The following guest post is by Phebe Miner, a summer 2017 intern in the Poetry and Literature Center.
I need books like I need air. The starchy, full scent of pages and spines is pure oxygen to me. The calmest place I know is in a library’s stacks: endless new words in neat black and white, and endless possibilities.
The library has felt like home to me for many years. I have spent countless afternoons in the public library in my small New Hampshire hometown, first as an avid reader, then as a volunteer, and finally as a page and assistant librarian. When I moved to Washington, D.C. to study English literature at the George Washington University, I found that the charge of focused, frantic energy that flows through this city could be overwhelming. I sought out libraries wherever I could find them, knowing that the familiar and new books I found would balance me. I was always fascinated by the sheer gravity of the Library of Congress; to enter the Jefferson Building was to be awed by its history and its architecture. At the beginning of this year, I was fortunate enough to begin working in this building as an intern at the Young Readers Center.
The Young Readers Center gave me the opportunity to make connections with people every day, which was one aspect of working in a public library that I adored. This summer, I will have the opportunity to intern in a less public office: the Poetry and Literature Center. The PLC, which houses the U.S. Poet Laureate’s Office, offers a view of the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the rest of the sprawling city, allowing me to be inspired by D.C.’s vitality without being distracted by its frenzy.
In my first few days as an intern in the PLC, I am already engaged in projects and looking forward to the coming months. During my tenure as an intern, I will assist with planning and executing public programs for the summer and early fall season, help expand the digitized Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, and undertake any smaller projects that might help the PLC run smoothly. Even simple tasks are exciting to me—everywhere I turn, I see evidence of great writers’ involvement in past PLC events. I feel a small jolt of amazement when I file paperwork and see forms signed by an abundance of outstanding writers, from Jamaica Kincaid to Maurice Sendak to Robert Frost and countless more. I am humbled when I work in the Poet Laureate’s office, sorting and shelving books of poetry, and I feel in the walls the echoes of words penned there. Working in the Poetry and Literature Center, working anywhere in the Library of Congress, allows me to explore my own passions while being part of a project that is so much bigger than myself.
It is with fervent gratitude and excitement that I begin my next chapter in the Library of Congress community. I don’t yet know what the next five, 10, 20 years will hold for me, but I feel certain it’ll involve books. Hopefully I’ll still be in a library somewhere, sneezing my way through dusty bookshelves, enthusiastically sidetracked by new words.