It was our pleasure to speak with Nila Bernstengel in this month's myMETRO spotlight. Nila's interest in design led her to move to New York City, where she ultimately earned an MLS and began working for one of our favorite children's television programs. Sesame Street truly is "an iconic part of our cultural heritage," as Nila puts it. Thanks for speaking with us, Nila!
Nila Bernstengel moved to New York City 14 years ago with little more than a backpack and a dream. She left California looking to submerge herself in the creativity that pulses through one of the best cities in the world. Even before she completed her BA in Visual Communications, a web design company approached Nila, offering her the opportunity to take on a digitalization project. It turned out to be the first step on a path she would follow for the next 11 years in the field of digital archives and repositories.
In 2012, Nila entered the graduate program for Information and Library Science at C. W. Post. She completed her Masters degree adding a certificate in Archives and Manuscripts in 2014. Nila is now the Sr. Digital Asset Manager at Sesame Workshop, better known to most as Sesame Street. Over the past 6 years Nila has managed an ever-evolving Creative Services DAM system. She has been engaged in everything from beta testing, cataloging, taxonomy, and fine tuning the ontology, to rolling out a newly-designed system.
When did you first join myMETRO?
I joined METRO in 2012 while still in graduate school at Long Island University.
Describe your work experience prior to joining the profession. What has been your most rewarding experience as a professional so far?
Over the past 10 years I have been a scanning technician for a library, as well as a graphic design company. The primary goal of those projects was to facilitate repurposing of artwork. It gave me my first glimpse of how information and images can be stored to enable seamless end user retrieval.
I was over the moon to start working at Sesame Street, a legacy brand, and an iconic part of our cultural heritage. I truly believe in the company’s mission and what it does to fulfill it. By playing a part in providing education to kids who might not have all the resources they need, I feel like I am helping others directly.
I was delighted to be brought in to help organize images, illustrations, and photographs with the dual goal of content storage and distribution. Working closely with Information Systems and the business end to set up a DAM system has been a challenge, yet has also been my most valuable learning experience in the profession thus far.
One of the most rewarding accomplishments was winning a Dammy award for our new Digital Asset Management system. It was my first time implementing a DAM system from start to finish.
What drew you to your particular line of work?
The work in many ways came to me. Friends helped me get my first digitization projects and guided me toward the field of librarianship. After 5 years working on digital projects, it felt like a natural fit. I also discovered I am a metadata enthusiast. Metadata is like a puzzle; all the pieces are there, you just have to find how it all fits together as a unified process.
My passion for the organization side was reinforced on a trip to Costa Rica. I was visiting an art museum and noticed some of the paintings were on display in a room with open windows. The deteriorating state of the artwork saddened me. I walked away thinking that those paintings would not be around for future generations. I went back to my job with a new viewpoint of my work. I wasn’t just archiving images; I was helping save cultural information and social history for the future.
Tell us a little about the projects that capture your interests these days.
Currently at Sesame Workshop we are updating our Digital Asset Management system. I find the ability to store, retrieve, and search for information fascinating. Working on implementing a system upgrade has tested theories by putting them into practice. I have been busy figuring out the puzzle that is metadata by tagging assets to generate the broad/narrow search results. Working on an active digital repository has helped define and solidify the fundamentals of building a digital library. In graduate school the terms taxonomy and ontology were just that to me -- terms. Now they are principals for tagging information and the key to understanding the capabilities of metadata.
What are your favorite ways to stay on top of industry trends?
I follow the news feeds of several different resources. I like to keep up to date on international library, digital, and community news covered by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and really enjoy reading their white papers. Knowing what new standards, conferences, or topics being discussed internationally helps me stay connected and informed. I also am a member of ALA. I love reading their magazine and the news feeds keep me in the loop.
I also find the webinars presented by Digital Asset Management vendors to be valuable. Keeping up on the newest and developing trends in DAM systems helps me understand the directions in which digital repositories are going. I also attend the Henry Stewart Conference every year. Conferences are a great place to learn from and connect directly with people.
What do you find most valuable about your myMETRO membership?
The most valuable part of being a METRO member is being part of an active library community. I really appreciate all of the resources that are available, from resume advice, to the job bank, to updates on classes and workshops.
The photo above was provided to us by Nila herself.