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Noelle stands in front of a stack of blue pamphlet with a owl statue to her left
Photo courtesy of Noelle Charbonneau

Five Questions, Intern Edition: Noelle Charbonneau, 2023 Junior Fellow

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What is your background?

I am a senior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, where I am working towards a Bachelor of Arts in history and psychology. More specifically, my studies concentrate on 20th century history and developmental psychology. During my freshman year, our university’s history liaison librarian gave a talk to one of my classes about using the library for research, and I was instantly hooked. I started planning for my future in libraries that same day. The following summer, I began my library career as a Library Scholar through Grand Valley’s summer research programs, where I was able to develop technical skills and create a LibGuide that compiled and increased access to GVSU library resources relating to disability studies. From there, I got a job with GVSU’s Special Collections and University Archives as a research services assistant, where I have spent most of my time digitizing and processing film negatives.

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

I first learned about the Junior Fellows program by happenstance. I was browsing the Library of Congress’s website and ended up looking at job postings to get a sense of what it takes to work at the Library. Later, on my first trip to the Library in 2022, I was able to speak with a librarian about her professional journey and she encouraged me to seek out internships at the Library. Ultimately, my reasons for wanting to work at the Library of Congress were twofold. Professionally, the opportunities for career development are unparalleled. The Library of Congress is the pinnacle of the library world, and the connections and experiences I’ve gained here will support me through my entire career. Personally, I have always been inspired by the Library’s wealth of knowledge and its status as a cultural icon for the American public.

How would you describe your internship?

Working at the Library of Congress has felt a little bit like treasure hunting. My project was to conduct the early stages of collection processing on an 82-box collection of pamphlets, trade catalogs, and other ephemera, which was believed to relate to 20th century science and business. My mentor, Ellen Terrell, along with other librarians in ST&B have been a valuable source of knowledge for me, in both relating to the materials’ content and processing a collection for the Library in general. So much of the collection was an unknown until I opened up the boxes and got my hands on the materials. Each box had a new surprise in store. Sifting through thousands of items—most of which were anywhere from 75 to 100 years old—to find a few gems to add to the Library’s catalog, definitely felt like digging for buried treasure at times. The work was rarely easy, but it was an invaluable insight into collection processing and the variety of holdings at the Library. My Junior Fellows project was the perfect blend of library and archival skills, and helped me to solidify my goals for future work in the field.

What amazed you most about the Library?

To me, the most amazing thing about the Library is its scope. You hear the numbers read out: 173 million items in the collection across more than 800 miles of shelving (180 miles in the Adams building alone!), but those figures are absolutely incomprehensible until you see the collections in person. Even then, the scale of the Library’s operation is mind-boggling. Going into the stacks, especially in the Manuscript and Geography & Map divisions, is like exploring the ocean. One could spend their entire career going through the stacks in a single division and barely manage to scratch the surface. There is truly nowhere else in the world quite like the Library of Congress, and the stacks prove that.

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

I didn’t fully understand the depth and breadth of the international collections at the Library until I started working here. I think many people, myself included, tend to think of the Library of Congress as a primarily American institution and in some respects that is true, but there is also a rich connection to the world at large. With six overseas offices, materials in over 450 different languages, and roughly half of the collections in languages other than English, the Library is a truly global effort for the collection and preservation of humanity’s records.


  1. Noelle Charbonneau is a truly gifted young lady. Her insights into the international aspects of the Library of Congress are stark and something many of us who work with various collections and material can forget. What a wonderful wakeup call for all of us, especially those of us who interpret the Library for others. Thank you, Noelle!

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