Woodcut images of flowers from Harvard-Yenching library, a 1920s-era catcher’s mask (a late-19th century innovation developed at Harvard), and a letter written by John Hancock to his sister – parents of Harvard freshmen got to see all these and more as part of “Your Student @ Lamont,” an interactive event which highlighted the array of collections and experiences the libraries offer to first-year students.
Organized by Harvard College Library’s Services for Academic Programs (SAP) unit as part of the annual Freshman Parents’ Weekend, the event offered parents a hands-on introduction to Lamont and the handful of other libraries where their children are likely to spend most of their time, and illustrated how library services, resources, and people come together to support undergraduate education.
“The goal was to make this a more interactive event for parents,” said Susan Gilroy, librarian for undergraduate programs for writing, who coordinated the event with administrative coordinators Lynn Sayers from Lamont and Mikel Kearns from Widener. “We were able to make the libraries come alive more powerfully. With this new model, parents have the opportunity to experience the libraries, and see the materials their children could actually be using.”
Following tours of Lamont, parents were invited to the Collaborative Learning Space on Level B, where other HCL libraries – Cabot, Houghton, Harvard-Yenching, Loeb Music, Fine Arts, and Tozzer – had items on display highlighting their collections, services, and resources. Staff from each of the participating libraries were available at their respective tables to provide parents with information about their library’s collections and services. In addition to woodcut prints from Harvard-Yenching, parents were able to view online exhibitions from Houghton Library and facsimiles of historical maps showing Cambridge, England, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, from the Harvard Map Collection. The Harvard University Archives displayed pictures of undergraduates from various eras and a summer “coat” that students wore in the 19th century, along with other items.
Since expository writing classes are the one place students are guaranteed to encounter “research” in their first year, it was particularly enlightening for parents to be able to talk with Tom Jehn, Sosland Professor of the Harvard College Writing Program, about the resources students are able to call on in the libraries. Librarians from HCL and Writing Program staff have collaborated to develop a curriculum designed to help freshmen navigate the physical and online resources of Harvard’s libraries.
At Widener, staff also offered tours to parents of freshmen. Hundreds gathered to walk through the Atkins Reference Room, Loker and Phillips reading rooms, and library stacks. The Gutenberg Bible on display in the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Room drew a large crowd to the Widener rotunda.
Parents Ron and Kathy Berg said the event illustrated the impressive resources available to their daughter, Jolie.
“I’m impressed with the resources Harvard [College Library] has, and with the number of librarians that are taking part today,” said Ron Berg. “I didn’t know some of these libraries existed. I’m blown away by the number of resources, and I have complete confidence [my daughter] will use her time here very well.”