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An Interview with Alexander Salopek, Collection Development Librarian

Describe your background.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio with four younger brothers. Most of my family are active in the Croatian folk music scene, which I participated in as part of the Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans. I was also a Boy Scout and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

                                        Alexander Salopek [photo by Geraldine Dávila González]

What is your academic/professional history?

I went to the University of Chicago to study philosophy. While there I worked as a student assistant in both the library acquisitions department and the map library. One summer I interned at the Law Office of Susan Gray doing legal research. After college, I worked at the Center for Research Libraries before moving to D.C. to become a library contractor. I was placed as a loose-leaf filer at a law firm and a cataloging technician on the historic shelf-list project at GPO. I joined the federal government as an acquisitions/government documents technician at the Supreme Court of the United States. It was while working there that I came to realize I wanted to be a librarian. With strong encouragement from the librarians there, I completed an online Master of Science in Library and Information Science program at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, where I specialized in digital curation. I also interned at the Trinity Washington University library to get experience in reference and public services.

Not long after finishing my library degree, I was promoted to the position of acquisitions/government librarian at the Supreme Court. I also continued my work at Trinity Washington first as a part-time librarian then as the access services librarian and finally as the collection development librarian. I also had stints as the acting head of circulation and the acting co-director.

How would you describe your job to other people?

For other librarians, I tell them I do collections work for the Law Library of Congress and curate a ready reference collection for the foreign law specialists.

For non-librarians, I tell them I help choose books for a large law library with many international holdings.

For children, I tell them I am a librarian, which generally satisfies their curiosity.

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

I believe the Law Library of Congress has one of best teams in the world and I wanted to learn and grow with them. Also I believe it has the most amazing collection of legal materials and a deeply important mission.

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

I am amazed at the level of service and expertise that the foreign law specialists and the librarians provide.

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

I love science fiction, opera, and tiki bars. However, my favorite way to relax is cooking elaborate meals for my friends, often using Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes.

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