The following is a guest post by Nancy Lovas, Library Technician at The John W. Kluge Center.
For the past six months, I’ve been able to tell people that I work in The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. This statement is invariably followed by two questions: “What is the Kluge Center?” and “What do you do there?” The former is answered quite nicely here, and I will take the following space to answer the second.
As a program assistant for the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, I help with administrative aspects of the program. I take notes during important meetings, set up and attend the astrobiology lectures and symposia, communicate with program participants, and generally make myself useful doing odd bits that pop up. I’ve been learning, too. At September’s astrobiology symposium, I learned that you needn’t be a scientist to find value in astrobiology as a discipline (Read: why astrobiology matters to the humanities). While assisting with tasks in connection with the selection of the next chair, I’ve learned how a scientist’s ideas can be reshaped by input from philosophers and theologians, and vice versa. From being a part of this program, my eyes have been opened to the benefits of interdisciplinary conversation done well and my mind has stretched in the effort to grasp the concepts studied by our first two astrobiology chairs, Dr. David Grinspoon and Dr. Steven Dick.
When my time is not filled with astrobiology, I’m a one-woman welcoming committee to the Kluge Center. I sit at my open desk at the entrance to the Center and greet visitors, help scholars, and work on numerous projects. Recently, I’ve immersed myself in the history of the Center and its past scholars, as we prepare for a celebration of our 15th anniversary. I was excited when I realized that I had an academic link to Dr. Mark Noll, who was the 2004 Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History and has sat on the Library’s Scholars Council since 2010. Dr. Noll’s book “God and Race in American Politics” was a text in one of my American government classes. The book piqued my interest and provoked interesting class discussions. I enjoyed it so much that I managed to write Dr. Noll and tell him. I didn’t expect to receive a response, so opening my email account one afternoon to a short message was a happy surprise. (I searched back through my archived messages for the exchange, but alas! it must have been automatically deleted.)
Now that I’ve gotten to know the people here, my co-workers and the scholars, I’m not surprised in the least that Dr. Noll is connected to the Center. That is, the Kluge Center attracts intelligent, hard-working folks who research and write on impressive topics, and who are also kind, friendly individuals. I’m happy to be here: on the one hand, surrounded by opportunities to learn about new things; on the other hand, privileged to participate in this scholarly community populated by people like Dr. Noll who share their knowledge and take time to talk about it.