I’m excited to share this interview with Carly Boerrigter, one of my colleagues in the Digital Services Directorate here at the Library of Congress. My hope with these interviews is to share out more about the background, experience, and interests of the people that support digital services of the Library of Congress. Along with that, I think it’s really valuable to hear from members of our teams about how their thoughts on the work have changed and developed over time.
Trevor: Hi Carly, could you tell us a bit about what you do in the Digital Services Directorate? How would you explain your job to someone outside the Library of Congress? What do you like most about your job?
Carly: As a Digital Collections Technician in the Digital Content Management Section, I assist with a variety of projects, but the unifying factor in all my work is that I help make Library collections on loc.gov and Stacks more openly available and accessible to the public. When working with the Directory of Open Access Books collection, I do the backend work of downloading various e-book file types and identifying cover images for their future display in loc.gov. A lot of manipulation goes on behind the scenes before these e-books can appear on loc.gov, but I help lay the groundwork for those processes. I am also working on a separate project with the Hispanic Reading Room to verify the Voyager, CTS, and loc.gov statuses of their external media, which mostly consists of CDs, DVDs, and floppy discs. Based on the status of each item, I prioritize content for preservation. I also take on other quality assurance tasks like completing capture assessments for the Web Archiving Team and verifying that Stacks newspaper content matches the user searchable interface.
My favorite part of the job is learning something new every day – which isn’t hard when you’re only about 6 months into your position! I’m sure my colleagues are so tired of hearing me say it, but I never thought I would be running scripts to automate tasks, but that is a huge part of my work with e-books. I love that I’ve been able to acquire a skillset and a way of thinking that I never thought I’d have.
Trevor: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and journey. In particular, what professional or educational experiences prepared you for your role?
Carly: I received my BA in History from Franklin Pierce University, which is a tiny college in the woods of New Hampshire. After taking about four years off, I went back to graduate school, and in 2019, I graduated from Colorado State University with an MA in History and a concentration in Public History. After graduating, I interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and later worked as a contractor there and at the National Museum of Natural History. Before coming to the Library, I exclusively worked with museum collections. At NMAAHC, I was a collections cataloger so I completed targeted research on the objects in the museum collections and input applicable metadata into their collection information system. I also compiled objects and wrote content for the Latinx Collections Portal, which officially launched to the public during my time there. It was very rewarding to see that come to life. However, my work with the collections at NMNH zoomed way out and I was analyzing collections metadata, identifying areas where the museum could improve their standards. Both types of experiences, working with collections closely on an individual basis and identifying larger data patterns for tens of thousands of objects completely prepared me for this role. It’s funny because up until this point, I thought my experience was very disjointed, but both types of interactions have been helpful for my current role.
Trevor: What part of your work do you find most meaningful or engaging?
Carly: The collaborative nature of our work has kept me incredibly engaged. DCM assists with managing digital content all over the Library and it’s always exciting to hear about who we are working with. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the Hispanic Reading Room and Preservation Services Division for the external media survey. When I’m rolling a cart full of content to be digitized by PSD, I feel like I’m doing “the work” and that feels valuable. Now and then, when I’m transferring external media from the Reading Room back to my desk, I’ll share the Jefferson Building elevators with Library of Congress visitors and they’ll often see my cart loaded with collection items and ask questions about what I’m doing. Once, a mother jokingly asked her teenage son if he even knew what a floppy disc was. Anyways, it’s fun to be able to discuss our projects with the public in these short elevator rides because it’s like they’re getting a behind-the-scenes tour! I enjoy that our collaborative nature takes me to new places in the Library and allows me to meet different people, both staff and our patrons. I’m eager to visit other divisions and Reading Rooms to get to know their staff more.
Trevor: What do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in working at the Library of Congress?
Carly: I’ve learned that the Library is a big, sprawling place and I still have a lot to learn! I try to attend as many educational programs as possible to buildup my foundational knowledge, but there is so much happening, I can’t attend them all. The number of projects and programs is astounding. Right now, I’m trying to get a lay of the land. Maybe I’ll have a better answer in a few years!
Trevor: Do you have any advice for people interested in getting into the kind of work you do? Are there any skills or competencies that you think are really important for folks that want to get into this field to develop?
Carly: Hands-on experience! Also, all hands-on experience is created equal. Working at a small community-based cultural institution can be just as valuable if not more so than a larger national entity. At the beginning of my career, I had internships at local museums and the ability to work one-on-one with archivists and collections managers to make archival arrangement, preservation, and inventory decisions grounded me in this work. It’s the hands-on work where I learned organization, description, research, and metadata standards, all of which are key components of my day-to-day work as a Digital Collections Technician.
Trevor: In 2019 the Digital Content Management Section worked up a set of nine values that guide our work on Digital Content Management. Do any of those values resonate with you? If so which ones and why?
Carly: Yes! So many of these values resonate with me, but I’ll touch on the few that stick out most. I’ve already mentioned how I value collaboration, but I think learning is also key. I try to stay curious in all aspects of my life and that tends to lead to a lot of learning. With such a collaborative team, I feel like I’m learning about new tools and skillsets constantly. Committing to lifelong learning also keeps you from getting too comfortable with your work. You’re always on your toes, ready to innovate. However, above all, trust resonates with me the most. I know that my work affects colleagues in my division and the Library of Congress at large. Trust keeps me accountable to everyone along the way. Also, as someone who is still very new to the position, I feel as though I’m still earning the trust of my colleagues, which makes each day a fun challenge, working to show up my best, most engaged self.
Trevor: Aside from work, what sorts of things are you passionate about? Do you have any hobbies or interests that you’re up for sharing out with folks?
Carly: I like to stay busy outside of work! I am advocate for fair pay and climate justice in the fashion industry. I help facilitate mending workshops, clothing swaps, and garment worker advocacy events in the larger DC community. I also work at an independent stationery store in Alexandria, Virginia. I love writing and receiving letters! Finally, I’d be remiss to mention my love of reality TV.