honoring history

I was very excited when Obama got elected, but from the time of the election to January, I was preoccupied with other things to pay too much attention (i.e., illness, holidays, work). But, during this period, I did notice, on a colleague’s Facebook status, that Northeastern University Libraries was hosting an all-day inauguration day viewing, and I thought that our library should be doing something like that, especially since we had been active in voter registration (non-partisan, of course). However, as this didn’t fall under my purview and I was too overwhelmed with my own work (who isn’t in my department?!), I didn’t think much about it.

On the Thursday prior to the inauguration,the campus sent out an e-mail indicating that there would be viewings all around campus. That nudged me into thinking about it again. My library hadn’t planned on doing anything (our College Library had planned two viewing areas in their building, though), but my colleague in my department and I managed to pull something together at the last minute.

So, the Friday before the inauguration, I ended up spending my day preparing for our very own viewing. I figured that we should have some sort of display of books–we are, after all, a library. So, I did some research and gathered materials. I distributed posters to the other libraries. And I helped set up the presentation room and the display.

For the display, I found a couple of turn-of-the-20th-century Harper’s Weekly issues–one that showed pictures from inaugurations past and one that showed pictures of Taft’s inauguration.

I also found books about inaugurations and about Obama. (All our books by Obama were checked out, though my co-worker brought her own copies that Tuesday.) My co-worker suggested displaying The Guide to the American Presidency and Public Papers of the Presidents, showing a few inaugural speeches. So, we had a good mix.

On inauguration day, I brought in some pastries from King’s Hawaiian (get it?). My co-worker brought in red, white, & blue fruit salad (berries, pomegranate seeds, & yogurt), trail mix, and hot & cold drinks. She printed up the menu & recipes for the inaugural luncheon and put it near the food.

My co-worker also brought plastic ribbons and streamers that two of our other co-workers gamely turned into bows. They did a great job of making the library look quite festive.

Despite the short notice, we had a pretty good turnout. So that was nice. Unfortunately, our broadband connection wasn’t cooperating, and our feed kept skipping. (We don’t have satellite feed in the building.) That just goes to show that the Internet is not always the answer.

In a way, I was glad that we hadn’t had time to advertise, or else we would have gotten more people than we could have fit in the room. However, if libraries do really want to move towards being centers of activity, as I think they should, then having a space for these kinds of events is something that needs to be taken into account. Our library building is currently undergoing renovation, and I hope that the the new design allows for greater space flexibility. Hopefully, the new presentation area will address the technology deficiencies, too.

Technical difficulties notwithstanding, I think it turned out quite well. I hope my library will have more occasion to do programming related to current events. I basically think that libraries and their collections can be connected to pretty much anything, and doing such programming emphasizes such connections. Creating displays would then just be a way to pull together people’s conceptions of what libraries are (a depository for books & other materials) and making tangible connections between events and records of such events.

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