Ford Memorial Tower: Portal to Opportunity
When I started working at the John J. Burns Library in 2009 I was secretly pleased that it is housed in a collegiate gothic style building that boasts a handsome tower. A tower is the symbol of Saint Barbara, my name saint. I felt certain that this was a good sign for me. For others a tower has different connotations, it means a citadel or fortress. This could imply a structure which is unwelcoming or unapproachable. Famous towers, such as the Tower of London, reinforce this impression—being “sent to the tower” was a situation which generally ended badly. The frightening impression that other towers may have is countered on the Ford Tower by the whimsical bas-relief figures embellishing the framework above the doorway. There you see Shakespeare, Dante, and Diogenes playfully rendered. Fittingly, you also see figures of students perusing books while displaying puzzled expressions as they earnestly strive to cull the meaning of the great authors’ works.
During the time I have worked at the library, many students have bravely entered the Ford Tower and have found the experience rewarding both for their current studies and future goals. I have had the pleasure of working directly with some of these outstanding students.
In 2009, two seniors, Meaghan Ryan and Mike Pesce, received instruction from me. Meaghan enjoyed working in both the conservation lab and the archive department, decided to become a library professional, and successfully applied to graduate school. Mike stayed on the summer after graduation assisting me with a major project involving the care of 1,109 Jesuit imprints. The project was finished on schedule, fortunately for me, because by summer’s end the very capable Mike was offered a paralegal position—a step towards his goal to pursue a career in law.
Andrew Kuhn, a graduate student, came to work with me in the academic year 2009-2010. It quickly became clear that, although he wished to learn from me, Andrew himself had much to offer to the Burns Library. When my colleague, Reference Librarian Justine Sundaram, and I planned a seminar on the Yeats sisters’ Cuala Press, Andrew was a perfect fit as a skilled speaker with impressive knowledge of letterpress printing. Along with Boston College Professor Marjorie Howes and Justine, he gave a well-received talk for the Association of College and Research Libraries program. Since then, Andrew was the curator of the beautifully designed exhibit, Painter, Illustrator, Author: Irish Art in the 20th Century, shown in the Burns Library O’Brien Fine Print Room. Recently he wrote an entry for the Burns Library blog, see this link to read his informative article. By taking advantage of these library opportunities, Andrew is building a scholarly reputation.
The 2010-2011 academic year brought seniors Lauren Zajac and Erin Garrity to the conservation lab. Erin was the Book Builders of Boston intern and was a double major, History and English Literature. While working in the lab, Erin made clamshell boxes for a number of valuable books. She made use of the library for research, consulting the W.B. Yeats collection for her history thesis and writing for the Burns Library blog. Upon graduation Erin was employed as an editorial assistant for Pearson Publishing, fulfilling her goal to work in the field of publication. Lauren Zajac chose to work in the lab as part of her senior honors project. Lauren, like Erin, was a double major; her topics chemistry and studio art. To further her dream of a career in chemistry, Lauren conducted research with Dr. Gregory McMahon in the BC Clean Room and assisted in the Burns lab with the repair of watercolor paintings from the Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill papers. Last June Lauren began work as a lab research assistant at New York University.
Catherine Macek, our Book Builders of Boston intern for this academic year, is a history major. She was a great help in my lab and, like Lauren, conducted research with Dr. Gregory McMahon in the BC Clean Room. Her Clean Room project involved a brass book clasp from the mid-15th century, an item from the Burns Library collection. In addition, Catherine went an extra mile; she wrote an excellent Burns Library blog entry about her project and gave a presentation for Father Jeremy Clarke’s class HS 300 Study and Writing of History: Globalizing Jesus. Catherine will graduate this May and her Burns Library experience will be useful for her future employment. She will receive teacher training over the summer and then will be engaged in the “Teach for America” program.
The Ford Memorial Tower is more than an attractive architectural feature on the Boston College campus; it is a portal of opportunity for goal-oriented students. The archival collections and rare books offer inspiration for scholars of many disciplines. The interior of the tower will be renovated in the near future, providing a welcoming and accessible environment for students to pursue their current and future goals.
Barbara Adams Hebard
John J. Burns Library