University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alumni Profile: Sam Abrams (MA’17) & StoryCorps

Sam Abrams (MA’17) recently finished working for StoryCorps as the community archivist. As the community archivist, she managed the lifecycle of the organization’s digital and physical assets and supported a field staff of twenty-five people doing archival and recording work. A lot of her time was spent doing technical work, but she also spent time collaborating with others, too. Much of the day Sam would tackle projects with colleagues and work with partner organizations (like the Library of Congress, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the University of Texas-Austin) to broaden the reach of StoryCorps. “We wanted as many people as possible to hear the collected stories, and a lot of our work was in support of that mission.” Not only is the work in support of the StoryCorps mission, but the people are as well. The most rewarding part of Sam’s position as community archivist was the dedicated, engaged professionals she got to work and learn from daily.

More than anything, Sam felt that her degree provided her with a solid foundation. Prior to going to StoryCorps, Sam worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Culver’s corporate archives, Madison Public Library, and the Library of Congress. “Organizations differ wildly, even — perhaps especially — in the way standards are applied and expectations are shaped; but with [a] solid foundation, you’re able to confidently apply what you know and continuously adapt.”

Currently, Sam is based at Columbia University, and is the Web Resources Collection Librarian for Ivy Plus Libraries. This is a partnership of thirteen leading academic research libraries, and Sam collects and preserves public Web content. “Web archiving can be daunting and unproductive; but by using a collaborative approach, we’re able to establish best practices, and build really great collections, that can be adopted by multiple organizations.” Sam also sees the value of advocacy – she strives to make Web archiving approachable and feel as natural as collecting print materials.

For current and incoming iSchool students, Sam offers great advice: take a technologically-focused course — or five — and continually practice and develop those skills as your career unfolds; read as often as you can; constantly challenge your own way of thinking; and be considerate, keep seeking, learn from your peers.