Library’s Junior Fellows: Online Interns Get the Job Done

Tania María Ríos Marrero, smiling, holds a laptop that shows her research project on screen.

Tania María Ríos Marrero, one of the 2021 Library Junior Fellows, with her digital research project.

This is a guest post by Leah Knobel, a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications.

For 30 years now, the Library’s Junior Fellows program has provided undergraduate and graduate students with experiences in everything the world’s largest library has to offer. This year’s 10-week program was held virtually for the second year in a row, due to COVID-19 precautions. The junior fellows logged on daily, launched their individual research projects, participated in weekly professional development sessions and worked with Library staff.

In an online presentation, this year’s class of 42 fellows shares glimpses of their work. Their projects include a data-driven approach to communication and outreach for the Copyright Office; a digitization effort to improve access to a collection of posters amassed from across sub-Saharan Africa; an exploration into the history of arithmetic; a digital Story Map of Caribbean women poets from the PALABRA archive; and contributions to the Congressional Research Service’s ongoing Supreme Court Justice Project.

“The Junior Fellows program, like most everything in our world, faced unprecedented challenges with the onset of the pandemic,” said Kimberly Powell, chief of talent recruitment and outreach in the Library’s Human Capital Directorate. “During this second virtual year, we expanded on lessons learned and stakeholder feedback to prioritize changes and processes to prepare for and expand display day.”

Interns were equipped with a virtual Library workstation, with access to Skype for Business and Zoom accounts when they started in May. Then they set to work.

Shlomit Menashe, a rising senior studying information science at the University of Maryland, College Park, spent her summer working to increase the discoverability of 1,200 uncatalogued Hebrew prayer books. During her work, she came across a Hebrew prayer book printed in Constantinople, or present-day Istanbul, in 1823. As Menashe’s own family emigrated from Turkey, her interest was piqued.

For her project, she decided to learn more about events at the end of the 15th century that brought Jews to the Ottoman Empire, which in turn became a center of Hebrew printing.

“Working on my project for display day was especially meaningful in that it provided me an opportunity to connect with and learn more about my family’s Sephardic heritage,” Menashe said. “My grandfather even has a haggadah, a prayer book traditionally read on the first two nights of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which was passed down from his grandfather who used it while living in Izmir, Turkey.”

Joe Kolodrubetz will begin the final year of his J.D. at the George Washington Law School this fall. During his summer fellowship in the Law Library, Kolodrubetz created metadata for the library’s foreign legal gazettes collections. A legal gazette is an official source of law published by a foreign government to announce the decisions of courts, legislatures and executives in that country.

Kolodrubetz cites the few days he spent working with Cypriot gazettes as the highlight of his summer. His knowledge of ancient Greek was directly transferable to the Greek of the Mediterranean island.

“It was still a bureaucratic text,” Kolodrubetz joked, “but I enjoyed utilizing my Hellenic knowledge!”

Tania María Ríos Marrero is set to complete a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Washington’s iSchool in spring 2022. While interning in the Science, Technology and Business Division, Ríos Marrero built a Story Map contextualizing a selection of Farm Security Administration photographs taken in Puerto Rico in the mid-20th century. The project draws connections between aspects of land use, food production and social movement in Puerto Rico at the edges of the industrial and modern era.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with the photographs in a … tangible way,” said Ríos Marrero. “I hope that this Story Map is just the beginning of my personal research and engagement with this collection.”

The Junior Fellows program is made possible by a gift from Nancy Glanville Jewell, the late James Madison Council member, through the Glanville Family Foundation; the Knowledge Navigators Trust Fund; and by an investment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It’s Magic! Ye Olde Hocus Pocus

The earliest known English-language work on magic was published in England in 1635, containing how-tos for many tricks, including an on-stage decapitation. It’s the forerunner of the “saw the assistant in half” trick, performed for ages. The Library’s copy of this influential book comes from the library of Harry Houdini, the master magician and escape artist of the early 20th century, who donated his collection to the Library.

Japan in U.S. Children’s Books: “A New World”

Sybille Jagusch, chief of the Library’s Literature Center, has just published “Japan and American Children’s Books,” a gorgeously illustrated volume that details how Japan and Japanese culture has been portrayed in American children’s books over the past two centuries.