February 17, 2018

Valerie Allen | Movers & Shakers 2005

All Together Now


When Valerie Allen decided she didn’t want to be a Montessori teacher any longer, she began work on her MLIS. Immediately she learned concepts she could apply to her new job as information specialist for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), TN.

While the LIS program taught her impressive technical skills, no program can teach someone to reason their way through complex problems as skillfully as Allen does. Rita Hohenbrink, her first supervisor at OSTI, says, “Valerie hit the ground running…she questioned things with a fresh perspective, which contributed to innovation and change.”

Allen’s first assignment, with the Virtual Library Design Requirements Team, was to develop a digital library of all energy-related science and technology research conducted by DOE agencies. This product, EnergyFiles, debuted in 1997. Allen’s team then implemented “Explorit” search technology to provide seamless electronic access to 450 separate databases and web sites from DOE, other government agencies, and other organizations.

This interagency collaboration became a model for the development of Science.gov, which debuted in 2002. Under Allen’s technical leadership, an alliance of 12 federal agencies built Science.gov, which lets users search 47 million-plus pages of government information with one query. OSTI’s Sharon Jordan praises Allen’s collaborative work to improve precision searching in Science.gov, including “the first application of relevance ranking to large collections of federal R&D results.”

Allen’s Montessori background has come in handier than you might think; she says the most useful lesson is breaking large tasks into manageable pieces. And since she spends her life implementing projects with large interagency groups (the phrase like herding cats has occasionally been used), she says, “the view that people perceive things differently and have different learning styles has also turned out to be very valuable.”



Current Position Technical Lead, Cross-Agency Science.gov and Senior Technical Information Specialist, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Oak Ridge, TN

Degree MLIS, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 1994