December 12, 2014

Graduate combines technical savvy, love of history

by Andrea Hahn

Katherine OrzeCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Katherine Orze isn’t one much for specialization. She prefers to follow all of her interests. Fortunately, this form of intellectual eclecticism aligns perfectly with her career goals. With her graduation from Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Dec. 13, she is pursuing an advanced degree in library and information science, and following the thread that holds all her interests together: research. 

The Elwood Park native came to SIU for mining engineering as a way to learn more about geology. After taking a history class as a Core Curriculum requirement, she decided to switch majors. Going from the College of Engineering to the College of Liberal Arts may seem like a big leap, but Orze doesn’t see it that way. 

“I’m really good at finding information and I love researching,” she said. “I believe what they say, ‘If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.’” 

It was a happy coincidence for her, then, that her campus employment with SalukiTech Service Center meant she was working in Morris Library. 

“SalukiTech is right next to the Morris Library information desk,” she said. “I was always interested in what the librarians were doing, and I asked a lot of questions. Before I knew it, I was interviewing for a job.” 

Orze continued to work for SalukiTech, but added working special collections in the library to her schedule. Her duties there combine her technical savvy with her love of Illinois history. Right up until commencement, she has been working to digitize historical and archived images of Southern Illinois, including post cards and photographs. She has also been working to place these digitized images on the SIU profile at, a Google-map powered, interactive website that “pins” historical images to the map. 

It’s more than just a job. Digitization of archives is something she believes in. 

“I enjoy promoting access to materials,” she said. “Digitization, and online archiving, make materials widely available. That makes researching easier, it brings the materials into reach for everyone.” 

Besides the digital photo and image scanning, Orze has also organized papers in the archives, including collections for the Center for Vietnamese Studies and the Ralph E. McCoy papers. McCoy was dean of Library Affairs at SIU from 1955 to 1976, and a well-known proponent of freedom of the press.   

In spite of all this – and other activities, including a writing fellowship for an advanced history class, and helping out with the Illinois History Fair-Southern Region – Orze is graduating a semester early. She credits a full load of classes during the academic year, summer classes, and changing her major early. She said she plans to work right through her library and information science degree, which she begins in January, funded by an assistantship at the University of Illinois, the same way. 

“I’m from the Chicago-land area, I came to college in Southern Illinois, now I’ll attend graduate school in central Illinois,” she mused. “I love Illinois history, so I’m happy I’ll have lived in several regions in the state.” 

Her advice for incoming freshmen is to be brave and try new things – even better if those new things involve credit hours or career-applicable experience. 

“I’m glad I tried a lot of different things, and that I was able to make all of it count,” she said.