I define my summer of working as a virtual intern with the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library as “The Summer of All Things Roosevelt.” While I have learned much about what is required of a metadata librarian, I have also come to realize how much Theodore Roosevelt and his legacy is interwoven in present-day encounters. While I have gained a greater perspective of what it means to be a metadata librarian by observing our supervisor’s seamless juggling of tedious tasks, detail-laden projects, and wide range of responsibilities all the while patiently guiding six widely-dispersed, remotely-located interns, I have also gained a greater appreciation for Theodore Roosevelt as a citizen, son, father, husband, friend, and one of our country’s greatest political leaders.
Working with metadata for digital records can be a somewhat monotonous, repetitive task, but a metadata librarian cannot give in to the tediousness by thoughtlessly or carelessly inputting metadata, which is the essential link from the record of the event or the person to today. When creating original metadata, I found that the record (letter, telegram, photograph, manuscript) is part of a story and is more than just a mere means of discerning keywords for access. As I reviewed metadata and read the letters written by Theodore Roosevelt as a young college man to his mother, I remembered and missed the lost art of letter-writing. The letters probably struck a strong chord in my heart as my son is a young college man, and I’m thankful as a mother to receive even the occasional quick text. However, the transient impermanence of email and texts does not compare to the personal warmth of a letter.
While attending a conference in New Orleans last month, a historical marker along the River Walk caught my attention. I excitedly made the connection between the relevance of the “story” behind the “marker.”
New Orleans Steamer marker, New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Carole Tristani LaRochelle.
Because I had created the original metadata entry for this letter from Theodore Roosevelt declining an invitation to a celebration parade wherein a replica of the first steamboat built was to be featured, I knew the significance of Nicholas Roosevelt to the steamboat industry and how Theodore and Nicholas are related.
Then, while driving through Hampton, Virginia, I was reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s strong support of the Armed Forces and the enlisted men expressed in this letter from Roosevelt addressed to “My dear Comrade,” C. R. McNabb, aboard the USS Kansas, Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Every day, I commute into Washington, D.C., from Northern Virginia. Every day, I cross the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. In all those days, I had never given any thought to the man for whom the bridge is named, other than how to avoid traffic. After working with the digital records of the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library, I now remember that man. Every day, I think about the Dakota rancher, the Rough Rider, the African safari hunter, the family man, the author, the statesman, and the extraordinary political leader who is a bridge from our past to our present and into our future.
Carole LaRochelle will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Information Studies with a concentration in Archives in December 2013. She is relocating from the Washington, D. C., area to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to accept the position of paralegal/corporate librarian with the PGA Tour Headquarters. She received her undergraduate degree from The Catholic University of America.