My name is Diana La Femina and I’m an aspiring rare book librarian. During my undergraduate program at Bryn Mawr College I vacillated between Art History and History, taking every course I could on the Middle Ages and manuscripts. Eventually the registrar caught up with me and forced me to declare a major; I declared History, in memory of my favorite professor who had passed a few months prior. This afforded me the chance to study the history of chess and the evolution of the chess bishop for my undergraduate dissertation. I’m sorry to say that my chess skills remain less refined and more akin to a blindfolded monkey attempting to fence using a herring.
A lifelong bibliophile, it wasn’t until my senior year at Bryn Mawr that I realized I could work in a library. I resolved to earn my M.L.S. and in the fall of 2006 I began the rare book librarianship specialization at Indiana University in Bloomington. I took most of my courses at the Lilly Library, as well as both of my internships (one in reference and one in manuscripts).
Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men are no better than those of a headstrong New Yorker. I finished my degree program in December 2007 and, like so many others, found myself in a job market glutted with applicants and bereft of positions. For the next three years I tried my best to gain professional experience. And so in 2011 I decided to run away from home.
Off I went to Ireland, to enter the M.Phil program in Medieval Language, Literature, and Culture at Trinity College Dublin. I spent that academic year drinking tea, making lifelong friends, and immersing myself in medieval and manuscript culture. For my dissertation I performed a detailed examination of the codicology and provenance history of a fourteenth-century English book of hours under the direction of Professor John Scattergood. It was an amazing year but all good things must come to an end and I returned to New York in the fall of 2012.
After the world didn’t end in December 2012 I decided that perhaps I should be practical and find a well-paying job and gain professional experience in my free time. Thus I started working at BNP Paribas, a large corporate investment bank in New York City. Though the people were amazing and I’ve completely reevaluated everything I thought about Wall Street culture, I realized early on that corporate finance is not the place for me. So I left Wall Street and started working in the antiquarian booktrade.
All of my experiences have resolved my desire to work in librarianship. Though my interests may be rare books and medieval history, my passion is to help people through public service.