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An Interview with Quinn Smith, Metadata Technician

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Today’s interview is with Quinn Smith, who is working with Julie McVey as a metadata technician on our digital projects this summer.

Describe your background.

I grew up on the Eastern Shore. I lived in Delmar, Maryland, but attended school in Delmar, Delaware (Delmar: The town too big for one state). I have 2 sisters and 4 brothers. I now live in Washington, D.C. with my husband, and 6-year-old daughter, Eleanor (named after Eleanor Roosevelt).

What is your academic/professional history?

I have Bachelor’s degrees in humanities and English. I have a Master’s degree in Library Science with an e-government concentration. I am currently contemplating my next educational goal (law school, library science, or some combination). I worked at the World Digital Library, the Internet Archive, the Congressional Research Service, the University of Maryland – Hornbake Library, and now at the Law Library of Congress. Most of my experience has been in taking physical objects and digitally preserving them, metadata management, and quality assurance of audiovisual and digital objects.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Quinn Smith standing by a large globe.
Quinn Smith / Photo by Andrew Weber

I create and manage information about information. I create an information index for an item and then parse out as much information as possible to make searching for the object easier for researchers.  The record should be as robust as possible; the more correct information, the better.

I think of myself as an “information miner.” I take an original object (pamphlet, book, manuscript, photograph, newspaper, yearbook, letter and correspondence, map, artwork, graph, etc.) and “mine” it for information.  I look for answers to the following questions: Who created the original object–an individual or organization? Where was it created? What is it about (topics/keywords)? What is the title? Who owns the copyright or is it in the public domain? What is the unique identifier for the object? Who published the original? Where was it published, etc.?

I am currently working with databases that include the U.S. Reports (Supreme Court cases) and the United States Treaties Collection.

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

I have always loved books and libraries. Working at this particular library has been a lifelong dream of mine. As a child, I was amazed that there was a library with every book in the world in its collection (I now know that isn’t true).

As an adult, I realize and understand the role of the Library of Congress as one of the greatest cultural heritage sites in the world. People come from all over the world to visit and research, and I have the access and opportunity to be here every day.

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

The first thing I found interesting about the Law Library was the global aspect. While waiting to be interviewed, I noticed reports on Abortion Legislation in Europe and Foreign Intelligence Gathering Laws. Both reports contained smaller reports written by foreign law experts. It is interesting to see how different countries approach and legislate on the same topic.

I was also unaware the Law Library prepared reports for members of Congress.

The most interesting thing I have seen is the stacks – that’s a privilege that not many people will ever get; viewing the stacks puts into perspective just how many books there are!

What’s something your coworkers don’t know about you?

I don’t know how to drive. I’ve had three permits, but driving terrifies me. I do plan on learning. Also, I love Barbra Streisand, musicals, logic puzzles.


Please note: The link has been retired.  The collections previously accessible through this link will be available on Please check our digital projects webpage for the current status and for new links when they become available.

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