This is the latest 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, 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 the category The Stacks.
What is your background?
I have lived in the Richmond area my whole life and I have always wanted to be an artist. So since VCU had a top ranked art program, why not just stay here and go to school? Sometimes I think I should have explored new terrain because I was the weird kid in art school. Most of my classmates didn’t understand or accept my artwork. My professors would say “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing what you’re doing.” I made a lot of allegorical collages using brand mascots and Barbie to make commentary on consumerism and life in general. I got a Magna Cum Laude BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a minor in Art History. To the dismay of my classmates, I landed a local Production Artist job (that everybody wanted) and got paid to draw, paint, and do photography. I actually became an accomplished, award-winning artist.
After my successful/unsuccessful 10-year art career, I found myself laid off, another victim of the Great Recession. I had to completely reinvent myself. I’ve since worked many years of retail, identity fraud investigation, and driver’s license suspension. Don’t all of these sound fun? I learned a lot from them, but I’m much happier looking at microfilm.
How do you explain what you do to others?
I get a roll of microfilm, look at it, write down what’s on it, type it into a database, repeat. Some people have told me that sounds boring but I think my job is cool.
Have you held other positions at the Library? If so, what?
This is my first job at the Library of Virginia. I’m excited to be here!
How has technology affected your current job?
Technology has adversely affected my job by making it hard to find photography supplies to fix the ripped microfilm! Digital photography is killing the film industry, so supplies aren’t being made anymore. I’m hoping film will make a comeback, like records and cassette tapes. Everything we do is manual, except for the film scanner to make digital copies and using the online database.
Describe your best day at the Library of Virginia.
My best day at the Library is when I have a wild turkey sighting! There are wild turkeys that live in the woods behind the State Records Center building and they are afraid of people (for good reason). I’ve gotten to watch the babies turn into adults which was exciting. One day I was in the breakroom and the turkeys were grazing next to the window so I got to see them up close and personal! I didn’t have my camera at the time, I’ll probably never get that close again. Fun fact: a group of turkeys is called a “rafter.”
What was your first paid job?
My first paid job was working part time after high school in a retail store that sold clothes and shoes. I was super excited because the minimum wage was $4.25 an hour and I made a whopping $4.50! Way back in the good old days when milk, bread, and a gallon of gas was a dollar. I blew most of my money on Star Wars action figures.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I invented a holiday. My friend Virginia and I got bored and decided to invent a holiday in 2006. I consider it now to be guerilla conceptual performance art, not just goofing off. We needed a reason to throw a party, wanted to see if anyone would notice what we created, and how they would react to it. They most certainly did notice and there has been news coverage across the country, fan art was created, and a guy on YouTube even wrote a song about it. Salami Day is September 7th and we have a website at salamiday.com!