May. 17, 2006
Student perspectives on connecting with the library
What is it that connects students with the library? For some it is a great place for research, reflection or even a good cup of coffee. For about 500 students, it's a place of employment, and for many of these students, it's a launching point for creative exploration. Here are a few examples.
Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC)
Brothers Evan '02 and Corey Earle '07 have desks next to each other in the RMC in Kroch Library. Evan is a collections assistant; Corey, a student employee.
"So few students realize that right underneath their feet are some amazing treasures that can be found nowhere else in the world," says Evan. "The ever-popular Gettysburg Address is just the tip of the iceberg," mentioning also the lock of Charles Dickens' hair, the leaf from the Gutenberg Bible and the draft of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" in the collection.
Both brothers possess an exceptional knowledge of Cornelliana. "I'm the 13th Cornellian in the family, working toward the 18th Cornell degree," says Corey. His passion for all things Cornell was piqued when his parents, in honor of his acceptance by Cornell, presented him with a signed first edition of Morris Bishop's "A History of Cornell." Since then he has built a collection of almost 200 Cornell-related books, primarily biographies. Part of that collection, "Builders of Cornell University," recently won first prize in the library's Book Collection Contest.
Corey also writes a biweekly column about Cornell in the Cornell Daily Sun and serves as associate editor of The Muse, an annual publication of memories and reflections of graduating seniors. Long term, Corey hopes to write a book of Cornelliana -- perhaps future generations of Cornellians will be given a signed first edition of his book when they get accepted to Cornell.
The School of Hotel Administration knows a thing or two about "service." Combine that with a library that values the same, and you've got a winning combination for a service-minded student worker. "Although I am not a hotelie, I enjoy the more intimate atmosphere of this particular unit of the Cornell Library system," says Lindsay Wilczynski '06. "Because the school is smaller, I've been able to form better relationships with patrons, and I can usually anticipate their needs after four years on the job."
Wilczynski's supervisors agree; they nominated her for the Cornell Library's annual Fuerst Outstanding Library Student Employee Award, writing: "Lindsay is an outstanding worker who has proven herself many times over. ... Lindsay has become the standard for excellence; she is the reference when we discuss expectations of student employees." Wilczynski was one of the five recipients of this year's Fuerst Award.
"Mann was a great place for me to work. It was quiet, and I didn't know folks there, and they didn't know me," said Omar Nolan '06, a city and regional planning major who wanted a place where he could reflect without interruption. One matter upon which he reflected was a documentary that he has produced on the multiracial experience at Cornell.
Since his junior year, Nolan had been filming for various minority groups on campus, using the Creation Stations at Mann Library to edit and archive these films. After being observed on numerous occasions successfully helping fellow students, Nolan was offered a job at the Stone Computer Center in Mann Library.
A subsequent internship with Cornell's Educational Television Center allowed him to go on Cornell shoots and observe master film professionals. He also saw how filmmaking could build on his primary academic interests of social justice and education.
As a Cornell Tradition student, Nolan had spent time mentoring incoming freshmen, often discussing with them their racial and cultural experiences. Soon, he undertook documentary filmmaking to open a dialog on the multiracial experience at Cornell. The result: "Shades of Gray: When Being Both Means You're Neither, A Documentary Exploring Multi-Racial Identity," a film that explores the multiracial experience through a series of interviews.
Behind the scenes, the making of this documentary illustrates how libraries can encourage creativity by providing a combination of the right space and necessary tools. From inception through production to marketing to screening, Mann Library played an integral role in providing support, tools and a place to celebrate the culmination of a young student's work.
This spring Nolan was nominated for Cornell's James A. Perkins Award for Interracial Understanding and Harmony for helping to enhance mutual understanding of interracial harmony at Cornell.
Lynn Brown is interim director of library communications.