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Five Questions: Jan Herd, Business Digital Reference Librarian

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Jan Herd, Business Digital Reference Librarian

1. What is your background?

 My background ethnically is Anglo and Pennsylvania (PA) Dutch. I was raised on a PA working farm (Herd Farms), which my siblings and I still own. I attended a one room country school three miles from the farm. When I was seven I began working on the farm and by thirteen my parents had started a mobile home business and Herd Farms became the responsibility of my brother, sister and myself. Wholesale and retail of farm produce was a full time occupation during the summer for my junior, high school and undergraduate college years. I commuted to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA and graduated with an undergraduate degree in Spanish. During my junior year I attended the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain, which was then governed by Generalissimo Francisco Franco. I was fortunate to have a full time working scholarship while I was earning my Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. After the one year scholarship ended, I worked as a translator for the Embassy of Ecuador.

 I spent the next year in Ecuador interviewing and researching the topic of land reform in order to return to D.C and write my Master’s thesis. It was a year full of adventure and political unrest since there was a coup d’etat that year. While writing my thesis I painted houses to make ends meet. Soon after completing the Master’s degree I applied to work at the Library of Congress.

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

 I wanted to work at the Library of Congress for a number of reasons. I had studied there as a graduate student and loved the Library, the books, and the staff. They were knowledgeable, courteous and provided excellent customer service to patrons. I also was very aware that many of the staff were polyglot. Since I was fluent in Spanish I hoped to use my language in my career with LC.

3. How would you describe your job at the Library of Congress?

It has been my good fortune to work at a number of jobs during my career with the Library. I was initially hired for my fluency in Spanish. My first job was working in the old Official Catalog. Within a short time I was asked to apply for a job in the Hispanic Division. There I worked on the Handbook of Latin American Studies, which is a longstanding multilingual annotated bibliography on Latin America in all humanities and social science disciplines, prepared by Hispanic Division staff and published by an academic press (Harvard, Florida, Texas, etc.). For five years, I created the subject index for the Handbook and laid the ground for a standardized vocabulary for the online version.

 While working in the Hispanic Division I completed my Master’s in Library and Information Science at Catholic University of America, got married and had my first son.  I knew I wanted to increase my family so I looked around the Library for a “mommy job.” Since I love working with concepts and the relationships between them, I was very well-suited and happy to work in the Subject Cataloging Division.

While developing the H classification schedules and establishing new Library of Congress Subject Headings for social science disciplines, the Library began putting the cataloging tools online. I worked with the team that created Classification Web which combined the tools needed for cataloging. After that experience I worked for 10 years as a sales representative for the Cataloging Distribution Service at ALA and SLA conferences demonstrating and selling the Classification Web software to librarians from all over the world. During my tenure in cataloging I studied for a third Master’s in Business Administration and had a daughter and another son. When my third child was entering first grade I began working full time and soon after I began working as a reference librarian in Business Reference Services of the Science, Technology & Business Division.

 4. Do you have a favorite Library collection or program?

 Access for researchers to the print and electronic collections has always been my passion. As a result I spend a great deal of time honing my search and taxonomy skills and learning how to best utilize the massive collections of the Library. I particularly enjoy recommending business and economics electronic collections during the last ten years. Working with database vendors, evaluating new subscription databases and keeping up with new enhancements in order to provide superior customer service to business researchers is time consuming but rewarding. Answering the endless variety of business and economics questions received from our Ask a Librarian service, in both English and Spanish, is challenging and fulfilling.

 5. If you weren’t a librarian what would you want to be?

 I’d probably work as a Latin American studies analyst for the State Department or World Bank.

Comments (31)

  1. As an author under contract with Alfred A. Knopf (Random House/Bertelsmann), I have had the immensely good fortune during the past several years to enjoy access at The Library to the business reference and digital acumen of the inimitable Jan Herd.
    A person of energy, commitment, and unfailing enthusiasm, Jan has an incomparable ability to navigate the daunting labyrinths of LC business database collections and make them accessible for business researchers. As such, she is an indispensable member of the Business Reference Team. Indeed, in my estimation, she could perform with equal success as a top information analyst at State, or Commerce, or CIA, or The White House.
    The Library is extremely fortunate to have her.

  2. In addition to this background Jan is a consummate professional. She has been invaluable int he establishment of the SLA Taxonomy Division taking on the task of Vendor relations for the division. She also has worked extensively in the creation and hosting of eductional programs fromt he library of Congress on many topics. The owrld is richer with Jan as a resource


  3. Hi Jan,
    I just read your blog and I am starstruck! I am Betty Herd’s youngest daughter and a middle school librarian. I wouldn’t be doing anything else on earth. Its the best job anywhere, ever! But, what a career you have had! I am jealous that you spend so much of your time in the hallowed halls of the LC. Your blog was an inspiration to me!
    Thank you,

  4. Great blog about Jan! I have had the pleasure of interacting with Jan for many years while I was Chief of the Technical Services Division Division and Chief of the Biomedical Files Implementation Branch of the National Library of Medicine. Jan’s dynamic personality and keen professional insights were a stimulating influence on me and friends and colleagues at LC like Dean Wilder, Rich Greenfield and many others.

  5. On May 10th I needed some research help and Jan was extremely helpful in finding the resources that I was needing. I couldn’t be happier with her patience over the hour or so that she helped me and with her attention to detail. Today was probably my best experience with the LOC and I have been working on the Hill for many years.

  6. Hi Jan,

    It is my great pleasure to write this note of thanks for the remarkable service you provide at the Library of Congress Business Reference Desk.
    I was immediately struck by your eagerness to help me and your resourcefulness.
    During my brief sejour at the LOC, I was amazed how many choices you offered and the energy and enthusiasm that animate you.
    I am specially grateful for the follow up you made providing me with additional information for my needs. I like the idea of having a friend a our Library of Congress and you have certainly made me feel you are a friend.
    If you do ever consider to export Herd Farms products, I am a taker.

    Thank you for your great smile!


    Syndou Kouyate

  7. I only hope that Jan got even a small amount of enjoyment out of combing ancient trade statistics for me in order to help me make a historic argument. She really went the distance for me, and sent me exactly what I had hoped existed – in 40 attachments to 11 e-mails! Many, MANY thanks, Jan!

  8. Ms. Herd,

    I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for patiently devoting your time and attention to addressing my fairly involved and complicated research effort. I felt extremely fortunate to be in your company as you focused your keen insight into my problem and offered me suggesting and directions that I had not considered. I found your innate love of knowledge and general curiosity about the world infectious, which reignited my own. Upon leaving the library, I found myself invigorated to tackle the challenges ahead of me. I was pleased to be invited by you to leave my card in the event a further suggestion came to mind after our in-person interaction and was thrilled to receive three subsequent emails from you within 24 hours with additional suggested resources to assist me in solving my problem. When I arrived home, I told my wife how fortunate we were to have moved to the Washington DC area, because it enabled me to interact with the best in class of reference librarians. It was wonderful to be bear witness to someone that has found her calling.

  9. As a recent graduate from a Library Science Program, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to shadow, and be instructed by one of the foremost information professionals at the Library of Congress. Her insight and ability to draw from many small units of data to locate, and provide access to difficult and complex queries is astounding. Her knowledge of the inner workings of databases, taxonomies and the behind the scenes functions of librarianship (cataloging) coupled with her desire to communicate, educate, and help the information seeker, have set a high bar for a future information professional like myself to reach. I look forward to learning more from Jan and attending her classes on search engines and more to refine my skills as a librarian. Simply stated, Jan is a librarian who knows her stuff, has a versatile background to relate to many subjects and people and is eager to help, and educate.

  10. I would just like to take a moment to thank Ms. Herd for her help with my research for my class. I am a new researcher, and Ms. Herd’s help was greatly appreciated. The assistance given by Ms. Herd will help me with future assignments. Ms. Herd is a valuable asset to the Library of Congress. Thanks!

  11. Dear Jan,

    I would like to thank you for the professional consultation that focused on how I as a small business owner can benefit from doing research using the Library of Congress business collections — online and in print. I will become a frequent user of the Library of Congress’s Business Reference Services.


  12. Jan,

    I wanted to send a quick note for allowing me (albeit unregistered) to sit in your Search Engines for Researchers class on July 2012. The information you (by the organized very well) was so helpful, I shared it with others in my office.

    Thank you again!

  13. Jan Herd is a “librarian’s librarian”. Her breadth of knowledge and willingness to share is remarkable. I cannot stop raving about the Search Engines for Researchers class, spreading the word to colleagues. Thank you Jan for your service!

  14. Jan provided me a comprehensive tutorial on the basics of research and cataloguing, and introduced me to valuable tools to support my fundraising research. We are so fortunate to have access not only to the Library of Congress collections, but to experts like Jan who can help navigate and translate the volumes of information. Thanks Jan!

  15. I am so grateful to Jan, who took the time to assist me in my research not only by helping me locate relevant materials but also giving me a comprehensive tutorial on how to access a variety of sources which will be extremely helpful as I go forward. As an attorney at a small non-profit which deals with small business owners, access to such a vast arrange of resources is an incredible advantage. I look forward to continuing to use LOC resources in the future and am very happy to have Jan there to help me navigate.

  16. I was pleased by how thorough Jan Herd’s *Search Engines for Business Researchers* information session was when I attended it last year. I told friends afterwards that her presentation could be one of D.C.’s best-kept secrets. It may be a claim locals can dismiss as it came from an out-of-towner; still, there were many pleasant things I picked up and I look forward to going back again for another refresher soon. LOC and its patrons are lucky to have someone like Jan who holds great enthusiasm for her craft, delivers great service to patrons, and draws on a broad knowledge base to share with patrons lucky enough to visit when in need of great business research resources.

  17. Jan is the most professional and knowledgeable librarian I’ve ever met. She not only helped me with my research but also taught me about knowledge organization, a topic that I would never have learned anywhere else. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and helping researchers, and she has made my experience at the Library of Congress much better than I had imagined. I hope to share her passion and curiosity with others as she has done with me.

  18. Jan is so knowledgeable, helpful and customer-service oriented. She is very generous in sharing her expertise. The Library of Congress is lucky to have her. So is the local library community!

  19. Jan is an amazing trainer and knows her stuff. I attended her session Oct. 2015 on business search engines for researchers which was outstanding.

  20. As the co-founder of a very lean start-up, I am very grateful to Jan and LOC colleagues research guidance! Jan’s insights, research methodologies, and personal care is truly one of a kind.

  21. Just a quick note, Jan, to commend you on both your teaching skills as well as your excellent presentation on Business Search Engines for Researchers (forgive me if that’s not the exact title). I’ve been a law librarian for many years yet I learned so much from your class. I’ve already been able to put some of what I’ve learned to work in my current position; both my patrons and I thank you! To shrink all your professional attributes to one word, I say “EXCELLENT!”
    Thanks again

  22. I am interested in communicating with you about business interests in Cuba.

  23. Ms. Stoner – Answering your question is too detailed for this avenue so I am responding to you via our QuestionPoint system so please check your eamil.

  24. The following comments were made after Jan retired from The Library of Congress with over 43 years of federal service.

  25. Jan,

    It was a pleasure working with you for the brief period that I was in Business Reference. You will be missed at LC.

    Enjoy your retirement!!


  26. Best wishes

  27. Jan,

    Best wishes to you in the new career!


  28. I Janmet on the VRE commuting to Dept of Labor while she commuted to LC from Burke. Nothing like a good friend to make the commute seem like no time at all!

  29. Marc and I are sure you will enjoy your retirement as much as we have! With new activities and your new commercial endeavor, you will wonder when you had time to go to work!

  30. Jan has been extremely helpful to me in my journey to find and get access to archival documents I needed for my doctoral dissertation. I have benefited a lot from her guidance to both use electronic sources as well as printed archival documents. Her workshop on business search engines was also very helpful and informative.

    Jan, thank you very much for all your kind help!

    Best wishes,

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