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

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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?

Comments (18)

  1. Welcome! I look forward to hearing from you often. I certainly enjoy your frequent articles in Social Studies from NCSS.

  2. Wow! Congratulations to you. Lee Ann, and to the LOC for hiring you. This is what I call a true “win-win”. I have admired your work for many years at the Archives and I have loved the LOC and its amazing staff since I first worked with them as an American Memory Fellow back in the 1990’s. I would like you to know that many teachers still don’t know what the Library offers for their classrooms and students. Although a lot has been accomplished over the years, much remains to be done in the area of outreach. Will you be attending the National Council for History Education’s conference in Richmond March 21-23? If so, maybe we could talk.
    I am thrilled to know you are now with the LOC!

  3. Congrats! I felt the same way when I attended one of the Summer Teaching Institutes!

  4. Congratulations. I, likewise, have been impressed with your leadership at the National Archives as well as various workshops I have attended throughout the country that you conducted.

    I offer the suggestion that you take a look at the possibility of making it even easier for educators to locate and use the various online resources of the LOC. I know improvements have been make in making it easier for educators to utilize the resources, but still find many teachers who find it a challenge to naviagate the online system.

  5. Congratulations, Lee Ann. I used to think you had the best job in Washington–but you may have topped yourself! At NARA, you created a lasting legacy of outstanding pedagogical resources for our nation’s teachers, and I am confident you will do the same at LOC. And, like Laura, I am an “old” American Memory Fellow who has sung the praises of the LOC around the country. You’ve moved from “our nation’s attic” to our nation’s “candy store”–I can’t wait to hear what you discover!

  6. While in the classroom, I often used LOC materials to supplement curriculum. I also encouraged my university students (adjunct professor at Pepperdine University) who were preparing to be teachers of history/social science to avail themselves of the resources of LOC. I was never able to attend a summer institute, and that is regrettable to me. However, it occurred to me that you and your team might be able to develop something for professional development that could be accessed online. It sounds like you are inspired to make LOC and its resources even more available to teachers. That is a fantastic goal. Thank you.
    Dr. Candee Corliss
    Coordinator of Creativity, Mirman School

    • Dr. Corliss, thank you for your comment! Fortunately, the Library does offer teacher professional development online, in several different forms.

      Our self-directed Online Modules are one-hour interactive courses that teachers can take at their own pace.

      For more formal PD, facilitators can use our Professional Development Builder create their own customized version of the Library’s PD curriculum, complete with facilitator’s guide.

      All this is based on the Library’s primary-source-based, standards-aligned professional development curriculum, and it’s all available online for free.

  7. Congratulations!
    The LOC postings are always appreciated!

  8. Congratulations, Lee Ann.
    Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in the field.

  9. Hi Lee Ann!
    So happy for the LOC!!! You are such incredible asset. Wishing you the best and lots of happiness. My brief tenure with you at the Archives was so memorable and inspiring. I wrote the paper on First Responders after the World Trade Center Disaster and you helped me so much with information for the paper. You will always have my admiration and gratitude. Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to work with you. Keep in touch. Lets collaborate more!!

  10. Hi Lee Ann,
    Sounds like the perfect place for you to be!

    Please continue your editing with NCSS and also working with other educational organizations (e.g. Wineburg’s Beyond the Bubble and SHEG, and the site). With the Common Core emphasizing complex texts, primary sources, reasoning with evidence, etc. you are in the perfect place at the perfect time (and you’re the perfect person for the job)!

    Best always,

  11. Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing what you create.

    Best wishes,


  12. I am thrilled to know that you will be bringing all you learned and accomplished at the Archives to bear at the LC. Please help all of us at other historic sites around the country (and in DC locally!) to work with you and take advantage of the capacity for digital learning that exists in part at the LC and that you created at the Archives. We all want to work with you! (And, maybe I can take you out to lunch in DC some time and we can talk about it more.) A very exciting move for all of us!

  13. Congratulations! I am so thrilled you are now with this wonderful team

  14. We remember you as a kid and your enthusiasm for candy stores. All your life you have shown enthusiasm, passion and commitment in your professional and personal activities! Now the LOC is being exposed to your talents – WOW!

  15. Congratulations on your new role! I am part of the TPS Beta Network and have truly enjoyed considering how concepts of social networking can be applied to the use of primary sources as a regular facet of instruction.

    I’d love for you to consider two different audiences as you organize source sets for teachers. Secondary teachers typically specialize in content and are more flexible in their use of primary sources, so they are already generating ideas and connections between the sources upon seeing them. Elementary teachers are generalists and often struggle with deep instructional knowledge around the use of primary sources. I’m hoping that you might keep in mind the key ideas of writing (subject, purpose, audience) as you prepare resource sets with teachers as your primary audience. Also, there are typical eras and topics that are taught in the elementary schools, and it seems like history organizations could benefit from thinking about the content in elementary schools as a significant data point when asking, “What source collections best support elementary teachers?”

    Thanks for your openness to hear our thoughts and ideas, and best of luck as your bring your vision to the Library!

  16. Welcome and Congratulations,
    I am looking forward to further postings. As a TPS trainer for the past four years, I would like to see a central site for posting lesson plans produced in the state TPS workshops. Right now great lesson plans are published online on sites for each individual state grantee. I am in the Mid-west region and I have no idea what is being produced in other states or regions.

    The lesson plans on the LOC site are wonderful, but as a trainer, I have reviewed some terrific lesson plans on subjects not covered there. I think educators would appreciate knowing what else is out there. I also believe educators should not have to reinvent the wheel. If a lesson plan is needed on a particular topic, or to meet a specific standard, they should have the opportunity to view, modify and use materials created by other outstanding teachers rather than having to create a new one.

    I have had to do a lot of searching to locate products generated in workshops other than the ones I attended, and I have the advantage of having some knowledge of where and how to search. Others probably will not have the time or the persistance to search for lessons which would be used more frequently if they were easily available.

    I am aware this would be a great undertaking, but the rewards would provide so much for so many.

  17. Congratulations…. Really appriciate your thoughts…. looking forward to hear more from you…. 🙂

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