Megan Halsband is a Kluge Staff Fellow at the Library of Congress as well as a librarian in the Serial & Government Publications Division.
Michael Stratmoen: Can you tell us a little more about your background here at the Library?
Megan Halsband: I started at the Library in 2008 as a Processing Technician in the American Folklife Center fresh out of graduate school. I loved being able to work directly with the amazing collections they have there – my background is in photographic history and working with the archival materials was great. A reference librarian position opened in the Serial & Government Publications Division in 2010 – and they’ve been stuck with me ever since.
MS: Can you describe your research project?
MH: My research project, “Peculiar Pop: Genre Comics at the Library of Congress,” focuses on non-superhero genre comics like Western, Romance, Education, and Funny Animals. And hopefully (fingers crossed) it will published as a book with the Library’s Publishing Office! The book is intended for a general audience to highlight the Library’s comic book collection, one of the largest in the world, which is a vastly underutilized collection. Research on non-superhero comics is under-explored, particularly in comparison to superhero comics, so the book will give an overview and (re)introduction of these materials to new readers. While I will primarily focus on the comic books themselves, which are held in the Serial & Government Publications Division, additional primary sources from across the Library will be featured in the book as well. And of course the secondary sources on comic books and popular culture are unparalleled at the Library – and are essential to the research too!
MS: What has your experience been like now that you have been working as a Staff Fellow at the Kluge Center?
MH: Amazing. And I am so grateful for the opportunity. Most people think that in my “regular” job as a reference librarian all I do is read comic books – which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have wanted to be able to work on this book for a very long time but have never had the time in my “day” job because there’s so much else to do in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room. As a Kluge Staff Fellow I now literally get paid to read comics – which is still a bit mind boggling to me.
However I do think my experience, along with that of my colleague and current Staff Fellow Michael Ratner, has been impacted by the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Though I am able to go in to do research onsite and access materials because of the privileges of being a staff member, it’s not the same as being in residence full-time with other scholars. Michael, Travis, and the other staff at Kluge have been great about setting up brown bags to bring us together virtually – but as we all know at this point, in-person conversations are a bit different. And I hope future staff fellows will be able to be in-residence full time to truly experience all that the Kluge has to offer.
MS: Do you have any advice for those thinking of applying to our Staff Fellowship Program?
MH: Don’t be intimidated – you don’t have to have a PhD and a previously published book on the subject to write a successful proposal – I don’t! But do your homework and start on the application long before the deadline – you need to contact your references and send them your proposal so they can speak to your work and your proposal directly. Prepare for everything to take longer than you think it should during the research process and build in time in your proposal to reflect that. Pick something that you’re excited about – you’re going to be thinking about it a lot over the course of 6 months. And if it’s related to the job you do, make sure your proposal is something that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in your day job but that still needs materials at the Library to complete. And finally – feel free to email me if you have more questions about my experience – [email protected]!
The Kluge Staff Fellowship is open for applications this year until April 1, 2021. Read about eligibility requirements and fill out your application here.