On Friday, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) New England conference at the College of The Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. I was honored to be on a panel of speakers with Mike Meo (Hampshire alum and current student at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard), Sura Levine, (Professor of Art History), and Bonnie Vigeland (my fellow subject librarian) presenting our talk, “Re-Designing for the 21st Century: A Reading Room?!” to a roomful of librarians and architects. The theme of this ACRL conference was, “Spacing Out with the Library: An Exploration of Collaboration Across the Physical, Virtual, and those Places in Between.”
Sura set the scene with vivid descriptions of Robert’s art practice, intellectual musings, and pedagogical philosophy. Sura also spoke about our need to crowd-source the fundraising and essentially raise money for this entire project from the ground up, along with the extreme generosity of Robert’s family that enabled this project to come to fruition. Bonnie then spoke about the process of selecting books from Robert’s apartment and physically moving them over to safe storage in the library before we had raised all of the money needed for the project. I then discussed the process of making decisions about each book’s fragility, sentimental value, or monetary value and cataloging them all due to the dedicated work of our amazing Technical Services Staff Assistant, Jane Pickles. I also could speak to the great amount of use; over 600 items from the Seydel Reading Room have circulated among Hampshire students, faculty, and staff as well as five college patrons since the reading room opened in September 2014.
And then, finally, Mike was the highlight of our panel with his dynamic description of his collaborative design/ build process that resulted in the “intentional collage” of wood, metal, fabric, cement, concrete, lighting, and walls of books that now constitute the Robert Seydel Reading Room. Mike indeed accomplished our goal of creating an innovative and vibrant space that has invited students to engage with this unique collection that embodies Hampshire’s interdisciplinary philosophy.
We here at Hampshire have enjoyed the RSSR since it opened in the fall. But it was great to be able to share the Robert Seydel Reading Room with the world…. or least with a section of New England, for starters!