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Five Questions (Intern Edition): Shayela Hassan

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With summer winding down and our interns returning to school, we are featuring a Five Questions post with intern Shayela Hassan. Shayela’s assignment in our division gave her the opportunity to immerse herself in the Library’s collection of cookery and food history books.

Shayela Hassan at the exhibit for the Association of Food Journalist. Library of Congress, September 7, 2012.

1. What is your background?

I’m a first-generation American girl born to Bangladeshi immigrants, and I think that’s part of what fueled my love for learning about language and cultures.  I’m currently pursuing a double major in Government and Hispanic Studies, but East Asian culture is a passion of mine as well.  Along with reading, I love music, traveling, and food.

2. How did you learn about the intern program and why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

I attend the College of William and Mary, and in recent years the Hispanic Department’s Professor George Greenia helped forge a connection with the Library.  Through my major, I found an opportunity to work at the Library of Congress for a summer.  Being surrounded by books is my idea of heaven, not work, so applying to the Library was an obvious choice.  The possibility of having so many resources at my fingertips was incredible and the positions available covered many of my favorite topics.  And finally, I’ve lived in the DC/NOVA area for over ten years and I had hoped for a long time to work in the District.  I’m lucky to be near an area that has such a wealth of offerings for students.

A section of the Around the World table display for the Association of Food Journalists exhibit. Library of Congress, September 7, 2012.

3. How would you describe your internship?

Really, really fun!  It wasn’t just meeting other interns and being taken on behind the scenes tours, although those made for great memories.  My actual research was for the Science, Technology & Business Division, and I spent this summer reading and writing about food in preparation for a September visit to the Library from the Association of Food Journalists. I worked with Connie Carter and Alison Kelly to review and compile lists of books that would be presented under various headings, for example, “Around the World: International Food” and “Food Systems & Sustainability.”  Our job was to highlight the collections of the Library and show journalists that we can provide amazing resources for their work.  It’s true that the Internet is already a vast resource, but it doesn’t have a yellowed copy of Countess Morphy’s Recipes of All Nations from 1935, complete with that distinct old book smell.  And it doesn’t have the six volumes of Modernist Cuisine: the Art and Science of Cooking (2011) on display, which is chock-full of gorgeous high-resolution photos. Long story short, my internship was wonderful.

Shayela with Constance Carter and Jennifer Cutting (American Folklife Center) at the Association of Food Journalists exhibit. Library of Congress, September 7, 2012.

4. What has amazed you the most about the Library?

It goes without saying that the detail of the architecture and the sheer quantity of information here are both stupendous.  But I think it’s the people that will leave the most lasting impression on me.  Everybody tells you that internships are often tedious, unfulfilling, and just another line on your resumé.  But I’ve met some of the kindest people here who love what they do every day, and it shows.  My mentor, Connie Carter, once told me that even after working here for decades, there’s never a day where she’s bored.  I’ve had conversations on everything from nuclear power to Romanian linguistics over lunch and with some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.  I want to thank everybody that I’ve met this summer–your help and enthusiasm are genuinely appreciated.

5. What have you learned about the Library that you didn’t know before you started your internship?

I had forgotten how easy it is for me to get lost, but the tunnels and the general layout of the Jefferson Building quickly reminded me of that.  I learned that not only were all of the Library buildings connected by tunnels, but they were also connected with all of the Congressional buildings. Like most people, when I thought of the Library of Congress, I just pictured the dome atop the Jefferson Building.  Now that I’ve explored both Adams and Madison as well, I can see how enormous the Library’s resources actually are.




  1. Thanks for sharing this Shayela. It was really great to meet you over this last summer! Let me know if you’re ever in the Cincinnati area.

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