We regularly feature the interns whose hard work positively impacts the Library. Today’s interview is with a 2022 participant in the Archives, History and Heritage Advanced (AHHA) internship program, Amira Walker.
Describe your background
Hello, I’m Amira! I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and currently live in Irving, Texas. I will soon be moving myself and my family to Lexington, Virginia where I will serve as a research services resident librarian and assistant professor at Washington and Lee University.
What is your academic/professional history?
I’ve taken a bit of a long and winding road to becoming a librarian. I earned my bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas, my first master’s degree in teaching English as a second language from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and I am now a graduate student at the University of North Texas in the final year of the master’s in library science program. I will also graduate with a certificate in archival management. Along the way, I’ve been a high-school English teacher, a park ranger at Olympic National Park in Washington state, and a freelance writer. I’ve spent a summer baking pies and cinnamon rolls for farmers’ markets and a year working curbside at a grocery store during the pandemic. And, I’ve been an off-and-on stay at home mother to my three delightful daughters.
How would you describe your job to other people?
In an “official” setting, I would likely describe my job as helping K-12 educators create culturally relevant teaching materials using primary sources from the Library of Congress digital collections. But in reality, I had the immense joy of working with a small team from the Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives (PLOI) office at the Library. We were given the freedom to take the idea of making primary sources more relevant and accessible to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students, and run with that idea. I got to work with an incredible intern partner, and not only did we design a professional development training with our project supervisor, we also had the opportunity to partner with Jackson State University’s teacher training program to put this training into action. Our contact at Jackson State recruited public school teachers from the Jackson, Mississippi area to participate in our professional development training. It was a challenging, rewarding, and exceptionally unique experience to take this spark of an idea and, through intensive collaboration, make it a reality.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
When I began my graduate degree in library science, I did not yet have practical experience as a librarian, so an internship was a required piece of the program for me. When I saw the AHHA internship at the Library of Congress, I jumped at the opportunity because the culturally relevant pedagogy project was a unique overlap between my past experiences as a high-school educator and my future endeavors in library science. I also wanted to work at the Library of Congress as a personal challenge to myself. As a Black woman who was the first in my family to go to college, certain environments are still intimidating to me, and the Library of Congress was one of those. But, I am always looking for ways to push myself out of my comfort zone to build confidence. I often seek opportunities that will grow me professionally and personally, especially “scary” ones. I found that and so much more in this internship.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Library of Congress?
I’m sure everyone who was interning at the Library in the fall of 2022 remembers Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute. Until then, I had no idea that the world’s largest flute collection is housed at the Library of Congress, or just how many interesting and unexpected collections the Library has. I was also surprised to learn that the Library hosts some wonderful live concerts.
What is something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
My co-workers probably did not know that I used to run a home bakery and sell pies and cinnamon rolls at farmers’ markets. Had this internship been in-person and not remote, I would have baked for them!
Learn More from Amira
Watch Amira’s AH-HA Talk to hear how her project connects teachers to primary sources that help them support African American students in culturally relevant learning.
Read Amira’s African Americans and the Formation of National Parks: The Story of Charles Young blog post, which guides teachers towards broadening students’ understanding of history by introducing them to stories of people who broke through barriers and experienced high levels of success through their own volition.