My name is Tanya and I served as the WPI150 Archival Support Coordinator in the Curation, Preservation, and Archives department at the Gordon Library. I was fortunate enough to have been provided the opportunity to work for WPI for the past thirteen months but, sadly, my time here must come to an end. As with all good experiences, I pause during my last few days to reflect on the challenges I’ve faced, the goals I’ve accomplished, and the lessons learned while working for a unique institution like WPI.
By and large, the most meaningful interactions I have made this year have been with my colleagues at the Gordon Library. When I first arrived at WPI, I made it a personal goal to immerse myself in the culture of the university. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in because I have little knowledge of science, math, nor engineering. Many of my colleagues and collaborators may not realize that I have no formal library education; I am a historian by training who just so happened to stumble upon work in libraries! My fears were relieved when the staff accepted me into their world, regardless of my background.
I believe that it is my experience here at WPI that has shaped me as a historian. After all, my very reason for employment is WPI’s sesquicentennial celebration, which allowed me to dive directly into the school’s history. In the support of WPI150, I researched and created historical content for WPI social media pages, held reference and research appointments for scholars of WPI history, worked closely with the Student Alumni Society’s Historian Tribe, and (with the help of other Archives staff members) located the hundreds of images now featured in WPI’s most recent history, True to Plan: Crafting an Educational Revolution Beneath the Two Towers.
History is a powerful force and one that inspires institutions like WPI to not only cherish the present but prepare for the future. By watching the reactions of faculty, staff, students, and alumni interacting with their own history (perhaps for the very first time or the first time in many years), it became clear to me that the people, places, traditions, and events of the past 150 years are incredibly meaningful to the entire community.
Assisting several faculty and staff members across campus in an effort to celebrate 150 years of educational success might seem overwhelming. However, my experience has been quite the opposite. During the past year, busy became the new normal for the Archives. There is never a slow day and that is a good thing; I think the excitement from the celebration combined with the contentment found in helping others has driven the staff to do their very best.
In order to complete the numerous requests sent to the Archives, I often relied on the expertise of my colleagues. Every Gordon Library staff member, across all departments, fits the bill of the quintessential librarian — but in the best way possible. Each is resourceful, helpful, and organized. They provide excellent service to patrons, going above and beyond to accommodate even the most arduous requests. Experiencing the staff’s willingness to help first-hand made me realize that teamwork is essential to accomplishing goals, professional or academic. The next time you’re in the Gordon Library and find yourself stuck, I urge you to ask a staff member for assistance. Many class papers, presentations, IQPs, and MQPs have reached completion because of student/librarian collaboration!
Ultimately, my goal is to make an impact on the public’s memory by creating historical content for films, museums, and other effective teaching mediums. The public historian has a responsibility to inspire empathy among their audience; I believe that it requires learning about the experiences of those who lived in the past to become inspired to help people of the present. Our library staff at WPI do the same thing — they help current students who have discovered world issues to locate, analyze, and utilize the tools and resources that will help them solve those issues.
Providing reference is an important part of being a good librarian but it certainly isn’t the only part. During my time at the Gordon Library, I have met a staff member who curates U.S. patents and 4-H exhibits for their local library, another who costumes dancers in a local company, and others who create visual art for displays across campus. The staff here are not just the people you ask for help when you need it, rather they are extraordinary individuals committed to enriching the lives of others. I find it encouraging that forming lasting and positive relationships with both their patrons and the public is essential to their livelihood.
I intentionally chose to pursue a career in history but I never imagined that I’d become a historian within the walls of a library. As it turns out, many professionals, no matter their educational background or personal interests, can benefit from working alongside academic librarians.