Top of page

Color photo of Jan Grinch, smiling, with short, spiky hair and glasses, wearing a blue button-up sweater over a collared shirt. A colorful poster is behind her.
Jan Grenci helps bring poster collections to light. Photo: Shawn Miller.

My Job: Jan Grenci

Share this post:

Describe your work at the Library.

As the reference specialist for posters in the Prints and Photographs Division, my workdays are full of varied tasks. I spend part of most days working on our reference desk, helping patrons with their research on a wide range of topics — every specialist also should be a generalist. We can and do answer questions about all parts of the visual material collections for any topic a researcher may be interested in.

I also am the go-to person for every reference question related to posters. In addition to in-person service, I answer hundreds of questions a year through our Ask a Librarian online reference service.

When not helping our nation’s readers, I get to spend time working on poster-related projects — for example, surveying the contents of our large collections of posters, preparing the circus poster collection for its recent digitization and working with a volunteer who is translating and cataloging 20th-century Japanese posters in our collection.

I also give tours to groups, especially those with interest in graphic design and posters, as well as preparing displays for visitors to the Library. When not doing all of the above, I also write for the Picture This blog and create thematic albums for the Library’s Flickr photostream.

How did you prepare for your position?

Though I didn’t know it at the time, my educational background prepared me well for my work here. I have an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s in art history. Posters reflect the times and art styles of when and where they were made.

When I started working in Prints and Photographs as a reference technician, I asked as many questions as I could and paid attention to my colleagues with years of experience. I was very fortunate to work closely with Elena Millie, then the curator of posters, who taught me all about the collection. Hands-on work with our one-of-a-kind poster collection has been the best preparation for my job.

A dark blue peacock, with green plume of tail spread out, dominates this poster.
“He Merely Struts!” a 1929 poster by Willard Frederic Elmes. Prints and Photographs Division.

What are your favorite collection items?

Picking a favorite collection item is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. I have many favorite posters. One is a 1929 work-incentive poster by Willard Elmes titled “He Merely Struts!” The poster features a beautifully rendered peacock, with a message that always has rung true to me: “Ability Needs No Fine Feathers.” To me, this means that doing your work well is more important than tooting your own horn.

What have been your most memorable experiences at the Library?

Discussing Josef Albers’ color theory with a group of weavers. Because of a very excited audience and an overly enthusiastic presenter, some say this was the loudest tour ever given in Prints and Photographs.

I often take on searches for patrons for pictures of their family members in our collections, most notably in the LOOK Magazine Photo Collection, the Farm Security Administration Collection and, recently, in the Milton Rogovin Collection. It’s extremely satisfying to connect people to a part of their past that they had only imagined, and those moments have been some of my most memorable.

Subscribe to the blog— it’s free!

Comments (5)

  1. I love the poster you shared and its message. It was just the encouragement I needed today after more than 20 years of doing a job as well as I can without stopping to strut too much.
    I also enjoyed hearing about your learning and mentoring relationship with Ms. Millie. I’m grateful to have worked alongside people who shared their expertise and experience with me and helped me grow into my job as a librarian.

  2. Thank you for the interesting interview. I am excited to learn about “He Merely Struts!” through Jan Grenci. Best wishes for the future!

  3. Thank You! for your work

  4. Thank you for all the work you do!

  5. Kudos on the continued good work! This note about your preparation caught my eye as a reminder that education need not focus on a particular job to prepare one for work: “Though I didn’t know it at the time, my educational background prepared me well for my work here. I have an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s in art history. Posters reflect the times and art styles of when and where they were made.”

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *