Wednesday, December 8, 2021

“It’s so refreshing to come to a place where community engagement is part of the mission of the university and very much encouraged.” 

Assistant Professor Lindsay Mattock, School of Library and Information Science

During the 2017-18 academic year, Professor Mattock worked alongside 13 graduate students from her archives and media class to create a digital database archiving Mason City’s rich architectural heritage. Mattock says the community collaboration felt effortless.

“The Office Community Engagement came to me and had projects that naturally matched with the classes I teach,” she says. “Our wonderful community partner, Mason City, was so welcoming and opened their doors to their community and archives. They helped to share their knowledge and expertise and guide the students throughout the term.”

In just one semester, the archives and media students built an entire database from the ground up and a website to accompany it. The resulting inventory of buildings for the City of Mason City will make it easier for city officials to update records as more buildings gain historic designation. The website gives the information a format that’s easy to share and access by people inside and outside the community.

The project—like the archives and media course itself—was part archives/special collections and part digital humanities. The students worked with a real-world dataset and developed their digital skills with databases and visualization. Being grounded in the real world, where students were working with real users who had real expectations, naturally expanded class discussions to incorporate a broader variety of topics ranging from the sustainability of the project to knowing the users and engaging the public. It became an extension of all the things students learn in library school, Mattock explains.

“As a student, I always found it really rewarding when I felt like the work that I was doing was actually going to contribute to something larger. That it wasn’t just an assignment that I was completing for the term, but that it would have a life beyond that," Mattock says.

Knowing the impact hands-on learning had on her as a student has inspired Mattock to incorporate community-engaged learning into courses she teaches. To recognize her work, the Office of Community Engagement awarded Mattock the 2018 Faculty and Excellence and Service Award.