(The following is a post by Kaydee McCann, Humanities Editor of HLAS and reference librarian in the Hispanic Division.)
The Library of Congress tends to inspire devotion and loyalty among its employees, many of whom spend decades classifying, describing, and revealing its vast and growing collections to ensure that as many researchers, scholars, and students as possible can use them fruitfully. Georgette Dorn, who will retire this year from her position as Chief of the Hispanic Division, is one of the Library’s committed staff. With an historian’s dedication to shedding light on the past and acquiring and preserving current cultural and intellectual materials for future generations, she has led efforts to grow the Library’s Luso-Hispanic collections and make them accessible to all. The Library’s ever-evolving nature provides daily stimulation and challenges, as Georgette often likes to tell visitors and new employees, “every day is different; every day is an opportunity to learn something new about the Library and its unsurpassed collections.”
Born in Hungary, raised in Argentina, and university-educated in Argentina and the United States, Georgette was uniquely equipped to take on each of her successive roles in the Library of Congress, from cataloger to reference librarian and Curator of the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape to Chief of the Hispanic Division and Acting Chief of the European Division. She studied at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Creighton University in Omaha, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in government. In 2012, Creighton named her the 2012 Arts and Sciences Alumni Merit Award Recipient. Later, she earned a master’s degree in history at Boston College. While working at the Library and raising her four children, Gigi, Elizabeth, Susan, and Paul, with her husband, Paul Dorn (1930-2013), she earned a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University (1981).
Georgette’s first job in the Library of Congress was in the Descriptive Cataloging Section working on Hungarian and German books. It wasn’t long though before she found her true home in the Library’s Hispanic Division. She became the Specialist in Hispanic Culture and the Curator of the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in the Hispanic Division. As Specialist, she oversaw the development of a comprehensive reading room service and worked on numerous bibliographies and collections guides, including a guide to Spanish and Portuguese paperbacks and a guide to works by Cervantes. Both publications have been digitized and are now available online to users worldwide. With a keen appreciation for both established and up-and-coming writers, Georgette sought out and recorded more than 500 writers and leading cultural figures from Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal. She met some of the most iconic literary figures from the Luso-Hispanic world such as Jorge Luis Borges and Mario Vargas Llosa, among many others. To assist users of the Archive and to capture its history, Georgette worked with Francisco Aguilera (a Specialist in the Hispanic Division 1944-1969) to produce the “Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape: A Descriptive Guide,” which is now available online.
In April 1994, Georgette was named Chief of the Hispanic Division. From 2005 to early 2017, she was also Acting Chief of the European Division. During her tenure, she oversaw a variety of innovative projects. In collaboration with a Spanish organization, Fundación Histórica TAVERA, the first 49 print volumes of the “Handbook of Latin American Studies” were converted to digital format and made available on CD-ROM and through the HLAS Online web site. More recently Hispanic Division and other Library staff launched an updated ADA-compliant, mobile-friendly site, HLAS Web. Under Georgette’s leadership, the Division developed popular online exhibits related to the Spanish American War and the Mexican Revolution, initiated the digitization of AHLOT, and launched the Library’s first podcast, La Biblioteca.
Georgette herself helped organize countless lectures, symposia, and concerts with scholars, members of the diplomatic community, and officials of foreign governments. She presented papers at numerous conferences worldwide and is the author of many articles on the history and culture of Latin America. She also found time to prepare a facsimile translation of “The Indian Tribes of Texas” by José Francisco Ruiz (1783-1840), and act as associate editor of “The Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture” (1996), published in four volumes. In addition to her work in the Hispanic Division, Georgette was for many years a professorial lecturer in the History Department and the Center of Latin American Studies at Georgetown University.
A firm believer in the Library’s responsibility to teach and inspire younger generations, Georgette welcomed hundreds of volunteers, interns, and fellows over the years. Thanks to her fundraising efforts through the Archer M. Huntington Society and management of Huntington trust funds, many students were awarded paid internships in the Division even during lean years at the Library. Among the current generation of librarians in the U.S. specializing in Latin America, there are many whose careers were sparked by an internship in the Hispanic Division.
On June 15th from 2-4pm, the Library and friends will celebrate Georgette and her career in the Hispanic Reading Room. Because Georgette plans to volunteer at the Library after she retires, we won’t be saying good bye, only hasta la próxima (until next time)!