October 2020 Archives

October 21, 2020

Students wait in line to write postcards for the University archives

What would you like future students to know about being a Yale student in 2020?

The simple question, posed by University Librarian Barbara Rockenbach in an email to students this week, struck a chord.

On Wednesday, 205 students stopped by Sterling Library over the course of several hours to scribble their answers on postcards that will be preserved in the university archives. Many others chose to answer the prompt online, uploading responses to the library’s Help Us Make History website, developed earlier this year by the library's Manuscripts and Archives department as part of an extensive effort to document the student experience during COVID-19.

With pens and postcards provided by the library, students fanned out across the plaza in front of Sterling to reflect and write, using stone walls and even Maya Lin’s iconic Women’s Table as impromptu desks. They dropped the finished postcards in a paper-wrapped box destined for the University archives.

“Congratulations, you just became a primary source,” said Laura Sider, director of Frontline Services for Sterling and Bass Library.

The postcards are packed with emotion, including poignant comments like these:

  • “Life is miserable, my parents are unemployed, and this recession is horrible. School is hard but I think life will get better.”
  • “COVID has been really hard socially, especially in a college environment in which I used to go to parties and eat a different meal at a different dining hall with a different friend every day... The politicized environment has been really scary, and I’m scared for the future.”
  • “I miss the random small-talk before/after lecture and bumping into people on the street (and being able to see their entire face without a mask!) Yale has been keeping COVID cases very low, though, so I feel very lucky to be able to be on campus, with my friends, in person.”

Postcards by students

As they left, appreciative students scooped up giveaways of Yale Library totebags and collection-themed coloring pages—but they seemed even more grateful for the opportunity to process their experiences so far this year, including how to maintain a sense of community within the constraints of the pandemic.

“For many of us, it was a really hard decision to come back and we’ve been wondering whether our decision to be here was the right one,” one student said. “This event makes me feel like I did the right thing. It makes me feel like we’re all in this together.”

-- Tricia Carey 

  

Photos: Laura Sider

Post on October 21, 2020 - 6:52pm |

October 12, 2020

Patron with back to camera examines shelves of videos

by Tricia Carey

In welcome news for film study faculty and students, the library has resumed lending items from the Film Study Center’s large collection.

The collection contains nearly 40,000 DVDs, more than 4,000 Blu-ray discs and close to 6,000 VHS tapes. It spans the history of cinema, encompasses work from more than 160 countries, and  includes about 3,000 items from the field of television.

How to request videos

Staff, faculty, and students should place requests in Orbis and Quicksearch for videos, DVDs and blu-ray discs from the Film Study Center (FSC) collection, specifying any one of the available pickup locations. Request for delivery to residential colleges, graduate student housing, or home addresses in the U.S. is also an option.

Loan periods for the Film Study Collection have been extended to align with the longer loan periods for other library materials, including options for renewal.

Return to service desks

To avoid damage, videotapes and discs should be returned only to library service desks—not bookdrops.

Library staff who process video requests follow COVID-19 protocols for material handling, and returned videos are quarantined for 48 hours before being discharged and made available for checkout again. Library users should not attempt to clean or disinfect collection materials.

Library users who are not in New Haven may keep collection materials until they return to campus. (Fines and late fees will be waived.) Off-campus users who need to return materials sooner should contact Ask Yale Library for other return options.

In-library viewing option

Viewing stations for DVDs, blu-ray discs, and VHS tapes are available on the ground floor of Gilmore Music Library. Headphones may be checked out from the Music Library service desk between 10 am and 6 pm Monday through Thursday, and 10 am to 5 pm on Friday; users may also bring their own headphones at any time, including evening and weekend hours. Viewing stations require headphones with a mini jack connection. To maintain adequate physical distance between users, only two viewing stations can be used simultaneously.

While its staff have been providing research services and support remotely since March, FSC offices, collections, and viewing rooms in the Whitney Humanities Center could not be adapted to meet reduced occupancy and physical distancing requirements. Over the summer, library staff were able to retrieve video materials from the collection for course reserves, but the collection was otherwise unavailable to the campus community.

Contact Film Study Center staff

Photo courtesy of Film Study Center

Post on October 12, 2020 - 2:17pm |

Image of the volumes of Chronicles of America series published by Yale University Press

The following post was authored by Michael Lotstein, University Archivist, Manuscripts and Archives.

Image of volumes of the Chronicles of America volumes

Chronicles of America volumes published by Yale University Press. Image source: chairish.com

In 1918, the Yale University Press published a fifty-volume book series on American history entitled Chronicles of America. The series included contributions from Yale faculty, including Ellsworth Huntington, Charles Seymour, and Charles McLean Andrews. In 1923, the Yale University Press commissioned the production of historical films based on the series. Ultimately, fifteen films were made at a cost of $1.25 million dollars ($15.2 million dollars today) that proved to be a financial failure. The films not only proved to be theatrically impractical, but unusable in schools that at the time lacked the means to incorporate films into the classroom. Two of these films—“The Puritans” and “The Pilgrims,” both produced in 1924, provide instructive glimpses into how academic historians of a century ago envisioned the shared heritage of the America and New England. Note: The films are posted on YouTube, so there may be commercials included that are unaffiliated with the films or with Yale University Press.

Post on October 9, 2020 - 2:48pm |

October 6, 2020

by Tricia Carey

This is Caroline Pryor’s third year working at Yale Library, but it’s the first time she’s been tasked with keeping people on their best behavior.

Pryor, a senior history major in Franklin College, is one of 14 students working this fall in the newly created role of “library ambassador.” Her job is to circulate through Yale’s two largest libraries—Sterling and Bass –checking on patrons’ compliance with health and safety guidelines, and, when necessary, offering diplomatic reminders about face coverings and physical distancing.  

“It hasn’t been as confrontational as I feared,” Pryor said. “People are generally following the rules. Sometimes you just need to point at the mask and then people realize that they forgot to put it back on after they took a sip of water.”

When Pryor arrives for work, she hangs an oversized Yale-branded nametag around her neck, picks up an iPad in a distinctive purple case—and goes for a walk. Over a two-hour shift, she loops through the two libraries multiple times, following a pre-mapped route through reading rooms and library stacks.

In each space, she fills out a Qualtrics survey on the iPad, recording the number of patrons present, whether they are using library materials, and how many times she has to prompt people to put on masks or move further apart. If users balk, she can text a library supervisor for backup—but so far that hasn’t been necessary.

“It gives me a good feeling to see how many people need these study spaces and to know that this ambassador program is conditional for the library staying open,” she said. “It might feel a little Big Brother-y at times, but it helps to make sure that everyone gets to enjoy the libraries.”

Because public-facing staff have other duties and responsibilities, figuring out how to monitor users’ compliance with health and safety guidelines was a critical element for library reopening, said Katy Webb, director of Bass Library. The library ambassador program was inspired by the peer health educators being used in the residential colleges, Webb said.

Managing with data

The survey data gathered by the ambassadors will help Webb and her colleagues understand how the library is being used and show any emerging shortages in study space. (So far, that has not been a problem.)

The data are also showing where more communication with users may be needed. For example, early analysis suggests that library users are most likely to remove their face coverings in individual study rooms and in the Sterling stacks because they don’t think it will have any impact on other users.

“When you’re sitting in a carrel in the stacks, you may feel completely alone, but you never know when staff shelving books or a user browsing the collection could be nearby,” Webb said. “Face coverings are also intended to reduce the risk of virus spread via library materials or other surfaces.”

In a normal year, Yale Library is one of the largest student employers on campus, with more than 200 Yale College and graduate students employed across the library system. This year, however, health and safety requirements, including reducing occupancy of workspaces, have put many student jobs on hold, including—to Pryor’s disappointment—her former position as a student archivist for the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library. 

Pryor loved learning about the archives seeing new additions to the library’s collections as they arrived, but she’s happy to still be working in a library setting, and to know, as she puts it,  that “I’m part of a network of students helping to keep the libraries open.”

Moreover, the ambassador role has brought some unexpected benefits. “Walking around Sterling and Bass when I’m not in a study mindset allows me to notice more things,” she said. “It gives me time and space to think about how beautiful this library system is.” 

           

Photos: Top: Library Ambassador Caroline Pryor starts her rounds in the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory in Sterling Library (photo by Tricia Carey). Middle: Bass Library Director Katy Webb assists a student at the Sterling Library service desk (photo by Mara Lavitt). Bottom: A student settles down to work in Bass Library with a view of the courtyard (photo by Mara Lavitt).

Post on October 6, 2020 - 3:12pm |

October 5, 2020

student opening Sterling Library door

by Tricia Carey

Opening hours at Sterling Library and Bass Library have been extended to 10 pm Monday through Thursday. The two adjacent, connected libraries are now open 68 hours a week on the following schedule: Sunday, noon - 6 pm; Monday - Thursday, 10 am - 10 pm; Friday - Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm. 

“Many students have reached out asking us to stay open later, and I’m thrilled we can do that now,” said Barbara Rockenbach, the Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian. “Beyond the practical need for study space and access to physical collections, the libraries provide a shared campus experience that is more difficult for students to find during the pandemic.”

The new hours will be in place until residential students leave campus at Thanksgiving and classes move fully online. Plans are being finalized for a more limited schedule during the "quiet period" between Thanksgiving and the end of classes and during the extended break between semesters.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, Yale Library has reopened more than a dozen libraries and special collection repositories for use by current students, faculty, and staff who are authorized by the University to be on campus. For library staff, reopening has required a careful balance between supporting physical library access and providing an array of new services to support remotely enrolled students, online teaching, and online research.

Within Sterling, the evening schedule will include Gilmore Music Library and the contactless pickup service in the Sterling nave, but service desks in the nave and the music library will close in the evenings due to staffing constraints. Patrons are encouraged to seek assistance at the service desk in Bass or use the Ask Yale Library live chat service.

Yale Library continues to provide and support significant public access to digital collections.

Two girls studying in the Periodical Reading room

Photos: Mara Lavitt 

Post on October 5, 2020 - 1:29pm |