Our beloved colleague and dear friend, Margaret “Peg” Clifton, a physical sciences and military science research specialist with the Library’s Science Reference Section, has retired after 31 years of service in the Federal Government. She has been a frequent contributor for Inside Adams writing about egg collecting, astronomy, Carl Sagan, time and Antarctica. Science Section Head Constance Carter sums it up best, “Her knowledge, vitality, and willingness to attack any task will be missed.” Division Chief Ron Bluestone calls her a “supernova that never fades.”
Peg’s father was a cultural anthropologist and she grew up in various places. She went to high school and college in the Badger State (Wisconsin) and studied graphic design as an undergrad. After college she used her artistic skills at her own screen printing business and other freelance work. A few years later she decided to follow her father’s footsteps and joined the military. She went into the Army as an Imagery Analyst, and like her Dad had a tour in Korea except without live conflict. She later trained as a Terrain Analyst working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). She left active duty for government civilian life and began working in a map library also for the USACE. During this time she received a master’s degree in library science with a focus on systems analysis and metadata, and then went to work for the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) as the Nonprint Program Manager. She joined the Science Reference section at the Library of Congress in 2002.
1. What major changes have you witnessed during your time at LC?
I haven’t been here long enough in the scheme of things to witness ‘major’ changes. To me, the most momentous event was a couple of years ago when the plan to consolidate the operations of multiple Library of Congress reading rooms, reference collections and reference units was initiated. That would have been a major change if it happened, but it didn’t. Working with AFSCME 2910 (Professional Guild) on that was challenging and ultimately very rewarding.
2. What has been your favorite activity or achievement working at LC?
I particularly enjoyed working on the NASA Goddard speaker series collaboration which just ended its eighth year. We had some really terrific scientists communicating important and relevant scientific issues here on the Hill. Some other speakers and events stand out in my mind, particularly The History of Media Technology and Opera, because I love opera, and the folks from the Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition , because I love Antarctica. We had some incredible people come in to speak here, such as Jane Goodall! That was like seeing a god.
In the day-to-day of things I love working with serious scholars, and on occasion getting acknowledged for the work. Acquiring a rare book was exciting and getting to use the Sagan papers to research a blog post was really special. I enjoyed anything that involved getting to see inside other areas of the Library – from Motion Pictures to Rare Books, to Manuscripts, to Geography and Maps.
Amazing people work in this place but many of them keep their lights under a bushel and you have to work with them to see those lights shine. I recently took the Docent course, which I highly recommend just for the amount of knowledge gained about the Library as whole. The Library of Congress Professional Association Annual Book Sale was also always a lot of fun.
3. What will you miss about working at LC?
I have the best office with the best view of anyone I know. I will miss hanging out on Capitol Hill, walking around the ‘hood, eating at all the hip places, and seeing famous faces. I will also miss having the caché of working here. Seriously, I will miss the people and the books.
4. What will you not miss about working?
The commute, the bureaucracy, and the arbitrary security protocols.
5. What are your plans for retired life?
Traveling first, specifically spending more time in New York City, Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest. I have three states left to knock off my list. I will also become more involved with my local community (Madison, Virginia), try some more elaborate cooking projects, expand my garden, continue to do maintenance on my old house, write, and do more yoga. I have signed up for a Shenandoah Master Naturalist course beginning in March. I will also be a docent at the Library of Congress.
Peg will be extremely missed by her fellow librarians, especially me. Although she doesn’t believe it, I am a better librarian because of her. She always challenged me to think out of the box, but mostly she reminded me to think like there is no box. From all of us at the Library, onward to your next adventure!