Student blogger

Discovering the Libraries: Top 10 things to know

Posted June 5th, 2014 by Pritee Tembhekar

By MIT Libraries’ student blogger, Pri Tembhekar

Hello everyone!

It is with bittersweet sentiment that I write my last blog for the MIT Libraries. This post will be about the top 10 things to know about the Libraries. I’ve covered some of these tips in other posts, so this entry will be a good way to tie it all together.

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Bonus tip:The courtyard outside Hayden Library is a relaxing place to study.

  1. Library hideaways can make studying just a little better. The Libraries have many beautiful places to study and also contain 24-hour study rooms. Check out my post about the Lewis Music Library.
  2. Stop by the Libraries for textbooks. You don’t have to carry them around in order to study between classes. The Libraries have textbooks on reserve that you can check out for two hour increments. There are also some textbooks available online through the Libraries. It could save you significant money!
  3. Think outside your courses for fun options at the Libraries. The Libraries have resources well outside science and technology. The Libraries have videos and travel books. Check out my spring break post for more ideas.
  4. On a similar note, the Libraries can help you pursue your interests. The Lewis Library has concerts and open mics that could help nurture and preserve your interest in music. If art is more your style, the Libraries’ pass to the MFA allows you to take non-MIT friends along for free.
  5. Student jobs at the MIT Libraries are a fantastic way to make money and learn. There are many ways to get involved. From the student workers I interviewed, I really got the sense that working at the Libraries had become more than just a job. In my short time here I have learned a lot about blogging and felt a community among the Libraries’ staff. Check out my student jobs post.
  6. The libraries can make research less painful! For in-depth, longer-term research making an appointment with a librarian can go a long way. Subject matter experts can really push you in the right direction. See my post on research resources for more information.
  7. Research guides provide a quicker fix and concise information. They can be accessed online and cover a wide range of subjects. More information is available in the research resources post.
  8. One of the lesser known Libraries’ resources are the range of special events they host. During their IAPril series of events, I learned about using Mendeley software to manage PDFs and citations. There were also events on 3-D printing and business resources. Some events can be really surprising. For example, preservation week brought a letter locking event to MIT.
  9. Meet at least one librarian or staff member during your time at MIT. When I met Jana Dambrogio, I was amazed by her passion for letter locking, something I had never heard of. Not only are they incredible resources, but the Libraries’ staff have unique interests that are refreshing for someone immersed in science and technology.
  10. The Libraries’ scanners are fantastic. They create high quality images with no hassle. When I asked a few senior friends what they liked best, this was the most surprising answer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! There’s an excellent video on this topic made by the Libraries and featuring students. Best of luck readers!

Discovering the Libraries: Archives and conservation

Posted May 30th, 2014 by Pritee Tembhekar

Hello everyone!

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Letters by William Barton Rogers

It has been a few weeks since I had the pleasure of visiting the Institute Archives and Conservation Lab, but I’m excited to write this belated post. This week’s post is about how the MIT Libraries preserve MIT’s rich history and how old, sensitive materials are treated and conserved for library users.

Most students know that William Barton Rogers founded the Institute in 1861. The details of MIT’s founding and early years are much less widely known. The MIT Libraries however has a surprisingly in-depth collection of materials relevant to MIT’s history. This includes letters that William Barton Rogers wrote, old student newspapers, and photographs of students and buildings. With the help of Nora Murphy, Archivist for Reference, Outreach and Instruction, I got a glimpse of some of the fascinating pieces in the archives.

One of the earliest and, in my opinion, most meaningful pieces was the letter by William Barton Rogers describing his vision for a technical institute. The letter is from 1846 and outlines parts of the MIT mission that are still with us today (right).

Many of the other artifacts give insight into life at MIT in the past. For example, going through old photobooks reveals the presence of international students very early in the Institute’s history (19th century students from China are present in photobooks). There are also pictures of MIT living quarters in the 1930s. Surprisingly, they don’t look starkly different from where we live today.

Important works of MIT students and faculty are also preserved here. I had the opportunity to see a chlorine level map made by Ellen Swallow Richards in the 1880s. Richards was the first female student admitted into MIT and subsequently the first female instructor here.  She is notable for her work in environmental chemistry and testing levels of various toxins in food and water. The MIT Archives has her work as well as some of her personal history. Richards appears in the journal of Louisa Hewins, which the Libraries has in their collection.

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Journal of Louisa Hewins featuring Ellen Swallow Richards (1880s)

A few of the pieces that I saw were just plain fun. For example, the class of ’84 yearbook (1884 that is) has fantastic photos of student organizations. The fencing team is shown below. It also has rosters of fraternity members.

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Fencing team photo in 1884 yearbook

The Tech from June 10, 1910 featured pictures of the Institute buildings and the president of the time. It’s interesting to see what made students of the time take notice.

I went on to see the Wunsch Conservation Lab in the MIT Libraries. Jana Dambrogio, the conservator, gave me an inside look into the life of a book in need of restoration. Jana’s specialty in recent years has been around letter locking, a practice by which letters were sent without an envelope. The letters are folded in different ways that hide the contents of the letter without using more (scarce) paper. It was refreshing to hear about a passion outside science and engineering. Jana explained to me the fine line between restoration of an artifact to its old state and preservation of “imperfections” with historical meaning. I got the chance to see an old work that is currently undergoing analysis.  Jana and her colleagues are looking into the structure of the book and drawing insights about how it was made.

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Tech newspaper from June 10, 1910

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Jana Dambrogio explains the structure of a book

I also met Kate Beattie who was doing a completely different kind of work preparing books for circulation to MIT users. It just goes to show the range of initiatives that the conservation lab engages in.

Thanks again to Jana Dambrogio and Nora Murphy for showing me around!