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An Interview with Tammie Nelson, Information Technology Specialist

This week’s interview is with Tammie Nelson.  Tammie is an Information Technology Specialist in ITS (which stands for Information Technology Service) here at the Library of Congress.  She is wonderful at managing projects and plays a key role in our completion of so many enhancements to THOMAS.gov.

Describe your background.

I grew up in New Jersey, went to school in Pittsburgh, started my career in Boston, then moved to Washington DC.  As a result I don’t have too much of my Jersey Girl accent left!  I have two daughters, both of whom enjoy visiting Mom at work.  Kimberly especially loved a personal tour of the Law Library stacks on Take Your Daughters & Sons to Work Day last year.  And Ann Marie enjoyed having lunch with a Law Librarian one day to talk about college and law school.  I love to travel internationally and, since becoming a Library employee, I have gotten into the habit of taking photos of the Legislative Branch and the National Library of the country I am visiting.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a BS in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and an MS in Computer Science from Boston University.  I started my career at Honeywell Bull’s R&D facility in the Boston area, just as Unix was overtaking their proprietary operating system — there was lots of very interesting work for a new graduate.  I came to Washington, DC 20 years ago and morphed from a systems programmer into a private and government contractor just as the Internet was gaining momentum.  The Internet applications I have worked on range in complexity and importance from an online dating site to a system that mathematically determines payscales for locally employed foreign staff at United States Embassies — and much in between.  I have gradually moved from development into analysis and project management.  I miss programming, but other than acting as webmaster for some nonprofits and friends’ political websites, I don’t get to develop much any longer.  I thoroughly enjoy project management — I love to juggle many activities (my day is never boring), enjoy the chance to work with many different people who have a fascinating range of expertise, and fully appreciate seeing the results of the project team’s efforts as THOMAS enhancements are made available to the public.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I explain that I work at the Library of Congress and that I am (among other roles) the IT project manager for new enhancements to THOMAS.  At that point if they are familiar with THOMAS they will tell me how awesome that is, and then either tell me how much they use it or give me their ideas about improvements — or both!  If they do not know what THOMAS is, I tell them that it is the public-facing application that gives them a window into the workings of Congress and how that affects their lives.  Then I give them the URL and tell them they should check it out themselves!

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

I drove past the Library of Congress for 18 years — and attended almost every National Book Festival — without considering LC as a potential employer.  When I decided to explore the idea of becoming a Federal employee, there was a Library of Congress job posting on USAJobs, closing at midnight!  I couldn’t imagine why I had never applied before —  I love books, history, museums, and have an ever-increasing interest in government.  I am pleased to say that I have that very job now, and it is an even better match than I could have imagined.  And one of my favorite perks is being an employee volunteer at the National Book Festival.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library/THOMAS?

I have learned so much about the Legislative branch of our government while working on THOMAS; it is hard to pick just one of those facts.  So instead I’ll choose a Law Library fact.  I did not realize until working here (and following the blog posts) that the Law Library had such an extensive collection of foreign law and rare books.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

My co-workers may have noticed that I take every possible opportunity to travel.  But perhaps they do not know that this year’s international vacation (in the fall) is a week long trip to the Carpathian Mountains in Romania.  I will be sure to snap a photo of the Biblioteca Naţională a României in Bucharest!

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