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Five Questions with Kaleena Black, Educational Resource Specialist, Library of Congress Educational Outreach Team

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Kaleena Black. Photograph by Shawn Miller, 2016

This post was written by Kaleena Black of the Library of Congress

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.

I work in the Educational Outreach office, where I am generally focused on connecting the public (including teachers, students, researchers, and other lifelong learners) to the Library and its collections and resources! My work ranges from highlighting and sharing interesting primary sources from the Library’s digital collections, to giving presentations to educators who want to learn more about the Library’s education initiatives and activities, to providing information about the Library via scholarly journals or online publications.

In addition, I manage the Library’s Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program, which brings undergraduate and graduate students to work on an array of projects across the Library for 10 weeks. I am also involved in the Library’s social media initiative as the manager of the Twitter page for the World Digital Library. WDL is an international initiative that partners with institutions worldwide to provide free access to digitized historical and cultural treasures from around the world. (We also tweet in seven languages!)

Previously, I worked as a description writer and the Description Coordinator for the World Digital Library, and got to work closely with other subject specialists and editors to produce summaries for the digitized primary sources in the WDL’s collection.

Blue Grotto, Capri Island, Italy

Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?

Fountain Hughes, circa 1952. Photograph courtesy of The Jeffersonian newspaper, Towson, Maryland

It’s so hard to pick just one item! I really enjoy the Photochrom Prints collection from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. There are rich, colorful depictions of places around the world, from around the start of the 20th century. A couple of my favorite images are “Blue Grotto, Capri Island, Italy” and “Mulberry Street, New York City.”

I also really value the “Interview with Fountain Hughes, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 1949,” from a collection of interviews of former slaves. Just to be able to access history through this personal narrative in audio form is quite special.

Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.

Recently, I wrote an article for the National Association for Music Education journal, based on a photograph I found while exploring the Dayton C. Miller Collection. The photograph  was of Cora Cardigan, a flute-player of the 19th century, whom I had never heard of before, but I was so intrigued by the image. In the article, I discussed how my curiosity fueled my research, and ultimately, tried to encourage readers (i.e., music educators) to explore this LC collection as a way to spark curiosity in their classrooms.

Tell us about a memorable interaction with a K-12 teacher or student.

In June 2017, I was happy to serve as a judge for National History Day – the theme this year was “Taking a Stand.” It was great to see so many young people engaged and curious about the research they were doing, and motivated by the personal connections many of them had to their research topics. I was also interested to hear about their experiences throughout the research and creation processes, and about what they were eager to explore more and learn more about.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers about the materials that you work with or the collections in general?

Although the breadth and depth of the Library’s collections may seem overwhelming, the richness presents unique and exciting opportunities. If you need help navigating or finding information, there are so many enthusiastic specialists here who can assist. Reach out to us and let us know how we can help you!


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