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Exploring Collections Management and so Much More: a Summer Experience at the Library of Congress

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During the summer of 2022, the Collections Management Division hosted two student interns under the supervision of the Collections Officer to work on various aspects of collections management, preservation and access projects for the General Collections: Kendall Henry and Irene Lewis.

Kendall Henry was selected through the 2022 Junior Fellows Program of the Library of Congress for a virtual internship of ten weeks. Coordinated by the Department of Internships and Fellowships, this program enables undergraduate and graduate students to experience the integrated analog and digital collections and services of the Library of Congress every year. Kendall worked on updating the records of hundreds of books of the Carvalho Monteiro Collection in the LOC Bibliographic Database adding the provenance and therefore improving access to this collection. Carvalho Monteiro was a Brazilian-born Portuguese businessman, philanthropist and entomologist, whose collection was purchased by the Library between 1927 and 1929 without a list of titles and subsequently dispersed throughout the Library’s General Collections without provenance. Since 2012, a project coordinated by the Collections Officer has been trying to find the books and update their bibliographic information. To date, dozens of interns and volunteers have searched and located over 9,000 volumes from this collection. More about her project is available in this LINK.

Kendall Henry, 2022

Irene Lewis, a MLIS graduate student at the University of Maryland iSchool, was selected directly by the Collections Management Division for a three-month onsite volunteer internship. She was exposed to a variety of projects onsite, including, among others, evaluating the condition of fragile and damaged items and proposing preservation actions, making preservation enclosures to protect fragile books, assisting during Care and Handling sessions for CMD staff as well as updating metadata of books from the Carvalho Monteiro Collection.

Irene Lewis carrying out condition review of books from the General Collections. Photograph by Beatriz Haspo, 2022

Kendall and Irene shared details of their projects and the impact this experience will have in their career paths.

  1. Why did you decide to apply for an internship at the Library of Congress?

Kendall: I had worked before in archive and museum settings and I really wanted to see how collections worked in a library, specifically. Living in the DC area as a graduate student (who will likely stay in the area after graduation), I was constantly looking for places that could be future employers, and LOC was and still is toward the very top of that list. I was really interested in federal employment and working for a renowned and wonderful institution like the Library. 

Irene: I am a current MLIS graduate student and very interested in working in the archival field. When I learned about the internship, I eagerly applied as I thought it would be a great experience to see how the preservation standards and practices are implemented in an archive or library where there are multiple concerns and considerations that may affect how these practices are carried out. In addition, I thought this internship would provide me with some insight into what it is like to work at the Library of Congress and the different positions available as I am still pondering on what area in the Library and Information field I would like to focus my career.

  1. What were the highlights of your summer at LOC?

Kendall: My favorite parts of the summer were when I was really engaged with the collections. I worked with books that had been owned by Carvalho Monteiro, who had particular interest in entomology and botany. I adored looking through the scientific illustrations of life stages of various plants and insects and seeing how people in the 19th century approached and interpreted the natural world in a way that is both strikingly similar but distinctly different from how we see things now. I also really loved the puzzle or mystery component of my work. I spent a good chunk of time researching additional books that might be a part of Monteiro’s collection. In doing this, I got to look through the records of thousands of Library items and I loved seeing the scope of the Library’s collections. It is hard to understand the magnitude of the collections until you dive into the vastness of it all.

Irene: The main highlight for me was being able to work at the Library, seeing the numerous materials within it and learning about how they are managed, processed for patrons, and stored in the stacks. With my work on the Condition Review, I put into practice the preservation standards that I learned from the Library and Archives Course at the iSchool this past spring and saw how they applied in the daily activities at the Library.  I also learned about the workflow to fulfill requests for reading rooms, congressional staff, interlibrary loans, and offsite storage. I visited several of the reading rooms and research centers at the Library, which I had never seen before, including the Main Reading Room, the Asian Reading Room, the African & Middle Eastern Reading Room, Rare Books & Special Collections Reading Room, and the Moving Image Research Center. I had the opportunity to talk with several reference librarians about their experiences and any advice they might have for someone wanting to become a reference librarian.

  1. How will this experience impact your career?

Kendall: During my experience as a Junior Fellow, I have gained technical skills in collections management and library cataloging, as well as a deeper appreciation for the value of recording provenance in bibliographic records. This internship solidified my desire to work with historical collections in public history settings. I was fairly certain of this career path coming into the summer but was still wavering a little bit in terms of career goals. By the end of my internship, I felt certain and ready to begin my career in collections. Furthermore, after seeing the collegial, supportive, and collaborative workspace of LOC, I am certain that I want to apply for jobs here upon the completion of my graduate degree in the next year.

Irene: This experience of working at the Library of Congress and specifically in the Collections Management Division increased my understanding and perspective of working in a research library and the complexity of serving patrons and visitors of the Library as well as managing and storing an increasingly large collection. The internship gave me insight into the many responsibilities that exist at CMD  and LOC to ensure a smooth daily operation, in addition to promoting and bringing awareness to its numerous collections, to the proper care and handling of collections and also how to bringing awareness to the public. I know that the understanding I gained working during this summer will greatly influence my perspectives and activities in any future career. I greatly appreciate the kindness and patience everyone showed me and their willingness to provide their perspectives and advice on what is like to work at the Library of Congress and in the Library and Information Science field.

1895 French book on herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. The book is dedicated to Monteiro on the title page (his name underlined in red). The dedication translates as “To Antonio Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro as a sign of my deep esteem”. Photograph by Kendall Henry, 2022


Irene Lewis during Care and Handling session. Photograph by Beatriz Haspo, 2022

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  1. Such great experiences in CMD!

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