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An Interview with Joan Weeks, Leadership Development Program Fellow

This week’s interview is with Joan Weeks, who is working at the Law Library of Congress as a Fellow in the Library of Congress Leadership Development Program.

Describe your background

I guess I am a rare native of the Washington area since I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, grew up in Falls Church and graduated from O’Connell High School in Arlington. I have lived out of the area as well, starting with earning my undergraduate degree in Political Science at Wheeling Jesuit College and then serving in the Peace Corps in Turkey in rural community development.  I also accompanied my husband to England for five years while he was working with the Navy.  We traveled all over Europe in a very old Volkswagen camper with our three children.

When I returned to the area, I worked with a Turkish-American association in public affairs and then started working at the Library of Congress in 1991 in the National Reference Service. As the Integrated Library System (ILS) was being implemented in 1998, the Library was looking for volunteers to teach staff how to work in the cataloging, acquisitions, circulation and the online public access catalog. 

With a newly acquired Masters in Library Science specializing in computer systems, I joined the OPAC technical team and began designing, as well as instructing in all four modules of the ILS on the instruction team.  I became a Senior Technical Processing and Automation Instruction Librarian in 2000 in what is now the Cooperative and Instructional Programs Division. 

In addition to the ILS training, I have designed and taught courses on Ask a Librarian and various other library systems.  This included using online instructional communication software to provide training to the Nairobi Field Office.  I also chaired the Digital Reference strategic planning team on the competencies librarians would require to bring the Library into chat and digital reference in the future.  I was most fortunate to be selected for the 8th Leadership Development Program in May 2012.

What is your academic/professional history?

I hold a MA in International Relations with a Middle East specialization from American University, MA in Education from Marshall University, as well as a MS in Library and Information Science from Catholic University. Within that master’s degree, I earned a certification in Information Resource Management as part of the GSA 1000X2000 program, which aimed to put 1,000 information resource managers in the Federal workforce by the year 2000.

Outside the Library, I was recently elected to the American Library Association’s Council for a three year term.  I also chaired the 1,700 member International Relations Roundtable (IRRT) in 2008, and currently serve as the IRRT webmaster.  In 2002 with another librarian, I founded the International Sustainable Library Development Interest Group.

In the fall, I teach Information Literacy and Instructional Design as an adjunct faculty member at the Catholic University School of Library and Information Science.  In the spring semester, I teach Information Retrieval and Data Analysis.  Additionally, I teach a series of Saturday workshops on web design and library science computer applications.

How would you describe your job to other people?

In the LDP two-month rotational assignment in the Law Library, I have been charged to develop a management workflow for the Law Library’s digital materials.  Currently, the Law Library receives digital materials in multiple formats, and the challenge is to design workflows so the digital objects and tangible media files that come in emails, CD-ROMs and databases are migrated to the Content Management System.  The goal is to ensure these electronic resources will be accessible in the future to researchers worldwide.

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

I consider myself very fortunate to have been given a two-month “rotational assignment” in the Law Library as part of the Leadership Development Program.  After two weeks of working on the digital management workflow project, I realize what a great opportunity I have been given to help with solutions to the challenges of managing digital objects and tangible media files that arrive via very vulnerable storage devices.

What is the most interesting fact that you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

I knew in the abstract that the Law Library was the largest law library in the world, but seeing and understanding what that really means in terms of processing, managing and serving both the digital and print collections to Congress, the nation and the world community is truly mind boggling.  The Law Library staff that does all this is amazing!

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

I enjoy model railroading and have a varied collection with some running on N, O, G and HO gauge track.  My favorites are the “Flying Scotsman” and the “Orient Express.” I also enjoy riding on historic railroads such as the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, the Branson Scenic Railway in Missouri and the White Pass & Yukon Railway from Skagway, Alaska.

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