Like a Kid in a Candy Store: Lee Ann Potter, the New Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress

I’m delighted to introduce this guest post by Lee Ann Potter, who has joined the Library of Congress as its new Director of Educational Outreach.

Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress

The expression “like a kid in a candy store” has been on my mind quite a bit since I began directing educational outreach at the Library of Congress earlier this month! Not only have I been feeling this way, but it has been gratifying (but not surprising!) to find that my colleagues and the audiences we serve feel this way too—about both the Library’s collections and the Library’s programs.

I came to the Library of Congress after developing and directing education and volunteer programs at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC, for 16 years; and before that, a short stint at the Smithsonian; and before that, six years of classroom teaching in Clear Lake, TX.  At the National Archives, I worked with talented colleagues on many fulfilling projects—directing the Primarily Teaching summer institute for educators, managing the project; spearheading the effort to build the Boeing Learning Center in the National Archives Building, leading the effort to create, serving as the editor of the “Teaching with Documents” feature in the NCSS journal, Social Education, and more.

Whether “Teaching with Documents” or “Teaching with Primary Sources,” my heart is in getting great resources into the hands of classroom teachers and developing engaging methods that motivate young people to get excited about learning. And, wow!  Talk about great resources—I am astounded by the possibilities that the Library’s collections hold and eager to work with my new, talented team to further share them, making primary sources in a variety of media integral to every classroom.

Beyond the content of the collections, I am also excited by other activities underway at the Library and the possibilities they hold for educational initiatives.  Helping the next generation to understand their role as digital stewards; inspiring them to respect copyrighted materials and seek copyright for their own original ideas; and encouraging them to practice research strategies as thorough as those employed by the Congressional Research Service are just a few of the areas that I find energizing.  More and more, I am convinced that as our students have greater access to information at their fingertips, these are three of the most important skills we can teach them, and the role that the Library of Congress can and should play is tremendous!

Janes’ Candy Store, ca 1919

Yes, I am like a kid in a candy store—but even better—like a kid in a library!

(By the way—if you search on the Library’s Web site,,  for “candy store,” you get almost 200 hits!)

As I begin this job, what would you like for me to know about the Library and what it can do for teachers?

Teaching with the Library of Congress: Top Posts of 2012

“The Library of Congress means many different things to many people,” wrote Stephen Wesson at the start of the second year of the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. “But for teachers and students it represents a source of discovery and learning unlike any other.” He noted that the first year of the blog had looked at a variety of topics and provided teaching suggestions that help unlock the potential of our unique primary sources.

Taking a Closer Look at Presidential Inaugurations: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

A recent blog post on presidential inaugurations noted that while the Constitution requires only an oath of office, presidential inaugurations have evolved to include many more activities. Many of these elements, including inaugural addresses, are documented in primary sources from the Library of Congress.

Beyond the Oath: Presidential Inaugurations Past to Present in Library of Congress Primary Sources

Inaugurations have evolved from this simple oath to include a series of events that both commemorate a transition of power and engage the public. A presidential inauguration also provides teachers and students a powerful lens through which to examine the principles at the foundation of American government—the rule of law, checks and balances, republicanism.

Honoring Our History through Artwork: Martin Luther King, Jr. in Library of Congress Primary Sources

Are there statues in your community created to honor those who have made a difference? Have buildings in your town been named or renamed for important people in history? Martin Luther King, Jr. is one such person. Ask your students to analyze a mural documenting the life of Dr. King, as seen in a photograph from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress.