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Five Questions, The Intern Edition: Amal Charara

Photograph of Amal ChararaWhat is your background?

I have had the good fortune to have lived in multiple countries around the world. I am originally from Lebanon, but grew up in Canada and attended university in Ottawa, Canada. I currently live in Virginia, USA. I have found that growing up in a multi-cultural family is a wonderful asset as it gave me an opportunity to speak three languages: English, Arabic, and French. After graduating from Ottawa University with my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Virginia, USA for a few years, then accepted a job in Kuwait as a US Army contractor. In Kuwait, I enjoyed working on U.S. Army bases and had a unique opportunity in the communication field, to meet and interview many military personnel as well as contractors. As part of my job as a contractor I was able to travel to over 30 countries and explore countries in both the western and non-western world. I believe that has given me a diverse, well-rounded background. During my free time I enjoy baking, reading, and playing volleyball, but family and friends are the most important part of my life, especially my two wonderful children who are now 18 and 14. They bring the most sunshine to my life and keep me smiling every day.

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

I learned about the intern program through a Library of Congress employee, Nanette Gibbs, whom I had the honor to meet at a workshop for librarians where she was a presenter. I reached out to her for support at the K-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) school where I work, and she didn’t hesitate to help, visiting our school, meeting our students, and presenting them with valuable resources. Once I mentioned to her that I was enrolled in a master’s program, she told me about internship opportunities at the Library of Congress. I applied to the Junior Fellows program, and it was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had professionally.

How would you describe your internship?

During my internship, I was blessed to receive excellent mentorship from the Science, Technology & Business Division and to work with a great team member, Junior Fellow Sean DiLeonardi. Together, we worked on multiple projects which were unique and fascinating. Our tasks included conducting research using the catalog, reading books which were published in the 1800’s and 1900’s, and researching  online newspapers which were also dated decades ago, using Chronicling America. Hathitrust is another database that we used to find online books and articles. Using the results of this research we produced a research guide Arithmetic, Numeracy, Literacy, and Imagination, as well as blog posts, and infographics. Conducting this research was truly an eye opener because it gave me great exposure to a wealth of information and resources that I will certainly use in my current and future endeavors.

What has amazed you the most about the Library?

Working at the Library of Congress was a true honor and amazed me in multiple ways, yet what I was most astonished by were the collections that I was able to base my research on. Looking at books that are as big as the palm of my hands that were published centuries ago, giving me the ability to discover how arithmetic was taught previously in comparison to now, was an amazing experience. I was also amazed at the 1000+ databases which were available to us which include millions of resources. The Junior Fellow internship program is itself an amazing program which introduces undergraduate as well as graduate students to a vast world of information. Working with amazing, highly educated intellectuals, who were ready to help in any way, was also a truly remarkable experience.

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

At the Library of Congress, I learned about the Library’s extensive collections that date back to the 1800’s and earlier, as well as the existence of 1000+ databases  which the Library offers. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people that work at the Library, who were available to help, support, and answer any questions that I had as an intern. I had the opportunity to navigate the Science, Technology and Business Division websites and learn more about the resources and services the Division provides. In addition, when conducting research, it was mind boggling that I had the chance to read books that were written and published centuries ago, as well as newspaper articles dating back to President Lincoln, available through the Library’s Chronicling America.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Sawsan Beidas
    November 1, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Very nice experience. I am proud of your achievement dear Amal. I wish you a very successful future with your career!

  2. Laila Alsayed
    November 1, 2021 at 7:08 pm

    Way to go Amal! You are always and will continue to be a source of inspiration and joy. Proud of you and your marvelous achievements.

  3. Hiba Yasin
    November 5, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Congratulations on your achievement!! Your dedication and enthusiasm are inspiring. I am confident that you will continue with even more successes. SO PROUD OF YOU

  4. Noura Harran
    November 8, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Amal, not only have you shared an amazing experience with us but it has further enriched you as an educator and librarian as well. I’m sure there will be much more success coming for you too!

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