(The following is a post by Samantha Awad, Librarian-in-Residence, Hispanic Division)
I can remember the first, and only time, I visited the Library of Congress. I was halfway through undergrad at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. An English major heavily involved in Student Government, I was in the DC area over the summer visiting friends who were interning on Capitol Hill. I do not remember if it was all the marble, the quotes on the walls, or the mix of literature and politics, but I fell in love. I even told myself that one day I would work there. But I didn’t know that “one day” would be almost exactly four years later.
Currently, I am a Librarian-in-Residence (LIR) for the Hispanic Division. LIR’s are new to the Library, and I have the special privilege to be part of the second group to be selected for this temporary appointment. My biggest fear in coming to work at the Library was that the experience would not live up to the pent-up fantasies I had been having about this amazing institution for the last four years. I am so glad that was not true!
Coming into this residency, I knew that I wanted to learn as much as possible with the time that I had here. Since I started in July, I have been fortunate enough to attend lectures, talks, tours, classes, and more at the Library every week. I have had the opportunity to see the Bible Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on, the film reel for the original Frankenstein, the copyright form filled out for Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and even a piece of Thomas Jefferson’s hair. (Fun fact: He was strawberry blonde). But the best part about being at the Library is working with people who love their jobs, and the work that they do—people who come in every day and are excited to share their work with others.
This is most certainly true with the people I work with in the Hispanic Division. A group of twelve, they welcomed me with open arms, helping hands, and a fountain of knowledge. Many of the projects that I have been working on as a Resident involve a lot of cross-divisional work. I have had the opportunity to work with the Rare Book & Special Collections, Geography & Map, and even Law divisions. My main project involves creating a LibGuide for the “Handbook of Latin American Studies,” or “HLAS.” The “HLAS” is a selective annotated bibliography of scholarly books, journal articles, conference proceedings and papers, book chapters, maps and atlases, as well as electronic resources (blogs, websites, online videos, etc.) dealing with Latin America. The LibGuide focuses on the database that contains bibliographic records found in “HLAS.” Creating this LibGuide, and contributing to the work for “HLAS” has been an honor, as the first Handbook was published in 1936 , and is a staple for reference work and research in the Hispanic Division. I explored the database first as a researcher, and then as a librarian, and got the chance to create a working guide that will help both first-time users and experienced researchers.
I also have had the chance to create another LibGuide with a fellow Librarian-in-Residence for the Jay I. Kislak Collection. A cross-divisional collection, the Kislak Collection encompasses more than three thousand rare books, maps, manuscripts, historic documents, artifacts, and works of art related to early American history and the cultures of Florida, the Caribbean, and Mesoamerica. Creating a guide for this collection was fun because it was a chance to create a cohesive resource for all aspects of the collection, while also pointing out selected materials, current and past exhibits, and additional reference resources that may help researchers and patrons interested in the collection. Working on the guide also gave me the opportunity to interact with Library staff in other divisions, such as Rare Book & Special Collections, and Geography & Map.
While my time at the Library is coming to a close, I can walk away with a few accomplishments. I had the chance to publish work related to collection material here at the Library, work with one-of-a-kind collections, meet some of the leading professionals in their fields, learn about the most recent librarianship methods, and create relationships with mentors and friends that will continue after I leave. Not bad for a dream I had four years ago.