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An Interview with Chris Ehrman, Digital Project Coordinator at the Law Library of Congress

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Chris Ehrman standing with a bookshelf in the background.
Chris Ehrman is a Digital Project Coordinator at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I enjoyed taking advantage of hiking, biking, and national parks. Since finishing college, I have lived in Iowa; Montana; Brussels, Belgium; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia.

 What is your academic/professional history?

I attended the University of Utah and tried many majors before graduating with a B.A. in History. While going to school, I worked at the Salt Lake Public Library in multiple roles. I also worked at the University of Utah Multimedia Archives on digitization projects. I attended library school at the University of Iowa as an IMLS Digital Librarianship Fellow, working on different digitization projects each semester for the Iowa Digital Library. After graduate school, I worked as Project Coordinator for the Montana Historical Society’s National Digital New Program (NDNP) grant. In 2011, I became a Digital Conversion Specialist in the Library of Congress’s Serial and Government Publications Division working on the National Digital Newspaper Program. In this position, I ingested content into Chronicling America, assisted state partner institutions with their awards, and worked on digitization projects of other divisions . In April of this year, I was hired as a Digital Project Coordinator in the Law Library to manage the digitization of the United States Congressional Serial Set.

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

I am the project coordinator for digitizing the United States Congressional Serial Set. The Serial Set is a collection of over 14,000 volumes of the reports and documents of the United States Congress. The scope of this project is to digitize the Serial Set volumes published from the 15th through the 103rd Congress, spanning the years 1817-1995. Serial Set volumes contain congressional documents, reports, and also executive branch material. These include reports on the Perry Expedition to Japan, reports on meteorological observations, and the registration of patents. The collection will be made available to the public through the Library of Congress website. Currently, I work with colleagues at the Law Library and Government Publishing Office to develop digitization specifications, workflows, and ensure that the volumes selected for digitization are complete.

 Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

I was excited to work at the Law Library because my interest in historical newspapers aligns closely with the Serial Set digitization project.  Just as newspapers are important primary source records that reflect American life, the Serial Set consists of primary source documents containing the legislative history of our nation.  Digitizing the legislative record unlocks opportunities for the public to access primary resources used by historical Congresses and researchers to analyze this corpus, including through computational methods.

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

I continue to be surprised by the breadth of the collections within the Law Library of Congress. There is always something new to discover, such as the Spanish Legal Documents collection containing documents back to the 15th century about legal issues ranging from disputes to papal bulls.

 What’s something most of your colleagues do not know about you?

I take any opportunity I can to travel.  When I worked at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Library in Brussels, Belgium, I was able to visit six countries in Europe.  In the United States, I have traveled to 34 states and my goal is to visit all 50.  When I’m not on a plane, train, or in a car, I’m usually enjoying my vinyl collection and visiting local museums—the National Air and Space Museum is my favorite.

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