This blog post was written by GRC Operations Manager Jonathan Tomes and Processing Archivist Thomas DeShong.
The end of the Fall 2020 semester is quickly approaching! Students are wrapping up their coursework and preparing for final exams. Staff are taking time to reflect on the semester and to plan for the months ahead. As a refresher, let’s recap what the Poage Legislative Library and the Graduate Research Center have been up to the past few months.
In the beginning of September, our permanent exhibit was finally installed. While there has been no formal opening to celebrate this achievement due to COVID-19, patrons are welcome to visit the library and view the exhibit for themselves. Director Mary Goolsby provided a virtual tour of the exhibit for Baylor Libraries’ Board of Advisors several weeks ago.
Processing marches on as normal. A few smaller collections – the Gordon Schendel papers, the Loretta Dunbar papers, and the McLennan County Democratic Party records – have been processed this semester. Work continues on some of our larger collections including the O.C. Fisher papers, the Hyde Murray papers, the W. R. “Bob” Poage papers, the Jack Hightower papers, and a recent addition to the Chet Edwards papers. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks as one of these finding aids is about to be finished!
Poage continues to foster collaboration with Dr. Karon LeCompte and the School of Education. Edits for last year’s NEH grant proposal are currently underway as the deadline for resubmission nears. Two additional lesson plans for local history teachers are also in progress as graduate students from the School of Education incorporate materials on the Rural Electrification Act and political campaign materials.
The Poage Library’s website is also scheduled to be migrated to a new format soon. Carl Flynn and his team have done a fantastic job of updating Poage’s content to be more consistent with other Baylor sites and to be more cell phone friendly. So be on the lookout for some major changes!
The Graduate Research Center has been just as productive. While the fall semester has differed remarkably from previous years, room use statistics indicate the GRC continues to be a popular space for Baylor’s graduate students. To continue supporting our students, the GRC implemented new room and sanitation protocols. Our efforts have ensured the security of our students and have gone a long way in earning their trust as well. This semester, we also welcomed Emma Cartisano as our new PhD apprentice in the GRC. She has offered invaluable support in maintaining continuity for the GRC’s overall mission. Emma has worked closely with the Graduate Student Association, along with other student groups, to encourage the continued use of the GRC for activities and events.
This semester has proven challenging for hosting events in the GRC due to social distancing protocol. In an effort to bring some cheer and encouragement to the graduate students who continue to make use of our space, we decided to host weekly coffee breaks as the weather gets cooler. Our first event was Friday, October 30, and we served up Halloween candy alongside coffee, hot cocoa, and apple cider. Throughout the day, students drank coffee and snacked on the treats while using our collaboration rooms and the Pattie Orr Commons. Going into the winter months, we will continue the coffee breaks as a way to encourage students and let them know that we support them in this challenging time!
While Poage and GRC students and staff have continued their work this semester, it is important to address the elephant in the room. COVID-19 has drastically altered how this semester has gone. Extra security precautions have been implemented to keep everyone as healthy as possible. While we have had a few scares, to date, no one at Poage has been exposed to COVID. As we near Thanksgiving, the authors are particularly thankful for everything Baylor University has done, investing a lot of money, time, and energy in ensuring campus could be both open and safe.
As we tentatively look ahead to what the Spring 2021 semester holds, there is a sense of optimism as potential vaccines continue to do well in their trials. This is met, however, with a sense of reality that the worst months of the pandemic may be on the horizon. We at Poage are going to continue to serve our patrons and do the work we are called to do, but we encourage you to stay safe this holiday season. Let’s continue to love our neighbors as ourselves and to show compassion to others during this difficult time.