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Pforzheimer Fellows: What They Learned

Inaugural fellows on working with Harvard libraries and hands-on librarianship.

 
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September 9, 2014—The inaugural Pforzheimer Fellows program ended with the summer, but each of the four fellows said the experience had a lasting impact on how they understand and use libraries.

The program, launched earlier this year for humanities graduate students interested in learning about emerging library fields, exposed the fellows to new materials as well as to how libraries function behind the scenes. “You see things in a different way,” said James McSpadden, who worked with the Heinrich Bruning collection in the University Archives. He uses the collection extensively in his research, and spent the summer compiling rich descriptions of materials and creating a finding aid. “To make this collection that I care about available to other researchers is such an amazing experience.”

At the Schlesinger Library, Bradley Craig digitized a collection about the 19th-century African American educator Charlotte Hawkins Brown, using a hover cam. Once the digitization was complete, Craig curated an online exhibit drawing on the conventions of a modern college admissions website for Brown’s now-defunct Palmer Memorial Institute.

Alina Lazar analyzed and recorded 2,600 titles, part of HCL’s Printernet Collection, working with librarians from Widener, Schlesinger and Houghton, and blogged about it as she progressed. She also developed new research skills. “This experience widened my view of what kind of material is available for me to work with. I realized there is a lot of primary material available,” she said. “One of the most exciting things for me was actually handling archival material. Until you get your hands on it, you hear of people doing this work but it’s kind of mysterious. It’s given me a lot of confidence with this kind of material.” Lazar will continue with Houghton as a part-time student employee this fall.

For some fellows, the experience provided exposure to totally new work streams and to materials unrelated to their graduate studies. For others, it served to deepen an existing understanding of content and library practices. In all cases, the Fellows reported an increased appreciation for library work and librarians.

At Maps, Media, Data and Government Information in Lamont Library, Heng Du explored digital technology in libraries and collaborated with staff members on an interactive website for a collection of Dutch sea atlases that will go live this fall. Du observed, “As an academic interested in working with digital media, two months as a Pforzheimer Fellow opened my eyes to many emerging opportunities.”

Martin Schreiner, Du’s mentor, met with her regularly. “Conversations with Heng were insightful to me. I heard regularly and directly from a graduate student about her perspective and her needs from library services in her academic work,” he said. “I sensed that she was beginning to think of the library differently since she had been working for the library from the ‘inside.’ I think we learned as much from Heng as she learned from us.”

Thanks to the generosity of Carl H. Pforzheimer, the program will continue next year. If so, libraries will be asked to propose internship projects in late fall, and graduate student applications will be due in February. 

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