Thursday, February 24, 2011

First Day without a Desk Buddy: A Detailed Summary

Today is my first day behind the Ref. Desk without a Desk Buddy. I'm glad it's a morning shift because those are usually much quieter and less eventful than afternoon shifts. All of the librarians have reassured me that if I need help answering a question I can just call any of them, but so far I've been fine. I've been keeping a list of everything that occurs at the Desk this morning so that I can properly document my first day out here by myself. So far it hasn't been terribly interesting, but right now I'm ok with that.
  • 9:00 - Shift begins. I'm still really excited about having a name plate to put on the front of the desk.
  • 9:01 - The Reference Desk Printer Paper Stock Pile is empty! Refill stock pile from closet.
  • 9:33 - A student asked if the scanners are downstairs. Small amount of nervousness as the student approached the desk, but that quickly dissipated after discovering how easy her question was.
  • 9:56 - Meggan the Librarian gave me two books that belong behind the Ref. Desk for me to re-shelve.
  • 10:04 - A student asks to borrow one of the Ref. Desk's Turabian manuals. Little to no nervousness/fear experienced because I happen to personally know the student from Marching Band.
  • 10:35 - A student has several questions about citing in APA format. I showed her how to use the Source Manager tool in Microsoft Word documents to format both in-text citations and bibliographies according to APA. Then I helped her identify the publication date and the publisher of one of her books. I got really nervous when it became apparent that she had a question that wasn't simply directional and that it was about APA, which I'm not very familiar with. But I was totally able to handle it. Super confidence boost for the rest of my shift.
  • 10:40 - Jess the Librarian asks me for my opinion on when the best time during the evening would be to hold a focus group about how students use mobile devices to access the library web page.
  • 11:00 - Kerri the Librarian asks how things went; I respond positively. End of shift. Relocate to Library Basement to finish typing blog post and work on homework for Environmental Issues.
Down time between events: Downtime is spent looking for information on National Library Week and thinking of potential themes we could use for that this year.

Summary: At this point I know that I often don't know what the absolute best answer to every reference question is. The way I deal with this is by thinking about how I would handle the issue and what would I do first if I were in the student's position. For example, if I were asked to format something in APA, I would handle that by using the APA option in the Microsoft Word source manager, so that's what I showed the student. (She also could have used the list of Citation Guides found on the library website.) Anyways, I survived, and I am feeling much more comfortable behind the desk.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Long lost freshmen traditions: the infamous dink

Hello and happy Wednesday everyone! This week I have been submerged in a past world in which harassing freshmen was a college sanctioned activity. This chapter in Gettysburg College history finds a voice within my unprocessed collection thanks to the curiosity of Mr. Jerold Wikoff.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my collection is comprised of letters submitted by various alumni to Mr. Wikoff, who was the senior editor of the Gettysburg alumni magazine. Within this collection of letters, there is a group of 11 letters that explain to Mr. Wikoff the freshman tradition of wearing the "dink." The dink was a beanie-like hat that upperclassmen required freshmen to wear upon their arrival to campus. Gettysburg upperclassmen were eager to ensure that freshmen adhered to this tradition; there were even men's and women's tribunals that were in part charged with the task of enforcing the wearing of dinks(you can see pictures of these tribunals in college yearbooks)!

Of the alumni that shared their reminisces concerning the dink, I really enjoyed reading the memories of Bob Siebold '56. Mr. Siebold remembers having to follow the code of "freshmen correctness" upon his arrival to the Gburg campus. According to Mr. Siebold, this meant donning a wardrobe comprised of "an orange beanie, and orange necktie and a sign which was tied around your neck with a string that stated your name and hometown." In addition to this inspiring and informative attire, freshmen were required to carry with them a book of matches so that, if an upperclassmen so desired a smoke, a freshmen nearby could graciously render their incendiary services to them.

Mr. Siebold also relates that he and his fellow freshmen classmates had to wear their dinks on campus at all times until the middle of November. At this time, the freshmen's fate rested on the college football team. If the team won their game, the freshmen could take off their dinks, orange neckties, and self-descriptive signs. However, if the team lost, then the freshmen had to don their freshmen wardrobe until Thanksgiving break. For some reason, this part of Mr. Siebold's story reminded me of Punxsutawney Phil and his all important shadow.

In learning more about the freshmen traditions that were once so pervasive at this school, I can't help but wonder how I would have reacted to having a sign around my neck, a dink on my head, and matchbook in my pocket during my freshmen year. All in all, I think these peculiar traditions must have fostered a real sense of solidarity between the freshmen!

Above is a fantastic picture of Mr. Siebold in his freshmen attire in October of 1952(he took off his sign before snapping the picture)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exploring Library Room 20 - The Library Instruction Lair

For the last couple of weeks, in addition to working behind the Reference Desk, I have also been further investigating the Instruction part of the Reference & Instruction Department. While some instruction necessarily happens at the desk, the librarians have a chance to get more in-depth into teaching research skills when professors bring their students into the computer lab classroom in the basement. In the past couple weeks I have observed an English 101 and a 200-level Psych class, and my own Environmental Issues class was also brought in to meet with a librarian.

In many ways, the three different classes I attended were quite the same. They began with trying to find out which kind of library/research skills the students had and which ones they generally lack, and then an introduction to the library homepage. Also, under the departmental research guides, every class that comes into the library has it's own web-page with information specific to their particular research assignments. Then comes instructing the students in the best way to utilize the databases, which databases will suit them best, and also the inevitable discussion of what exactly a "peer-reviewed" article is and why they are useful. There are a variety of examples and activities to engage students in the research process and familiarize them with the library's resources. In the end it is hoped that the students leave the room with a better understanding of how good research is done and with some ideas for where to start finding the answers they need.

The computer lab classroom itself is tucked in the corner of the basement and in a way reminds me of the Instruction Librarian's secret underground lair. They herd the students down the hall past the bathrooms and into their lab where they then infect them with research skills before releasing them back into the campus. But students are not like lab rats and good research skills are not infectious, so it isn't quite that easy. Unfortunately some students aren't really interested in learning new ways to do research. Perhaps they already have some research skills and feel that theirs are sufficient, or perhaps the students are only taking the class to fill a requirement and aren't very interested in the subject matter. Only demonstrating the best way to research is often not enough - the librarians have also become quite good at "selling" the information. My experiences with teaching people are very limited, but I have noticed that if you start by pointing out that "this will make your lives a lot easier," people pay a lot more attention. Sometimes libraries are less about a place to keep all the books, and more about a place to help people learn.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MS-018 Wikoff

I am pleased to tell all of you that my (partially) processed collection has been given an official manuscript collection number and title: MS-018 Wikoff! With this new technical title has come a number of exciting experiences for me this past week as the Special Collections Intern.

My primary task these past few days has been to think through how to arrange and describe MS-018 Wikoff. This was a really informative and challenging experience for me. Although I had read through an archival manual and had looked at a number of the finding aids already created by others, I still felt confused as to how to go about arranging and describing this collection.

It was at this point that I knew that I needed to seek the advice of my adviser, Archivist Karen Drickamer. Of all the helpful bits of advice she gave me, one in particular really resonated with me that I would like to chare with you all. She told me that each and every collection is unique; therefore there can be no rigid, unbending system of arrangement and description within the archival field.

Karen's insight kept me from trying to forcefully fit my collection into a mold formed and made for another collection. With the help of this realization, I have begun describing each entity within MS-018 Wikoff so as to best serve future researchers. Attempting to accomplish this while also remaining faithful to archival guidelines, I have been so thankful for the advice those around me have so graciously offered!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love and War: A Serendipitous Sweetheart Story

Let me just say that I love that its my job to read and process the recorded memories of alumni during World War II. It is just so amazing to me that I can take part in the eternal preservation of these pieces of history! As I mentioned in my last post, I am in the midst of processing a collection of letters, papers and photographs compiled by the senior editor of the Gettysburg Magazine, Jerold Wikoff. Last week, I spent the majority of my time simply reading through and getting to know the stories of various Gettysburg alums that lived through the Second World War.

After I had finished reading the letters that chronicle each alum's World War II experiences, there were a series of folders with contents that I had not in the least expected. These letters addressed to Mr. Wikoff were in response to his request for what he called "Sweetheart Stories." For the Winter 1996 issue of the Gettysburg Magazine, Mr. Wikoff wanted to feature the stories of alumni who met here at Gettysburg and later got married all because of their time here on campus. Amazingly, Mr. Wikoff received around 70 of these sweetheart stories! As you can probably guess, they were such a joy to read. Each story had its own quirks and character which, admittedly, left me with a fuzzy feeling inside.

Hands down my favorite of these sweetheart stories was between a couple on campus in February of 1946. Returning from service in World War II, this ex-serviceman decided to attend the welcome back dance reception for returning veterans in Plank Gym. Upon his arrival in the gym, he caught the eye of a pretty girl. The two were introduced and, in the words of this Gettysburg College alumnus, "that was it! We dated almost every night, walking the battlefield and one or two times at the movies, Faber's drug soda fountain, and the Lincoln Logs." Who is this sweetheart couple you may ask? They are none other than Robert and Esther Kenyon Fortenbaugh!

What a serendipitous occurrence! It was such a pleasure to learn about the love story of the very woman for whom my internship is named! I am so thankful that Dr. Fortenbaugh took the time to share the story of how he met the love of his life with Mr. Wikoff, and by extension, with me.

Above is the excerpt of Dr. and Mrs. Fortenbaugh's sweetheart story that was published in the Spring 1996 issue of the Gettysburg Magazine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recent Discovery: Answering Research Questions is Not Impossible

Having a name plate is still the most exciting part about being behind the Reference Desk. (It's the little things in life that really make a difference.) But almost equally exciting is that I have now successfully answered several research questions! I am continuing to learn how to do things and, more importantly, I am (usually) remembering how to do them. The other librarians are still taking turns being my "Desk Buddy" so there is always someone to help me answer the questions, but I am starting to provide students and other patrons with helpful information on my own.

It is also helpful that we often get students asking similar questions right after each other because they happen to be working on the same assignment. For example, while I was at the desk yesterday two different students came to the desk looking for help finding information from small town newspapers about Civil War soldiers. After watching my Desk Buddy for the day, Carolyn, assist the first student I felt vastly more knowledgeable as I assisted the second student.

Another big moment at the desk yesterday was when Carolyn went downstairs to assist a student with something and I was left at the desk by myself for about five minutes. It was rather terrifying and very exciting at the same time. Of course, nothing happened. Maybe the students could sense my fear and somehow knew not to ask me questions until Carolyn came back. But sitting behind the desk without a Desk Buddy, even if it was just for five minutes, was a big step on the way to knowing what I'm doing and feeling comfortable with it. I think there is a psychology term for gradual exposure to situations, objects, or stimuli that make you anxious in an attempt to cure you of your fear. Whatever the term is, I think it can be to my situation.

Apparently science is everywhere, even behind the Reference Desk. For that matter, there are several humongous reference books behind the desk about science. If you need them, just ask.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Acid free paper, unprocessed collections, and some French farmers

Hello everyone! This week as the Special Collections Fortenbaugh Intern I have been ushered from the figurative world of Archival processing methods and principles into the world of acid free paper and unprocessed collections! After having finished reading through the manual I discussed in my last post, Karen (Director of Special Collections) walked me through the unprocessed collections within the college's possession. After having told me a number of quirky stories attached to many of these collections, Karen gave me some time to explore the unprocessed material and see which collection most catches my eye.

This was the moment I had been waiting for. I now had the opportunity to explore and bond with each of these collections. Each group of documents, photographs, papers, objects, and letters tell their own story of the past. The thought that I could play a part in making these collections more accessible to Special Collections patrons amazed me! On one shelf there was a collection of letters from two brothers writing home to their family during the Civil War and on another shelf were the papers of a quirky physics professor who taught here at Gettysburg in the early twentieth century. The personal experiences they record and the facets of life they reveal are simply hypnotizing. I could have spent all day making my way through each and every box, but alas I had to choose which collection to process.

The collection I selected was compiled by Mr. Jerold Wikoff, who was the Senior Editor of Public Relations here at the college. For the June 1995 issue of the Gettysburg Magazine, Mr. Wikoff elicited Gettysburg College Alumni to submit their memories of World War II in order to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This collection is therefore a living record of the stories that alumni sent to Mr. Wikoff preceding the publication of this commemorative issue. I chose this collection because of the wide array of experiences that I would be exposed to as I processed the collection. It has been fascinating to see the stories that so many alumni took the time to share with Mr. Wikoff. The manner in which they shared these stories is also really interesting to see and examine. Here's one example that really struck me:

Mr. Henry Burman (Class of 1941) was a combat pilot on a bombing mission that took him over German occupied France. Mr. Burman's mission was to destroy a German submarine naval base. In the midst of completing this mission, Mr. Burman and his crew were attacked by two flights of German fighter aircraft. After dropping 8,000 feet, Mr. Burman instructed his men to prepare to abandon their plane. His last memory being the feeling of his body hitting the dash board of the plane, Mr. Burman regained consciousness once again and found himself in the arms of some French farmers. Attending to his wounds as much as they could, this small group of Frenchmen cared for Mr. Burman until German troops came to capture and detain him as a Prisoner of War. Mr. Burman later learned that he was the sole survivor of this plane crash.
Over fifty years later in 1994, Mr. Burman made his way back to that same piece of French countryside that had served as the impromptu landing strip of his fighter plane. This is Mr. Burman's recounting of his return trip:

"I returned to the Village of Molac, where our plane had crashed, and met some of the people who remember the crash and who helped save my life. The farm boy who rode his bicycle for the doctor was there and invited me to his home where we had a drink of special brandy, and he told me that I was a miracle to survive the crash."
While in the village of Molac, Mr. Burman was asked by the townspeople to dedicate a monument they had erected for the eight crewmen who lost their lives while serving their country.

Stories such as these make me remember how important it is to record and remember the kind actions of others that persist even in times of war. As can be seen by Mr. Burman's recounting of this story, the bond that is created between those who give and receive compassion is one that does not perish, but lives on in recorded memory.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

They've begun to teach me their ways... Soon I will be one of them...

My name is Audrey Schwinn and I am the Spring 2011 Fortenbaugh Intern for the Reference and Instruction Department at Gettysburg College's Musselman Library. I am originally from Maine, but for the last three and a half years I have been down here in Gettysburg working towards my B.A. in English. (If everything goes according to plan, I will graduate in May.)

This brings me to the familiar question of "What do you do with a B.A. in English?" The Center for Career Development would probably tell you that 'you can do anything with an English degree,' but as for my personal answer, I'm really not sure what to do yet. So that's why you find me here, interning in the library. As an English major, the library seemed as good a place as any to start my search for career ideas. I have come here so that they may teach me the ways of being a Reference Librarian.


By this point I have completed my training, but only in the sense that I have made it through the Training Binder and not in the sense that I have any idea what is going on. So far the various librarians I have worked with have discussed things such as general library policies, knowing the collection, the reference interview, information search strategies, and ethical scenarios at the Reference Desk. (I have also learned how to put more paper in the printer, as well as how to fix the frequent paper jams.) Now that I am into my second week of interning I have been made aware of all the information that is out there, but the idea that a student will rely on me to help them find it is still a quite intimidating. When you sit behind the Reference Desk, library patrons assume that you know what you're doing. However, I have been promised that I will not be left alone at the desk until I am perfectly capable of answering the wide variety of questions that library patrons will come up with.

Although I am not currently confident in my ability to answer reference questions, I am confident in my ability to learn. (Thank you, liberal arts education.) In a library even the librarians are still learning as information and technology is constantly changing. I anticipate that my experience as the Fortenbaugh Intern will be a truly unique and rewarding undergrad experience.

- Audrey