a set of STATA books that are now available for check-out. It’s really wonderful to be working in a specialized library, which means my responsibilities can vary from the “normal” or more “traditional” services; however, it’s also nice to be able to delve into the world of cataloging, something that is common to all libraries. I am most excited to be part of the Cataloging and Metadata Interest Group (CAMIG) and learn from colleagues at the Penn Libraries.

What is something happening at Penn that you wish more people knew about?

I wish that people would know that Penn has a program called Creating Canopy. Staff and faculty can register to receive a free tree. Unfortunately, I don’t own a home-- so can’t yet take advantage of this program. I’d say for those who are interested and can, go for it!

Are you involved in any professional organizations on campus or otherwise?

I am involved in several professional associations: APLIC, ALA, DVAG and SAA. A few of them are specifically related to the archival profession, which I am still active and involved with. For example, I am a Pennsylvania Cultural Response Team (PaCRT) volunteer. It is a group of volunteers who receive training on emergency preparedness and response. We build relationships with staff from various organizations across Pennsylvania to educate and strengthen communication with one another in cultural and historic institutions as well as with emergency responders to better mitigate loss of collections in an emergency or disaster. Most recently in September, I attended the Emergency Protection of Culture & History (EPOCH) Conference, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management. A unique aspect of this conference was that it brought together staff from cultural and historic institutions as well as emergency responders and allowed them to learn from each other over table talk discussions.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to meeting more students and Research Associates, in particular, learning about their research and the work being done here at Penn. I also am interested in exploring different professional development opportunities. I feel quite fortunate that working at the PSC allows me to explore many of my interests, whether it is cataloging or expanding on my skills in website design. 

Tell us something about yourself that most people would not know.

I enjoy working with my hands and creating things. I always fancied myself developing my sewing skills-- making my own clothes and even upholstering furniture. I also wanted to be a carpenter at one point. Both of these dreams have yet to be realized.

What is the best way for someone to connect/contact you?

You can just drop by on the 4th floor of McNeil or you can email to schedule an appointment. The Demography Library is located in 403 McNeil, and staff is immediately to the right when you walk in.