What’s New at Wolfgram: Updates Elevate Student Experience and Scholarship
Physical updates to the Greene Poetry Corner and collection and a renewed focus on highlighting student scholarship in the university’s Digital Collections are some of the exciting projects in progress at Wolfgram Memorial Library.
The Greene Corner serves as a hub for English and creative writing majors as well as an intimate event space and study spot for all on campus. The space was made possible by a generous endowment from Leah Greene, a lifelong student who enrolled at Widener after retirement and developed a love for poetry thanks to support from her mentor-turned-close-friend Ken Pobo, professor emeritus of English and creative writing.
“Through their generosity, Leah and her husband Sheldon envisioned that the poetry and creative writing materials acquired over the years would be enjoyed in a comfortable, well-lit location in the library accessible to all students,” said Deb Morley, director of the Wolfgram Memorial Library.
Assistant Professor Jessica Guzman, co-coordinator of the creative writing program and Widener’s Poet-in-Residence, and Assistant Librarian Adam Mizelle, who have managed the space and collections together since 2020, recently made upgrades centered around student experience, learning, and creativity and in line with Greene’s vision.
The furniture has been updated and rearranged to better accommodate the workshop-style classes of upper-level creative writing courses. With a fresh coat of paint up, broadsides—decorative, newspaper-sized prints of poems—now
cover the walls.
Guzman and Mizelle intend the vibrant art from writers across the world and across time to reflect the expansion of the types of poetry books they’re purchasing for the space.
Broadening the poetry collection from Shakespeare and Wordsworth to add an anthology on queer poetry from South Asia, for example, enhances opportunities for multidisciplinary study in fields from human sexuality studies to history and beyond, according to Guzman.
“The world is very connected, and poetry is no exception,” she said.
In addition to anthologies, Guzman and Mizelle have subscribed to more than a dozen contemporary literary magazines and ordered single-author collections from small and local presses, which engage students directly with writers in their communities.
“The hope is that this space proves poetry is a very present thing,” Guzman said. “Poetry can feel very up-in-the-air to people, but I hope seeing all these books shows there are many living poets like me writing and publishing works that engage with the world directly as it stands now.”
“And for creative writing students I hope seeing these poetry books gives them an understanding that their own work is very viable and could live on these shelves too.”
Student Scholarship Goes Digital
As part of the digital transformation we are seeing across campus, the library’s Digital Collections are flourishing with the addition of new student scholarship materials.
Nearly all aspects of university life were digitized when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but fortunately Head of Archives and Distinctive Collections and Librarian Jill Borin had been experimenting with growing the library’s digital repository of student work since 2019.
The processes Borin developed prior to the pandemic proved invaluable to the success of in-person-turned-virtual events like the 2020 Graduate Student Research Symposium. Borin uploaded research posters in advance of the event, which participants were able to easily access and read to bring questions to the live Zoom presentations.
Less than two years after that symposium, Borin and Assistant Archivist Kayla Van Osten have added posters, presentations, and papers from Student Project Days, High Impact Practice Fairs and Graduate Student Research Symposiums from 2019 to the present to the digital collections.
“Our goal for the digital collections is to be integrated into everything that happens on campus and promote and celebrate the wonderful scholarship, events, and history of the university,” said Borin.
In keeping with that goal, over 150 dissertations, theses, and capstone projects have recently been added. These projects are all full text, searchable, and downloadable free of charge without any type of Widener account, which is not the case with scholarly databases like ProQuest, which require a library-affiliated account to access.
“This digital repository has become an integral part of presenting student work on campus and virtually,” Borin said.
She and her team continue to improve the accessibility, design, and integration of the student scholarship in the collections. Recorded video presentations play right from the repository and include closed captioning, and posters and papers from the same project are linked to one another.
“The result looks incredibly professional, and the links are perfect for sharing on graduate school or job applications,” Borin said.
The result also translates to wider access for users within the Widener community and beyond, according to Morley.
“The archive’s transition to digital not only expands our robust repository of student and faculty research, but positions the university to be a resource for the campus and outside community,” said Morley.
As the library’s physical and virtual collections and spaces continue to transform, the ethos of the librarians remains the same.
“We’re your expert consultants in finding and getting research materials,” Mizelle concluded. “My ethic is to help.”