Library of Congress, Bookbinding & More: Spring 2019 in Review

Introducing PALA to prospective students in March.

From a trip to D.C. to hands-on workshops and behind-the-scenes tours, we had an eventful spring semester! Here’s a look at some of the events we shared with the Pratt community.

Washington, D.C. Trip

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The highlight of our semester took place in April, when we hopped on a bus with a group of students for a whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C. — there and back in one day! After a general introduction to the Library of Congress with a tour of its Thomas Jefferson Building, our generous host Muzhgan Nazarova led us to several corners of both the Jefferson and the James Madison Memorial Buildings.

In the Manuscripts Division, we learned a bit about the joys and challenges of reference, particularly when it comes to housing the papers of many Supreme Court Justices (“They always seem to pass away on a weekend,” said Manuscript Reference Librarian Patrick Kerwin, “so we’re very busy on Monday morning!”). We saw that the Performing Arts Reading Room, like much of the Library of Congress, still relies in part on card catalogs. This is the access point for the the Music Division’s collections, which famously includes five Stradivari stringed instruments (and perhaps more interestingly, it also includes around 2,000 flutes, given to LC, some say, as a move to out-donate the Stradivari donor). Finally, Nazarova provided an overview of what she and her colleagues accomplish in the Asian & Middle Eastern Division. Shelves of books in languages of the region line the walls of the office, waiting to be cataloged by librarians who seem to speak at least four languages, but often many more.

We also registered for and received Reader Identification Cards, so we look forward to opportunities to return to the Library to do some research. Having seen first-hand the dedication and enthusiasm of the librarians we met, we really can’t wait to go back.

Bookbinding Workshop

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During a fun workshop in March, we received instruction and hands-on practice in bookbinding at the Center for Book Arts. Since we’re training to work with them full-time, it makes sense to understand the mechanics of books. Plus, a little deep concentration with a needle and thread certainly helped as a form of meditation at a time when we were well into the intensity of mid-semester classwork.

Professional Events

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Being in New York City has a million perks, but for a group of library science students the best thing might be the incredible number of libraries, archives, and events relating to the field. To help students get a better sense of career opportunities and to make some professional connections, we organized tours of two libraries and gathered a group of students to attend a local discussion on reference librarianship.

Descending through the stacks of the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building, Michelle Misner led us to the library’s labyrinthine underground areas located below Bryant Park during a tour in February. She shared a lot of information people probably don’t get during the public tours, like how they employ multiple classification systems, including Dewey, LC, fixed order, and the Billings system.

We learned about an interesting classification system at another beautiful Manhattan library when we visited the Grolier Club in April. Meghan Constantinou, a Pratt alum and the librarian of the 135-year-old bibliophile club, provided a tour, pulled some of her favorite items from the collection for us to see, and shared some of the Club’s history — which includes the creation of a unique classification system.

Finally, during the Reference Librarianship & Justice: Critical Interventions event at METRO in March, students heard from an impressive group of librarians who spoke on panels and gave presentations discussing issues around the critical dimensions of reference services. Everyone was incredibly inspirational, and it left us wondering: How can we better connect LIS students to underserved NYC library communities? What needs can we fill, and what sustainable projects can we create or help empower?

We hope you’ll help us come up with ideas to help answer those questions and more during the 2019-2020 school year. As always, feel free to email us at silssa.pratt@gmail.com, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for announcements about events throughout the year.

Thanks to everyone who joined us at these events, as well as at our meetings, student group happy hours, and school-wide events. Thanks to the generous support of the Pratt Graduate Student Engagement Fund. And finally, extra-big-time thanks to all the people who provided time and valuable insights to help us make these events happen!

–Mary Bakija, PALA President

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