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Amanda Lehman, wearing headphones, looks sideways at an owl sculpture outside the Library's John Adams Building
Amanda Lehman outside the Library's John Adams Building

“Agile feels safe to me”: An Interview with Amanda Lehman

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I’m excited to share this interview with Amanda Lehman, a Digital Collections Specialist in the Web Archiving Section at the Library. This interview, and others like it on The Signal, are created to generate insight into the background, experience, and interests of the people that support the Library of Congress.

Tracee: Hi Amanda, could you tell us a bit about what you do in the Web Archiving (WA) Section? How would you explain your job to someone outside the Library of Congress? What do you like most about your job?  

Amanda: As a Digital Collection Specialist, I provide technical support for the capture, management, and processing of web archives. Our aim in the Library of Congress WA section is to preserve and share selected websites that are representative of a user’s experience of that part of the current internet. I do not choose what to archive, instead I work collaboratively to tend the data captured and delivered by vendor-supported web crawling software. We process and deliver web archive data for preservation. We work towards institutional goals by understanding and improving our highly complex web archives.  

After 3 years working at the Library, I have built on a passion for untangling digital knots and developed expertise in evaluating web content for archival purposes. In a team environment using Agile project management (see WAT Goes Agile), I can focus my attention on following and advancing shared workflows by choosing among “endless ways to manage ourselves and the data.” Also, we work with our data to measure progress and continually assess, improve, and automate our work.  

Tracee: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and journey. In particular, what professional or educational experiences prepared you for your role?  

Amanda I have journeyed from the Rocky Mountain West to the Creole South, and now to sub-tropical Mid-Atlantic where I’ve discovered life and love. Along the way, I was drawn to learning about human communication and social structures through literature and language, graduating with a BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming (UWyo). I stayed there for a few years working for family doing office and manual labor, in a call center, and as a legal assistant… and playing in the mountains.  

From 2011-2013, I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to gain my Masters of Library and Information Science from LSU’s School of Library and Information Science. Once I graduated and climbed back towards my beloved Colorado & Wyoming spaces, I returned to part-time work at the largest regional collection of plant specimens, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium. I soon began contract work with the UWyo Libraries Digital Collections, and eventually became a Digital Collections Specialist (note the single letter difference compared to my current title above, big change, small world).  

In 2019, it was my privilege to administer the first grant at our university for the official National Digital Newspaper Program for the State of Wyoming. Luckily, that grant work helped sustain us through the tumult of 2020, as we collaborated with amazing colleagues in our library and representatives from around the state. This and other experience working with smaller memory institutions in Wyoming brought perspective to my own career goals: information may be limitless but resources are not. Joining the Library of Congress struck me as an opportunity to make the most of 2021. 

Tracee: Could you tell us about any specific project or activity you have been able to work on that you are particularly proud of?  

Amanda: I am proud of a project which collected internal and external data about the largest seeds in web archives. After searching, redefining “large” in context, and a lot of learning, we asked colleagues in the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) how they define and work to preserve large, complex websites. In collaboration with the internal data source group our project elucidated a few of our unbounded issues such as the growth and proliferation of digital content that web preservation wants to capture. The largest seeds project laid the groundwork for future efforts focusing on outreach and enriching conversations about web archiving. 

Tracee: In 2019, our division 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? 

Amanda:  My key value is safety. Since youth, my love of learning has often depended on safety and trust. We establish safety in various ways – with consistent equity and inclusion, along with fearless communication. I have learned to ask, how can I (or we) sustain the work that is needed? To answer, I appreciate the structure that the other guiding values provide, especially collaboration and care. With different skills we navigate complex problems in stewarding and sharing data. In this environment I can make mistakes, take risks, share ideas and challenges, and then go learn more and try again anew. 

Tracee 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? What do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in working at the Library of Congress?  

Amanda Take your DEIA training seriously. Study accessibility and jump into (coding) projects if you enjoy them! Fundamental to accessibility concepts is an open mind about ableism. Without these competencies I would never have realized how much work goes into making safe spaces and making others, let alone myself, feel safe. I recently completed a DEIA training that encouraged bystanders to become allies only after some very important steps: most poignantly for me, introspection. If one plans to intervene in unsafe places, and if we intended to foster safety in more places, it only makes sense that we must work to know what safety means for ourselves.  

In the past year I realized a few of the obstacles to my understanding of safety, including undiagnosed autism . But that is a conversation for another forum. Anyway, if you can find the subject matter that helps you focus, widen your communication skills, and recognize bias – these are fundamentally important to collaborative work.  

Tracee: 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? 

Amanda I find joy in martial arts and naturalist pursuits (gardening, walking, observing wildlife). While my fitness has evolved with health changes in my 30s, I practiced Kung Fu as a teen, and now I am a blue belt in Taiji.  

Comments (2)

  1. Thank you for sharing your rich & lively experiences and sharing your focus on inclusivity, DEIA and introspection. Helpful & inspiring message.

  2. Amanda, I am in awe of your talent and passion. I especially appreciated your insight about understanding how to provide safe spaces and trust, and understanding and being committed to DEIA and how it applies to all we do.
    Thanks for telling us your story!

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