Burns Library and Its Student Employees

Andrew Isidoro and I are privileged to work with some of the wonderful Boston College students here in the Burns Library Reading Room. Working as Reading Room assistants, these students support everyday tasks like retrieving and re-shelving books and orienting researchers to doing research at Burns. In addition, they engage with the Burns Library's collections in their field(s) of scholarly interest by writing Burns Library blog posts. As the academic year comes to a close, we wanted to show our great appreciation for the work these students do by publishing their testimonials in the Library newsletter. Student employees work for several different departments at Burns, including Archives and Cataloging as well as the Reading Room, so bear in mind that these testimonials don't cover the full scope of work done by students at the Burns Library. Rather, they are a glimpse into the work that happens in the Reading Room. If you would like to learn more about the Burns Library, please visit http://libguides.bc.edu/Burns or contact us at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

Justine Sundaram
Burns Library

Andrew Isidoro
Burns Library

Megan Keating, B.A. History, BC '15

Megan has worked in the Burns Reading Room since Fall 2012.

Photo of Megan Keating

After working at Burns for two and half years, I have come to have a wonderful familiarity with the Burns Library's collections. I have gotten far too excited about certain items while scanning, I have gained useful knowledge regarding handling and care of books, archiving techniques, and library interfaces, and I've expanded my research interests based on what Burns has to offer. One particular project comes to mind, that of listing a donated 1,500+ Irish music CD collection. Justine gave this project to me because it aligned with my interest in Irish music and dance. But a different project was research in Boston College Presidents' Records on the history of BC's Connell School of Nursing and assembling a small exhibit on this work. I had very little contact with women's history at BC, so the opportunity to work on this project opened my eyes to even more of BC's history.

My time at Burns has been wonderful. The people are fantastic, the materials are amazing, and the space is breathtaking. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to meet researchers and help them, to publish blog posts, and to exhibit the findings of my own research. Burns will always have a special place in my heart when I look back on my time at BC!

Zachary Weinsteiger, English M.A., BC '16

Zach has worked in the Burns Reading Room since Fall 2014.

Photo of Zachary Weinsteiger

As an English MA student, I have a fairly hefty interest in cultural history and the interplay between texts and their cultural context, making this sort of research invaluable to my overall understanding of the materials I work with. Working at the Burns Library allows me to spend some time researching some of its fascinating collections. My favorite projects have thus far included a blog post on our collection of witchcraft literature from the 14th and 15th century, as well as a forthcoming post about Civil War histories in the Burns collections – in particular Benson J. Lossing's Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America (1866) and Robert Kellogg's Life and Death in Rebel Prisons (1865). For example, researching a text like the Discovery of Witchcraft gave me insight into the culture out of which Shakespeare drew his witches in Macbeth, a personal favorite of mine. My Civil War project resonates well with my recent interest in late 19th century America. While I had a basic knowledge of the Civil War from my high school days, the ability to interact with materials that were written around the same time as the Civil War was highly educational. Building off of this interest, my latest project is developing as an analysis of voodoo literature in the late 19th century. My interest was piqued by my engagement with the conjure tales of Chesnutt from the Williams Ethnological Collection. I hope to uncover a way to understand the sudden fascination with these sorts of voodoo folktales in American culture directly following the Civil War.

Grace West, History B.A., BC '15

Grace has worked in the Reading Room since Fall 2014.

Photo of Grace West

I was first introduced to the Burns Library in the spring of 2013 when I enrolled in the History Department's "Making History Public" course, a class which makes use of the Burns Library collections to produce a culminating exhibit displayed in Stokes Hall. The subject of that semester's course--taught by Professor Heather Cox Richardson--was comic books and American history. Throughout the semester, my classmates and I immersed ourselves in the extensive Edward J. Kane Comic Collection at Burns, sifting through over 11,000 issues to research the ways in which comic books comment on significant cultural and political shifts in American history.

The Making History Public course fostered my deep and long-lasting appreciation for the Burns Library. I had conducted research at other archives and special collections libraries--including libraries at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Moravian Church Archives in Winston Salem, NC—but working with the Burns Library collections made me feel significantly more comfortable working with archival materials and vastly enhanced my interest in the world of special collections librarianship.

After spending my junior year abroad at the University of Oxford, I was thrilled to see an online job posting during the summer of 2014 for student positions at the Burns Library. I applied for the position of Reading Room Assistant and was offered the position. I began working in the Burns Reading Room as a student employee at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester--my penultimate semester at Boston College.

I have learned a tremendous amount about the Burns Library collections through my work in the Reading Room. I have also learned a great deal about the practices of archives and collections management by using Alma and Archivists Toolkit and through conversations with Burns staff members. My absolute favorite part of my job is shelving and re-shelving material. I love exploring the stacks and discovering the vastness of the Burns collections.

In addition, I've written two articles for the Burns blog, one about the Caribbean travel guides in the Burns' Williams Ethnological Collection and the second post about the books by African American writers from the Boston and General Collections. These two topics coincided neatly with my course of study at Boston College, where I am pursuing a major in History and a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. Although the Burns Library is not best known for its collections related to the African Diaspora, I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring these lesser-known segments of the Library's holdings.

Working in the Reading Room has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my undergraduate education, and I am grateful to the Burns Library staff for teaching me so much about the fascinating world of rare books, special collections, and archives. Over the past four years, the libraries at Boston College—and the Burns Library in particular—have captured a special place in my heart.