This is a guest post by Amanda Jenkins, Librarian-in-Residence, in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
Last November, I received an email about a new program being offered by the Library of Congress: the Librarians-in-Residence program. My library and information science program at the University of Iowa sent out emails like this frequently—of internship and employment opportunities—and at first I thought nothing more about this email than I did any of the others. “Oh, that would be cool.” But I followed the link in the email to read more about the program, and my thoughts quickly turned into, “That would be amazing.” I applied, not knowing what my chances were, never seriously believing I would get an interview, let alone be offered one of the positions.
Nine months later, I’m sitting at my desk in the Moving Image Research Center in the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress, composing a blog post about my first two and a half months on the job. The Moving Image Research Center and its counterpart, the Recorded Sound Research Center, form the reference arm of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, now also known by its newer name as the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. This Library of Congress division holds the largest collection of sound recordings and moving image materials in the nation.
In the viewing room nearby, researchers view decades-old film prints that the Library has collected and preserved throughout the years. Beyond that, film prints and publicity materials sit on the shelves waiting to be discovered and used in research. In the research center, my expert colleagues assist patrons in navigating our massive (and often hard-to-find) collections. Across the street, thousands of people tour the historic Thomas Jefferson Building in awe of both the architecture of the building and of the materials it holds. On the next block is the Adams building—the art deco gem of the trio of buildings—where researchers explore topics of science, business, and technology, and where millions of books and materials are stored. I’m at the Library of Congress.
A recent graduate of the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science, I come from an academic libraries reference background, working mainly with undergraduates as they conduct research and write papers towards their degrees. During my time at Iowa, I had the opportunity to staff a research help desk, teach library instruction classes, create online research guides, and work in several different areas of the university’s library system, including the cataloging office and one of the university’s smaller branch libraries, the Rita Benton Music Library. My love of librarianship lies in helping others—students and researchers and any interested parties—learn about navigating the library in order to find the information they need, and maybe even something unexpected or entertaining along the way.
Prior to arriving at the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, I had very little experience with audiovisual materials, or even with archives, and so I’ve learned a lot since June 11. Since then, I have had the opportunity to participate in the reference activities of the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers. This involves a near-constant exploration of the Library’s resources and the Division’s collections. This exploration has so far included my first-ever use of microfiche (I’m dating myself, here, I know), the following of breadcrumb trails in Library acquisition files and subject files, and a surprising amount of card catalog use. Yes, the Library of Congress still has card catalogs! I have researched recordings of Brazilian musicians, Senate committee hearings, concerts from US Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, and the Marlboro Music Festival; I have searched for Ed Sullivan Show episodes, early films of automobile races, and footage of the 1940 World’s Fair. The reference librarians in the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers are founts of knowledge, always ready with suggestions for answering Ask-a-Librarian questions or explanations for the wonderful workings of the Library of Congress.
My work so far has also included creating materials to aid in the discovery of our collections. I have been contributing steadily to a growing number of online research guides that the Library will launch this fall, as well as redesigning and updating physical handouts that we give to patrons in the Research Centers. I have also been contributing to an effort to get the Division more active on social media.
I have had the opportunity to attend workshops about digital scholarship and primary source instruction, as well as to learn about the other divisions and collections of the Library. I have also been able to take advantage of some of the many programs and events that the Library has to offer. And on September 1st, I volunteered at the Library’s annual National Book Festival.
As a Librarian-in-Residence, I am here to learn, to explore, to ask questions, and to gain experience. In the future, I will continue to develop research guides, continue to participate in the reference activities of the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers, and continue to contribute to the Division’s social media. And, of course, I will continue to seek out opportunities to learn more about the Division as well as the Library as a whole. I am thrilled and honored to begin my career as a Librarian-in-Residence at the Library of Congress, and I can’t wait to see where the next few months take me.