Full Service Library

One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to participate in the cultural activity of our campus. I attend book discussions, poetry readings, open houses, and presentations all the time (well, maybe not all the time, but that’s probably okay).

This week, I attended the opening reception for “The Many Hats of Robert Altman“. At the reception, students shared stories about their experiences with “Bob,” otherwise known as director Robert Altman. Because of a partnership between librarian Philip Hallman and their professor, Matthew Solomon, the students got a chance to intimately research our largest archive, the Robert Altman collection, which holds photos, letters, papers, etc. etc., from the filmmaker’s career. They curated pieces from the collection based on eight themes including Altman’s aesthetic (which includes a sound piece), his relationship with his peers in the movie industry, and his use of sound and music in his work. At the reception, Solomon spoke of the transformation that took place in the students as they got a chance to do hands-on, unique research with primary source materials (that sounds very librarian-y).

So that’s pretty cool: a librarian working with a faculty member to use library resources for primary research. It’s what you’d expect, though, from any good academic library.

This is what I think is the cool part: library staff (Jamie Vander Broek, Learning Librarian and Exhibits & Programming Librarian and Melissa Gomis, Instructional Technology Librarian) leveled up by developing, executing, and hosting an exhibit of the students’ work that fills our graduate library gallery space.

The Many Hats of Robert Altman exhibit photo

They coordinated this semester-long project with a libraries-wide (through the graduate and undergraduate libraries) set of exhibits showcasing student work and celebrating the exhibits that have occurred all throughout library locations. Called “On View,” this inter-building exhibit illustrates just the kinds of things librarians can do to support research and learning and teaching in the communities they serve. Libraries are reflections of their community, of the individuals that make up that community. Showcasing student research by building an exhibit around it is much more exciting than simply using the library archives as a source for research. It visually illustrates, explores, and celebrates the work the students (and faculty-librarian collaborators) put into their research and the relationships they built with each other, their subject (in this case, Bob), and the collections.

It’s not about us (librarians or libraries), it’s about our community (students, faculty, staff, and broader community). This effort pointedly showcases this community reflection and celebration.

I hope to see more of this at our library. I’m really proud of it.

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