From what I remember, it was a morning much like any other during the summer months in Berea, Kentucky; hot, humid, and quiet. Chris Green had told me much of the place we were going as he reminisced about the earlier years in his career. We were heading to Marshall University, a place much like Berea College, where a strong reverence is held for Appalachia and its history–one that is found in too few places today. I’m always excited to discover new hubs of Appalachian understanding and celebration, but with Marshall in particular, I was also quite nervous. Chris had informed me of graduate programs offered at Marshall that focused specifically on helping students understand the inner workings of providing psychological help to those in rural areas, something I intended to spend my life doing. While the focus of our trip was learning more about Drinko and Morrow libraries and the Appalachian Literature Collection at Marshall, my mind was busy bouncing between thoughts of questions to ask the people we met and the possibility of Marshall being my future home.
As we entered West Virginia, I began to think back to my home in eastern Kentucky. The vibrant greens of the trees, the rolling mountains, and the smell of nature wafting in through the breeze of a cracked car window left me longing for the long summer days of my childhood sitting on my grandparent’s front porch just swinging on a bench held up by two chains, my grandma by my side. The quick change from mountains into the city of Huntington was a shock. While still beautiful, it was much different than what I had envisioned when thinking of where Marshall would be. As we arrived on campus, the beautiful brick buildings stood out against the bright blues of the day’s sky as we quickly made our way to Drinko Library for our first stop.
Entering Drinko, I was taken aback with how large the space was. From the different shades of wooden tables to the various forms of user accessible screens, Drinko seemed to have the best of both modern and classic aesthetics. After talking with Eryn Roles, the Research and Instruction Services Librarian, I began to feel more comfortable being at Marshall and even more excited about the things I knew we were going to be able to take away from our time there to help improve Berea’s own Faber Library.
From there, our group ventured to Morrow Library, home to Marshall’s special collections and Appalachian Literature Collection. Once inside the room holding the Appalachian Literature Collection, I began to wonder about all the knowledge and experiences held amongst the innumerable pages within the bindings of the classic red and navy literature. We were told there of the ways Lori Thompson, the Digital Preservation Librarian, works to reach out to the campus community to have their area be known as a place of comfort, knowledge, and acceptance, something we wanted very much for our Faber Library.
Finally, we travelled across campus once more to visit Mary Thomas, Executive Director of the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA), an organization of scholars and activists with the goal of promoting Appalachia, its people, and the study of both. There, we discussed the year’s ASA conference, our thoughts regarding it, and the goal of improving Faber Library, a place where we want to promote the understanding and study of Appalachia much like ASA does.
As we drove away from Marshall, I pondered many things. I thought of Appalachia–my home, Berea–my community, Faber Library–our project focus, and the strange ways life works sometimes, where a surprise visit can open doors to a whole new world of opportunities.
We would like to send a big thank you to Eryn Roles, Lori Thompson, Mary Thomas, and Dr. Monica Brooks for facilitating our visit and expanding our minds!
For more information about Drinko Library, go to http://www.marshall.edu/library/libraries/drinkolibrary.asp.
For more information about Morrow Library Stacks, go to http://www.marshall.edu/library/libraries/morrowstacks.asp.
For more information about the Appalachian Studies Association, go to http://www.appalachianstudies.org/.
Article Written by Clint Chaffins