Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week 2014 Celebrates Graphic Novels

September 21st - 27th is Banned Books Week, an event that celebrates the freedom to read by bringing attention to written works that have been banned, censored, or otherwise challenged in academic and library settings. The focus for this year’s celebration is the graphic novel and comics form. The choice to emphasize comics and other graphic narrative works represents an important recognition of the medium as a legitimate mode of speech and intellectual engagement. This year LITS will organize several activities to recognize Banned Books Week including a display in the Library courtyard of challenged graphic novels and other related works, as well as a Stimson Room event on Wednesday the  24th from 4-5PM.

Graphic novels are more popular among readers today than ever before and are appreciated by a broader audience than in the past. Although comics have had a place in pop culture for decades and have attracted a dedicated readership from the early 20th century onward, they have only recently found a place in libraries and academia. Where librarians once hesitated to include comics in their collections, in little more than the last decade many libraries have responded to a rapid rise in demand among their patrons for graphic storytelling by increasing their graphic novel holdings. In addition the graphic novel has found its place in many classrooms as an effective teaching tool, with curricula ranging from literature and film studies, history, and even science incorporating examples of the medium into their reading.

There have been a significant number of challenges to the inclusion of particular comics series in library collections, but given the short history of comics in libraries in general the number of banned and challenged comics still remains relatively small compared to literature and YA novels. Even with the limited number of challenges to graphic novels in libraries and classrooms, the artform has a long history of struggle with censorship and of comics creators defending their intellectual rights. For nearly sixty years, mainstream comics were created under a regimen of self-censorship as a result of the infamous Comics Code Authority.
After the earliest examples of popular and pulp comics met with moral panic from parents and concerned adults, comics industry leaders were left with a choice between allowing the federal government to regulate their content or instituting their own censorship code. From 1954 through the early 2000s, the Comics Code limited the mainstream sale and distribution of comics to only those that met its stringent qualifications. Regardless, throughout the reign of  the Code underground and independent creators produced some of the most vibrant and important work in the medium, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with sequential art and graphic storytelling.

If you are looking to learn more about the history of censorship and the comics medium there are many links around the web. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization created to help comics creators stand up for their intellectual and First Amendment rights, has put together several comprehensive pages on this not-so-secret history of comics:
Some of the works that will be on display
Join LITS in celebrating Banned Book Week by visiting the display of incredible / fantastic / spectacular/ [insert hyperbolic adjective] comics and graphic novel resources that are available right here in our library. If you want to learn more and share more about how great graphic novels really are, come to the Stimson Room at 4PM on Wednesday the 24th for button and zine making, snacks, and discussion.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Candy Quest!

Where can you find new spaces, meet friendly faces, eat candy, earn a button, and enter to win a prize?  On the LITS Candy Quest, of course!

Jorge visits the Research Help Desk
Jorge departing the Research Help Desk after making a new friend and bagging some candy.

Here's how to participate:

  • New students, check the LITS bag you received at the August 29th M&Cs in the library for a red Candy Quest card.  Can't find the card? No problem! Pick up another copy at any of these LITS service points: the Circulation Desk, Research Help Desk, and Technology Help Desk.
  • Starting Wednesday, September 17 - Friday, September 19, visit each location on the card between 1-5pm, present your card for the person on duty to initial/check off that location, and get a piece of candy.
  • Once you've visited every location, fill in your contact information on the back of your completed card and bring it to the LITS Research Help Desk. You'll get a limited-edition button and be entered to win a gift certificate to Rao's or the Odyssey Book Shop.
Happy questing and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Interlibrary Loan Webpage!

We would like to share some awesome changes to our Interlibrary Loan ILLiad webpages! 

First, you can now log into ILLiad with your standard Mount Holyoke login and password. You will still have access to your borrowing history and any pending requests. Second, ILLiad has a new look! The pages have been redesigned, but all of the features you are used to are unchanged. Please do change your bookmark to this new URL:

We're excited about these improvements, and we also look forward to continuing to provide you with the reliable and fast ILL service you're used to. If you have any questions or problems with your login, please email

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflections on the Frances Perkins Center

During my archival internship for the Frances Perkins Center through the Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections, I referred to the central historical figure in my work as “Frances Perkins,” or sometimes “Frances,” which is what my boss, author Kirstin Downey, called her because Kirstin is a journalist by profession and connects personally with the legacy of Frances Perkins.  Chris Breiseth, Chairman of the Board of the Frances Perkins Center, refers to her as “Miss Perkins” because she preferred to be called “Miss Perkins” when they lived in the same house when Frances Perkins was a professor and Chris Breiseth was a student at Cornell University.  Board members Sarah Peskin and Leah Sprague just said “Frances Perkins.”  Tomlin Coggeshall, the grandson of Frances Perkins and founder of the Frances Perkins Center, naturally refers to her as “my grandmother.”  Even when I sat across from Tomlin’s husband Christopher Rice at dinner, I felt a bit star-struck when Christopher simply referred to the woman behind the new deal as “Tomlin’s grandmother.”  Personally, I have decided to say “Miss Perkins” because that was how her students addressed her.

As a volunteer for the events at College of the Atlantic and the garden party at the homestead, I learned that handing out nametags is a significant social advantage because the person who hands out nametags will learn everyone’s names.  At College of the Atlantic, after I handed out nametags on August 12th, I enjoyed listening to the speeches.  Former United States Senator George Mitchell delivered an inspiring speech about the historical and political significance of Frances Perkins, anchored in her home state of Maine.  I liked his joke, “Massachusetts used to be part of Maine.”  Kirstin’s speech was incredible; I loved her theme of Perkins’ roots in New England because everyone related to it.  She sweetly included my comment that although Frances Perkins enjoyed lobster, she would probably become a vegetarian if she attended Mount Holyoke now.  Vegetarianism is predominant on campus partially because it is the best way to reduce each person’s carbon footprint, and students care about the world.  Finally, it was wonderful to see President Lynn Pasquerella in Maine and to hear her voice in the video for the Frances Perkins Center; Mount Holyoke has a strong presence in Perkins’ legacy.

The homestead was probably the best part of my time in Maine.  In the house of Frances Perkins, where Tomlin and Christopher currently live, I was especially fascinated by the family’s book collection.  You can determine a lot about people through their book collection.  For example, Perkins closely read a book about code of conduct and sometimes distributed copies of it.  Below is a picture of me with her copy.  Near the books, there were several signed items from President Franklin Roosevelt.  I had previously seen his signature behind glass cases in museums, but Roosevelt’s signature appears all over the possessions in Tomlin’s house because his grandmother had a close professional relationship with the president. 

The homestead was the ideal place for the annual garden party, held this year on August 14th, because the garden is indescribably beautiful.  I have enjoyed a wide range of interesting tasks as an intern this summer in Washington, DC, but one of my favorites was picking a bouquet of flowers from the garden for decoration.  Then, the Frances Perkins Center gave awards for social justice to a few deserving recipients who live by the values of Frances Perkins.  After the ceremony, I ate dinner with members of the Board, as well as 92-year-old prominent historian William Leuchtenburg.  I told him upon departure, “I hope to become a historian, and when I am your age, I will tell people that I met you, and they will say ‘whoa!’”  He smiled approvingly.  It was my privilege to meet several exceedingly interesting people during my time as an intern at the Frances Perkins Center.  The following morning, as I was reading The Roosevelt I Knew by Frances Perkins, I ran into Tomlin Coggeshall in a coffee shop, so I asked, “Hi Tomlin, do you mind if I sit with you while I read your grandmother’s book?”  Characteristically of the friendly people at the Frances Perkins Center, Tomlin welcomed me to sit with him.

Rebecca Brenner
Mount Holyoke ’15
Intern in Alexandria, VA, for Frances Perkins Center and Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

From the Archives: The First Course Catalogue and the History of Admissions

Mount Holyoke is a college with a long and far-reaching historical legacy, and even today we continue to honor many of our earliest traditions. Yet while we have maintained our core values of diversity, academic excellence, and purposeful engagement, much has changed about Mount Holyoke's format and practices since 1837. Taking a look at the very first course catalogue for the 1837-1838 school year reveals how much the institution has grown.
Cover of the original 1837 catalogue

One notable change is that while today we have President Lynn Pasquerella, in the seminary's first year Mount Holyoke was led by Miss Mary Lyon, who was called a principal and teacher instead of president. The list of Trustees also reveals the familiar names of Deacons Andrew W. Porter and Daniel Safford, for whom two of our residence halls are named.

The seminary had only three class years--Junior, Middle, and Senior--which students were placed into based on their test scores, rather than their age. The founding year started with 116 students, though many of the students would not graduate, since it was typical for women to enroll in a seminary for only a short time. Each year followed the same curriculum, and while they were designed to be followed for a year, students could advance to the next year once they proved their mastery of the subjects.

Admissions requirements
The requirements for entering the seminary's Junior class were being 16 years old and having "an acquaintance with the general principles of English Grammar, a good knowledge of Modern Geography, History of the United States, Watts on the Mind, Colburn's First Lessons, and the whole of Adams's New Arithmetic." The list of subjects each class studies is given in the catalogue, and it is noted that the list will likely expand in coming years, so "preparations to enter the Junior class should be full and thorough."

When students first arrived to the seminary, it was not actually guaranteed that they would be admitted. First, they took a series of exams to demonstrate their academic preparedness. An emphasis is placed on the importance of being present at the seminary as much as possible; students were generally required to stay the whole year, and were asked not to miss any weeks of class during their Senior year.

Students were required to complete assigned domestic chores, as part of Mary Lyon's method of keeping the cost of attending the seminary low: $20 a term, not including fuel and lights. But the catalogue emphasizes that the institution would not teach domestic skills to the students, and instead make use of those skills students had already learned from their mothers.

The Seminary's original 116 students all came from the East Coast, except for Mary E. Hayes from Ohio, with the majority from Massachusetts and Connecticut. While this group of students was not very diverse, Mary Lyon founded the Seminary with the intention of providing a rigorous liberal arts education for middle class women who could not afford to attend more expensive institutions.

Today, Mount Holyoke looks very different from Mary Lyon's time. We now have four class years instead of three, the tuition is slightly higher than $20 per semester, and there are hundreds of different classes in a variety of subjects to choose from. Admissions applications are no longer sent directly to the President. Mary Lyon might not have envisioned this future for us. But in our 177th year, Mount Holyoke has grown into a diverse, inclusive, and academically premiere college for all women.

See the full 1837 course catalog at the Alumnae Quarterly!

Find the Archives on social media:
Youtube - new!

Megan Haaga, Class of 2015, is a student assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.