Samantha Snyder |
Having my name on the cover of a book was not something I expected to accomplish by the age of 26. Publishing a book was something I had always wanted to do, but I figured it was a pipe dream that might be accomplished long down the road. Instead, because I was in the right place at the right time, I was asked to co-author a book. In general, from about eighteen on, I’ve learned to take what opportunities fly at me in my academic and professional career. This includes changing my major three times, having an internship in New York, co-authoring a book, dreaming of working and getting a Fellowship at the Library of Congress.
It started with a car ride in April of 2015 to a small town in Wisconsin to take down a museum exhibit with my then supervisor (and future co-author), Michael Edmonds, who was also the Deputy Director of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. He had just finished his last post for a blog called “Odd Wisconsin”, which was stories he had written about lesser-known events in Wisconsin history. He also had combined these stories into a book, aptly titled, Odd Wisconsin.
Michael came up with the idea of publishing a second book, but instead of repeating “Odd Wisconsin Part II”, he thought it should be turned into a collection of biographies about some strange and important Wisconsinites. He asked if I wanted to co-author it with him, because I had worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society for two years, and had an English Literature degree (obviously we English majors are perfect candidates to write books). I jumped at the chance – especially when he mentioned that my name would be on the cover. It truly was as simple as that.
I thought I would just spend the summer writing the book in the Historical Society’s Reading Room, having easy access to any and every piece of Wisconsin History I needed. Little did I know, I was about to receive the job opportunity of a (future Librarian’s) lifetime: a spot as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress. This was a long and winding process that all started because of a last-minute, spur of the moment decision that I should take the time to write an essay, a cover letter, and get three references… right at the end of Winter Break. I was up until the wee hours of the morning working furiously on writing about what qualifications I could possibly bring to the Library of Congress and trying to figure out how I could get three letters of recommendation in three days. That was in January. I made it past the first round in February, I interviewed in March, and didn’t hear anything until the beginning of May. So, at the time I gave the okay to co-write the book in April, I did not give the Library a second thought. I will say this, if you have one awesome thing in the pot already, don’t be afraid to add another. Take these opportunities and jump.
When I found out I got the position, Michael (thankfully!) was fine with me writing the book from half-way across the country. Thanks to it (then) being 2015, we were able to manage through the use of Dropbox and Google Drive. So, instead of writing in the lovely state of Wisconsin, I moved to Washington D.C. less than a month after the initial conversation occurred, and I am glad I did. Working at the Library of Congress gave me a unique place to write and research the book. I had access to some key databases, and their fantastic collection of Microfilm Newspapers. Though these stories revolve around people who were from the state of Wisconsin, some of their stories stretched nation-wide. Being located at an institution like the Library of Congress put me in an even better situation, with some of America’s most amazing resources available. Not only were the resources great, the space itself was the most relaxing, awe-inspiring, place I have ever done research.
While I loved my time working and researching at the Library of Congress, I’m not going to lie and say it was easy to get by in Washington D.C. with the small amount they paid me. But, that’s where my next piece of advice comes in: even if a Fellowship does not pay very much money it does not mean it is not worth taking the time to do. Without the Library of Congress Fellowship, I would not have been able to network and meet some of the great people who helped get me to my current position as the Access Services Librarian at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Now, my book is cataloged and in the George Washington National Library. Never did I think that would happen. Not at 26, 36 or 86!
Take opportunities when they come to you. If you get offered a fellowship, and think it is worth your time, take it. If you get the chance to co-author a book, take it. I came away from this whole process so grateful, and so ready to start another book. Maybe this time, it will be my name alone on the cover!
Sam is the Access Services Librarian at the Fred W Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which you can find on twitter. She likes books, musicals, and drinking too many cups of coffee.
Images 1:Pixabay, Image 2 & 3: Sam Snyder, Image 4: Krysten Blackstone.