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W&M students shine at Library of Congress

  • Tribe presence
    Tribe presence  Library of Congress Junior Fellow Caitlin Oakley '12 (l) and Intern Maggie Burke '12 (c) pictured with a colleague at a July 26 Showcase of their summer research efforts.  Courtesy photo
  • Meet and greet
    Meet and greet  Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures George Greenia (l) greets Library of Congress Librarian Constance Carter, head of the science reference section and William & Mary intern supervisor.  Photo courtesy Library of Congress/Abby Brack Lewis
  • These old books
    These old books  Mary Katherine Gavin '12 (r) talks with a Showcase attendee about the legal Gazettes from South Africa she researched over the summer.  Photo courtesy Library of Congress/Abby Brack Lewis
  • Dr. is in
    Dr. is in  Dr. James Billington (second from right), Librarian of Congress with library interns and fellows (l to r) Caitlin Oakley '12, Mary Katherine Gavin '12, non-W&M student, and Maggie Burke '12.  Courtesy photo.
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There was a lot of green and gold at the Library of Congress this summer. Eleven members of the Tribe were among the complement of Junior Fellows and research interns at the nation's greatest repository of books, manuscripts, audio and film. The Junior Fellows exhibited their work in a Showcase display on July 26 in D.C. at the Library.

The placements were the result of an initiative by faculty in the William & Mary department of modern languages and literatures in partnership with senior staff at Swem Library to prepare more students for the highly sought internships. Swem offered orientation sessions and personal guidance in preparing student applicants, as well as stipends for several to help offset the cost of living in D.C. for the duration of the unpaid internships.

Organizers see the effort as a big success.

“Apparently every single William & Mary applicant who bid on an opening was selected," said George Greenia, professor of modern languages and literatures. 

He attributed the success to the preparation of the students, both in advanced language and research skills. 

"Senior administrators at the Library of Congress praised our students' work ethic, enthusiasm, preparation and love of pure research," he said. “Almost all of our students could boast advanced competency in Spanish, Russian, Chinese or another language.”

Among the 11 William & Mary students working at the Library were three students selected as Junior Fellows. More than 800 applicants applied for the Library’s 38 Fellow openings. The College’s three successful applicants, more than from any other university, were Eleonora Figliuoli ’12, Caitlin Oakley ’12, and Synneva Elthon ’14.

Their research contributions were diverse. Figliuoli catalogued rare copies of 19th-century Spanish plays published in Seville, including some that went on to be considered world masterpieces, like the Don Juan Tenorio plays. Oakley helped identifiy the contents of the greatest personal library of Russian holdings in the United States, later acquired by the Library, with over 80,000 books, engravings, maps and pamphlets.  Elthon assisted in documenting some of the tens of thousands of rare print materials submitted to the Library to register their copyright. Star items selected by Elthon and her team for display during the Junior Fellows Showcase event included Temperance League manifestos, original tickets for a round-the-world voyage by ship and rail, and even a late 19th-century graph coaching students on the best background courses to take for future admission to colleges like Harvard, Yale and Williams.

The William & Mary Russian studies program was well represented at the Library. Along with Oakley, the department placed two other students in Library internships - Maggie Burke ‘12 in the European Reading Room, and Mary Katherine Gavin ‘12 in the Law Library. Their research findings were so distinctive that they were invited to give a feature presentation of their own on the lithographic studio of St. Petersburg cartographer A. Il’in, “Mapmaker to the Tsars”, a talk co-sponsored by the divisions of Geography & Maps and Rare Books. The other William & Mary students in the program included Jennifer Giuffrida ’13, Emily Matson ’12, Peter Bihl ’13, Gabriela DeCuir ’13, Shayela Hassan ’13,  and Tiffany Schoneboom ’12.

"Being up close and personal with historical documents and collections at The Library of Congress is an unforgettable internship experience," said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries. "I'm so pleased that these students had an opportunity to showcase what they've learned this summer."

To further the learning experience, Swem has offered all of the returning students jobs this year, Cooper said.

"If this is what happens in the first year, we are well on our way to establishing an enduring partnership with the greatest library in the world," Greenia added. "Library staff are anxious to see who we can send them next year."