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Color portrait of Megan Metcalf, a young woman with long black haiar, standing on the balcony of the Library's Main Reading Room.
Megan Metcalf helps bring LGBTQ+ collections to light. Photo: Shawn Miller. Photo: Shawn Miller.

My Job: Megan Metcalf & LGBTQ+ at the Library

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Megan Metcalf is the collection specialist and recommending officer for LGBTQ+ studies and women’s and gender studies for the general and international collections. She’s also a reference librarian in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. This article also appears in the May-June issue of the LIbrary of Congress Magazine.

Describe your work at the Library.

A typical workday usually involves a combination of assisting researchers, working on collection development and planning or producing outreach. Librarians assist researchers in person at the Library and remotely via our Ask a Librarian service and online programming.

Outreach is a very big part of what I do. I produce events and experiences, including research talks and panels, online presentations, tours and research orientations, hands-on workshops and more. I enjoy any opportunity to share our wonderful collections, especially as part of an exhibit or pop-up display. I also regularly write for Library blogs and social media, which is a great way to raise awareness and increase engagement.

When I work on collection development, I seek out materials in a variety of formats and languages to add to the collections. In 2020, we published the first collections policy statements for LGBTQ+ studies and women’s and gender studies at the Library. This helps to further define the scope of collecting efforts in these subjects. I also create resources for researchers, which includes curating five web archive collections and several research guides.

How did you prepare for your position?

I started working in bookstores as a teenager and got my first library job as an undergrad. I earned bachelors and master’s degrees in women’s and gender studies and a master’s in library and information science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During my time at UWM, I worked and taught in the women’s and gender studies department as well as the university library. When I finished graduate school, I worked as the instructional design librarian and women’s, gender and LGBTQ+ studies subject specialist for the UWM libraries until I moved to Washington, D.C., in August 2015.

What are your favorite collection items?

The Library has an impressive selection of LGBTQ+ periodicals, from the mid-20th century to present day. This includes rare early titles like The Ladder, The Mattachine Review and One magazine. Periodicals and other self-published materials provide a record of LGBTQ+ voices that otherwise wouldn’t have been preserved. It’s incredibly moving to realize that when these early magazines were published, people could have been arrested just for carrying them or sending them through the mail. Nothing moves me more than self-published materials.

What have been your most memorable experiences at the Library?

Getting to show the “Queer Eye” cast around the Library and collections in 2019 was such a thrill! In general, I love the possibility for serendipity that seems to live around every corner. Recently, I was giving a tour for LGBTQ+ historian Eric Cervini, and we just happened to run into “Atonement” author Ian McEwan with the Library’s literary director, Clay Smith. Our tours joined together for a short while, and it was so delightful and unexpected. Almost as unexpected as the time I ran into a live penguin in the Main Reading Room on World Penguin Day.

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  1. I’m glad the library has someone with such enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge managing the LGBTQ+ and women’s and gender studies collections. Thank you, Meg, for all you do!

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