This is a series introducing LVA employees and exploring what they do day-to-day. If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes entries in this series are 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?
My fascination with Virginia history began with hearing stories from my grandmother and great aunt about growing up in Depression era Nelson County (they were neighbors of Earl Hamner), but I didn’t begin seriously reading about the history of Virginia until I became interested with the civil rights movement when I was in high school. I went on to study history at William & Mary and subsequently received my MLIS from the University of Alabama.
Prior to coming to LVA, I worked a few public libraries in the Lynchburg area.
How do you explain what you do to others?
My one sentence summary is usually: I choose which books we buy.
A slightly longer answer would be: I select works of history, genealogy, biography and related fields pertaining (directly, or obliquely) to Virginia. I also strive to collect as exhaustively as possible memoirs, short fiction, novels, and poetry by Virginia authors.
Additionally, I engage with state agencies to ensure that their publications are available on our digital platform.
Have you held other positions at the Library? If so, what?
This is the only position I’ve ever held at LVA.
How has technology affected your current job?
The development of online resources has made it far easier to efficiently find books pertaining to Virginia. For instance, rather than physically browsing dozens of Virginia newspapers and magazines hoping to find a story about a local author, I can quickly go to a local newspaper’s website and, with the appropriate search terms, find obscure titles that I otherwise might have missed.
At the same time, technology has greatly increased the total number of books published, which can make it difficult to hunt down every book that we need to order. In addition to big publishers and academic presses, it is easier than ever to self-publish or to start a small press. This democratization requires getting creative about finding out about new titles.
Describe your best day at the Library of Virginia.
I don’t know that there is any one day that stands out as superior to all the rest, but generally I like days when I am able to order books for our Virginia Authors Room collection.
What I love so much about the VAR is that it isn’t just a “greatest hits” collection—it’s also a “box set.” The VAR includes not only some of the United States’ most famous authors, but also includes volumes by amateur or semi-professional writers. LVA collects books from retired bus drivers in Martinsville, school teachers in Norfolk, and nurses in Fairfax and preserves them for generations to come—right alongside the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The VAR provides a wholly unique portrait of Virginia, and I’m proud to expand that collection.
What was your first paid job?
I was a cashier at Target.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I think I’m more outdoorsy than people would assume. Whether I’m backpacking in the mountains or riding my bike around Richmond, I try to spend as much time as I possibly can outside.