Five Questions with Carlyn Osborn of the Digital Content Management Section

This post is written by Carlyn Osborn of the Library of Congress.

Carlyn Osborn. Image by Scissor and Comb

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with as part of your day to day activities. 

I’ve been at the Library since January 2015 – time really flies! My first three years were spent in the Geography & Map Division while I was in grad school and when I graduated with my MLIS I came to my current position in the Digital Content Management (DCM) Section in Digital Services. I used to spend my days among millions and millions of maps, but now I work exclusively with digital objects. I really love that both physical and digital materials have equally shaped my time at the Library – I think it provides me with a unique perspective.

In my current role in DCM, I am one of the Community Managers for By the People. By the People is a volunteer engagement program, where we invite members of the public to transcribe collections material to make them more discoverable and accessible. Part of my day-to-day includes communicating with the public via our social media channels, gathering important metrics to share with our stakeholders, putting together new materials for the website, and collaborating with curators at the Library to ensure that we have new collections coming our way. Every day is a little different from the day before!

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

Gailbraith’s Railway Map for Michigran. Frank Galbraith, 1897

This is always such a tough question! Some of my favorite items come from the collection of Galbraith’s Railway Mail Service Maps held in the Geography & Map Division. Frank Galbraith was a mail clerk with the Railway Mail Service at the end of the 19th century. He created this set of maps to help new trainee clerks learn the railway mail system in large states in the Midwest. You could spend hours poring over these, mostly because he drew small pictures next to place names to act as mnemonic devices. They’re absolutely fascinating!

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

Now that I am on the By the People team, this happens nearly every day. When we were preparing to launch the Blackwell Family Papers, I conducted some background research to prepare one our newsletters and additional outreach materials as a part of our communications plan. By the end of it, I had purchased a whole book about Lucy Stone and had drawn up a rough family tree for the other family members in our release. Transcribing our materials just scratches the surface with what you can do with, and learn from, our materials. For instance, did you know that Lucy Stone paid only 25 cents a month in rent in 1848? I need to talk to my landlord!

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

I’ve always said that teachers make the best library patrons and it’s been thrilling to see their interest in the By the People project. Since I’ve started running the @Crowd_LOC twitter account with my fellow community manager, it’s been a pleasure to see how teachers have been using By the People in their classrooms and tying in the subject matter to their curriculum. We love hearing these stories and I hope educators continue to reach out to us with how they use By the People.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell Library users about the materials that you work with, the Library’s collections, or about the Library?

I’d like to remind all of our patrons and users and visitors to loc.gov and crowd.loc.gov that this is YOUR Library – we’re just here to help you get at the material, and maybe get at it in a new way. I hope By the People helps you make new connections to the Library and engage with these documents. We’re here to throw open the treasure chest for YOU!

2 Comments

  1. JJ Harbster
    July 10, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for turning me onto the Galbraith’s Railway Mail Service Maps- I was not familiar with them until I read this post! Thank you for all the hard work you do with DCM to inspire us all to learn more and engage with the collections! Bravo!

  2. Anya Precious
    July 17, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Wow this is so inspiring and very relatable. I just graduated from my Masters in Digital Libray Management here in the United Kingdom, and having read about ypur work at the LOC i feel very motivated,I wish i can get a good opportunity to explore new frontiers in this field of Digital Libray content management. The LOC is role model for so many of us librarians, thank you for this piece!

    I’m a Digital Librarian and I wish to make a mark, an impact in my own way and in a place where my contributions can be appreciated.

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