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An Interview with Patrick Ouellette, Information Technology Specialist

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This week’s interview is with Patrick who works as an Information Technology Specialist in the Law Library’s Information Technology Office (ITO).

Describe your background.

I am a Midwesterner and small-city person.  I was born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio.  Sandusky is a city on the shore of Lake Erie, about midway between Cleveland and Toledo.  One of the city’s claims to fame is the Cedar Point amusement park.

Patrick Ouellette standing in front of wood paneled wall with gold letters spelling, "The Law Library of Congress" in a circle in the background.
Patrick Ouellette (photo by Kevin Long)

What is your academic/professional history?

I studied electrical engineering for a year at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.  Ada was a small town:  it had one traffic light, and one “fast food” restaurant (a KFC) when I was there.  (I understand they now have another traffic light and a couple of fast-food restaurants.)  You had to drive 15 miles to Lima or Kenton to visit a McDonald’s.  This town’s claim to fame was that it was home to the Wilson Sporting Goods factory where the footballs for the NFL are madesince 1941“.  The population of the town more than doubled when classes were in session; and the university only had around 3,000 students total—undergraduate, graduate, pharmacy and law. 

Bowing to the economic reality of the time (a small private college is expensive for a student paying his own way), I transferred to the University of Toledo the following fall.  After some time in Toledo, I took a break from college and enlisted in the Army.  My time in the Army was short. I developed a medical problem that prevented me from completing one of the basic training requirements.  I returned to Toledo and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and spent some additional time taking graduate courses in Physics and Astronomy.

I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Theological Studies at the Notre Dame Graduate School (NDGS) of Christendom College

While working on my undergraduate degree, I took a position as a computer programmer/technician at a small engineering firm—Jones & Henry Engineers.  Initially, it was a part-time position backing up their computer system; writing small programs; and repairing computers.  Eventually my responsibilities expanded; and when I left the company, I was a full-time network administrator. 

Since leaving Jones & Henry, I have worked for Fortune 500 companies, universities, start-up companies, and, of course, the Library of Congress.  My responsibilities have included programming; systems administration; network design/installation/administration; computing facility management; and information security.  I am also a developer in the Debian Linux Project.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I describe my job in a variety of ways depending on the audience:  My position involves programming; web development; end-user support; user training; educating people on information security issues; evaluating and monitoring the security posture of information systems; liaison duties between the Law Library and the greater Library of Congress’s central information technology department; and advising management on ways in which current and emerging technologies can be applied to resolve current challenges faced by the Law Library.

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

Early in my academic career this thing called the Internet was becoming more useful to colleges and just beginning to have a presence on the corporate radar.  One of the standard measuring units for computer storage on UseNet was “Libraries of Congress.”   Having a chance to work at the place that was used as the measuring standard for computer information storage had a certain appeal.

I am also a believer in the mission of the Library, especially the portion of the Library’s mission “to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.”

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

The work done at the Law Library of Congress would easily be a multi-million (or billion) dollar operation if the Law Library of Congress were a private firm.  The scope of the operation is amazing! And even more amazing is the fact that the work gets done by the small number of people who work in the Law Library.

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

I don’t really have any “secrets” from my co-workers.  If you have a question, ask me—but be prepared for an honest answer. 

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