Three Questions: Jackie Dooley

Our inaugural “Three Questions” post kicks off with Jackie Dooley!  Jackie Dooley is a Distinguished Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and served as the President of the society in 2012-2013.  She is a Program Officer at OCLC Research where she leads projects to inform and improve professional archival practice.  Prior to joining OCLC Dooley was Head of Special Collections and Archives at the University of California, Irvine.  Her previous positions were at the Getty Research Institute, the University of California, San Diego, and the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

J Dooley

What interested you in becoming an archivist?

I’m a somewhat “accidental archivist” in that after acquiring an MLIS degree at UCLA in 1982 it was my intention to become a library cataloger (yes, I find cataloging fascinating!). Then my first job was an amazing internship at the Library of Congress, where I landed a job as a cataloger in the Prints and Photographs Division after having expressed to the great Elisabeth (Betsy) Parker (author of Graphic Materials) my new interest in learning to catalog what were then referred to as “non-book” materials. My ensuing jobs, all in special collections and archives in research libraries, had increasingly strong archival components. I was invited to give my first paper at SAA in 1986 on the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials, which Betsy had so generously let me help design and edit. I felt like a kid in a candy store at such a rich, fascinating conference, and my fate was sealed. It turns out that my timing was pretty much perfect to be able to build a career on a fascination with standards for cataloging, description, thesauri, and other forms of intellectual control of archives, visual materials, rare books, and other special collections. In 1982 we had no standards at all. Now we have many, and I’ve gotten to play in the sandbox with lots of smart and dedicated archivists and librarians.

Who has influenced you in your career?

Sooo many people. The first was Elizabeth Baughman, my cataloging professor at UCLA. I remember going to the UCLA student bookstore, picking up AACR2, and thinking “What the …? Isn’t cataloging just writing down the author, title, publisher, and date?” It looked insane–but by the end of her first lecture I was hooked. A truly amazing teacher who taught us to think and focus on principles, not follow rules. Betsy Parker deserves 100% of the credit for the quick launch of my career into actively working with standards. She always received far more invitations to speak and serve on committees than she could possibly accept, so she started saying “I can’t do it, but I have this cataloger …” Then there were Steve Hensen and Lisa Weber, who taught the MARC-AMC workshop I took in the late 1980s. They were so interesting, and so was archival description. Later on, when a group of us started working with Daniel Pitti in 1995 on what became Encoded Archival Description, I launched career-long collaborations and friendships with Helena Zinkham, Michael Fox, Kris Kiesling, Janice Ruth, and others, and having such amazing, rigorous thinkers in my sphere of work has always inspired me to do my best.

What contributed to your success?

I’ve never thought in terms of achieving “success,” but I guess I’ve accomplished some things! Everyone mentioned above played a huge role in my career, as have so many more. In our profession just about all successful efforts hinge on some sort of collaboration, be it development of standards, organizing a conference, putting together a meaningful panel session, or participating on a committee or task force—so strong relationships with terrific colleagues are as important as one’s own talents. I’ve always been inclined to work hard and put in the extra time it took to accomplish all these professional “extras,” and that’s a must. Nobody is going to invite you to work on the next project if you didn’t carry your weight on the last one. Another big factor has been continuing education: couldn’t live without it in a profession that changes so fast and furiously. In terms of whatever success I’ve had in my day jobs, I once again have to credit colleagues: people like Bill Landis and Michelle Light (at UC Irvine), as well as Merrilee Proffitt and Ricky Erway (at OCLC Research), have inspired and challenged me on a daily basis and kept me interested in asking new questions and doing new things. And for each person I’ve mentioned, I feel sort of guilty about leaving out dozens more!

“Three Questions” is an ongoing series of interviews with women who are leaders in the profession.  The interviews, limited to three questions, will highlight women in the field who have made an impact, whether through their role in management, mentoring, research, or other leadership capacity.  This series of interviews responds to WAR member’s interest in promoting women in leadership roles, as identified in WAR’s survey of its membership in August 2013.  WAR welcomes suggestions for future interviewees – please contact us with your ideas. 


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