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Five Questions: Kelsey Diemand, Librarian in Residence, Business Reference Services

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What is your background?

I hail from New England where I was born and raised in Connecticut. I attended the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and studied History, with minors in American Studies and Classics. During my time at UNH, I accepted a semester-long internship at the Smithsonian Institution Archives here in Washington, DC, and I fell in love with the city and its endless opportunities. I knew DC would be the perfect place to begin my career as an information professional. Thus, I decided to attend The University of Maryland (UMD) iSchool for my graduate program in Library and Information Science (LIS). I am proud to say that I graduated this past May with my MLIS and am ready to take on the world of library and information science!

Even before I started graduate school, I worked and interned in various libraries and archives and devotedly pursued a career as an information professional.  I originally began training as an archivist but, while I still appreciate and enjoy archival work, I found that my interests more closely align with librarianship. Most recently, I held a summer position at The Johns Hopkins Special Collections and University Archives and worked for one and a half years as a Research and Teaching Fellow at UMD.

Through the Librarians-in-Residence program, I was fortunate to be placed in Business Reference Services in the Science, Technology, and Business Division (ST&B) where I am currently a reference librarian on the wonderful ST&B team.

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

My time as a Research and Teaching Fellow at UMD truly placed me on the path to librarianship. I then began applying for librarian positions that matched my growing interests in reference and instruction, also inspired by my time as a Fellow. Aside from the obvious librarian cliché – that working at the Library of Congress has always been a dream of mine – I was truly inspired to work here when I learned of the Library of Congress’s Librarians-in-Residence pilot program, and discovered that there was a “reference and instruction” track. I was hopeful that this opportunity at the Library would allow me to nurture my existing reference and instruction training while also encouraging me to diversify my skills. I was keen to work with a wider base of users and researchers, including both national and international patrons, and learn to address various information needs. Now, I find myself working as a reference librarian in the nation’s library and am still pinching myself!

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

I would describe my job here as “detective-esque” with a side of “always learning something new.” In my daily work, I chiefly spend my time addressing reference questions from our users and researching topics for various projects. I often feel like a police detective when I have to dive deep into the Library’s collections to find an otherwise hard-to-locate item or when I have to think of a creative solution to a difficult problem or question. I am learning that the key to succeeding in this position is not knowing everything – it is understanding your user, knowing your collection, and determining which resources can best answer the question at hand.

I am constantly learning new things while working at the Library. I enjoy absorbing new information about the world of business and economics as well as science and new applications for technology from my colleagues, reading room patrons, and my own research. Additionally, there are opportunities to visit and learn about other divisions of the Library of Congress. I have met several staff from all different parts of the library, including outreach divisions, reading rooms, cataloguing services, preservation units, visitor’s services, and more. I have had the opportunity to learn more about their work and the initiatives and projects in place for the Library and the public.

I have also been taking advantage of the Library’s platform to explore different technology applications and various programs. I am currently working with the ArcGIS software, Story Maps, to create a visual representation of my current research project. I also attended the recent “Text Mining with the HathiTrust: Empowering Librarians to Support Digital Scholarship Research” workshop at the Library of Congress alongside local and regional information professionals. I am excited to expand my knowledge of new technological and educational opportunities and learn new skills that will support my career as a librarian.

Do you have a favorite Library collection or program?

To me, one of the most fascinating initiatives at the Library of Congress is the Veteran’s History Project (VHP). The VHP, part of the Library’s American Folklife Center, collects, preserves, and provides access to personal accounts of American war veterans. This collection includes photographs and images, personal papers and diaries, interviews and oral histories, and other materials documenting a veteran’s experience in a United States war/conflict. The historian in me appreciates that this project provides researchers with primary sources – first-hand accounts – of these time periods. This kind of information is invaluable. This project is also a way for the public to have a hand in expanding the Library of Congress’s collections. The VHP collections are a way to preserve our nation’s history and share it with the American people and global citizens. I think the VHP collections are one of the most unique and powerful collections in the Library.

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

In college, an awesome professor sparked my interest in psychology, specifically cognitive psychology. I enjoyed learning about the structure of the brain and how it related to mental processes. I am not quite sure what career I could have pursued, perhaps a researcher or a university professor, but I think it would have been an interesting field of study. That is one great thing about being a librarian, though: you can develop a subject expertise and be surrounded by students and researchers doing the research you are interested in.

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