Today’s interview is with Kit Arrington, Supervisory Program Specialist (on detail) in the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I embrace Washington, DC as home having made my life here for almost 30 years, including raising two daughters who are both home now finishing their spring college semesters online. Growing up in Oklahoma and Chicago, my immediate family included lawyers, teachers, a scientist, and an anthropologist – my mother ended her working life by opening a used book store, so I grew up in an environment that promoted knowledge and curiosity and encouraged me to explore my own questions and interests.
What is your academic/professional history?
I have a humanities field major B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and worked as a paralegal, an office manager, and I spent five months backpacking around the world before eventually joining the Library of Congress in 1995 as a digital technician in the Prints & Photographs Division (P&P) as part of the National Digital Library Pilot Project. I have participated in expansion of collections-scanning work within P&P as a digital project manager, as well as being able to contribute to broader external initiatives including the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) still image guidelines, ongoing participation as a reviewer for the Imaging Science and Technology Archiving Conference, and contributing the chapter “Digitizing Photographs” to the Society of American Archivists 2006 publication, Photographs: Archival Care and Management. Recently, I’ve been interested in issues of preserving born-digital design files, co-chairing a 2017 symposium on the topic at the Library: Designing the Future Landscape: Digital Architecture, Design and Engineering Assets.
How would you describe your job to other people?
As a member of the Library of Congress Leadership Development Program’s tenth cohort, I’m on a March-June detail to the Law Library to supervise a great team of three and manage the Global Legal Research Directorate (GLRD) Report Archive Project. The reports are an incredibly rich resource created by the Law Library from the 1940’s to the present. The project consists of both preserving reformatted and born-digital PDF files using the Library’s Content Transfer System, and it is making the public reports available online in the collection “Publications of the Law Library of Congress.” At the end of my first week we learned in a telework introduction that in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, telework was anticipated to begin. At the end of my second week we were told that it was to begin the following Monday, March 16. So an unexpected part of the job was strategizing how best to keep us well-connected and communicating when we no longer share an office space. E-mail and telephone are helpful, though video meetings are our linchpin. Fortunately, the project is very telework-friendly. Work was temporarily suspended on digitizing paper reports and is now focused on the born-digital reports which are all network accessible. The project, after a couple of years of preparation, is currently moving forward in digital preservation and access production mode with many moving parts within the Law Library, with support from other areas of the Library, and a cataloging collaboration with the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), all working to reach established goals for archived and online legal reports.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
I’ve always enjoyed the law, both from family practitioners as well as watching the process of legislation. Possibly my favorite holding of the Library of Congress is the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. It’s amazing to see the process of negotiation and change through that mark-up. Being part of a project that is sharing historical knowledge of laws through time on a world-wide scale is very exciting. I was also inspired by the opportunity to work alongside so many knowledgeable and engaged colleagues. It’s been very rewarding.
What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?
There are so many that it’s hard to choose. I’ve been overusing the word “fascinating” these last few weeks. It’s interesting that the Law Library has its own rare book collection and curator, and that it is required to have a reference staff member on hand when Congress is in session – no matter the day or hour of the day. Though I think it is the fact that the Law Library has most of its collections onsite, housed in the sub-basement stacks, that I found most interesting. Based on the previous fact the need is obvious, though I found it fascinating!
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I was one of two representatives from the Capitol Hill neighborhood organization, the Eastern Market Preservation and Development Corporation, participating in a convened consortium of folk who drafted the 1999 legislation to preserve the unique small business grocery, farmers, arts and crafts, and flea market structure that defines Eastern Market. I’m also a guerilla gardener for weeds. I’ll pull up weeds as I’m out walking about the neighborhood, particularly for rental properties that don’t have a gardening tenant. After a couple of years of work, I’m winning a battle against an invasive vine that had begun to envelope the bushes of Folger Park.