This guest post was written by Pariti Sutaria, a 2021 Junior Fellow in the Business Reference Section of the Science, Technology & Business Division.
In the fall of 2020, I had just started my second year of undergrad and wondered what the current and upcoming virtual year would entail. Never had I imagined it would entail an internship at the Library of Congress!
Last December, I was just another college student desperately searching and trying to secure a summer internship for 2021. That is when I heard about the virtual Junior Fellows program that LOC was offering. Usually, I tended to stick to opportunities near my physical location in New Jersey, as I did not have the financial means to live anywhere but home, and especially not in D.C. Therefore, I am so grateful for this virtual opportunity, which has made it accessible for students like myself who might not have otherwise applied.
When choosing among all the projects for the Junior Fellows, I applied for the BEOnline+ Website Database Review, because it was in line with some of my previous experience, while also leaving room for me to grow and explore. As a Business Management and Statistics major, I have had experience reviewing websites, but I also wanted to venture out of typical business internships to explore other available paths. The LOC opportunity has done just that this summer! My project was independent and I could choose how I wanted to update the database.
BEOnline+ is currently a production database of over 1,600 selected websites on many aspects of business and economics and is available on the web pages of the Business Reference Section in the Science, Technology & Business Division. According to Carolyn Larson, former Head of the Business Reference Section, “It dates from 1996 when the former Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT), composed of members from cataloging, public service and instructional offices, proposed an experimental project, initially in the form of a series of static web pages, to describe and provide ready access for the public to reference-quality information relating to small business and entrepreneurship that was starting to appear online.”
Carolyn added, “In time, the scope was expanded to cover sites in all areas of business and economics and redesigned as a production database with a staff interface enabling reference librarians to both add and delete sites in real time, automatically generating online subject guides on the topics included without having to update hard-coded web pages. In recent years, however, product and workflow changes at the Library made it increasingly difficult to regularly check and update these links.” This left the database in desperate need of a focused and thorough review – which is where I came in. My work included identifying outdated websites and broken links, recommending additional online resources, reviewing subject areas in the collection, and meeting with library staff involved in maintaining the database.
In order to first update the entire database, I created an Excel sheet to conduct this analysis with columns to distinguish between websites that worked, needed to be replaced, and updated URLs, as well as those that had been cataloged. Then I conducted data analysis on various aspects of the BEOnline+ websites to hone in on the updates that I had made and the work that ended up being done from the 1,200+ websites I individually viewed and sorted. Most importantly, the goal of my time this summer was to have a curated list of recommended websites in the database for researchers working on related topics of business and economics.
Going forward, in terms of sustainability and next steps, my work will be used to document workflows and create policy guidance to inform future websites for inclusion.
Although I missed out on the in-person experience and connections, this virtual experience has been fulfilling in its own way. Weekly Zoom calls with my project mentor, Natalie Burclaff, as well as meetings with various staff and fellows in my division, were definitely the highlight of my time here. The ST&B Division has been vital to my understanding of LOC, library functions, and overall workplace dynamics. The relationship I was able to create and build with my project mentor certainly did not feel “virtual.”
I would genuinely like to encourage future junior fellows to explore all the avenues available to them, whether it be in their specific project or professional career journey. Networking is important, but not being afraid to show up as your real self, speaking your truth, and asking questions is just as crucial.
Lastly, I would like to thank Internships and Fellowships Programs for this successful virtual Junior Fellows program. I encourage the Library of Congress to continue offering hybrid opportunities to increase accessibility and reach others like me who could truly use the experience.