16 Days of the Good Kind of Change

The following is a guest post by Kate Bonanni, who completed a month-long internship at the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center and its Hispanic Division over the Hollins University Short Term.

Kate Bonanni in the Hispanic Reading Room, standing in front of one of four murals painted by Cândido Portinari in 1941. 

Weeks before I left for my internship with the Library of Congress, I sat down with my advisor back at Hollins University to discuss various methods of recording the significance of this period of my life. Inevitably, I decided on keeping a journal. Together, we chose the first question to be answered within it: “What do you want to get out of this?”

On page one, in slightly smeared writing, I wrote “I could say the same things I’ve been telling all the inquiring adults: I want to help my future in the work force, I’d like to strengthen my work ethic, etc.” And that’s all true. But beneath this, I again wrote that intimidating first question, and followed it with the words “I want to transform.” They are twice underlined, and, of course, a little smeared. But the sentiment remains.

By “transform” I mainly meant I want to absorb as much new information as possible, and allow my experiences at the Library to impact me by making me more knowledgeable about the sheer possibility of the lives of those around me and the potential for my own future. Along a simpler vein, I want to continue my intense passion for books and the spread of ideas, one that I’ve had since early childhood. Picture this: a three-year-old girl sitting on the carpet in her bedroom, surrounded by piles of every book she has managed to get her hands on. She can’t read yet, but she’s telling a story to her baby sister anyway, eyes skimming over the words. I’ve always wanted to be able to know more, to observe more.

I’d like to think that I have transformed in my short time here. Over the month of January, I worked primarily with the Poetry and Literature Center, helping with the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, although I also learned more about the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. My work included writing biographies for several different authors/poets and reviewing recordings of readings and lectures, all while in the astoundingly gorgeous space that is the Hispanic Reading Room. (I’d just like to mention, however, that the Library as a whole is achingly beautiful and essentially all that my little book-loving heart has ever dreamed of.) The research I undertook introduced me to a multitude of new literary figures to be inspired by, as well as assured me that my interest in writing as a lifelong pursuit is not only worthwhile, but crucial.

I’m endlessly impressed by all of the people I’ve had the chance to meet and work with here; each one has helped me succeed in that transformation of self and worldview that I seek. I am also grateful for the opportunity to have had such an experience through the Short Term Signature Internship program at Hollins. As I move forward in my studies as an English/Creative Writing major, my time at the Library of Congress will no doubt appear in my schoolwork and beyond. My friends and family will probably get tired, if they aren’t already, of hearing me rant about the powerful and moving historical significance of the Library and its many divisions, as well as its role in today’s society. I also know that in my role as editor of one of Hollins’ literary magazines, Cargoes, I will incorporate skills from what I’ve learned and been exposed to in this position.

Looking to the future, I know that I have no certainty where my life will lead me, but as I like to tell questioning authority figures, I do sincerely hope that I land in the realm of editing and publishing. Courtesy of my internship, I have now added graduate studies in Library Science to my list of primary possibilities. One thing I’m sure of is that I will be visiting the Library of Congress again, whenever I’m home from school.

So, now that my internship is nearly over, I ask myself once again: “What do I want to get out of this?” I realize now that throughout my time here I have recognized—in both my work and the happiness I’ve felt simply being in the Library—that young girl surrounded by books she can’t understand. But I’ve also been quite busy looking for the much older one, the one who seeks mostly to change and to grow in the best possible ways (which is something she undertakes, as always, with the help of words).

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