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Libraries Essay Contest Winners
LIBRARIES ESSAY CONTEST
University Librarian Marianne Gaunt congratulates Miranda Sulikowski on her winning essay
I was studying for a mid-term that was testing our knowledge of information structures over 500 years. The test was to take place in a few hours. Because the essay questions were going to be extensive, I prodded along the endless pages of notes filled with timelines, graphs and shorthand messages. I needed to soak up as much information as I could for a passing grade. I felt uneasy because there was so much to cover and only a handful of questions were to be answered. Trying to figure out what specific questions were going to be asked was too much for me. On top of that, I felt I had overlooked an important concept, something from an earlier set of notes that didn't seem to carry as much weight as the later ones.
Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of notes I was trying to keep in my head for the test, I decided to take a break. I headed for Alexander Library for some quiet time to ease my tensions. In the lobby was an area dedicated to a traveling exhibit called 'Adventure and Art: The First Century of Printing.' Not realizing what I had stumbled on, I strolled down to Special Collections to see the rest of the exhibit. I browsed through some of the first printed pages ever, some decorated
Upon leaving the exhibit, I perused the descriptive information guide that was offered to visitors. I discovered that I had been admiring (among Dante's La Commedia and Duhrer's sketches) a page from Gutenberg's Bible. I turned to admire it once more and read the description.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that somewhere in my notes Gutenberg had been mentioned. Yes, in the earlier notes! I flipped through them to find a lengthy connection between Gutenberg and how important the first century of printing was to the exam I was about to take. With an anxious curiosity, I went to class for the distribution of the exam. I still felt a bit nervous, but regained confidence after reading the notes. As luck would have it, right there in the middle of the exam was the essay question on Gutenberg's invention and its connection to information structures. The following week, to my delight and satisfaction, the exam was returned with an outstanding grade. Libraries are more than just books, they are information centers as well as cultural exhibitors that open the minds of those who enter, and sometimes exit with surprising results.
Three semester ago, upon first entering the Camden graduate literature program, I chose to research a suspicion that French writer Simone de Beauvoir had supported the Algerian resistance of French colonialism. Not surprisingly, my searches yielded little fruit, save to vaguely confirm the notion itself, and the deadline was drawing near. I asked another professor for advice and his response resurrected my spirits: 'Ask Julie Still in the library -- she can find anything.'
I'd only met Julie once before, at a meeting of the English Department teaching assistants, of which I am one. I doubted that she'd remember me, but when I popped my head into her office, she said, 'Hello! Susan, right? Come on in.' Her office resembled my own: books, papers, and the random photo of family and friends. Although the decor would have given Martha Stewart a migraine attack, I immediately knew that Julie and I were two of a kind.
A week later, Julie emailed me the references of seven articles. I still cannot fathom how she found them, but the leads were all I needed. She also said something that opened my eyes: 'The lack of information should encourage you, because now there's a hole that you can fill yourself.'
And I did. I wrote an 'A' paper which is now under consideration at a literary studies journal.
This semester I am working on my Senior thesis. I had never really spoken to a Librarian at Dana and was, at first, a bit reluctant because they always seem so busy. I decided to approach the refererence desk with a question on obtaining an obscure government pamphlet that was going to be helpful in writing my paper. Their pleasant attitude hit me like a tidal wave of fresh air. Two big smiles greeted me and I immediately felt very comfortable. I was so pleasantly surprised!
I am used to living in as society where everyone is in a rush and not many people sincerely want to help. The Rutgers Librarians that helped me, that day, were quite the opposite. They showed great eagerness to help me and that's something I really appreciate. I explained to them what it was that I needed.
They both worked with me for the next hour or so. They took me downstairs to the archives and helped me find an old index that could help me. What I need wasn't available at Dana and they explained what my other options were. I could go to the Newark Library and if they didn't have what I needed I could come back and they would help me fill out request forms to request what I needed from New Brunswick. I ended up returning and they did just that.
If it were not for them I would have probably decided to just not include that research material. I used the material and my paper is turning out that much better. The one thing I appreciate most about the Librarians is their willingness to help. If one of them can not help you they call on another Librarian and in that manner they arrive at an answer. When they helped me I noticed how they worked like a team. Thank you Dana and my sincerest thanks to the Rutgers Librarians.
#1: Melanie Cooper, undergraduate administrative assistant
Rutgers - New Brunswick
How did the Rutgers University Library system help me? I can tell you in six words. Rutgers University Archives and Special Collections. The whole staff there has been a part of almost every endeavor I was a part of in my undergraduate years. I guess it all began in Fall of 1995, when I enrolled in a History course, Oral Histories of World War II. The work involved in this course was all Archive related, from our assignment debating the 1930s 'Case of the Nazi Professor' to our research paper on one year's worth of Targums from the 1940s. Rutgers history soon became my passion, and I often found myself taking study breaks in the Archives, looking at Rutgers newspapers from different decades.
In my senior year I was a Henry Rutgers Scholar, working on a study of coeducation at Rutgers College. The Archives were fundamental in my goal to provide a comprehensive study of the events leading up to coeducation, including the opinions of those at Douglass College. To do this, I needed numerous files from administrators at both colleges, and Tom Frusciano was essential in helping me locate exactly what I needed. From the oral histories I used to the student editorials in the Daily Targum, my paper was a direct result of the University Archives. I owe my honors to them.
If I were allowed more words, I could go on about the exhibit I created out of this thesis, an exhibit which President Lawrence viewed. It was, and still is, my greatest accomplishment. But I am already over the 250 words, and I feel I just can't say enough about how much University Archives helped my career at Rutgers.
#2: Jon'a Meyer, Professor
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
While most people were off enjoying the summer, I was stuck at home ill. Just because I was ailing did not mean I could cease to research and write, however, which put me in quite a quandary. I could not get in to the library, and while the Internet contains a good deal of practical information, it is of little use to an academic whose primary research interest is neonaticide (the killing of a newborn on the day of its birth).
That's when I discovered the true potential of the online journals at Rutgers. Once online, I merely went to the Rutgers Library webpage and had access to Project Muse and JSTOR, both of which contain thousands of articles from journals I respect and use every day.
I was able to download and read enough material to keep me busy for the two months I was homebound. Without those two electronic journal systems, I would have been unable to locate worthwhile materials or would have had to depend on others to do my library work for me. As an added attraction, both sites have easy to use search mechanisms that allowed me to quickly narrow down articles that would be of use to me. And, I was able archive the documents onto my hard disk for easy reference in the future. I now begin all my literature searches at the online journal homepage and look forward to the addition of new library services like this one.
#3: Scott Gallagher, adjunct instructor
School of Business, Rutgers-New Brunswick
It is often said that the library is the heart of the university. If that is true then Rutgers has a heart of gold.
The Rutgers libraries have been a source of great assistance to me as an adjunct instructor and as a PhD student. Judged as a repository of knowledge the Rutgers library is unsurpassed. Alexander is a trove of history and social works. Dana is a gold mine of old fashioned printed journals. The collections here are wonderful.
However, a library is more than a collection of books and journals. It is the staff of the libraries that really set RU apart. Especially those at the reference desks of Kilmer and Dana who have answered several questions. The Kilmer staff went out of their way to show me how to use their Compustat data base. Those at Dana seem to have unlimited patience with patrons that ask question after question. I can honestly say that the library has been one of the most positive aspects of my time here at Rutgers. Keep up the great work and thanks!
In addition to the winning entries, excerpts from other essays may be used in Libraries' speeches, publications, and publicity.