Monthly Archives: December 2014

Roots of Student-Led Activism

As part of a new library-led public history project that looks to bridge gaps between the library, its collections, and the Union Theological Seminary students (past and present), I have been digging into the history of student-led activism here at Union.  The first step for me was to gain an understanding of student activism in the United States. Luckily there have been a few good books and many good articles written on the subject!

Robert Cohen in his book, When the Old Left was Young: Student Radicals and America’s First Mass Student Movement, 1929-1941, claims that it was not until a few years after the Great Depression struck that college students became politicized.  While it is certainly true that student-led activism became more pronounced and prevalent in the 1930s, it can’t be said that there was none before then.

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The existence of the intercollegiate biweekly paper The New Student provides evidence that there was in fact a growing social consciousness among America’s coeds.






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The New Student was the publication of the National Student Forum (NSF), and one of its founding members was none other than Union’s Henry Van Dusen, who attended Union from 1922 to 1924, graduating in 1924 with a B.D. (Summa Cum Laude). Van Dusen would then go on to hold numerous professorships and several high-level administrative roles at Union, from Dean of Students (1931-1939) to President (1945-1963).

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The New Student ran from 1922 to 1929 and included stories speaking out against mandatory ROTC programs on college campuses, advocating for education reform, and voicing working-class concerns.

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The paper also took on the popular student movement during the late 1920s — that of anti-necking policies adopted by many American college campuses.




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If you are interested in reading through issues of The New Student, the Burke Library carries issues from the years 1923 to 1929.





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What I Carry with Me: Looking Back on my Internship at the Burke


Post written by Beth Bidlack, Director of Library, and Jaclyn Cafarella, library intern.


During the fall 2014 semester, Pratt library school student Jaclyn Cafarella worked on a project to analyze the Burke Library’s microform collection. The purpose of the project was to “right size” the collection in order to make room for other types of materials (e.g., archival collections) and to locate the microforms where there are staff and equipment to facilitate their use. The project will take several more semesters (and interns) to complete, but Jaclyn contributed in several important ways. First, she searched CLIO (Columbia’s library catalog) to determine if other Columbia locations also held the microform titles or if they were available in another format such as in print or online. She then made preliminary decisions about next steps for titles—whether to discard or relocate them. She also started barcoding some of the titles that will be relocated within the Columbia University Libraries system. While working on the project, she learned a lot about project management—getting buy-in of stakeholders, determining what resources are needed for the project, setting some milestones to measure progress, paying close attention to detail, asking questions when needed, and being open to unexpected challenges along the way. In this case, we discovered that many of our microform titles have not been cataloged, thereby identifying another project for the future. The Burke staff thanks Jaclyn for her work over the past few months and wishes her the best in her studies!

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I can’t say enough positive things about my time here. My experiences have deepened my knowledge and understanding of my chosen career, provided new perspectives and taught me more than a few valuable lessons. The members of the staff I have met or worked with have all been willing and eager to offer their wisdom, advice and assistance.  Even our simple conversations and day-to-day interactions have provided me with so much.  I’m deeply grateful for their patient guidance and dedication to making this a valuable educational and professional experience.

I’m sorry to say I won’t be here to see the completion of the project I spent my time working on, but I’m proud of all I did to further its progress.  My weekly meetings with Beth have taught me a great deal about project management at every level, something I know will be useful in the future. She and Matthew were also kind enough to allow me to interview them, for a final project for one of my classes. The assignment required that I examine special collections development policies, procedures and issues and create a presentation. I chose the Burke for the case study portion. My professor was impressed with the depth of information I acquired; thank you for the part you played in my earning an A on the assignment!

I’ll also miss the little things–the good morning smiles, inquiries made with genuine interest about my classes and progress, my office with the great view and the comforting toll of the church bells while I worked. One memory in particular that stands out, is helping to organize the transport of several empty boxes, meant to hold microfilm bound for ReCAP, from Butler to the Burke.  The team, composed of several staff members and me, used large, heavy-duty trash bags filled to the brim to carry them through the streets.  What a sight we made–a line of librarians with bulky bags slung over their shoulders, crossing Broadway!


I want to thank everyone who made this great experience possible. I’ll carry all that I learned with me.