Before Jil­lian Chaffee began her co-​​op in Jan­uary at the United States Library of Con­gress in Wash­ington, D.C., she had no idea who Antonio Augusto Car­valho Mon­teiro was.

But over the last few months a lot of her time has been devoted to searching the library’s vast col­lec­tion for books, papers, and pam­phlets that once belonged to the Por­tuguese mil­lion­aire who lived from 1848 to 1920. It has not been an easy task: All in all, the library houses more than 150 mil­lion items and is the world’s second largest library in terms of shelf space and number of books.

When my super­visor called about the job, she described it as one big logic puzzle and I was sold,” said Chaffee, SSH’15. “This job is really fun because it’s super hands-​​on.”

Ear­lier this semester, Chaffee took to Twitter to share her expe­ri­ence of working in her “dream job” with the North­eastern com­mu­nity, tweeting “#Iheart­coop cause I spent the morning updating the Library of Con­gress data­base. I walk into work smiling every single day! #dreamjob.”

Chaffee, who is working for the col­lec­tions officer in the Col­lec­tions Access, Loan, and Man­age­ment Divi­sion, is respon­sible for finding miss-​​catalogued pieces from Monteiro’s col­lec­tion of 33,000 books, man­u­scripts, and pam­phlets, which were sold to the library in the 1920s.

Chaffee pours through count­less books looking for a spe­cific stamp sig­ni­fying a book or paper was part of Monteiro’s col­lec­tion. How often she finds a book from the col­lec­tion can be spo­radic, but ear­lier this month Chaffee found 12 that belonged to Monteiro.

She is also tasked with exam­ining books requested from the library’s famed Reading Room to deter­mine their state of dete­ri­o­ra­tion and what steps must be taken in order to pre­serve them. Some books she has han­dled include an Italian book pub­lished in 1526 and a Bible from 1871.

Every Tuesday morning I go through a cart of incred­ibly old books, usu­ally from the 1800s or 1900s, and decide if they need to be put in a box, enve­lope, or if they are too dam­aged to handle,” Chaffee said. “It’s been very cool.”

As an cul­tural anthro­pology and lin­guis­tics major, Chaffee is inter­ested in how people interact and is con­stantly observing library vis­i­tors, of which there are more than 1.6 mil­lion annually.

There is a very dis­tinct style among the people in the Reading Room who dress in busi­ness casual com­pared to those who dress in jeans,” she explained.

Chaffee has always loved old books, but never con­sid­ered working with them in a library until this co-​​op. “It’s been so much fun,” she said. “And it has taught me I was not meant to have a desk job.”