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An Interview with Jonathan Donovan, Library Technician

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Today’s interview is with Jonathan Donovan, a library technician in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Jonathan Donovan in the great hall of the Library of Congress.
Jonathan Donovan is a library technician at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina for college. Since then, I’ve lived and worked in Delaware, Maryland, and the Philadelphia area. Growing up, my parents often took me to museums and libraries, so it makes sense that those places have become such a big part of my life. Recently, my mom found a shirt my parents got for me at the National Museum of Natural History back in 1987. It felt like perfect timing that I moved to the D.C. area shortly before the opening of their new Deep Time exhibition.

What is your academic/professional history?

As an undergraduate, I studied history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; my wife and I met in a museum studies class there! I did my graduate work at the University of Delaware, where I majored in history with a museum studies certificate. Since 2010, I’ve worked on collections-related projects at Winterthur Museum & Library, the Philadelphia U.S. Mint, La Salle University Art Museum, and the National Air and Space Museum. Much of my work has involved collections inventory, art handling, object photography, and image editing.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am inventorying and formatting reports produced by the Global Legal Research Directorate going back to 1989 as part of the Law Library’s archiving project. I’m working with the born-digital files so they can all be permanently archived and some of them can be shared with users of the Law Library’s website.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

The Library of Congress has always been an “I’d love to work there someday” place for me.  On top of that, digital collections are a special interest of mine: my favorite kind of work involves managing data and working with digital files. When I learned about this project it sounded like a great introduction to the Law Library that would fit my skill set really well.

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

The Law Library’s reports are an amazing resource for anyone studying the recent history of science and technology. I just reviewed a 1996 report about global computer security. It’s a great snapshot of what lawmakers were concerned with at a time when the internet was starting to change everything. It’s been fascinating to see how events that happened in my lifetime, like the cloning debate and the Y2K panic, are documented in this collection.

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

I love old movies and genre fiction, especially horror and crime stories. I once got the chance to photograph a first edition of Dracula, along with Bram Stoker’s handwritten story notes, at the Rosenbach in Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite books, so seeing these objects in person was a rewarding experience. It’s a thing I love about libraries and museums: you can interact with history firsthand in a very immediate, personal way.

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