National Library Week Throwback Interview: The Library of Congress’s Jennifer Gavin

National Library Week has come to an end and I want to end this weekly celebration with a bang. Last year for Uncanny Pop, I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Gavin a Senior Specialist of Public Affairs at the Library of Congress. All photos courtesy of the Library of Congress. Read it below:

The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

TA: Can you tell us what your job is at the Library of Congress?

JG: My title is Senior Specialist, Public Affairs.  I am the No. 2 person in the Office of Communications, behind the Director, and I act as office manager, do some blogging, edit all copy that passes through here (250+ news releases a year, a weekly newsletter, calendars, a bimonthly magazine and the annual report) and stand in for the director in her absence.  The director is the spokesperson for the Library.

TA: What inspired you to work be a librarian/library staff member?

JG: This is an amazing and world-renowned institution. It’s a privilege to work here.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; photo by Michael Dersin

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; photo by Michael Dersin

TA: What is one thing about working at the library that you love?

JG: Getting to see in person, as part of my job, major treasures that occasionally are brought out and shown as part of a display for dignitaries, in preparation for public exhibitions, or for the media.

TA: What’s something you learned early on in your career that made you a better librarian/library staff member?

JG: How to write and edit well.  And to do that, you have to read a lot.

TA: Why is it important to promote literacy?

JG: Reading at least reasonably well is the foundation of any working life. If you want to have a job that doesn’t pay badly, you MUST be able to read.

TA: How can libraries continue to promote library use?

JG: By being useful in their communities, by being proactive in promoting how useful they are in their communities, and by keeping up with the times (which may mean adopting digital approaches or reaching out to changing demographic groups – it means different things in different places).

Thomas Jefferson's Library Exhibition

Thomas Jefferson’s Library Exhibition

TA: What advice can you give someone who is interested in becoming a librarian/working in the library?

JG: In high school and college, get a good, broad undergraduate education, but try to get internships and off-hours work in Library settings.  If the work still fascinates you, figure out which aspect of it you like best and go get a graduate degree in that area (for example, archiving, or preservation, digital specialties, library management – there are many choices). To have a full career in this field, it is probable one will need a master’s degree.

TA: What impact has social media had on libraries?

JG: It has given them new avenues to reach out to the public.

Photo by Rob Sokol

Photo by Rob Sokol

TA: How can libraries use technology more efficiently?

JG: That’s a broad question, but the short answer is: the same way good managers do anything efficiently – there is usually money involved (hiring people and marshaling purchasing power) and getting the max for minimum outlay is the basic definition of efficiency.

TA: What is a favorite book about libraries of yours?

JG: There are a couple of excellent histories of the Library of Congress by author Helen Dalrymple.

minerva

“Minerva of Peace,” a large marble mosaic of the Greek goddess of wisdom and war by Elihu Vedder in the East Corridor staircase in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Photo by Carol Highsmith.

TA:  What are some challenges affecting libraries today and what can be done about them?

JG: Most state and local governments have tight budgets. Libraries often aren’t at the top of the priority list.  Libraries need to get their supporters out to make sure their local officials know that libraries ARE a priority in budgets.

The Great Hall, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Photo by Carol Highsmith

The Great Hall, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Photo by Carol Highsmith

TA: Who is a librarian/library staff member who inspires you?

JG: Several staff members in our Music Division are very knowledgeable about music, with excellent training in that area, in addition to their duties as librarians. The Library of Congress holds a classical music concert series and some of the program notes written by David Plylar are just fantastic – he ought to be doing this for a major orchestra somewhere, or at Carnegie Hall.  But we get to have him.  That’s very special.

TA: What does the future hold for libraries?

JG: They will always be loved, but they need to get active to stay lovable.

View of the ceiling of the main reading room.

View of the ceiling of the main reading room.

TA: What library projects are you currently working on?

JG: The duties mentioned above; in addition I am a member of a special task force at the Library reaching out to the Latino community to improve its awareness of our offerings (we have extensive collections of interest to the Hispanic world) and to increase the number of Latinos (and other underrepresented groups) employed here.

Visit the Library of Congress’ website: http://www.loc.gov/

All photos courtesy of the Library of Congress.

And that concludes this year’s celebration of National Library Week! I hope you enjoyed the posts and I’ll see you here next year.

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