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Partner Interview: Anne Marie Houppert of the National Geographic Society

What makes working for National Geographic a fulfilling experience and why should you be excited to add National Geographic Virtual Library to your collection? Find out straight from the source. In a continuation of our interview with the Geographic, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Marie Houppert.

This is the second part of a two-part series with the National Geographic Society. Read Part 1, with Barbara Ferry, here.

amh_Image_Informal_smallAnne Marie Houppert is the manager of research and educational products at the National Geographic Society Library in Washington, D.C., where she helps direct editorial efforts to extend the Geographic’s print products into the digital library space. Ms. Houppert also oversees the production and editing of metadata for that access. She has a Master’s of Science, Library Science, from Catholic University of America and a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.

1. Why did you choose to work for the National Geographic Society?

National Geographic has a unique place in history – it both reflects our world and has an impact on it. The reflection is there in photographs and stories of the people and events in our world. The impact comes from a writer or photographer who might document the wildlife in a remote region, resulting in a wildlife refuge being established. The magic comes in the personal connection made between the content and the readers and viewers; over the years I’ve seen again and again how people feel like the Geographic is almost a member of their family.

2. How do you see NGVL impacting your line of work?

The NGVL is the most exciting project I’ve worked on in my 19 years at the Society, as it has the ability to reach so many people via their library. My boss, Barbara Ferry, had been laying the groundwork for offering our digital content to libraries and she pulled me into the project when we met with Gale the first time, and things took off from there. If someone wants and needs to learn about global warming, they want that information regardless of whether it is in a book, magazine article, photograph, video, or map; the Gale platform allows us to bring these different content types together in one place for library patrons. I have given a lot of thought as to how the content is best organized and presented. That is part of what I do as the NGVL Product Manager, and for me it is an extension of my mission to connect people to the content.

3. How do you see this title impacting students/researchers/teachers/etc?

Students: The content is engaging and full of facts that are well-researched. And it’s fun! People like to say learning can be fun, and National Geographic content proves that can be true. The combination of photographs, clear writing, and the stories behind the stories capture the attention of everyone. Whatever the topic, National Geographic usually brings some personal connection into it.

Researchers: One area where I think researchers would be interested is the number of articles generated by Society grantees. The Society gives out many grants, including to what are called Emerging Explorers; these are researchers just getting started in their field. The grantee-generated articles range from the discovery of an underwater cave with sacred Maya artifacts, to chasing the birth of a lightning bolt.

Teachers: The fact that the content is all available simultaneously via a stable database can make assignments easier; no worries about students losing a book, or downloading technical difficulties. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) specify a focus on nonfiction, and all of the NGVL products include a big variety of engaging nonfiction topics.

4. What are the most important topics covered?  Why are these topics important? Or why are these entries so important?

Often the most important topic is the one someone is looking for that minute. There are certainly topics that appear regularly: environmental topics are important to everyone – we’re all going to be impacted in some way by global warming, dwindling water resources, energy use, and population issues. Also, challenges facing the animals we coexist with – what impact do we have on them and vice-versa? Should we try and revive extinct species? The Society covers conflicts all around the world and explains the historical context behind these issues. One of the amazing things that is apparent in National Geographic content is that after all these years of exploring there is still so much to discover.

5. What fields of study would you recommend NGVL for?

One way to look at the NGVL content is in terms of the innovation and discovery, which is regularly highlighted. No matter your field of study, you sometimes need a little inspiration. The content often is created by those who are experts in their field and are going beyond what even they thought they could do. Perhaps a biologist figures out a new way to analyze shark DNA and tracks illegal shark finning back to its source. Our content on peoples, cultures, and history span a number of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, human geography, archaeology, and world history. Over 100 years of photography is a field of study in and of itself; it shows what is possible for aerial or underwater photography, or suggest a new way of looking at a topic.

6. How is this different than other products covering the same subject areas?

One thing National Geographic content does so well is provide context and go behind the scenes of a story. If you read a feature article in the magazine about a place, it will likely include historical background, a map, photos, as well as the pressing issues of the day and how they impact the people involved. National Geographic content always goes beyond the obvious.

7. Tell us a bit about some of the Nat Geo authors and explorers featured in the product.  Call out some of the leaders in their fields, the caliber of the contributors, etc.

I admire those who tackle complex topics like dwindling water resources, fracking, or global warming. They provide us with a study of a problem, the background, and then they connect it to people who are being impacted right now. Geographic contributors often cover areas that are inaccessible, sometimes at great risk. Reza, a photographer, has been in war zones in Afghanistan and showed us what life is like for rebel fighters. Tom O’Neill traveled with a group of North Koreans attempting to flee their country, and he conveys every minute of tension while also providing the history behind their desperate flight. David Doubilet has devoted his career to photographing underwater life in such a way that we feel we’re underwater with him.

8. What does National Geographic mean to you?

To me, the Geographic is a group of people who believe in the importance of a mission to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge, and to help preserve the planet. When at the NG Library reference desk, I help the writers, photographers, editors, researchers, cartographers and filmmakers, and I know they make the extra effort to get the facts right, to describe the photos accurately, and present the information in a clear and engaging way. That is why I care about making sure the content is organized and can be retrieved by anyone who needs it at the moment they need it.

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