Written collaboratively by the NDSR 2014/15 Cohort for the NDSR-NY Residents' Blog. See original posting here.

Applications to the 2015-16 National Digital Stewardship Residencies in New York are open! The deadline to apply has been extended by two weeks, to Friday, May 22! Woo! As if you needed more good news than that, METRO also recently announced the host institutions for this round of residencies, and they’re very exciting (like we’d probably compete with you for them if we could!). You can learn all about them and their projects here.

As the the current cohort round the corner and bring their 2014-15 residencies into the home stretch, we’re frequently asked for our advice to prospective Residents, those of you considering applying to the program (most important advice: do it!). We touched on some of these themes in our most recent interview with METRO. Here, in the meantime, are our summary responses to those questions most frequently asked of us live and online:

How did you approach the video portion of the NDSR application?

Julia: I took together multiple AV recordings of presentations, presentation files, moving  images I had worked on, etc., and overlaid/combined them to make a case for my expertise to work on my top choices.

Peggy: I used it as a sort of audiovisual cover letter. I explained what I had to offer my top choice and why I was enthusiastic and excited about the project. I used specific examples to back up my points. I did not use a script, but I practiced my answer beforehand and reshot it a few times.

Shira: Ah yes, the video. I used it as an opportunity to demonstrate my understanding of some of the key concepts that I would be required to engage with throughout my residency. Given how I work I knew that it would be easiest if I wrote a script beforehand. Although this might not be necessary for some people, it turned out to be a huge help for me since it forced me to pay careful attention to the video’s structure, which ultimately made for a tighter, more cogent piece.

Karl: I followed Julia’s and Shira’s general approaches to creating the video, but in terms of what I wanted it to actually achieve for me, I focused on making it the best possible representation of who I am and how I like to communicate--especially when challenged to speak on such a complicated topic in a short time frame. I can’t stress heavily enough just how many directions you could take that in your own case, and therefore how beneficial it is to be yourself and make it your own.

Vicky: To be honest, I totally winged it. My boyfriend’s twin sister has a degree in photography with a concentration in film (big thank you to Zoë Catalano!), so after a double shift at the restaurant I was working at, I went to their house to film. It was nice that she had an HD camera and editing abilities, so the actual quality of the video was very good. As for the content, I didn’t practice or write a script, I just got in front of the camera and tried to focus on the reasons why I am interested in digital preservation, and then focused it onto the project at the AMNH--because I really, really, wanted that one. That being said, tailoring it so specifically probably isn’t a good idea...but for me in this one instance, it really worked. I agree with Peggy--think of it as a video cover letter.

What does good preparation for the residency look like? How did you do it?

Peggy: It’s really, really helpful to have worked in a cultural heritage institution while you’re in school, to show that you have at least a basic understanding of how these types of institutions work and that you’ve demonstrated your skills outside the classroom. Even if you’re volunteering or working one day a week - any hands-on experience you can get, take it.

Vicky: Keep up with the profession--librarians and archivists of all types are super active on Twitter, listservs, LinkedIn--you name it, we’re on it. Read the blogs, read the articles, and stay up to date with the latest developments in the field. This will put you ahead.

Shira: What Vicky said. Read widely, read closely, and in particular read the standards. During your residency it will be crucial to be able to explain the high-level digital preservation concepts within OAIS, TDR, etc., in layman’s terms, and so making sure you’re familiar with these documents is essential.

Julia: While I agree with what everyone else has said, I also want to stress that it depends. Each fellowship is different. I don’t think the fellows would be interchangeable on each other’s projects. For example, my thesis work in digital forensics applications to archives and my week long “Born-Digital Forensics” course at the Maryland Institute of Technology Humanities in Learning and Teaching all helped prepare me specifically for some of the challenges at NYU and made it much easier to hit the ground running with my project to start my acquisition workflows and documentation.

How do you balance your obligations to your residency’s host institution with all of the other NDSR cohort/workshop/conference activities?

Vicky: Well in the beginning of the Residency, it wasn’t too bad trying to balance the NDSR requirements/meetings and the work at the AMNH. That being said, as we are into the final stretch of the Residency, it’s become increasingly difficult. The final deliverable still needs to be written, some intermittent deliverables need to be cleaned up, and we are in the push. While workshops and professional development opportunities are critical to information professionals, there are times I just want to hunker down at the AMNH and not come out until I am finished. But otherwise, the AMNH has been very understanding and supportive of my PD/NDSR requirements and my mentors have been a huge help for me finding balance.

Karl: This is not always a binary choice; outreach and advocacy are part and parcel of our residencies, both within and on behalf of our host institutions. I try to keep in mind at all times how my work at NYARC advances the field outside of our walls (it helps when you’re already working for a consortium) and how my participation in outside events/efforts can advance NYARC’s specific goals. Still, as Vicky implies, these strategies do compete for your time and your presence, so you kind of have to love to do both in order to keep the fuel burning for either!

Shira: Google calendar is pretty much my bible these days.

Julia: This can be tricky. There’s definitely some push and pull between wanting to advocate both within my own institution and to the general community. More prosaically, just fitting in all the meetings into my schedule is difficult. There are standing meetings that are both NDSR- and NYU-specific, and it can be impossible to make them all. Factor in the travel and there’s really no time to waste. Fortunately, everyone I report to understands that I have multiple obligations that sometimes compete with one another.

Is there any one thing that’s been especially important to the success of your project?

Julia: My relationship with my mentor. While I don’t necessarily see or work with him on a daily or even every-other-day basis, if we didn’t agree on how to prioritize and focus my energies this project might not have worked out. Luckily, he’s given me a lot of flexibility to explore the issues that I think are interesting, like emulated access to complex media, while also giving me support when I get stuck, run out of ideas, and just need some help. I’ve also been super lucky in that we’ve been able to collaborate on talks and papers together.

Karl: I’ll agree with Julia and say that it’s all about relationships. To the success of my project, it was definitely more important that I could work and communicate effectively among geographically (and hierarchically) dispersed teammates than that I had any particular experience with software, metadata schemas, or scripting languages. Those are useful only insofar as you can gain and sustain buy-in for your work, and yes, having an engaged and engaging mentor in your corner can make all the difference there.

Peggy: I will also add that taking advantage of the cohort model of NDSR is incredibly important. By that I mean utilizing this built in support network of residents going through a very similar experience to you. I’ve found it so helpful to discuss problems and questions with the other residents, especially at the beginning of the program when you may be more hesitant to ask a lot of questions at your institution (even though, of course, you totally should! But I understand the hesitancy when you’re just starting somewhere). The other residents will probably be going through a lot of the same stuff you’re going through and be very grateful for someone to talk about it with.

Shira: I think Peggy hit the nail on the head as far as the advantages of the cohort model go, because having everyone’s input and support has been invaluable. I also want to mention how important it is to have your elevator pitch down pat. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me what my project was about over the past year, I’d be an extremely rich lady by now. (Alas…) But in all seriousness, I’ve found that being able to concisely explain what the NDSR program is, what your project will accomplish, etc., was key to gaining buy-in from my colleagues at Carnegie Hall.