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An Interview with Daina Andries, Metadata Technician

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This interview is with Daina Andries, a volunteer metadata technician with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My dad’s family is from Pennsylvania and Michigan. My mom’s family immigrated to Wisconsin from Lithuania after World War II and eventually settled in New Jersey. I grew up speaking both Lithuanian and English at home.

What is your academic/professional history?

Daina Andreis standing in the Great Hall of the Law Library of Congress.
Daina Andries / Photo by Donna Sokol

I earned my bachelor’s degree at Thomas Aquinas College in California, where I studied classical liberal arts. The curriculum at Thomas Aquinas was rigorous and interdisciplinary. Every class was taught as a seminar, providing practice in critical thinking, reasoning logically from first principles, and grappling with scientific, literary, and philosophical texts held to have shaped Western thought. After finishing my bachelor’s, I earned a master’s in French at the University of Delaware. I taught French at the University of Delaware for two years, and lived a year in Normandy, France, where I worked as an English instructor at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie.

I liked teaching, but I also love research and saw growing opportunity for supporting research, education, and innovation in the field of information science. In particular, I wanted to learn more about the latest developments in technology and web services to better help implement new technologies in a research environment, so I applied to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for a Master of Science in Information (MSI). My earlier foundation in logical reasoning and philosophy helped with learning about semantics and knowledge organization, object-oriented programming, and analytics. Once I recognized how programming skills could be applied to managing, analyzing, and visualizing digital data in new ways, I committed to learning as much about programming and data analytics as I could. While studying, I also worked as a reference assistant and visualization consultant at the Clark Library, a special library for maps and geospatial data at the University of Michigan. I graduated and moved to D.C. in 2016.

How would you describe your job to other people?

My current work at the Law Library’s Digital Resources Division involves capturing and reviewing metadata, or data about data, which renders a resource more searchable by supplying identification information about the resource. Metadata is also useful because you can aggregate it and get a high-level view of the content of a very large collection. This is especially helpful in the digital world, where we are dealing with larger and larger quantities of data. I help with ensuring that metadata is consistent and meets certain quality standards.

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

The Library of Congress is a place that stirs the imagination. It’s the largest library in the world, and you’re guaranteed to find something with regard to any topic you can imagine. It’s a privilege to help with the work of making the Library’s wealth of unique resources accessible to researchers and to the public.

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

One of the most interesting things I have learned is that the Law Library prepares in-house reports on foreign law. I am currently working on a discovery project focused on reports prepared for Congress by the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate, building an inventory and recording metadata about the material I find. I have gone through a few hundred reports so far, and the project has opened my eyes to the service and support that the Law Library’s foreign legal specialists have provided to Congress over the decades.

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

I love to sketch. I always pack a sketchbook and some pencils when traveling. Ornate architecture is a favorite subject, but I also enjoy sketching animals and portraits of people. There’s a line from a book on drawing horses by Sam Savitt that I completely took to heart as a little girl. I don’t have the exact quote on hand, but the essential idea is that if you can write your name, you can draw: the hardest part is learning to see what’s in front of you. It’s an activity that I’ve always found relaxing and rewarding.

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