The following is an interview with Hector Morey, head of the African Section in the African, Latin American and Western European Division, Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I am originally from Puerto Rico, where I also went to college with the plan to study psychology and earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. After serving six years as a combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, I moved to the Washington, DC area and began my career with the federal government.
What is your academic/professional history?
My first library job in Washington, DC took me to the United States Department of Justice where I worked in technical services and at the reference desk a couple of hours per day. A couple years after that experience, I was lucky to get a job offer here at the Library of Congress where my experience has included working as a technician in the former Hispanic Acquisitions Section (HAS).
In 2004 while working in HAS, I was awarded a CIRLA Fellowship. This opportunity allowed me to work 120-day details in reference (in the Hispanic Division), special collections (in the Rare Books and Special Collections and Preservation Directorate), and cataloging (in the the former Social Sciences Cataloging Division) while working towards my Master of Library Science degree. I completed my library education and an MBA in program management from Trinity Washington University while working full-time here at the Library.
As an acquisitions librarian in the Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Section and in the Iberia/Rio Section, I was responsible for acquiring materials from those areas as well as managing approval plans.
I am currently the head of the Africa Section handling acquisitions and cataloging in the African, Latin American and Western European Division of the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA).
How would you describe your job to other people?
I try to keep it simple and say I buy books for the Library of Congress! Usually that makes people curious enough to think it is a cool job. That allows me to further explain that, in addition to books, I buy newspapers, maps, DVDs, posters, serials, etc. I also mention important projects such as the current collaboration with the West African Research Association (WARA) in Boston, MA and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) with offices in DC and in Dakar, Senegal. For the past five years, this collaboration has allowed us to acquire hard to find monographs, serials, maps, DVDs, (including legal materials) from eleven West African countries that present challenges to most approval plan vendors in terms of traveling to those nations. The countries include: Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Togo.
My section has successfully fulfilled the request of the Law Library to have bibliographic representatives from CAORC search for and purchase on behalf of the Library of Congress specific legal publications from West Africa, recently acquiring runs of the Journal Officiel du Burkina Faso and the Journal Officiel de la Republique du Senegal.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
While working as a library assistant during graduate school in Puerto Rico, one of my duties was to check in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin that the university library received as part of an exchange agreement. I spent hours reading the articles and news about the Library. It was during this time that the thought of one day working at the Library of Congress came to mind.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
The most interesting thing that I have learned after 13 years working side by side with Recommending Officers from the Law Library is the breadth of the Law collection and the knowledge of its staff. It is good to also know that the work done in acquisitions has helped develop the research holdings of the Law Library. One such item is the official government gazette of the Republic of South Africa, Staatskoerant.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
A (long) walk in the woods… I am an amateur hiker of the Appalachian Trail. The trail is approximately 2,200 miles long from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Some people hike the Appalachian Trail in sections over many years. I have hiked many parts including at the lowest point where it crosses the Hudson River near Bear Mountain State Park in NY and highest in Clingmans Dome in TN. Thru-hikers attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season, a commitment that only takes five to seven months!… Perhaps one day.