This is the first blog entry in a series introducing LVA employees and exploring what they do day-to-day. If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes, subsequent entries in this series will be collected under the tag 7 Questions. Other entries discussing the internal work of the Library of Virginia are filed under our new category “The Stacks”.
What is your background?
I’m from the Pacific Northwest, born in the state of Washington and attended universities in Oregon and Washington. I headed east, to Austin, Texas, to get my library/archives degree and haven’t managed to find my way back. I moved here in March from Cheyenne, Wyoming, so I came close, but then Richmond called. I worked in university archives for ten years and then in government archives for the past eight years, first as Wyoming State Archivist and now here.
How do you explain what you do to others?
It often depends on my audience. Usually, I begin by saying that we preserve and provide access to the state’s history and then try to gauge their interest. Are they interested in government transparency? Then I would mention the governors’ email project. Genealogy? We have lots to talk about there. Records Management? Boy, do I have a retention schedule for you! So it depends and I’m still polishing my spiel since I’m still pretty new to this position.
Have you held other positions at the Library? If so, what?
Nope, this is the only one. I’m new here so they haven’t had a chance to reassign me yet!
How has technology affected your current job?
Technology has transformed every part of what we do. It’s changed how we receive records, how we store them, preserve them, and provide access to them. Just as importantly, it’s raised our users’ expectations of access to records. On the records management side, records are scheduled the same regardless of whether they are paper or electronic, but I think it’s safe to say that those who create and use records in government offices throughout the commonwealth have a very different relationship with electronic records than with paper records, particularly in terms of the relative ease of storing electronic records compared to paper.
Describe your best day at the Library of Virginia.
My best days are when I get to see people interact with the records and the staff we have here. It can be watching volunteers transcribe documents at one of our Transcribeathons, seeing how researchers use our state and local records collections, or attending a records management training. It’s always great to be reminded of why we do what we do and that I’m a part of something larger than myself.
What was your first paid job?
I stocked shelves and staffed the film processing counter at a Walgreens. Nothing makes me feel older than remembering that I once had a job where people dropped off film to be processed and that it was considered such a complicated transaction that they couldn’t be trusted to fill out the paperwork themselves. Glossy or matte finish? That was a very serious question back in the day.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I met Robert Redford ten years ago outside the airport in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was there for a conference and the hotel shuttle van was dropping a group of us off out front of the little tiny terminal. I lagged behind as the other passengers picked up their bags from the back of the van and, as I helped someone else with her bag, I saw the claim check the hotel had attached to mine blow away. I turned to go retrieve it and there he was. He handed me the ticket and said, “did you need this?” I’ll never forget the sight of him, standing there in a denim jacket on a windy, sunny day in New Mexico looking like he had just walked off a movie set, but it was his voice that really got me. That voice. All I could say was “thank you” because [all] I could think to say was “you’re Robert Redford!” but I assumed he knew that already.