Get to Know PLASC: Laura Carroll, Chair

Where do you work? What is your favorite part of your job?

I am the archivist at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, West Virginia (about an hour southwest of Pittsburgh in the northern panhandle of WV). We’re a relatively small library in a town of about 35,000. My favorite part of the job is sharing the value of archives and history with the community through outreach efforts, such as teacher workshops, school tours and exhibits.

What’s a typical day like at your job?

As well as being the archivist, I am also the Assistant Director and Head of Adult Services, so I wear a lot of hats. At any given moment, I could be working with a donor to explain our local history collection policy, planning a tour of our current exhibit for a school group, ordering large print books for the regular circulating collection, or preparing for an upgrade to our online catalog.

When and how did you become an archivist or become interested in archives?

I first became interested in archives while completing an internship at a small historical society during my senior year of college (in the late 1990s). I processed a small collection of family papers which included diaries and correspondence, and I was hooked. I grew up in Illinois and decided to pursue a Public History Degree at Loyola University Chicago. After I landed my first archives job at the American Medical Association, I attended Dominican University and earned my MLIS by taking classes in the evenings over the course of several years.  I later moved down to Atlanta and worked several years at Emory University in their Manuscript, Archives and Special Collections. My time at Emory was pivotal in my career. I worked with extremely talented colleagues and unsurpassed collections. I was able to develop myself professionally by speaking at conferences and learning how to publish in the field. That being said, I value the work that I have done in public libraries most of all.

What’s your favorite project or collection you’ve worked with in the past year?

One of my favorite recent collections is the Elizabeth Kamm Gardner collection of dance programs, featuring over one hundred programs for dances, balls, roller skating carnivals and other social gatherings dating from 1882 to-1893. A local online publication published a story about the collection, and also a created a fun interactive quiz featuring some of the more interesting programs.

What made you join PLASC Steering Committee?

I have always enjoyed being involved in SAA and throughout my career I have sought out the groups that most represented my situation at the time. So it only made sense to answer a call for those interested in serving on the steering committee for the group serving public libraries. Many archivists who work in public libraries are lone arrangers, and the camaraderie and sense of community that PLASC provides is extremely valuable. 

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