Ideas about making Special Collections more oriented towards students

Ashley Meng
December 17, 2015

After spending hours in Special Collections, my primary criticism is that I would have liked hours to have been more student-friendly. From what I saw, many of the researchers were of an older audience, including grad students and professors. They have a different schedule that includes more free time during the day. Meanwhile, I did not see very many students and part of the problem I think is that the hours did not fit into the academic schedule very well. For me, whenever I went, it was only because I had an odd free hour occasionally. I would have preferred sitting down continuously for a longer amount of time.
I think it would be also useful if the library publicized the books and resources it had in special collections more often. Another aspect to the problem of not having enough student traffic is that, admittedly, there is a small percentage of students at MIT who are immediately interested in the humanities, and an even smaller percentage who are immediately interested in books (rare or otherwise). Perhaps, there could be a HASS class offered that focused on these collections, navigating them, and analyzing them as objects. I really enjoyed the project I had this semester in 21L.715 of actually going through the collections to find an object and perform original research on them. It felt as if I was directly playing a role in understanding a piece of history, rather than just reading and regurgitating a textbook. It also didn’t require much experience, aside from having that initial interest in books.