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"Inclusive, Risk Taking, Innovative"

February 18th, 2019

Call it an affirmation of years of concerted, far-ranging efforts. Or, says, College Librarian Peggy Seiden, “a snapshot of a beautiful moment.”

“We are thrilled to receive this recognition of the fantastic work of the Swarthmore College Libraries staff,” Seiden says of the 2019 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award recently bestowed upon the libraries.

“Together we continue to realize our dreams for what this library can be for our community—inclusive, risk taking, innovative.”

Swarthmore College Libraries (consisting of McCabe Library, the Cornell Library of Science & Engineering, Underhill Music & Dance Library, and the Friends Historical Library) earned the highly competitive and coveted award from the Association of College and Research Libraries, in recognition of its thoughtful integration of social justice into library services, providing of real-life opportunities for students to develop technical skills, ongoing commitment to sustainability, and more.

The award recognizes the staff of one college, one community college, and one university library for their programs that “deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.”

The award committee cited Swarthmore’s “team approach and thoughtful integration of values” and several of its programs:

  • The libraries’ recent work with the National Security Archive, which included the creation of research internships and the filing of Freedom of Information Act requests
  • The recent workshops that brought book artists in conversation with local Syrian and Iraqi persons resettled to the Philadelphia area
  • Ongoing commitment to sustainability and an open approach to education for impact, as shown by actions to make texts affordable, and featuring faculty who published in an open access publication
  • The Swarthmore Projects for Educational Exploration and Development, an intensive student summer collaboration with Information Technology Services that pairs students experienced in computer science with projects proposed by faculty and staff

Seiden and a small team of libraries staff outlined the strategic direction of the libraries, and how they map to those of the College, in their application for the award (PDF). 

“That includes areas such as academic excellence, creativity, access and affordability, and impact for education,” Seiden says, also pointing to the Research & Instruction Resident Librarian initiative, which has created a pipeline for undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds to experience librarianship.

Swarthmore and this year’s two other winners, The College of Western Idaho Library and Case Western Reserve University Kelvin Smith Library, will each receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each campus. In the meantime, the libraries staff is enjoying a boost in morale, says Seiden.

“We’ve also been navigating a transition in how people view the libraries, of print to digital, and in the growth of new emphases like special collections,” she says. “It’s really rewarding to know that all the work we’re doing here is recognized—not just by the College community, but nationally.”

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