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Giving Back

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It’s an oft-cited fact that the Library of Congress takes into its collections a staggering 10,000 items every single day. So it’s nice to be able to talk, about what we try to give back, at least in the broadest sense of the term.

Today I received the following report from Library Services (the largest of the Library of Congress’s organizational units).” It was touching to read about my colleagues” involvement with two recent tragedies, so I wanted to pass along the information.

Virginia Tech

A week ago Eileen Hitchingham, director of the University Library at Virginia Tech, called Deanna Marcum (LOC’s Associate Librarian for Library Services) to ask if the Library of Congress could help her and her staff sort through the memorials to students who were killed, the voluminous correspondence that has come to the university from all over the world, and the reflections of surviving students.

Director Hitchingham acknowledged that her staff had little experience with event-based archives, and she had long admired the 9/11 archives the Library developed in 2001. She wants to serve the university by bringing the disparate units of the institution together to consider what kind of archives will be useful to future generations of students as they try to understand what happened that April morning in 2007.

Dr. Marcum quickly agreed to send a team to help. She convened the Library Services directors and asked them to recommend staff who have the expertise to do the job and who could travel to Blacksburg the following week.

There were many volunteers, but individuals’ availability had a large role in determining the team’s composition.

On Wedneday, after a quick meeting with Dr. Marcum to review expectations for the consultation, Cassy Ammen, Cheryl Adams, Michael Taft, and Alan Haley departed for Blacksburg. Late on Wednesday evening, Deanna received an e-mail message from Ms. Hitchingham filled with gratitude for the “wonderful team.” She wrote, “Simply sharing a meal and talking with the LC team was really therapeutic for all of us.”

DC Public Library

On Monday, April 30, the assistant to Ginnie Cooper, the executive director of the District of Columbia Public Library, called to say that the Georgetown branch was on fire. “Could LC help?” he asked.

The Preservation Directorate had an opportunity to test the new emergency response procedures.

Richard Levy, chair of the DCPL, telephoned Dr. Marcum early Tuesday morning to say that the Library of Congress is other libraries’ best friend. He told her when he arrived on the scene soon after the blaze was discovered that LC staff were already there, calmly going through the necessary steps of salvage.

There’s an old jibe that goes, “We’re here from the government; we’re here to help.” At the Library of Congress ” as is true across many other federal agencies ” it is a very real and very serious commitment.

Comments (2)

  1. cool

  2. I am just catching up with your blogging today. Thanks so much for telling us about this, Matt. The Library of Congress is a real role model for us all.


    Toronto, Canada

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