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Five Questions: Ellen Terrell, Business Blogger & Reference Librarian

1. What is your background?

The author as as a scarecrow.

If you had not already guessed, based on my posts about Mardi Gras, New Orleans, and Louisiana, I am from New Orleans and much of my family still lives there.  I was in the 260th graduating class of Ursuline Academy and went to the University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!) where I majored in History and Political Science.  After college I moved to the D.C. area for better job opportunities. I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life, but I met someone who turned me on to being a librarian, which is an obvious career choice in retrospect.  So I enrolled in Catholic University for my Master’s Degree in Library Science and eventually landed a job at Arthur Andersen as a business librarian.  After Andersen folded I got a job at the Library of Congress in the Business Reference Section.

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

A-Day Game football scrimmage for University of Alabama. The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

I like learning new things every day and I knew that I could do that at the Library.  There are so many different types of researchers who use the Library and all of them have different backgrounds and needs.  Sometimes I learn new facts that I horde for future reference or I learn of a great new (or new to me) source of information that I can use to help future researchers.

Then there is the Library’s amazing collection. I knew I could never fully investigate it, although I won’t get tired trying! Even after 10 years I know that next week or sometime soon I will find something new that will captivate me.

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

Basically, I help people find the information they are looking for.  Sometimes it means asking a different question or approaching the question from a different angle.  Sometimes it just means thinking creatively. Then there are those questions that seem to have no answer and those are the ones that need a healthy dose of persistence.

Another part of my job is writing blog posts, which I enjoy because they require me to stretch my creativity.  They allow me to focus on particular items within the collection and highlight them in a way that I hope is interesting as well as fun to read.

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

Where to start, where to start…..I have so many favorites in the Library’s collections …..

Criss Cross directories.

I like titles where there is a long history of holdings, which may explain why I have a fondness for the old telephone books, business directories, and criss-cross directories.  They are useful for so many reasons, and since most libraries don’t have the variety of locations and the breadth of years, I enjoy their amazement at how much the Library has in its collections.

I also love all the old credit reference books like the “Duns Credit Reference” book, as well as the large runs of directories and state banking commission records.  I am also fond of the large statistical compilations like “Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970” because there is so much information in a relatively compact form.

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

That is a HARD QUESTION…. one I honestly have no real answer to. When I was younger, I don’t remember having many ideas about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.”  Maybe a professional consultant who helps people to organize their house?  I am good at organizing, because I enjoy how everything looks so neat afterwards; and after I finish, I feel a big sense of accomplishment.

2 Comments

  1. Robert J. Riso
    January 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Ms. Terrell, I recently encountered your Wedding Industry Research, last updated in October, 2012. While much of the information was useful and on point, I was puzzled why you would include ancillary services such as DJ’s, but completely omit any mention of, or statistics concerning, wedding flowers or floral decor. What is your rationale behind that omission?

  2. Ellen Terrell
    January 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Mr. Riso – That guide was developed due to a short spate of questions within about a weeks time that were received via our Ask a Librarian service about those specific parts of the “industry” that I re-purposed for that guide. I didn’t deliberately seek to exclude flowers and floral decor from that guide it is just that no one had asked about that area. I can definitely add floral area to the guide and will likely consider it though wedding specific information about flowers/floral decor may be a bit limited.

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