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An Interview with Bernadette Smith, Government Documents Technician

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This week’s interview is with Bernadette Smith, a Government Documents Technician in the Public Services Division.

Describe your background.

I was born in Oklahoma, but grew up in south-central Pennsylvania.  My dad taught elementary band, Bernadette Smith standing in front of a full shelf and holding several documents.and my mom was a journalist for the local newspaper.  I have two younger brothers; one is a currently a graduate student, and the other is a senior in high school.  My favorite things in D.C. are the museums, restaurants, and my friends.  I love reading, spending time outdoors, and doing crafty, creative things.

What is your academic/professional history?

I attended West Chester University as an undergraduate, where I received my bachelor’s degree in International Relations.  After graduation, I worked for two years as a paralegal at Steptoe & Johnson LLP.  It was fast-paced, highly detailed work, but I eventually determined that I did not want to become an attorney.  I was interested in law librarianship because I could use my paralegal experience as a springboard into the law library field. In 2009, I left my paralegal job and enrolled in the Master of Library Science (MLS) program at the University of Maryland.  I attended classes full time until I was offered my current position at the Law Library in January 2010.  Here at the library I work very closely with Deborah Keysor.

I am still at a very early point in my career and there are many options for my next steps professionally.  Right now I am interested in collection services, reference, or possibly going in a different direction and learning database administration.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I usually tell people that I maintain the Law Library’s collection of current Government Documents – the printed versions of Bills and Resolutions, Supreme Court Records and Briefs, and other important publications, such as Congressional Reports and Hearings.  Sometimes, I simply say I am a librarian.  My job is very paper-based, and many of the documents I work with are primarily accessed online.  This gives me an opportunity to highlight the fact that maintaining a hard copy collection is still important, especially for archival purposes.  Since I graduated with my MLS in December 2010, I have also answered a few questions though the Ask a Librarian system.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

Part of the Law Library’s mission is to provide research in support of the work of Congress.  I loved the idea of playing a supporting role in this mission.  The Law Library is an amazing place to work and learn about the law librarian profession.  My co-workers are some of the best in their field and I am fortunate to be here.  There are also many opportunities for free classes that I can take to improve my skill set.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?

The most interesting fact I have learned about the Law Library is the scope of our foreign law collections.  Another fact not directly related to the Law Library is that there really is a private subway that connects the congressional office buildings.  When I told a classmate I was working at the Library of Congress, she told me about the Congressional Subway and I did not believe her.  I am gullible and that sounded too cool to be true!  Now, I get to ride it when I visit the Senate Document Room to collect missing bills for the collection.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I love indoor rock-climbing, although it has been a few years since I have had the chance to do it.



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