North Platte native – living beyond her dreams

Jessica Epting library of congress
Monday, March 11, 2024

From the simplicity of rural Nebraska to the hustle and bustle of city life, Jessica Epting is proof that humble beginnings are sometimes the best kind.

Epting is a visual information specialist at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the largest library in the world, where her days are full of creativity and intrigue. It’s a place in life that she began working toward at a young age – she just didn’t know it at the time.

“I had a very different trajectory for my life when I was growing up,” Epting said. “But I think if young me could have seen where I am now, she would have been pleased.”

Developing her passion

Epting was raised in North Platte, Neb., a community of just under 24,000 people, nestled between twin rivers and flanked by sandhills and cornfields.

One of nine children, Epting was homeschooled from second grade on. Homeschooling allowed her to explore and focus on things she was passionate about such as artistic expression.

“I enjoyed being creative growing up – sewing, knitting, crocheting, writing poems and constantly painting my bedroom walls,” Epting said. “My mom often tells the story of me moving around the same flower in the Microsoft Paint program in the middle of the night, planning a future design.”

Before she graduated, she started researching interior design and fashion design colleges.

 “At that time, I didn’t even know what graphic design was,” Epting said. “My mom came to me one day with information about a new program Mid-Plains Community College, our local community college, was starting. It was graphic design and, after looking through the information, I realized that was what I’d been looking for.”

Because her mother, Dot Epting, worked at MPCC, Jessica was already familiar with the school. She had taken some dual credit classes through MPCC in high school, so it was an easy decision to enroll full-time following her graduation in 2006.

“I really enjoyed my classes at Mid-Plains,” Jessica said. “I felt like all the stuff I had been creating at home on my own, like designs in Microsoft Paint and other Desktop Publishing software, suddenly had a direction – just at a more advanced level. It was as if everything lined up for me to take those next steps.”

She found the small classes sizes and one-on-one instruction to be beneficial in helping her transition from homeschooling to a college setting. In turn, homeschooling proved to be a benefit in terms of her college study habits.

“Homeschooling helped me be pretty independent about my studies,” Jessica said. “I could take care of projects myself and didn’t have to be held by the hand. However, I think it would have been a bit overwhelming to enter a university space right away. It also would have been harder to get close to my classmates and instructors in a larger setting, and that’s part of what I loved so much about my college experience.”

jess epting

She immediately appreciated how up to date MPCC was with its computer programs and materials.

“There were some things we had in our labs before even the larger universities did,” Jessica said. “I feel like I got a jump-start by going to Mid-Plains.”

Jessica took courses from MPCC for three years. When she first started, half of them were in McCook, more than an hour away. Once a week, she would make the drive to take three graphic design classes. The time in between was spent either in labs or taking her little sister to basketball practice across town.

“Becky Meyers [graphic design instructor] was very flexible with my schedule, and I appreciated that,” Jessica said. “I had a lot of good instructors at MPCC. I think the most important thing they taught me was how to learn. All the programs I worked with in college are out of date now because technology changes so fast, but I learned how to keep up with technology and about the foundation of design, which is the basis for what I do today.”

Upon entering the world of graphic design, Jessica also realized she had an interest in information technology and web design. Back then, those subjects weren’t offered as separate tracks.

“We had web design classes like JavaScript, but they weren’t required like they are now,” Jessica said. “Becky recommended them as electives since that’s what I was interested in. Looking back, I’m glad, not only that the college had those classes, but also that I tapped into them because my first job was with MPCC as a web master.”

Jessica had already started working in the college’s Public Information and Marketing Department as an intern. After earning associate degrees in both general studies and graphic design in May of 2009 she moved into the area web master role part-time.

She became the full-time area lead graphic designer four years later, and in 2013, had assumed both responsibilities to become MPCC’s area web master and graphic designer. Jessica continued her education online in addition to working and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Studies from Bellevue University in 2019.

By October of 2020, it was time for her to spread her wings. Jessica accepted a temporary position as a visual information specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia before signing on full-time with the Library of Congress in March of 2021.

Finding her happy place

not an ostrich

The projects Jessica works on are similar to those she did at MPCC.

“I create designs for presentations, brochures and annual reports,” Jessica said. “I also do a lot of promotional art for flyers, social media graphics and billboards to advertise events and exhibits and have done layout, design and book covers for the publishing office.”

One of her most memorable projects thus far has been the “Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library” photo exhibit publication.

“It was so much fun and featured some really unique, interesting content – some of my favorite photos and some that had never been published before,” Jessica said. “The publishing office produced a book highlighting some of the photography from the exhibit, and I got to create the design.”

The past couple of years, Jessica has also had the opportunity to develop ads for the National Book Festival, which unites bestselling authors with thousands of book fans for author talks, panel discussions, autograph signings and other activities.

“When I was going to work one morning, I saw one of the ads on the digital screen in the train station, which was pretty cool,” Jessica said. “I’ve created signage for the Great Hall and step and repeat banners for red carpet events.”

She’s currently working on a book design for an exhibit that will open this spring, “Collecting Memories: Treasures from the Library of Congress.”

“It’s the first exhibit in the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery opening this June,” Jessica said. “I had the pleasure of designing the book’s interior to compliment the exhibit design. It’s probably my favorite project so far.”

One of the items that will be in the exhibit is “The Sounds of Earth,” a gold-plated copper disc that contains sounds and images that portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. NASA produced the recording in 1977 to accompany the Voyager 1 and 2 into outer space.

“Another one of the ‘treasures’ is the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets from the day he was assassinated,” Jessica said. “He had two pairs of spectacles, a slightly used handkerchief, a button from his lapel, and ironically, a $5 Confederate bill. There are just so many neat things like that in the exhibit, and I got to be there when the photographer came to captures images for the book.”

It's a job that utilizes her skill set well. Many of her duties involve taking information and making it digestible for the public, which is also what she did during her time at MPCC.

“That’s basically what I do every day,” Jessica said. “I take these incredible items at the library and present them to the American people, which is who the library is really for. My life has evolved living in a big city and constantly exploring new things and design really has made this life possible for me. I count that as a blessing.”