This week’s interview is with Jeffrey Helm. Jeffrey is an intern at the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. Jeffrey came to the Library of Congress through the Hope College Washington Honors Semester program. During his internship he has been tasked with working on a second (and now third) iteration of the Hispanic Division’s Distant Neighbors: The U.S. and the Mexican Revolution portal. The portal itself is a compilation of products from throughout the greater Library brought about through effective partnerships with different service units and divisions, including the Hispanic Division; Geography & Maps Division; Prints & Photographs Division; the Preservation Directorate; Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division (MBRS); and the Law Library, among others.
Describe your background.
I grew up all over the world because my dad worked with the U.S. Foreign Service; and that really fostered my love of history, learning about other cultures, and gaining a solid knowledge base. When I graduated from high school, I took a job and worked part-time while I attended George Mason University. Unfortunately, I was not mentally prepared or ready for college and left after a few semesters to work full-time.
After a few years in the workforce, I came to the realization that a college education was important and resumed my studies at community college. In 2011, I transferred to Hope College in Holland, Michigan near where my parents live and declared a history major with political science as a minor.
Since returning to college on a full-time basis, I have made the Dean’s list every semester and feel that I am mentally ready to tackle anything academia would throw my way. In May of this year I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and plan on pursuing a career that involves my love of history while allowing me to interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I “nerd out” every day and read books. No, in all seriousness, I do research on the Mexican Revolution–specifically from 1910-1920. I prepare materials for the Mexican Revolution online exhibit, making sure that we have accurate and thoughtful data, well-articulated statements, and that the visual materials we put up are not copyrighted and therefore accessible to the general public. The idea behind the website is to generate interest in all of the products that the Library of Congress has to offer on the Mexican Revolution which might not be available anywhere else in the world, whether they be books, movies, obscure legal texts, or pictures, which might not be available anywhere else in the world. Click here to visit the site.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
The Library of Congress has a certain prestige associated with it. It provides me access to materials and experiences I would never have anywhere else. The project I am working on is also a way for me to combine my love of history and political science in a way that does not subordinate one to the other, while allowing me to learn about something that I had no prior knowledge of.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
The Law Library of Congress has Mexican Legal Gazettes written in French from the period when France was heavily involved in Mexican affairs and that is not something everyone knows about; most people hear Mexico and immediately think Spanish but never really consider the other cultures that influenced Mexican history.
The Library of Congress works differently than any other library that I, or most of the general public, have ever been to; patrons do not find the books on their own, nor can they check them out and go on their merry way. Rather, in order to protect the collections, deck attendants and other staff bring these to one of the many reading rooms for patrons to use.
Also, I heard a story of an author who published a second edition of one of his books and asked that the Library to destroy the first edition.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I built my own electric guitar and am in the middle of building my own electric bass. I prefer to sleep with music or a movie playing as opposed to complete silence.