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Color photo of Michelle seated at the circle desk inside the Main Reading Room
Michelle working in the Main Reading Room, 2021.

Five Questions (Retiree Edition): Michelle Cadoree Bradley

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What is your background?

I was raised in a quaint little town nestled in the heart of central Louisiana, where life moved at its own leisurely pace. In this charming setting, I was born and nurtured with the sweet scent of magnolias and the rhythm of the bayou and farm life.

My family was a beautiful blend of real-world knowledge and nurturing warmth. My father, a farmer, toiled the land with love, and understood everything about the natural world around him, while my mother, a nurse, tended to the hearts and health of those around her. They both instilled in me a boundless love for learning and helped feed my insatiable appetite for books. Oh, how they encouraged my young mind to explore the vast worlds hidden between the pages! As long as my chores were done, I was free to endlessly dive into the realms of knowledge.

But there was a magical place that ignited the spark of curiosity within me—the Avoyelles Parish Public Library in Marksville, LA. It was a treasure trove of wonder, and my guides on this literary adventure were none other than the enchanting librarians, Miss Teresa and Miss Mary. They were like sorceresses, guiding me through the mystical aisles of books that whispered ancient tales into my eager ears.

The more I delved into the magical world of books, the stronger my desire grew to become a guardian of this realm—a librarian, just like the captivating Miss Teresa and Miss Mary. Following their sage advice, I left my small town and embarked on a life-changing journey to the broader world at the renowned Louisiana State University, where I honed my librarian skills and obtained my MLIS.

Color photo of the Avoyelles Parish Public Library building with grass lawn and trees,.
Avoyelles Parish Public Library building, Marksville, Louisiana. Photo from the Avoyelles Parish Public Library website.

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

In 1989 I had freshly graduated from the prestigious LSU School of Library and Information Science. With a heart brimming with excitement and a lot of nervousness, I joined the Library of Congress 89-90 Intern Program. Here, I crossed paths with brilliant minds from all corners of the world, united in their passion for books and knowledge.

I joined the intern program and participated with international librarians, Asma Bte Ahmat of Mayalysia, Elda Monia Guerrero of Mexico and Rebecca J. Kennedy of New Zealand; Library of Congress staff members, David T. Albee, Lisa Barker, Vera Clyburn, Barbara Conaty, and Thomas Smith; and outside interns, Jade Falkowski, Michael Malone, Cathy Martin, Martha O’Hara Conway, and David Reser.  Under the watchful eye of program manager Fern Underdue, we embarked on a grand adventure through the vast halls of the Library. From acquisitions to preservation, from bibliographic services to congressional affairs, my intern class explored it all. And at the end of this transformative experience, I was officially offered a position in the Science and Technology Division, where I would embark on a career that would span over three decades.

Black and White group photo of the 1989 intern program.
Group photo of 1989 LC Intern Program participants. Photo courtesy of Michelle Cadoree Bradley

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

What is the essence of my job at the Library of Congress? As the former Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, once described, I am a knowledge navigator—I am a co-researcher, an explorer, and a custodian of knowledge.  My days are filled with the joy of unraveling mysteries buried within our collections and discovering new treasures that enrich the Library’s vast collections.

My journey at the Library has been nothing short of extraordinary. I have worked with wonderful people on various projects that have left a lasting impact on this venerable institution. From the early days, revolutionizing the research area with CD-ROM towers to collaborating on a digital Ask-a-Librarian system, I have worked for innovation in our services.

Do you have a favorite Library collection or program?

Now, I must confess—I have no favorite collection or program at the Library. How can one choose from the boundless wonders of the science collections? Each section is a universe of its own, waiting to be explored and admired.

But, my most treasured gem amidst this grand treasure trove is not a collection or a program—it is the remarkable people I have had the honor to meet and work with. From my awe-inspiring supervisor, Constance Carter, to the ever-diligent Ann Della Porta, and the illustrious Tom Mann—each one has left an indelible mark on my journey.

As I roamed the halls of the Library, I found myself surrounded by a constellation of incredible souls. Diane Kresh, Ardie Bausenbach, Sally MacCallum, Danna Bell, Linda White, Darren Jones, John Buydos, and so many others—a tapestry of brilliance woven together. Every project that I worked on, every committee, every program, was filled with inspiring coworkers who illuminated my path and filled my heart with gratitude.

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

And now, as I bid farewell to my cherished role as a librarian, I embark on a new chapter of life. Though I leave the Library behind, my love for books and knowledge shall never leave me. With more time on my hands, I shall embark on new adventures, exploring the world with my loving husband, Carl, and sharing laughter with my dear son, Everette. The pages of life are still turning, and my love affair with books shall continue, forever and always.

Color photo of Michelle and Everette seated with a plate of food at the 2010 Holiday staff party
Michelle and son, Everette, enjoying the 2010 Staff Holiday Party. Photo Courtesy of Michelle Cadoree Bradley.

 

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Comments (8)

  1. Michelle indirectly provided me with an excuse for coming to the Library of Congress – not that I needed one, but the folks at my last job kept asking, and one senior leader actually said that the Library was boring. I always responded that it was because the Library employees had a belly dance class – which Michelle taught, and which introduced me to a lifelong passion. When thinking about “inspiring coworkers who illuminated my path and filled my heart with gratitude” she should absolutely look in a mirror, and preferably shimmy a bit.

  2. A great story!!!!!!! So happy for this woman , a little envy but happy for this retiree. I love my job it would take a lot to pull me from my cataloging position at the university where I work. Truly, books are fulfilling, a cultural bastion that illuminate the hearts and souls always and forever. Thank you for sharing a story so full of hope.

  3. Thank you Michelle for sharing your heartwarming story on your journey to the Library of Congress. It’s inspirational and certainly motivational for all those working in the field who are like you, keeping that love of reading alive. All the best on your future travels and endeavors with your family.

  4. My LCPA Book sale buddy, I wish you the best. Thanks for this beautiful look into your journey. So many are fortunate to have worked with you. You have always been one I am glad to see while traversing campus, or attending programs. You will be missed.

  5. Michelle has always been a shining light at LC — always a smile, an inquiring mind and a spirit of customer service that is laudable. She has always been a friend I cherish and LC is the poorer for losing her. As she enters this new phase of her life I know that she, Carl and Everette will be enjoying life to the max, constantly experiencing new things, learning and imparting a spirit of joy to all who encounter them along the way. I can only wish Michelle and her family the very best for the years ahead, and thank her for being such an inspiration for me and so many others.

  6. It’s been a pleasure being on this adventure with you. I’ve learned a lot from you and have enjoyed every bit of it. You deserve this next bit of the adventure. Will miss you but look forward to finding you again along the wonderful road of books and knowledge.

  7. It has been a pleasure to know you. Retirement, I know, will be a great next chapter for you. Happy gardening, traveling, and whatever your heart leads you toward! Thank you for your service to the Library and to your researchers,

  8. Michelle, has it really been over 30 years? Reading your story brought back very fond memories of you and your LC Intern Class. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and service to the LC community. I know that you will enjoy your retirement -you should have more time to read again! Enjoy and thanks for the memory!!!
    Fern Underdue

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