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Mason Library: Gone Global

When KST asked Dean of the Library Irene Herold what the library of the future would be like, she said, "The library of the future is already here!" No longer the domain of "bun-wearing shushers," the library instantly connects students and information around the world.

by Irene Herold

Mason Library photo by Julio Del Sesto '06

The Marion Wood Reading Room looks out onto Appian Way and Fiske Quad.

Do any alumni remember the library when it was housed on the second floor of the Hale Building?

It was already called Mason Library, perhaps because the president at the time, Wallace E. Mason, actually housed his own personal collection there. More alumni will recall the library when it was housed in what is now the Historical Society of Cheshire County, when it was called Rhodes Hall.

Mason Library moved to its current location in 1964, when the first half of the building was constructed at a cost of $635,000.

The second half of the building went up in the 1970s, and a complete renovation that joined the two halves was completed in 2003. Alumni generosity has enhanced Mason Library through the years, as is evident in the beautiful Marion Wood Reading Room, which looks out on Appian Way.

The 2003 renovation included a complete infrastructure overhaul to make the library functional for modern technology demands.

Recently, the library completed renovations of a new Archives/Special Collections Room. An anonymous donor's gift helped make this room into a beautiful research space to engage students in working with primary source materials. The new Archives/Special Collections Room held its grand opening on October 2, during Homecoming, and many alumni had a chance to meet College Archivist Rodney Obien.

Students work together in the periodicals area.

In addition to the physical changes, the way students connect to information has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last 10 years. Banks of computers have replaced card catalogs, connecting students not only to the resources physically housed within the building, but also to the thousands of books, journals, and other resources the library subscribes to online.

Students can find and download scholarly information from anywhere in the world. Students studying abroad use their Mason Library account to access information to enhance their experience, whether they are in Australia or Europe or South America.

While many students still use paper and pencils to note call number destinations of materials, they now have the option of sending a catalog record to themselves via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail.

Rodney Obien photo by Al Karevy '79

Rodney Obien, College archivist, handles a venerable old book with cotton gloves. The new Archives/Special Collections room held its grand opening during Homecoming in October.

Another change in the last five years is how students search the electronic resources. No longer do students need to search one database at a time.

Mason Library first implemented link resolvers, which connects students to electronic periodicals; next came federated searching, which allows multiple databases to be simultaneously searched. Finally in 2009-2010, integrated searching was implemented. This allows simultaneous searches of databases, catalogs, and across open-URLs.

Open-URLS enable searchers to link to materials they have permission to use, such as all of the library's subscription services, without having to enter separate passwords. Today, using Super Search, students and professors can return results from the majority of resources accessible through the library. Once results are retrieved, they can be sorted by relevance, date, author, or subject headings to help students navigate the abundance of scholarly information at their fingertips.

Photo by Mark Corliss

Materials housed in our Archives and Special Collections, once restricted to on-premise use only, may now be viewed in digital format from anywhere, anytime. For example, in a recent one-year period, 63 percent of people who viewed the Orang Asli Archive home page were from outside the United States. (The archive, founded at Keene State College by Professor Rosemary Gianno, is the only repository for unpublished documents, films, tapes and other recordings relevant to the Orang Asli indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia.) These materials have attracted international scholars to Keene from locations such as Australia, Europe, Canada, Malaysia, and Burma.

Mason Library faculty no longer just connect students to a book, but create an environment where students can think about whether or not the information is useful, relevant, and authoritative. It's an exciting time to be a librarian!

In addition to the Orang Asli Archive, Mason Library's Archives and Special Collections house many other singular collections. A few highlights include the College archive, the Children's Literature Festival manuscript collection, and a growing social justice collection that features materials gathered by Professor Larry Benaquist while making his film about Jonathan Daniels.

Special Collections features the Hubbard-Gorey collection of books and artwork by Edward Gorey, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Emeritus Patricia Fargnoli's manuscript collection, and the Louis De Rochemont document collection. (De Rochemont was a two-time Academy Award-winning film producer from New Hampshire.)

Photo by Mark Corliss

On the south side of the library, sunlight fills the study area. All areas of the library have internet access, with 36 wireless laptops for student use.

Perhaps the most significant change, and one that guides the library's future, is in what it means to be an academic librarian. No longer are we bun-wearing shushers whose job is to safeguard and house pristine collections. Collection development is focused on what supports the curriculum, and librarians ask themselves if what they are purchasing will be useful for students or not.

Gift funds also provide resources for purchasing books in specific areas. The goal is not to house everything, but rather to identify the best tools to help students learn. Ownership today may also mean access, so what the library subscribes to is as important as what it houses.

Librarians today are partners with students in the educational process. All library faculty spend at least 50 percent of their time providing instruction in information literacy. An information literacy curriculum teaches students how to know when information is needed, identify the type of information, find the information, evaluate what is found, organize it, and use it. This involves critical and creative thinking and reflection.

Mason Library faculty no longer just connect students to a book, but create an environment where students can think about whether or not the information is useful, relevant, and authoritative. It's an exciting time to be a librarian!

Mason Library wants alumni to become involved. We have a Facebook page and invite you to become a fan. This will keep you in the know on library happenings. Attend our annual Mason Library Lecture, usually held in the spring. Follow news from our Twitter feed. Visit our library. (Alumni and Keene residents have free access to the library.) Stop by the Reference Desk for help with research.

When you enter Mason Library, you will still know you are entering a library - there are study spaces, book collections, and helpful librarians and staff ready to assist you. But do not trip over the green bikes, DVD collections, and adaptive technologies. And you don't have to shush.

Your research can take you around the world in seconds, all from the comfort of the library.

Head Librarians –
as listed in the College catalog

Dean Herold and the library staff had to dig hard to create this chronology. If you can help with any missing information, please e-mail or call 603-358-2723.

  • 1917-1924 – Mabel R. Brown
    While the early catalog did not list a librarian, a July 1920 Keene Sentinel article lists "Miss Mabel R. Brown, the librarian and secretary." Since Brown started her employment at Keene Normal School in 1917, it's presumed that she was the first librarian of the institution starting from that date.
  • 1924 – Helen Ruth Zimmerman
  • 1925 – Mary Patriquin
  • 1926-1938 – Vryling W. Buffum
  • 1938-1941 – Alice M. Stone
  • 1941-1943 – Catherine A. Bruno
  • 1943-1950 – Jeannette F. Favreau
  • 1950-1966 – Marion L. Goodwin
  • 1966-1981 – Christopher R. Barnes
  • 1982-1984 – Edward Scott
  • 1984-1985 – no listing (Cliff Mead undocumented interim)
    Mead (prior to Scott) and Partello (during Vincent's research leave) served more than one term as interim head librarians, but it was not noted in the Keene State College Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog. Likely this is because such decisions were made after the catalog went to press.
  • 1985-1994 – Paul Vincent
  • 1994-1995 – vacant
  • 1995-1996 – Peggie Partello (interim**)
  • 1996-2000 – David Pinto
  • 2000-2001 – vacant
  • 2001-2002 – Tom Warger (interim)
  • 2002-present – Irene Herold