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An Interview with Colin Hess, GIS Intern at the Law Library of Congress

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This is an interview with Colin Hess, currently an intern at the Law Library of Congress Information Technology Office providing Geographic Information System support.

Describe your background

I am from Chesterfield, Virginia and am a senior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia (UMW).  I am a Geography major, with a concentration on Third World development and human geography.  I am also enrolled in the Geographic Information Science (GIS) certificate program at UMW, a 18 credit program that is ranked best in Virginia for its concentration.  If you’re interested in GIS and courses on the subject, you can find out more at the UMW Geographic Information Science website.  If you are interested in learning more about GIS in general, I would check out the Understanding the World ESRI’s website.

Colin Hess standing in front of wood paneled wall with gold letters spelling, "The Law Library of Congress" in a circle in the background.
Colin at the Law Library of Congress Feb. 2012

How would you describe your job to other people?

GIS basically refers to the process of transferring raw data into spatial data. It is a new and emerging field that both public and private sectors are now beginning to embrace.  It is somewhat hard to explain, because it can do so much!  If you are looking to show population density, you can show it on a county, state, or regional level.  If you are trying to determine the best location for a new fire station in your town, GIS can aid you in your quest.  If you want to determine the most efficient postal routes for the USPS, GIS can help. Virtually any question that you ask, GIS can help answer in a visual representation.

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

I wanted to work at the Law Library of Congress because of its history.  I have always been very interested in research and answering questions.  I’ve also always had a passion for history, law and geography.  I am curious about the world and the spatial differences between regions in the world, which the Law Library investigates in many ways. Also, I was excited about working with Congress in a direct way.

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

I never knew how many records the Law Library of Congress truly has.  It was amazing the first time I toured the collections of the Law Library to see the history and breadth of human knowledge that the institution contains.  I found the rare book collection particularly interesting.

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

I am a collegiate swimmer.  I am the team captain for the Mary Washington men’s swim team.  We compete in the Capital Athletic Conference, at the D3 level.  I swim distance freestyle and the 400 I.M. and I am a 5-time conference medalist.  The men’s team has won our conference for the last 11 years and was ranked nationally earlier this year.  Go Eagles!


Comments (4)

  1. Nice interview.

    @Colin: How about joining the Open Source GIS conference in Velp (The Netherlands) in June?
    You could give a presentation about your GIS work at the library.

  2. @Paul: I’d love to! Talk about a chance to network and represent the LLoC at an international gis event!

  3. Hello Colin,

    I am a law librarian at the University at Buffalo. I am very interested in finding out ways to compliment so much legal written information with graphics. I think GIS can come in very useful for this purpose. I would love to ask you some questions, about how GIS is used at the LLoC.


  4. Christine-

    Please send me an email- [email protected]

    I’d be happy to answer any questions!


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