(editor’s note: Our blog author, Phillip Jaffe began as a student worked in the Wisconsin Water Library in January 2023 after he approached me to learn about special librarianship. Though I missed his help this summer, I was thrilled to hear about his opportunity for a 10-week internship at the White House! He has gaciously provided a glimpse of his summer)
As attached as I became to the Wisconsin Water Library over the past spring semester, I set aside my responsibilities there for the summer to head to Washington, D.C., where I have been remarkably privileged to intern in the library of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
The Library and Research Services Division falls under the Office of Administration within the EOP, and its mission is to support EOP staff, including those in the White House, in their work for the president. It includes a main library, holding books on presidential and political history as well as other issues in the social sciences; a law library, containing government documents and legal resources; and an array of digital resources, including bibliographic and legal databases and news outlet subscriptions.
During my time here, I have reported to a technical services librarian and a reference librarian, working on various projects for both in parallel. This mixture of responsibilities is what makes working in a special library with a small staff so enjoyable to me. I may spend a morning working the service desk, fielding reference questions and managing circulation, and that afternoon inventorying to reconcile the physical collection with the records in our library management system. The varying nature of my duties here is similar to that of my duties at the Water Library, where I’m able to hone my skills in several areas of librarianship.
The physical library spaces themselves, ornate and multi leveled with interior balconies, have been beautiful work environments, and some vestiges of their 19th-century origins have made routine tasks particularly fun, such as a pulley-operated dumbwaiter to move books between the open tiers of one of the libraries.
The staff of the EOP library, including me, was lucky to attend the presentation of the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, hosted by Jill Biden in the East Room of the White House. Representatives from eight winning libraries and museums of various types around the country attended, and the ceremony was followed by a reception in the East Wing.
During my time outside of work, I’ve tried to take in some of the culture this city has to offer, popping into Smithsonian museums (of which the National Portrait Gallery is my personal favorite) and checking out federal government buildings. I made sure to register for a Library of Congress reader card, and I even made an effort to keep my aquatic sensibilities alive by swinging by the Reptile Discovery Center at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
My 10-week internship has felt far too fleeting. I’m having a bit of trouble coming to terms with its end, but am looking forward to returning to Madison later this month, where I’ll be picking back up my library science coursework as well as my assistant work in the Water Library.