Library Exhibitionists

You may have noticed some different types of exhibits in the Davis Family Library lately.  Our new Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer has launched a set of small displays visible just as you enter Davis Family Library.  Last month we commemorated “Gaypril” featuring sex-positive books from across the cultural and sexual spectra, while this month’s display honors Asian-Pacific Heritage Month and includes works by and about Indian Americans, Filipinx Americans, Hawaiian Americans, and other groups.  The books range from actor and comedian Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance: An Investigation (2015) to academic tomes like Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White (2003). In curating these displays, Katrina has found that less is more: when we limit the number of works on display, they circulate more often.  (She’s also discovered that red items move more quickly.)

We have also started creating pop-up exhibits to respond to campus events.  When the Scott Center created a reading list on conflict resolution following Charles Murray’s visit, the Library acquired the recommended texts and set up a display that remained in the atrium for three weeks and was highlighted in The Campus.  (For more on the how the Library has responded to the Charles Murray lecture controversy, please see this blog post.)

Meanwhile, in our traditional space for displaying thematic book collections, this month we have a “staff picks” collection of titles suggested by our library and student staff, with brief explanations for their choices. Some of the works included are Baratunde Thurston’s satirical memoir How to Be Black (2012), the French children’s classic Le Petit Nicolas from the late 1950s, and Mohja Kahf’s novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (2006) which explores what it means to be Syrian and Muslim in the American Midwest.

Our current Special Collections displays include “Beast, Animal, Brute,” another recently launched exhibit on the main floor entitled “Banned and Banished: Ovid and 2,000 Years of Exile,” and “Middlebury Morsels: Feeding the College Community,” an exhibit on the garden (lower) level.  We hope these temporary exhibits serve to showcase the broad variety of works owned by the Library that, in turn, will inspire new lines of inquiry. But we also aspire to simply delight our patrons as they discover both known and novel sources of knowledge for its own sake.

We also host a wide number of permanent exhibits and displays, including ones on undergraduate research, fellowship winners, Ward Prize winners, the Honor Code, and the Faculty Authors Collection, which occupies its own wall on the main level.  Other collections include selected topics in pedagogy, books by winners of the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, and recently acquired books.  Staff DVD and audio CD picks can be found at the circulation desk, while over in Armstrong Library we created a new digital display for faculty research, and used the former space to highlight pieces from our historical scientific instrument collection.

Even in our digitally-obsessed culture, we find that most patrons enjoy occasionally looking up from their phones to consider the wide array of texts and objects that we acquire for their consideration.  Interacting with these physical materials provides a moment of welcome respite from our screens, and a chance to consider a new theme or a different historical moment. We want to reflect the interests and imaginations of the entire campus, so if you have an idea that would help capture the wide diversity of intellectual pursuits within our curriculum and our community, please drop us a note to suggest a topic or a theme.

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