Student employees pick new book for library
By Clare Coffey, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2011
When Daniel Briggs ’11 was looking for a book to donate to the College’s library, he struggled to find interesting material that wasn’t already included in Baker-Berry Library’s multi-million volume collection. In his quest to make a unique addition to Dartmouth’s list of literary offerings, Briggs ultimately decided on “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown.
“I couldn’t really justify giving the library an eighth copy of ‘Orientalism,’” he said. “It feels kind of silly to be adding a children’s book to a collegiate library but there’s something really cool about the way it inevitably runs toward its conclusion — there’s this restrained sense of momentum.”
Briggs’ donation was provided for by Bookplate — a program created by the Student Library Service to honor graduating library employees that helps expand Baker-Berry’s collection to include works aligned with student interests, Laura Braunstein, English language and literature librarian, said. The Bookplate program allows graduating students who have worked in a College library for at least three terms to choose a book, movie or piece of music, which the College will order and inscribe with a bookplate commemorating the students’ work with the library, according to Braunstein.
“The presence of students working in the library really enhances our service to the rest of campus, and we believe their choices will enrich our collection,” she said.
Ridie Ghezzi, head of the library’s research and instruction services, started the program in 2007 after hearing about a similar initiative at Ithaca College, according to Braunstein. Between 60 and 70 of approximately 100 eligible students participate in the Bookplate program each year, Braunstein said.
Ghezzi declined to comment for this article.
Braunstein manages the three-person committee of library staffers responsible for soliciting student employees’ choices, ordering the material and creating a display for the new student-inspired additions to the library, Braunstein said. This year, the display will include a slideshow on flatscreen televisions in the entrance to the library, as well as posters in each of the College libraries.
Although out-of-print or internationally-published books are not always available by Commencement, the committee tries to ensure that students have the opportunity to see the book they selected on the library’s shelves before they graduate, Braunstein said.
“I love my job but this is one of the most fun parts of it — that we get to honor the students who work with us as they leave,” she said.
Braunstein said she asks each eligible student to submit three options that they would like to see inscribed with their bookplate in order of preference. Because the committee encourages students to choose books, movies and music that the library does not already possess, students often have trouble selecting a work to request, she said.
“We see the program as expanding our collections to include works more closely tied to student interest, so at that point I try to steer them towards movies, new popular fiction — even children’s books they found inspirational,” she said.
Students select books based on a variety of motivations, Joseph Coleman ’11, who works in Kresge Physical Sciences Library, said. While some students request textbooks that they wish had been available during their time at Dartmouth, Coleman said he chose the movie “A Night at the Roxbury” as his submission to the library for its cultural value.
“It’s a coming of age story about two boys and it deals with themes that I think will really resonate with Dartmouth students,” he said. “I think every student should be exposed to it before they leave Dartmouth.”
Students often choose works that are inspired by their backgrounds or a special interest, Braunstein said. Paddock Music Library employees, many of whom study music academically, often choose performance DVDs or sheet music, she said.
Some international students request works in their native language, Dean of Libraries Jeff Horrell said.
“There are a lot of international students who work for the libraries, and not only is their assistance invaluable in cataloguing our foreign language collection, but the books they choose greatly enrich that collection,” Horrell said.
Christabell Makokha ’11, an employee of the Feldberg Business and Engineering Library, said she chose the novel “The River and the Source” by Margaret Ogola because she saw a need for more fiction from her native country, Kenya.
“Most books about Africa have to do with aid and development,” she said. “There’s not much African literature.”
The novel also attracted Makokha with its depiction of “powerful women,” she said.
“In my experience, most books about Africa by Western anthropologists present women as really weak,” Makokha said. “This book presents women who hold the family together, who bring life to the family.”
Although the library benefits from student selections, the Bookplate program is primarily a way to acknowledge the student employees without whom the library could not operate, Horrell said.
“It’s a tangible way of celebrating the great work students do for the library, for their colleagues and for future generations of students here.”
The bookplates make student employees a physical part of the libraries’ history, Braunstein said.
“Some of the books in the library have been here for 200 years, so who knows who will see these books someday,” she said.