Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for the Library of Congress? Each year the Library selects a group of promising early-career library professionals to gain meaningful experience in diverse library service areas such as Archives and Special Collections, Collection Preservation, and Reference and Instruction to name a few!
Last year we had the immense pleasure of welcoming Sarah Hesler as Librarian-in-Residence for the Preservation Directorate. Sarah tackles various projects in three of the Preservation Directorate divisions (Conservation, Collections Management, and Preservation Services), learning as a much as she can during her time with us. The following is a brief interview with Sarah, where she expands upon her role with the Library and what lead her to pursue a career in library service.
- Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am the Librarian-in-Residence in the Preservation Directorate! I absolutely love working at the Library. I have a bit of a strange academic background – I have a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy from the University of Virginia, where I also completed a pre-medical track. I worked in the Preservation Department at UVA, which led to me ultimately deciding to switch career paths and attend the University of Maryland for my MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science). While at UMD, I was the Graduate Assistant in the Preservation Department, and I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the graduate course “Library and Archives Preservation.” I’ve enjoyed working in preservation throughout my career so far and it has also been wonderful to expand my skills in other disciplines while here at LOC.
- How were you first introduced to libraries, and why did you decide to pursue preservation work?
I’ve loved libraries since I was old enough to read, but I didn’t start working in them until I was an undergrad. My first library job was as a Preservation Student Assistant in the Preservation Department at the University of Virginia Libraries. Most of my responsibilities were minor treatments for general collections items, such as creating custom protective enclosures; mending page tears; rehousing books, pamphlets, etc.; and other various tasks. I loved doing the work and I had a natural hand at the precise measuring and hand skills required for the treatment work. After working there for 40 hours per week over the summer, I decided to stay during the school year and was promoted to the Senior Preservation Student Assistant for my final year at UVA. I also worked as a Presswork Fellow for Rare Book School (RBS) during that year. My experiences in the UVA Libraries and with RBS made me realize how much I love working in libraries. Applying to grad school to pursue my MLIS was the best choice I could have made in that final year, and I’m so grateful to the UVA Preservation Department for such a warm introduction into the field.
- Can you briefly explain what an Librarian-in-Residence (LIR) is? What was the application process like, what attracted you to this opportunity?
The Librarians-in-Residence program is a short-term, fellowship-like program for early-career librarians. The goal is to give recent MLIS graduates experience and hands-on training in the field of librarianship. From the LIR job posting: “Residents receive extremely valuable mentorship from Library staff. The application process is very similar to that of any permanent position at the Library. Applicants answer questions about their knowledge, skills, and abilities as it relates to the position through USAJobs.gov and must interview for the position. Multiple LIRs are hired for each cohort. This year, there are 6 Librarians-in-Residence, each in a different division of the Library.
- What is your role within each section of Preservation?
I work in each division of the Preservation Directorate, with the exception of the Preservation Research and Testing Division. I work on projects in the Preservation Services Division, Conservation Division, Collection Management Division, and with the Preservation Directorate Administrative Office. Within each division, there are certain projects and/or workflows that I work on. Some projects, such as the Stacks Survey project within the Collection Management Division, are ongoing projects that previous LIRs have also worked on. Other projects are daily tasks and workflows that permanent employees within the division also work on, such as processes within the Processing and Preparation Section of the Preservation Services Division. Other projects that I work on are those that I’ve started during my term as LIR, such as my work with the Preservation Directorate administrative office. To describe each project that I participate in would take a lot of writing! If anyone is interested in hearing more, I’m always happy to chat. One of my favorite aspects of my experience as LIR is working on a variety of projects – I’ve learned so much in my time here so far, and I learn more every day.
- What are some of your current projects, research, or interest?
Alongside my preservation work here at the library, I’ve also been developing my skills in cataloging. My mentor is Vera Clyburn, who is the Chief of U.S. Arts, Sciences, And Humanities Division of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access (ABA). When I met with her at the beginning of my term as LIR, I asked her if she could help me learn a bit about cataloging. She said of course! So, I’ve been spending a little bit of time most weeks training with Jenna Moon, a cataloger in the Science, Medicine, and Agriculture section of USASH. I love learning and practicing my cataloging skills, and I especially enjoy working on juvenile literature and astronomy books.
I also love exploring the collections in the Prints and Photographs Division. I’ve spent some time browsing and researching the collections that are available on the Library’s online catalog. I’ve also been exploring websites online to find collections of images documenting the COVID-19 pandemic. This worldwide collective experience is a tremendously important time in history, and a picture really is worth a thousand words for the future generations who will live in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your time outside the Library?
In “normal times,” I love to go to concerts and museums in my free time. I also love browsing at thrift stores and vintage stores. That’s part of the reason I love living near D.C. – there are always things to do! When I’m having a quiet day in, I love to watch movies, play video games with friends, and hang out with my cat, Porkchop. I love trying new crafts and learning new skills – I’ve learned how to crochet and how to embroider, though I’m definitely not an expert in either! I love to collect Sanrio memorabilia, and I have quite a large collection of Dr. Martens shoes that I started when I was in high school.
Leave Sarah a comment on the page below if you have any questions about her experience at the Library. Want to learn more about the Librarian-in-Residence Program? Click here! -> https://www.loc.gov/item/internships/librarian-in-residence/?loclr=blogpres
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