Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

A SLIS Boston Student Goes West

This January, I began my spring semester in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where I completed my Preservation Management requirement over the course of two long weekends. Affectionately dubbed “Library Boot Camp” by Professor Donia Conn, the class consisted of six seven-hour days, during which my classmates and I studied old photographs and manuscripts, pored over different binding techniques, and learned more about pests and mold than I ever hoped to know. We (affectionately) handled old leather book casings, examined sheets of vellum from the eighteenth century, smiled at the rosy, painted-on cheeks of old tintype portraits, and held vintage Kodachrome film up to the light to reveal images of smiling families and pin-up girls—all in the name of understanding the makeup of the materials archives and libraries hold so that we may better preserve them.

Our classes were held on the Simmons West campus at Mount Holyoke College, where we had the opportunity to visit and study two nearby libraries: the Williston Memorial Library, the college’s academic library, and the Gaylord Memorial Library, a small public library across the street from campus. Each institution had its own unique quirks and challenges: the Gaylord hosted a “seed library” and a small collection of community history materials, but was constrained by the limited scale of the building, while the Williston, with its soaring ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows (not to mention a Chihuly sculpture), has to constantly face the changing nature of student needs and library use.

The two weekends of driving from Boston to South Hadley, through the snow and sleet in the Berkshires—and relying on copious coffee to get me through the car trips and class lectures—proved worth the effort. I now have a greater appreciation for the preservation challenges our cultural heritage institutions face every day, and for the work conservators do to keep our cultural heritage materials alive.