April 24, 2018

The Next Generation of Librarians: Books That Breathe | Not Dead Yet

Cheryl LaGuardiaOver the past couple of years my colleague Kathleen Sheehan and I have been working with a Library Student Interest Group (LSIG), sponsored by the College Library and the Harvard Undergraduate Council, and we’ve met some great students. Allison Gofman is one of the students who has been part of the LSIG; she just graduated in the Class of 2014 with a degree in government. She has background in the biological sciences and in working with data and worked this past year as a stacks assistant in Widener Library. Moreover, she is planning to go to library school, which is great news for the library profession. Allison is smart, creative, and has a host of interests and skills that will serve her well in whatever kind of work she does.

She is also a photographer. She provides some background on her interest in photography in Photographing Memory, a speech she gave a couple of years ago at Lowell House, her undergraduate dorm at Harvard. This past year, for her final project in the course, United States in the World 30: Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History, Allison created the beautiful online book Harvard Libraries: Books That Breathe. It “is a visual exploration of the libraries as physical spaces: not only as beautiful architecture or as a collection of books, but as a unique intersection of the two.” [Harvard libraries featured in the book include Widener, Lamont, Houghton, the Robbins Library of Philosophy, and Cabot Science.]

The book discusses “What Is a Library?,” what a library’s mission is, how it stores and displays books, just what “inherent vice” is in a library and archival science context, how material is categorized and cataloged, and much more—about all of which we librarians rightfully kvell (my personal favorite image in the book is the “staircase to nowhere,” an architectural oddity here in Widener Library, that leads from the sixth floor into a ceiling without a door). Allison’s photographs truly are each worth a thousand words in conveying a sense of libraries and their missions.

By the way, in giving permission for me to write about her class project, Allison noted, “If anyone’s curious, I’m looking for a job).” She’s got my enthusiastic recommendation—what a librarian she will make!

Read eReviews, where Cheryl LaGuardia and Bonnie J.M. Swoger look under the hood of the latest library databases and often offer free database trials

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980s, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early '90s (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

The Latest Trends in Library Design
Hosted in partnership with Salt Lake County Library and The City Library—at SLCo’s Viridian Center—the newest installment of our library building and design event will let you dig deep with architects, librarians, and vendors to explore building, renovating, and retrofitting spaces to better engage your community.


  1. Libertine says:

    This is so cool! What a talented person!

    • Yes, Allie is a very cool, talented person! She represents the best of what the next generation of librarians will bring to the profession. I’m so glad she’s going into librarianship.
      Thanks for writing, Libertine,

  2. Thank you for a very refreshing article about a young talent.

    • I have an update about Allie’s story: she got a job in a library at MIT at the end of the summer and is getting great experience there. I’m sure those of you who read her story will join me in wishing her all the best, and a wonderful career in libraries.
      Thanks for writing, everyone!

  3. Lovely book! Thanks for sharing the information about a brilliant young woman who I hope will indeed become a librarian.