Campus Claire Hipps Sep 19, 2022

As library evolves, history is uncovered




Among Alma’s distinguished faculty and staff is Matthew Collins, the director of the Alma College Library and occasional adjunct faculty member in the religious studies department, where he specializes in disambiguating the meaning of the New Testament.

The library-to-Learning Commons renovations have posed some challenges for the library staff. The library will only occupy the third floor after the renovations. The resulting need to consolidate has given the staff opportunities to purge duplicate or antiquated texts, although physically moving large portions of the collection has been tedious.

“Yes, we have reduced space, but there was a lot of the collection that we were just carrying and didn’t need to carry anymore,” said Collins.

Overall, the renovations are a positive to Collins, although he misses being at the center of academics on campus.

“The space is going to look so much different,” said Collins. “All of the light from the windows will come in, and the space will look and feel much [more open]. I think that is pretty exciting.”

The renovations also gave librarians the opportunity to excavate a time capsule, placed in the building’s cornerstone in 1964. The capsule, made of copper, was difficult to open. With the help of the facilities team, Collins and Katie Crombe (’11) and the director of alumni and family engagement, opened the time capsule.

The capsule contained a few copies of Almanian editions from the time, yearbooks and some other documents. The Almanian articles discuss an elementary school sponsored by the college in Nigeria and beating Calvin College, as well as the new library.

The capsule also contained a book from 1807, the oldest book in the library collection at the time. Two golf ball were also found, as Alma’s Men’s Golf Team won the 1963 championship.

When asked what his favorite item found was, Collins said “either the old book or the golf balls.”

“My favorite thing was reading the student handbook [found in the capsule],” said Crombe. “The rules back then were much different.”

Just as a new library was built in 1963, the Alma librarians have also been building a library digitally. In fact, one of Collins’ points of pride from his three years at Alma is the digitization effort Alma’s library staff began undertaking in Spring of 2020.

The digital institutional repository includes digital copies of every edition of the Almanian, every yearbook and the digital archives. The archives include “8500 photographs, documents [and] videos,” said Collins.

“There are almost 12,000 [items] in the repository,” said Collins. “It represents a huge step for us. It’s also something that a lot of small colleges don’t have.”

Although electronic resources are widely preferred to physical texts nowadays, libraries and our librarians are here to stay for their unparalleled insights into research and writing. Our librarians can help with any research question students might have, so if you need a book, a topic for a paper or help evaluating the trustworthiness of a source, the library is the place to go.

If you would like to see the time capsule, there is a video on YouTube of the capsule being opened. It is also in the library, currently located in Tyler Van Dusen.

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