(This interview originally aired on March 26, 2015.)
“Part of the effort to digitize and put [Library of Congress] material online was to make sure people had access remotely, from anywhere, freely,” said Laura Campbell, former associate librarian and CIO at the Library of Congress, on this week’s Women of Washington radio show.
Campbell oversaw the National Digital Library Program, which involved making many of the library’s materials available in a digital format online. Campbell said that this has changed the nature of research itself.
“Before the National Digital Library Program and the accessibility to the Internet as a distribution mechanism, you had to be 18 years of age and travel to Washington, and sign up as a researcher to see those collections,” she said. “Well, the Internet has really turned that sock inside out and made this a library of first resort, when it had been in library terms, a library of last resort — if you couldn’t get it elsewhere, you could go to the Library because it surely had it.”
Campbell mentioned some of the obstacles she faced while overseeing the library’s program to digitize more than 5 million pieces of media from its collection.
“Now it all looks like a fond memory, but there were big challenges,” she said. “There were challenges that had to do with technology, but a lot of the challenges were just cultural challenges. Being a catalyst for change, getting people to think about how they make materials that they’ve been charged with preserving and protecting accessible in a new environment. And so we had to cross some bridges in terms of being trusted to digitize this material and do it in a way that we were responsible.”
She also discussed the passion that drew her to working for the Library of Congress in the first place.
“I think how I got to the Library of Congress is, I felt as though it is our responsibility to make certain you have open and free access to knowledge and information. That’s the library’s mission, essentially.”
Also in the interview, Campbell gave advice to people interested in pursuing a career in the federal government.
“Find something you’re really passionate about,” she said. “And if you don’t love what you’re doing, then find something you do love.”
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