The second cohort of the GLCA-Library of Congress Research Program has gotten off to a very good start. This year Jurretta Hechsher enlisted the help of two of her colleagues of the Library – Susan Garfinkle and Kris Pruzin – so that each of the three teams has a dedicated research librarian to assist them. This represents an increase in resources the Library of Congress has devoted to this program, and I am pleased and flattered that they have taken this step. It seems clear that the teams will set up blogs or other means to convey their research progress.
Just as last year, the first two days are overwhelming as the teams meet with the heads of the Library reading rooms pertaining to their topics. The overview from Tom Mann, who heads the main reading room, is probably the best introduction to the research process that anyone in the country can provide. Just as last year, even the faculty members said, "I could wish I had that introduction my first day of graduate school." You cannot help feeling overwhelmed at the amount of material that is available and the need to get a handle on what materials are most important to consult during the limited time on-site at the Library.
The home-campus librarians at first are somewhat uncertain of their roles, but as these two days progressed they come very quickly to see exactly why they are there, and they recognize that the opportunity to spend ten days in the world's most comprehensive research library is a tremendous opportunity for professional development.
One of the students from BISLA yesterday made an interesting observation to the LC staff members leading a session. "You are all so nice here," he said. The culture of the Library is that there is a wealth of information that exists, and as users of the Library, we would like to make it available to you.
Virginia Beard (Hope College, left) and her team studying the phenomenon of homelessness in the U.S. They are meeting with Susan Garfinkle (right) of the Library of Congress.
Dagmar Kusa (BISLA) and one of her students, Arnold Kiss, in the aisle of reference materials for the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and the Former Czechoslavakia.
I share the team members' impression that these people truly enjoy being of service to those seeking to learn from the resources the Library makes available. The idea of compiling and sharing knowledge as the basis of sustaining a vital society is powerfully expressed in this setting. I return to the Library next week to witness how the teams' research has progressed. It will be truly exciting to hear their accounts of what they have learned – about their chosen subjects, and about the research process itself.