Library to compile Medieval materials

A new reference collection will be housed in Sterling Library’s Linonia and Brothers reading room.
A new reference collection will be housed in Sterling Library’s Linonia and Brothers reading room. Photo by Victor Kang.

A recent shelving mistake in Sterling Memorial Library led administrators to accelerate plans to create a reference collection that the Medieval Studies program has been seeking for more than 10 years.

After professors expressed concern that 25 frequently used reference materials were mistakenly transferred from Sterling’s Starr Reference Room to the Library Shelving Facility (LSF) in Hamden, the Library decided to expedite the process of bringing together 3,000 volumes of medieval reference works such as bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and catalogues. The collection will be compiled in Sterling’s Linonia and Brothers reading room once the ongoing renovations in Sterling are completed at the end of the 2012-’13 academic year, said Alan Solomon, head of humanities collections and research education.

“Everyone in the Medieval Studies [program] is in unison in saying this needed to happen and it’s a great stride for the community,” said Aaron Vanides GRD ’16, adding that having all the resources in one room is akin to chemists having all their equipment in a single space.

Solomon said the idea for a Medieval Studies reference collection has circulated since the 1990s, but it “never materialized.” He added that when he recently approached University Librarian Susan Gibbons about the idea, she said it “was an excellent idea and had been thinking about it independently.”

The 25 reference materials were mistakenly taken from Sterling to create space for materials being transferred from the Seeley G. Mudd Library, which will be demolished to make way for the two new residential colleges. Solomon said the Library has prioritized moving “underutilized” books to LSF, adding that bibliographies are not frequently used in many fields. Once the Library received complaints about the transfer of the Medieval Studies materials, the books were returned to Sterling within two days, History Department Director of Graduate Studies Anders Winroth said.

Winroth said the bibliographies are incredibly important for students and professors in the interdisciplinary Medieval Studies program, which draws on fields such as history, English and theology. Unlike many other subjects, Medieval Studies has digitalized few of its reference materials in part because of their old age, Winroth said.

“I use these bibliographies all the time. You constantly go from the bibliographies to the books and back and forth,” Winroth said. “I use some of them so frequently I have personal copies in my own office.”

Vanides, who is working towards a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies, said the collection will enhance his efficiency, adding that hopefully scholars will “stumble upon pertinent research more easily if [the materials are] all unified.”

The Library aims to transfer all of Mudd Library’s books to either Sterling or LSF by March or April of 2014, Solomon said. In order to stay on schedule, he said Mudd Library transfers 1,700 linear feet of books every two weeks, which translates to roughly 10,000 books.

Through this rapid process, Solomon said roughly 10 to 20 books per month are mistakenly sent to LSF and must be recalled. He said the current renovations in Sterling have added to the challenge of transferring the materials out of Mudd Library.

“There has lately been significant movement of both people and books within Sterling, and as a result everything has been in flux,” Solomon said.

In addition to housing the Medieval Studies research collection, the L&B room will continue to hold popular fiction as it was intended to do so when SML opened in 1931.

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