What To Do With An English Major: Library of Congress Internship

Emily SpanglerEmily Spangler
Associate Student Representative, Eastern Region, 2015-2016
Alpha Gamma Kappa Chapter
Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV

People always assume I, as an English major, want to teach, and they always are so unapologetically wrong. An English major offers countless paths to travel, and I chose the path to library science.

Reading has been my passion since early childhood, so pursuing library science only made sense to me as a teenager, and it still does now. I only ever wanted to protect books and indulge in the knowledge they offered, which essentially is what some librarians do every day. Imagine my elation when I found out I received a paid summer fellowship at any prospective librarian’s dream institution: The Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Working for the federal government, and especially the nation’s library, I realized early on how critically important was the work I was doing there. I think I realized this not as a college student, or a reader, or even a federal employee. I only initially understood the impact of my time at the Library of Congress as an English major.


Meeting With the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Bilington

I feel as if only English majors, in our own way, truly can appreciate the new and old. We respect Shakespeare, and cherish Harry Potter. It’s a dynamic unique to English majors, and I was grateful for it more than ever within the context of my fellowship. For 10 weeks, I was a first-time mother, and over 3,700 Portuguese Pamphlets were my children. These pamphlets originally were in the Rare Books Division, but were transferred to the division I was working under—Collections, Access, Loan, and Management—because many of these pamphlets originally belonged in a different collection.

My entire purpose was trying to locate items within the Portuguese Pamphlets that belonged to the Carvalho Monteiro Collection, a collection of over 30,000 items the Library of Congress acquired in the 1920s. I went through every single pamphlet, checking for a stamp indicating it was part of the Carvalho collection. I entered the titles, years, reference numbers, and other information into two databases I created. I sifted through 75 reels of microfilm, looking at pamphlets that weren’t physically present. I individually photographed each pamphlet, and then rehoused them. Rehousing is relocating an item from its previous enclosure to a new, more adequate enclosure. While extremely technical, the job taught me that to care about something old is to care about something new.

The Junior Fellows class of 2015 closes their 10-week inernship program with a ceremony, August 5, 2015. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Receiving the Fellowship Certificate of Completion

By cataloging, photographing, and rehousing these beautiful pamphlets (the oldest are from 1572, while the newest are from 1920), I managed to come to terms with the fact I was helping future researchers, because I was making these items more accessible. I was the one behind the scenes, making the magic happen, and that’s all it took for me to confirm pursuing library science as an English major was the best choice I ever made.

What do you (plan to) do with your English major?

McIntosh & Otis Internship: Preparation for a Dream Career

Lisa BonvissutoLisa Bonvissuto
2015 Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend Recipient
Beta Delta Chapter
Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

This summer, I interned at McIntosh & Otis, Inc. Literary Agency in New York City. I had been working remotely for McIntosh & Otis for the past few months, but I knew being in the office would be different. I would be able to interact with people with whom I previously had only shared emails, and I would get to take on more responsibilities.

At the parkArriving in New York I was thrilled with the energy of the city and my neighborhood, just two blocks from Madison Square Park, and even with my tiny dorm room (I was less thrilled when, a couple of weeks later, I discovered a not-so-tiny cockroach in my tiny dorm room, but that’s a story for another day).

At the office, I quickly became immersed in my work: reading manuscripts, writing reader reports and editorial letters, going through the giant slushpile of query letters, and writing cover letters to foreign co-agents and clients. McIntosh & Otis is one of the oldest literary agencies, and as such, they have a long list of clients that prompts foreign translations and movie requests.

I never felt like I was being asked to do busy work; from the beginning, everyone at McIntosh & Otis made me feel like a valuable member of their team, and I feel lucky to have worked at such a great office with very talented agents and assistants.

I’ve always known a publishing internship is necessary in order to get a job in the industry. After completing my internship, though, I now understand why. I learned so much through firsthand experience that never could have been explained to me about how the industry works and what kind of skills I would need. I learned about the differences in genres, how to articulate why I liked or didn’t like something, how to trust my instincts, but also how to ask for and listen to advice from those who have been in the industry longer than I have. This was the most intellectually challenging and rewarding job I have ever had. It caused me to really think about the structure of a book, what works and doesn’t work, and what people actually want to read and expect from their books.

City skylineI am so grateful for receiving the Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend. Living in New York is expensive, especially while working at an unpaid internship. I truly appreciate the fact that Sigma Tau Delta understands these difficulties and has made this opportunity available for those wanting to pursue an English-based career. I could not imagine gaining the same experience in any other city or with any other company. Not only did I have the best summer of my life working at an amazing job in a fantastic city, but I now am prepared for my dream career once I graduate this coming spring semester. Interning in New York proved to me without a doubt that I want to work in publishing, and also showed me I have what it takes. Going forward, I feel confident in myself and in my abilities, and confident that the book publishing industry is where I belong.

What invaluable lessons have you learned from unpaid internships?

Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend

Application Period: February 1 – March 21

Sigma Tau Delta offers funding for current undergraduate and graduate student members accepting non- or low-paying summer internships. The Summer Internship Stipend is a competitive program providing a limited number of stipends of up to $1,500 each.

The internship must involve working for an “organization” while being directed by a supervisor/mentor within that organization, and the internship’s duties must be consistent with the applicant’s level of education, area of study, and career goals. Financial need will be taken into consideration. Applicants are responsible for obtaining and providing verification of the internship. Decisions will be made by May 2.

2015 Scholarship Essay Winners—Part 2

Fall 2015 scholarship applicants reflected on the theme—Finding Home—for the Sigma Tau Delta 2016 International Convention in Minneapolis. Application essays help judges determine scholarship awards but are also judged independently; authors of the best essays from the fall round will receive $50 prizes. This week’s blog shares the remaining two of the top four essays, which explore the notion of home as a more ephemeral thing.

Rachel Burns

Fall 2015 Scholarship Essay Winner
Iota Mu Chapter
Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC

As a child, I doodled pictures of my house, elongating the truth into cherry-red bricks and imagined smoke distilling from the chimney into a Texas sky. I found these pictures of home again when I returned from studying abroad and the yellowed pages were familiar, but the idea was not. Home had been a place, a moment in time, and the people inhabiting them both. The place itself had changed many times as my family and I moved east during my childhood, the idea of home stayed the same: red bricks and chimney smoke.

When I returned from my semester in England, a sense of loss pervaded the parameters of home which had been secure for so long. The picture had begun to fray; the bricks faded and the smoke dissipated. I had found a sense of homecoming in the friendship of strangers and in the embrace of new cities: Krakow, Galway, Berlin. Home became placeless, no longer concrete—the mortar dissolved so that all I had holding home together was gravity in the face of time. Between the cherry walls, the emptiness of the word “home” rang. It had become cliched and the warmth had fallen away, ineffectual for the immensity of everything I had seen and felt and learned.

Though I had mastered the technique of drawing miniature cherry bricks and swooping curls of smoke, I never drew the path from my front door to the road that once sat before my childhood house. It was always in my drawings, though, implied in the space where the edge of the drawing met the living world. Home is the point where the fantasy of what we wish it to be and the truth of what our lives are rests. In finding my childhood picture again, I resurrected hope in home because it became more than a Hallmark card, more than marks of colored wax. Home is more than a feeling; it is knowledge that those cherry-bricks can exist in the smile of a new friend and the smoke can be carried on a foreign breeze just the same as it when I was young. With that understanding, the world itself can be home.

Amanda Chiu

Fall 2015 Scholarship Essay Winner
Psi Nu Chapter
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

I’ve come to find over the last five years that home is not some fixed thing you’re born with. It develops as you grow and you adapt to this idea of “home” continually, mostly because I don’t believe anyone truly understands what “home” is. Yet, there exists a stigma against homelessness in our society. I think in part this is because everyone feels a bit homeless at times, a bit lost and confused. Perhaps we feel so homeless at times because we work so hard to find one. You never realize how much you lack something until you try to define it, because definitions are based on comparisons to things you’ve seen or experienced. We look at what other people say their “home” is and because ours doesn’t include all those things, it’s incomplete and we must search for the missing parts.

However, I don’t believe home is something you go out looking for. Home, most times, finds you: when you’re not looking, when you least expect it, when you need a home the most. My greatest senses of home have occurred when I’ve turned around and suddenly realized that home is all around me. It’s in the people that greet me with smiles and shouts when I come back from a long day of classes. It’s in the arms that silently hold me when I cry because they already understand why. It’s in knowing I have someone every time I need them and feeling out of place when I leave. Home is clearly not a place, but then again I’m not so sure it’s people either.

I think home might be a feeling. I think home might be a network of emotions and mutual understanding that connects you to the hearts of other people. It’s the invisible lines that create a constellation of love and support among the stars of people’s hearts. Finding home then is building those invisible strings, connecting and fastening them. It happens when you stumble upon mutual interests, when you get lost and end up having deep life discussions at two a.m. in a gas station parking lot, and when you scream at each other then spend the next thirty minutes trying to mend that hurt. Could you ever plan any of this? No. These things will happen and one day you’ll turn around and suddenly realize home is all around you.

Sigma Tau Delta Scholarships

Submissions for the spring 2016 round of scholarship applications are now open. Complete your application through the AwardSpring platform not only to be eligible for a wide array of scholarships, but also to be entered in the Scholarship Essay Contest. Your winning scholarship essay could be featured on WORDY by Nature next year.

Applications Due on March 21, 2016 by 11:59 p.m. CDT (Central Daylight Time)
Scholarships Determined by May 2, 2016

Learn more about Scholarships.