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An Interview with Kellee Bonnell, Legal Reference Librarian

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Kellee Bonnell standing in the great hall of the Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I’m from an island in Lake Erie called Kelley’s Island. My dad was park ranger for the State of Ohio and we spent our summers and the times when the lake wasn’t frozen over on the island. Later, we moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, where my brother and I grew up, and lived there until the summer before my freshman year of high school when we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in biology from Brevard College, a Juris Doctor degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Wayne State University. After law school, I spent a year working as a reporter for my local newspaper, The Record Herald, in Washington Court House, Ohio. I covered the government, courts, and local school districts, along with any number of other exciting things. My favorite part about working at the paper was definitely covering the county fair and getting to spend time out in the county talking to everyone. After that I worked as a county law librarian in Ashland, Ohio. I spent a year there and learned a lot more than I anticipated when I started. I finally got the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C. in July of 2017. I worked at two law firms as a Law Librarian and Marketing Specialist and a Research Analyst before being given the chance to work at the Library of Congress.

How would you describe your job (or research project) to other people?

I help people access the law. I help with research questions and I get to teach people the best way to find the answers. My favorite requests are the ones that start with, “I’ve looked everywhere and it feels like nobody can help me.”

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

I’ve always wanted to be at the Library of Congress. I love helping people and I love being in the center of all the action. My mom taught A.P. Government when I was in middle school, and every spring she used to bring her seniors to Washington through a program called Close-Up. My brother and I got to tag along a few times and so I’ve loved D.C. and the Library since I was in middle school. I just always knew this is where I wanted to be. What’s really great about the Library of Congress is that it comes with a sort of expectation—I hear a lot of people say “if nobody else will have it, the Library of Congress will!” I love being able to provide assistance to government officials, federal agencies, and members of the public all in one day.

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

I knew the Library was big and held a large collection, but I honestly had no idea just how large. The stacks downstairs are actual football-fields long. It’s just amazing the things the Library holds that I had never even considered before. Every time I learn something, and I definitely learn something new every single day, I’m stunned and awe-struck all over again.

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

When I was little, I actually wanted to be a meteorologist for the longest time!


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