Sullivan Scholar works in the St. Mary’s Archive over the summer

Guest Blog Post (1 of 3) written by 
Taylor Schafer, SMCM ‘2015, Sullivan Scholar, Summer 2014

Hello archive followers! My name is Taylor Schafer. I am a rising senior and I have been interning in the SMCM Archives all summer. This is the first of three Blog posts.

The Archives is located in the basement of Calvert Hall and houses collections of artifacts, newspapers, photographs, letters, and publications relating to both St. Mary’s College and St. Mary’s County history. One of the main areas where College and County history interact is the SlackWater Oral History Collection. My task this summer was to add to this resource by conducting and transcribing interviews of local residents and community leaders, alumni, and longstanding faculty or staff who all have had an impact or were a witness to certain time in local history. In addition, I have been working on my St. Mary’s Senior Project (SMP) this summer, which involves conducting interviews with alumni, faculty, and staff. My project topic focuses around students traditions through the years and the 7 Wonders of St. Mary’s. The interviews I have been doing are helping to piece together the social history of St. Mary’s, which I hope to help publish with my completed SMP.Oral History Transcription

My main responsibilities this summer have included brainstorming and reaching out to potential interviewees, preparing for interviews, conducting interviews, transcribing interviews, following up with interviewees if needed, and organizing transcribed interviews for the SlackWater website and preserving the audio files. I have conducted some interviews on campus and have also travelled as far as Prince George County for others. Over the past nine weeks, I have transcribed over 220 pages of interviews, conducted ten interviews, some of which include with former College president Joe Urgo, Jayson Williams ‘03, Trinity Episcopal Church Rector John Ball, and Executive Director of Three Oaks Center Lanny Lancaster. I have had several learning opportunities this summer in the Archives besides learning how to conduct oral history interviews.

Of course, working in the archives, I’ve learned a large amount of content about St. Mary’s history as well. There’s so much history housed in the Archives that most community members do not realize. For instance, did you know that a 1900 graduate, Emily Louise Clayton Bishop, studied sculpture with Auguste Rodin and has artwork in several museums? How about that famous sculptor Hans Schuler designed and sculpted the Freedom of Conscience statue in 1935, and his son, Hans Schuler Jr., carved the College seal in 1970? There is so much fascinating St. Mary’s history to be uncovered in regards to the College and region. My work in the archives this summer has helped me not only realize that but also contribute to that material.

Next week I will write a Blog Post about memory and oral history interviews.  The following week I will touch upon the interviews with former presidents Joe Urgo and Jane Marget (Maggie) O’Brien, and transcripts of these interviews will be made available to the public.


Welcome Back!

Welcome to the start of another amazing academic year at St. Mary’s. You may not realize it, but by this time the librarians and library staff have had enough of the quiet summer days and are so very excited to see you again! If you’re a student, come by the library to say hello in between classes, and while you’re here you can:

  • Check out a laptop if your computer is on the fritz during the first week of classes.
  • See what your professor has placed on Course Reserve for the semester.
  • Print out your syllabi for the semester.
  • Start digging in to your SMP lit review (if you’re at that point)!

For faculty, don’t forget that the library

  • Has an all-campus subscription to both The Chronicle of Higher Education AND The New York Times. For full access to content, you just need to register with your St. Mary’s email address.
  • Is still taking requests for Course Reserves. You can find the online forms for Course Reserves requests on the Portal under the Faculty Tab.
  • Has librarians who can teach research workshops for you this semester. Just ask us.

See you soon.

A photo tribute to Celia on her last day at work

Today, Friday the 27th of June, is Celia Rabinowitz’s last day at the SMCM library. In the five years I have worked with her I have seen many sides of Celia, only some of which you may have seen . . .

Celia checking out books
Celia checks out a book for Dove

feeding students in the library
Snacks for students

finals snacks

making speeches
Joe's retirment party

Holiday Party

Celia introducing Ben Click at Hushing Huck

admiring cakeadmiring cake

John Waters Cake

and opening presents.
Holiday party, white elephant gift exchangeGift photo

All this happened in the library at one time or another and so we wish her goodbye, from the library.mimosas

Transition, Transformation, Tradition

This is my last post to Beyond the Bookshelves as Director of the Library and Media Center at SMCM.  At the end of the month I begin a journey north to New Hampshire where I will start work as Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College.  After 22 years here in Maryland I have been asked many times why I am making the change.

This morning my view of the St. Mary’s River is obscured by the lush green of the trees outside my window.  I won’t be here in the fall when the leaves fall and the vista changes.  Or to see the next step in slowly reducing our shelving so we can create more flexible spaces for our students.  Or to look up from my desk to see a student coming through to ask for help with a project, to ask if we can let her display artwork, or want to know why it’s so cold/hot/noisy in the library.

So I am packing up, doing my own version of deaccessioning, and feeling the same mixture of excitement and terror as the other graduates of the class of 2014.  Why move to a new position now at this stage in my career with retirement still double digits away, but within sight?  Why leave an amazing library, even more amazing colleagues, and this beautiful place?

Well, I’ll admit that there are some parts of my job I wouldn’t mind doing a bit less of.  I still have a heavy teaching load and don’t think I am devoting enough time to being a really good teacher.  I don’t want to give it up altogether, but doing less might help me teach better and give me time for other things like that research project which I have been trying to work on for the last couple of years.  And I’ll admit I am a bit relieved that I won’t have to upgrade all of my LibGuides to the new version.

New leadership in the St. Mary’s Library will build on the strong foundation we have, on the traditions and culture of the campus and the library.  And a new leader will participate in advocating for the continued transformation of the library.  And I am guessing that she/he will help move the library forward in ways that I might not even think of.

I will have the opportunity to learn the traditions of a new library and campus, and to participate in building on them and envisioning transformation for the future.  New challenges will push me to change, to think in new ways about what we do and why it is so important.

Even as I write this and look around at the boxes in my office I realize how much I will miss this place where I really became a librarian.  I hope I will make the SMCM library faculty and staff proud.  I will be watching to see what happens next.  I’ll be reading the blog.  And I will be getting to know and love a new place which will help me become an even better librarian.


Read Books. Win Prizes.

Library Summer ReadingWhat are you reading this summer?

Let us know by joining the Library Summer Reading Program. From June 2 to August 15 you are invited to share your opinions about books you loved, hated or can’t stop talking about. Whether you are reading this year’s big beach book, revisiting the classics, cracking open a literary masterpiece or finally reading that fantasy or YA novel everyone is watching; we want to know if we should read it. We will even give you prizes if you tell us. Not sure what to read? We have recommendations and Kindles full of books for students, faculty and staff on campus.

The Summer Reading program is open to all members of the SMCM library community including students, staff, faculty, alumni and residents of the Tri-County area (St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties.) You may read anything you want as long as a copy is available at the SMCM Library or via USMAI or the Southern Maryland public library (COSMOS). You don’t need to check the book out of the library. To get points you must post a review on the blog.

For more information visit the Library Reading Circle.

Why Net Neutrality Matters to You (and Libraries)

Depending on your personal news filter bubble, you may or may not have heard the phrase “net neutrality” discussed in the news quite a bit lately. If you don’t think of yourself as a “tech-type,” you may have been tempted to ignore these stories. “What impact could they have on my day-to-day life,” you might have asked yourself? The answer is, quite a lot actually.

At the risk of sounding trite, I think it’s worth restating just how much our daily lives revolve around our access to the Internet. When the campus network is down we wonder what work we’re supposed to get done all day. When Facebook or Twitter crashes we’re left unconnected from our friends and families. Many of us (myself included) have cancelled all cable access and rely on streaming video over the internet for our news and entertainment.

Although there may be only a small portion of the web that we each call “home”–those websites and apps we visit and use on a daily basis–we all assume that by virtue of having Internet access we technically have equal access to all information we might ever want online. This has never really been true, but if the push for net neutrality fails, this will dramatically impact the way we gain access to content online.

In plain language (thank you Electronic Frontier Foundation), net neutrality is “the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally.” Without it, cable and DSL companies would be able to provide faster connections to websites and services that pay for this improved access. Great, you may be thinking. Then maybe when I try to watch Netflix on a Saturday night it will stop buffering in the middle of an Orange is the New Black episode.


Privileging access to some content over others means that the ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) have the real power over your life online. If Comcast and Amazon strike a deal for faster access to their streaming video content you might find yourself out of luck if you’re trying to access HuluPlus. More importantly, what happens to start-ups, non-profits, and educational institutions (like libraries or non-profit online education programs) that don’t have the kind of funding that private enterprises do to guarantee that their content is privileged online? Accessing their content will be slower, more difficult, and not as easy as it is now.

On May 15, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to consider two primary options for the future of net neutrality:

  1. The FCC would require ISPs to provide a basic level of internet service, then they could charge businesses to deliver their content faster.
  2. Internet access would be re-classified as a public utility, which would give the FCC greater regulatory power to ensure net neutrality.

Naturally, librarians are big net neutrality proponents, as are the folks at the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, but also, perhaps not unexpectedly, artists and musicians who rely on the Internet to get their content out to the masses and build a fan base. The internet giants aren’t staying silent either. Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon all have made an official statement in favor of net neutrality as have 150 other internet companies. It simply isn’t in their business interest to pay more to deliver their content.

The next time NPR has a story on net neutrality, turn it up. It’s worth a listen.


A Tangled Web Indeed

Perhaps some of you have been following, or at least heard, the recent news out of Northern Ireland, where Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was recently questioned over the 1972 still-unsolved kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville during the  Troubles – a 30+ year period of conflict in Northern Ireland which lasted from the 1960’s through most of the 1990’s (you can read more about it here).  The current situation involving Gerry Adams is described in this New York Times article, and it is a story that should be of interest to many people, including historians, archivists, political scientists, lawyers, and of course, librarians.

This situation raises intriguing questions about academic freedom.  The tapes were made under a promise of confidentiality – “absolute secrecy” as the NYT put it – but that obviously hasn’t been how things panned out.  The reason why, though, is complex and likely unanswerable.  Did the researchers at Boston College make promises they couldn’t keep?  Or did their lawyers botch it by not properly vetting the agreements between the interviewees and researchers?  Did Boston College betray the trust and agreements; did they not put up enough of a fight against the subpoena?  Or did one of the researchers err by publishing a book based on some of the interviews when so many people involved are still alive?  A case could be made for all of these viewpoints.

As I said, the potential implications for academic freedom are complex and this case has been followed for several years by many in higher education.  Now, three years later, a precedent has been set that academic freedom is not all-encompassing.  It remains to be seen how much of a chilling effect this has on future research endeavors, but you can be sure it will have some thinking twice about participating in projects like this.