A college library over winter break may evoke images of dark, dusty corridors filled with sleeping books and the ghosts of students’ sighs leftover from studying for fall term finals. At Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd library, however, there was plenty of activity during this most recent winter break. The library’s employees continue to keep systems running and shelves organized, and a few of the library staff even offer exciting learning opportunities for students. Over the course of this winter break, two December Term (or D-Term) classes were taught by University Archivist and Assistant Professor Erin Dix, as well as Reference and Web Services Librarian and Assistant Professor Angela Vanden Elzen.
For the first time, Dix had the opportunity to teach a course directly relating to her specialty: archives. Entitled ‘Archival Discovery,’ the class provided its five students with the opportunity to experience “an in-depth exploration of archives and archival research.” The class met every day to discuss readings and have hands-on exercises with archival materials, and students were able to access the archives for studies outside of class as well. Each student was also able to personally research a scrapbook made by past Lawrence students from the 1900s, ultimately creating a blog post about the scrapbook as the main focus of the course. The research done by students can be found at https://blogs.lawrence.edu/decm135-archival-discovery/.
“I really enjoyed teaching the course and learned a lot myself,” Dix said. “The D-Term format worked very well for a multidisciplinary subject like this.”
Angela Vanden Elzen taught a course over D-Term as well, entitled ‘History of the Video Game.’ Through studying video games in an academic setting, students were able to “experience first-hand how video games have changed and progressed over time.” This involved allowing students to play games on original consoles while also providing academic literature on the history and development of video games to provide a framework for students to understand gaming culture and how to critique games. Vanden Elzen’s office served as a storage place for the consoles, which could be easily set up and brought to the classroom in the library. Students were able to take advantage of several spaces in the library to fulfill coursework. “Room 401 was used as the classroom for discussion and lecture, the Kruse Room (with couches and comfy furniture) was used for gameplay and critique time, and the large viewing room was used to allow for additional gameplay time.” Vanden Elzen explained, noting also that being in the library provided convenient proximity to any needed literary materials for the course and students’ research.
While these classes were being held, library staff also kept the library running smoothly. Dix continued working on a project in the archives with a large number of CDs and DVDs from the Office of Communications. These CDs and DVDs contain all of the photographs taken by the Office of Communications between the years 2000 and 2013, amounting to a total of around 138,000 digital photos which are being copied onto networked storage.
“This project was several months of work for student assistants in the Archives,” Dix explained. “A small number of discs had problems. Those are the ones I was looking at over the break.” While Dix says that it’s important for the Archives to maintain a visual record of the campus and activities at Lawrence over time, the Archives will not be keeping all 138,000 photos.
Dix explained, “The next step in this project will be developing criteria to help us select which images to keep for the long term.” The Archives are meant to be accessible to anyone coming in to do research, and digital resources are often online as well. However, Dix noted that because of the scale and complexity of the project these photos may not be available for some time yet.
Despite winter break being a time when campus slows down, the activities in the library show how many fun learning opportunities are still to be had. Students should keep an eye out for future D-term opportunities in the Mudd Library, and be on the lookout for when Archives materials such as Dix’s digitized photo project are available to see and use for research.