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An Interview with Audrey Fischer, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of Communications

Audrey works in the Office of Communications of the Library of Congress as a Public Affairs Specialist.  She has previously blogged about our Law Day event for the Library of Congress blog.  Audrey also helps craft Law Library of Congress press releases including one on the same Law Day event and on David‘s appointment as the Law Librarian of Congress.

Describe your background.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I left the city when I went to college at Binghamton University in upstate New York, then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend graduate school at Case Western Reserve University. I came to Washington, D.C. in 1978 at the start of my career. Despite only living in New York for less than one-third of my life, I’ve managed to retain the accent.    

Audrey Fischer (Photo by Abby Brack Lewis)

What is your academic/professional history?

My career path has been somewhat circuitous. I began my academic career as the proverbial English major, but I was soon taking so many history classes that I was able to graduate with a double-major, with minors in women’s history and creative writing. Rather than choose a single discipline, I decided to pursue an interdisciplinary graduate degree in American Studies at Case Western Reserve University. In addition to history and literature classes, I also took one-third of my coursework in the School of Library Science—specifically in archival management. I had an internship that allowed me to train at the Western Reserve Historical Society. It was there that I had my first exposure to Congress. I processed the papers of former Ohio Senator Stephen M. Young, who served from 1958 to 1971. He was notorious for his inflammatory responses to constituents who irked him. One of his favorite retorts was, “You are the back end of a horse going north.” Another was, “An idiot is writing letters and signing your name.”

So with the smell of old documents in my veins, it was natural that I’d seek employment in a city like Washington, D.C. After working for several years as an archivist for a national women’s organization in Washington, I decided to pursue the goal of employment at the Library of Congress. My first position was head of the Preservation Section in the Records Management Division of the U.S. Copyright Office. Back then, “preservation” meant “microfilming.” But by the mid 1980s, the Library began exploring the use of nascent digital imaging for selected collections, like copyright applications. So I was lucky to participate in a digital imaging pilot project that led to positions in the Preservation Office and the Information Technology Office. Having done a lot of writing about the pilot project, I was tapped by the ITS Director to publicize other ITS activities with stories in the Gazette. Around that time I had a request from the Library’s former communications director to serve as managing editor of the Library’s Annual Report. After several years of collateral duty, I transferred from ITS to the Office of Communications, which is responsible for publishing the Library’s Annual Report, the Information Bulletin and the Gazette. This has been a great fit for me since I get to write about this great American institution.      

How would you describe your job to other people?

I start by saying I’m a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications, but that’s not very descriptive. Like many Library of Congress staffers, I wear several hats. I publicize the programs and activities of a number of Library divisions—including the Law Library. But I have been managing editor of the Library’s Annual Report since 1995 and concurrently the editor of the LC Information Bulletin since 2005. At my core, I’m a writer-editor.

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

With a background in American Studies and archival management, I considered the Library of Congress Mecca! When I was hired by the Library of Congress in 1980, I thought I died and went to heaven! The concept that it was “a good federal job” did not really sink in until years later when I was married with a mortgage and a child. I never wanted to work for just any federal agency. It was the mission of the venerable Library of Congress that attracted me.    

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress? (Or just LOC)

As editor of the Annual Report, I have lots of Library facts and figures at my fingertips. But I’d have to say that the most interesting to me is perhaps the most basic fact about the Library’s history – that the nucleus of the Library’s collection of more than 151 million items began with Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, which led to the burning by the British of the U.S. Capitol that housed the congressional library at that time. As a result, the Library’s collection of about 3,000 volumes – many of them law books – were destroyed. The acquisition of Jefferson’s library in 1815 restarted the Library with 6,487 volumes. A natural fire in 1851 destroyed many of those volumes but the Library has since reconstructed Jefferson’s library from an inventory that fortunately survived. This is living history – so much so that people can view Jefferson’s library in the Library of Congress building named for him, or online

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

Not much – I’m pretty much an open book.

I went to high school in Brooklyn with the Rev. Al Sharpton. It was a big class so I didn’t know him personally. But we all recall the young man who had the tendency to speechify even back then. At the risk of dating myself, this was during the civil rights era so Al had a lot to say about the need for social change. We were disappointed that he didn’t show up to the class reunion a few weeks ago.

One Comment

  1. Akis
    June 8, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Nice articles !!!

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