At the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, the staff has continued to share our many collections with Miami students, faculty, staff, and the greater Miami community. We are home to a number of prominent collections and archives such as the Cradle of Coaches Archive, Freedom Summer Collection, and our ever growing collection of postcards, just to name a few. The work that is performed with our collections has been recognized by individuals and organizations around the world. Our staff has received many accolades while assisting students who have made discoveries in the classroom or researchers who are seeing our materials for the first time. The people who allow our staff to do a number of great things have been our students.
Our student assistants perform tasks that are different from the tasks the average library student employee. We hire our student assistants based on their skills and interests so that they can not only enjoy the work that they are doing, but see the impact that their work has had on all who use us as a resource. It is because of that our staff would like to highlight the work that our students are doing and how it has helped our department and researchers and share this with the Miami Community. Our first student assistant we would like to highlight is Alex Cox.
Alex is a Second Year student double majoring in Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning from Jeffersonville, Indiana. He joined the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives during the 2019 Fall semester as a First Year student. He was initially trained to work with Rachel Makarowski, our Special Collections Librarian. During that semester, he learned how to be a Reading Room attendant and how to properly retrieve, re-shelve, and handle materials. He has also assisted with instruction by helping to set up classroom spaces, properly lay out materials, and even acting as an assistant in the classroom with larger classes. One of his biggest accomplishments while working with Rachel and Cody Sprunger, our Senior Library Technician, is the creation of our new pull list system. Alex explains that, “Creating these pull lists, that we’re talking about, used to be a completely handwritten process. It took a really long time to generate them and then you could use them once and then you had to archive the pull slips once you use them.” It uses an Excel spreadsheet for the user to input information on the material to be pulled, such as title, author, call number, etc. The information auto-populates into the respective fields on the pull slips. These slips are used as a placeholder on the shelf in the stacks for easier re-shelving, as well as keeping item use statistics and item tracking to keep our collections secure. Once the list is done, all of the slips are printed with ease. This definitely has served a time saver and has made us more efficient as these pull slips created by digital pull lists are able to be saved, edited, and printed repeatedly.
During the 2020 Spring semester, Alex began training with Kim Hoffman, our Preservation Librarian, while still completing tasks with Rachel. The pandemic hit the department hard when we had to close in mid-March 2020. His work with Kim continued when the campus reopened during the 2020 Fall semester. He was trained to make protective boxes and labels for books along with learning how to sew protective covers onto thin paperbacks known as pamphlets. This has been a great help as, about once a month, numerous materials come to the Preservation department from the entire Miami University library system, including from our branch campuses. With the ever growing number of materials that had preservation and conservation needs, we quickly realized that social distancing was going to be a challenge in our compact spaces. Using his skills in design and space planning, Alex helped Kim reimagine the space along with helping her move student stations around. He also worked with her to create an inventory of what tools each student station had and still needed. Once divided up, Kim was able to envision additional equipment that could be purchased in the future to use updated techniques to preserve and conserve our materials.
Alex is a very well rounded student and is heavily involved on campus. You can find him writing for The Miami Student (campus and community section), serving on the Dean’s Student Library Advisory Council, and helping coordinate the U-Lead Pre-Semester Program. He started his Miami career as a Presidential Fellow and is now also a tour guide for the Department of Architecture + Interior Design. His career goal is working on contextualized architecture. When asked what contextualized architecture is, he replies that “the intersection between Urban Planning and Architecture is, in my opinion, understudied and largely ignored in the design field, and I would like to change this.” When he’s not working with us, he loves to bake, talk about “brilliant architecture and urban design”, and study and play strategy games with friends. When asked why he chose to work with us, he answered, “I worked at my high school library, and loved the work I did there! I was very excited to learn more about Library Science at Miami, and Special Collections and University Archives sounded like the best of the library jobs!” We are so happy that he chose us to work with. Thank you, Alex, for all that you do!