My Job at the Library: Connecting Teachers with Primary Sources

(The following is an article from the January/February 2017 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine, in which Danna Bell of the Library’s Educational Outreach Office discusses her job. The issue can be read in its entirety here.)


Danna Bell. Photo by Abby Brack Lewis.

Danna Bell. Photo by Abby Brack Lewis.

How would you describe your work at the Library?
I am production coordinator for the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. I write blog posts and contribute to our Twitter feed. The goal of the Educational Outreach Office is to make primary sources an integral part of classroom activities. Primary sources can engage students and encourage critical thinking, analysis and exploration. I assist in the creation of teacher resources, including Primary Source Sets and eBooks. My favorite task is serving as the team’s Ask a Librarian contact, answering questions from teachers throughout the world.

How did you prepare for your current position?
I have a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in college student personnel from Miami University. After serving as a dorm director and an academic counselor, I needed a change. When I considered other careers, I realized I enjoy providing information. That, along with a love of libraries bred by the Enoch Pratt library system in Baltimore, my hometown, led me to librarianship.

I started at the Library of Congress in 1998 as part of the National Digital Library, providing reference support for the Library’s American Memory project—a gateway to the Library’s rich primary-source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. I subsequently worked with the Digital Reference Section and later joined Educational Outreach.

I have held leadership positions in several professional associations. I served as president of the Society of American Archivists in 2013–14.

How has technology changed the way the Library shares its resources with students and educators?
Digitizing and providing online access to the resources of the Library of Congress in the early 1990s coincided with school districts asking teachers to use primary sources in the classroom. That was truly perfect timing!

The explosion of educational technology has spurred our work. We have converted several Primary Source Sets into eBooks. We reach teachers through webinars and our Teaching with Primary Sources partners. Teachers can also access content when it’s convenient for them on the Library of Congress YouTube page.

How can the Library help educators teach students about the electoral process?
As the home of the papers of 23 American presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge, the Library has much to offer teachers and students in the way of election history. A special online presentation documents the presidential inaugurations. The Library’s Chronicling America website allows users to see how historical newspapers (1789–1922) covered the presidents.

Educational Outreach staff recently updated our online “Elections” feature. The Law Library of Congress and the Library’s Prints and Photographs and Music Divisions also have special online presentations about elections and inaugurations.

In the case of 21st-century elections, the Library has been archiving websites pertaining to presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections since 2000.