UMW Archives on the Road: SAA 2018

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Black and white image of a 1950s-era bus. The side and rear of the bus say "Mary Washington College".

This is just a quick post to let our readers know that we’ve been traveling and working hard this week! Earlier this week, the three members of UMW Special Collections and Archives hit the road to Washington, DC for the 2018 Society of American Archives conference. We were lucky to have such a big event so close to home, so we were eager to go mingle with our colleagues in the field and share all the exciting things we’ve been up to.

Promotional image for the Society of American Archivists' 2018 conference. Background image is of the Lincoln Memorial at dusk. Text says "Archives Records, CoSA, NAGARA, SAA. I'm going to #SAA18! See You in DC! August 12-18."

Digital Resources Librarian Angie White presented at the Preservica North American User Group Meeting on Tuesday, August 14. She showcased all of her hard work in getting our Preservica instance up and running, and shared with the other attendees what the platform is capable of as far as providing universal access to digital collections. Angie’s post here on the Spinning Wheel a few months back gives a thorough run-through of this system and what we’ve done with it here at UMW. Angie also participated in a session with Preservica on Thursday entitled “Achieving More in Digital Preservation: Transparency through Automation.

The theme for SAA this year was “Promoting Transparency,” which gives archives and records professionals a lot to think about. Issues surrounding access and availability come up regularly, and as a public institution, we always want to be as transparent as possible with our community. It’s good to hear conversations happening around this topic, and it helps us think more about what we’re doing and how we can do it better!

It’s been a busy week, but we’ll all be back in Fredericksburg next week inspired and ready to implement new ideas gathered from our friends at SAA!

August 16, 2018

Internship Insights

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This post was written by Kortney Monks, ’19, our Special Collections and University Archives student intern. Thanks Kortney!

This summer, I worked as an intern in the Special Collections and University Archives Department in Simpson Library. I learned quite a lot in a span of five weeks from how to use the Cobra scanner to digitize pamphlets and books to learning the basics of how to read LC call numbers. My personal three favorite projects were assisting with the preservation photography on WWI posters, working with a retired dance professor to help identify past students and faculty in archival photographs, and reading and sorting a collection of letters of an MWC student from the 1950s to the early 1960s.

One of the first major projects I did was to help take photographs of propaganda posters from World War I. Simpson Library plans to make this collection accessible online to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. It was definitely interesting to see the messages and art conveyed back then and compare them to today’s political climate. This project taught me how to use photography more, especially in an indoor setting where we have to set up the right lighting. We placed a black backdrop behind the posters, and I learned how to crop and edit images to correct preservation standards.

Buy US Government Bonds poster
My second favorite project was working with retired UMW dance instructor, Professor Jean Hunt. We looked at photos of the dance program and its former students, and Prof. Hunt helped identify who the students were. I learned that the Friends of Dance at UMW volunteer to assist the library staff identify events and people from the dance program that was at Mary Washington through 1993. It was fun to hear the stories of the students and former dance faculty, as I learned to partner with the community and alumni to gather more information on the materials preserved in the archives.

Two of the photographs with former student dancer, Susan Noona, ’80 identified

Two of the photographs with former student dancer, Susan Noona, ’80 identified.

My favorite project of all was processing and documenting the letters of a former student from the ‘50s and ‘60s by the name of Sherrill Anne Matthews. I got the chance to read about her classes, her friends and family, and college social life – even the dates she would go on! This project was fun, because I got to read written letters and get a context of college life in the ‘50s and ‘60s when Mary Washington was an all-girls school.

September 20, 1959 letter from the Sherrill Anne Matthews collection.

September 20, 1959 letter from the Sherrill Anne Matthews collection.

I’m happy I chose this internship for the summer, as it’s given me a sense of the various career possibilities that I can do in the future.

August 5, 2018

Dog Days of Summer

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It’s always interesting to read blogs from fellow colleagues across the state, and this summer I’ve been enjoying the College of William and Mary’s Must Love Dogs  series. It’s a dog-lovers delight, and after immersing in their last post on royal pooches, I decided it was time for a  post on UMW’s own canine collections.

One of the most picturesque pups in our collections is Pompey the Little from Francis Coventry’s 1773 book about a lap dog’s adventures in European society. Told from Pompey’s perspective, it is a witty guide to the culture and manners of the period. Simpson Library also has a 1974 circulating copy that you can check out and read further about Pompey’s doggy exploits.

Image of the The grand Pompey the Little

The grand Pompey the Little.

Another much treasured dog photo is this early 1912 image of Fido with his student friends welcoming all to the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Fredericksburg (UMW).Early 1912 image of Fido with his student friends welcoming all to the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Fredericksburg (UMW

Campus canine companionship continues through the years, as we see former student John Jolissaint (below), a 100 years later, also enjoying a beautiful day on campus with his dog Lola (Photo by Norm Shafer, 2012).

A student enjoying a beautiful day on campus with his dog Lola

Holidays also provide the perfect photo op for students to include their canine friends.

Not surprisingly, with its many dog lovers Fredericksburg takes top honors as home to the oldest dog mart event in the U.S. The event is still held and will celebrate its 350th anniversary this September. Originating in 1698, the Dog Mart started when the Manahoac Indians of King William County came to the area that would later be called Fredericksburg to trade furs for English hunting dogs. In the late 1940s, the Dog Mart drew huge crowds (up to 15,000 in 1949), and Mary Washington students regularly attended, taking part in the grand event.

Dog Mart Program

Of course, I would be woefully remiss if I finished without including UMW’s current top dog, Oscar, who resides with President Troy Paino and his family at Brompton.

Oscar poses with President Troy Paino, wife Kelly, and daughters, Sophia and Chloe.

If you’d like to see the originals of any of these materials come visit us in Special Collections, I’m sure Oscar and Pompey would approve!

Sources consulted:
“Fredericksburg Dog Mart,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 22, 2018).


July 22, 2018

Archiving the Web at UMW

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In addition to the UMW archival images found on Digital Collections and the publications searched through Eagle Explorer, much of the University’s recent history can be found through our web archives. For about four years, UMW Archives has been archiving institutional websites in accordance with our mission to preserve UMW’s history. This includes the University’s social media accounts, athletics websites, the main website and more. Many of the websites, such as the social media accounts, are captured on an automated, recurring basis, though we do manually capture some sites around big events happening on campus, such as President Paino’s inauguration, in order to preserve the online presence of major events for the UMW community.


A screenshot depicting UMW's homepage on April 22nd, 2017, showing a photograph of President Paino and a news story related to his inauguration beneath it.

A screenshot of what the UMW website looked like on April 22nd, 2017, at the time of President Paino’s inauguration.

Our web archives are a great resource for researchers who are studying the community and activities at UMW up to present day. As more marketing materials and event details get posted online, the web archives will frequently hold important information not available in print formats. While the idea of searching through web archives might seem a bit abstract or complicated, there are search and browse features that put items within reach. The search box allows researchers to not only search the descriptions that staff have provided for archived websites, but it also searches the text of the website itself. Furthermore, for those interested in viewing changes in the web over time, the archived sites can be browsed by the dates on which they were captured.


A screenshot of the front page of the web archive collections that shows the title and description of the UMW collection, as well as a search box beneath it.

A search box can be found on the front page of the web archive collections to assist with research and discovery.


A screenshot of the University of Mary Washington Website Archival Collection. It shows all of the dates that the website was captured, ranging from September 1st, 2014, to May 18th, 2018.

A date listing is provided so that researchers can browse websites chronologically. (Click on the image to view a larger version). 


In addition to the institutional websites, UMW Archives also captures undergraduate honors projects that were done in a digital format, such as a blog or website. Both the archived and current URLs are added to the project’s record in Eagle Scholar, so that even if the blog or website becomes inaccessible, the student will have a preserved record of the project in UMW’s institutional repository. Furthermore, archived websites are distinguishable from their current counterparts because they include a banner at the top of the page providing information on the date and time that the website was captured.


A screenshot of the UMW homepage from 2014. It shows a photograph of students holding candles, with the title "Illuminating a New Year," as well as a September 2014 calendar and top stories. There is a pale yellow banner across the top of the screen with the date and time of the archival capture.

This archived webpage from 2014 includes a banner at the top of the page describing the date and time it was captured. (Click on the image to view a larger version). 

If you would like to browse or search the web archives, you can do so by going to You can also browse honors project websites through Eagle Scholar. Furthermore, we encourage students to submit digital projects that they have worked on to be considered for archiving. Information on that process can found here:

If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the web archives, please let us know!

July 6, 2018

Guest Post: Rare Book Favorites

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Written by Student Aide, Marianne Brokaw ’18

I was so excited when the Special Collections staff contacted me regarding a summer job at Simpson Library. Being a non-traditional student (I graduated high school in 1984!), I am constantly seeking ways to enhance my learning experience. As a History major, I also seek the historical context of every situation presented to me.

Although I enjoy working on the digital side of things, nothing can take the place of holding, reading, and referencing a print book.  The past two weeks, I have lived the dream of a historian. Tasked with verifying barcodes for the rare books located in the oversized section, I have had the opportunity to go through and look at numerous books as I verify their number. As an employee, I knew I needed to focus on the task at hand. However, as a historian and book lover, it was easy to get a  little sidetracked……

The Oversized Rare collection contains more than a few interesting, to say the least, volumes. Reading about Colonial America in the leaflets of The London Chronicle, published in 1764, was surreal. It was amazing, not only to be perusing a document that is over two-hundred years old, but to read about the Stamp and Tea Acts from a British perspective was fascinating!

The London Chronicle, December 4 - 6, 1764

The London Chronicle, December 4 - 6, 1764

The London Chronicle, December 4 – 6, 1764

Equally interesting is John Gerard’s The Herball: Or General History of Plants published in London in 1633. This second edition of Gerard’s catalogue contains over 2,500 “woodcut illustrations of plants.”

John Gerard's The Herball 1633, London, England title page.

Title page and columbine illustrations from John Gerard’s The Herball …, London, England, 1633. This publication proves that even within the study of plant life, historical content lingers.

Title page and columbine illustrations from John Gerard’s The Herball …, London, England, 1633. This publication proves that even within the study of plant life, historical content lingers.

My personal favorite however, is a Bible published in 1528. The binding is old and worn. Worm holes dot the front and back covers. The hardware ensuring the Bible’s safety from theft has long since broken and the leather binding on the spine has disappeared.  Latin is the language in which it was written.  In spite of all its imperfections, it is perfect!

Biblia, 1528

Biblia, 1528

The deterioration, composition, and language allow for multiple quests of a historic nature. This book encompasses so many facets of study opening windows of education for students studying Latin and/or the Classics. A Journalism or English major would likely find the physical structure and composition worth studying. The book as a Bible would engage theology and religious studies students in philosophical debate.

As my work continues this summer, I am likely to find many more interesting texts. My goal is to stay focused on the task at hand. However, as a historian, I may veer off the path occasionally and become lost in the history of it all.


June 24, 2018

UMW Reunion Weekend 2018

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Last weekend, UMW saw another successful Reunion Weekend take place. This year, we celebrated alums from years ending in 3 or 8, although all are always welcome! And as Special Collections & University Archives is a department of all alums, this is an especially fun weekend!

Each year during this exciting event, Special Collections sets up in the middle of the action to conduct our History Harvest. During this time, members of our staff and volunteers are available to take physical donations for the archives, digitize materials to add to our digital collections, and provide answers to any questions related to our collections or Mary Washington history. We also had a pop-up exhibit of a few artifacts from our permanent collection, including beanies and vintage copies of The Bullet (now Blue & Gray Press).

Closeup image of a button that reads "UMW Archives" inside a red heart.

We also had free giveaway items! Above is one of the buttons made by library staff to celebrate the day.

Our visiting alums were really in the spirit! Staff enjoyed speaking with the various visitors to our table about their unique memories from their time at Mary Washington. Many alums gleefully thumbed through pages of past issues of The Battlefield yearbook, searching for old friends and professors, and telling great stories along the way.

Two alumni smile and pose together. Both wear alumni nametags, lanyards, and various reunion weekend pins.

Karen Mary Wands Parker, ’73, and Katya Calvo, ’73, visit the History Harvest table.

Alumni also gifted some wonderful gems to our collections this year. One alumna donated her diploma, excitedly pointing out that she was handing it to me exactly 50 years to the day after it was awarded: June 2, 1968. Another alum donated a fork that somehow found its way out of Seacobeck a few decades ago.

A fork with "MWC" stamped on the handle.

A fork with “MWC” stamped on the handle.

We also received a new beanie for our collection, complete with the student’s original name tag and a copy of “Mouse Week Rules” from September 1969. These are rules for how and when freshmen must wear their beanies, and the punishments for infractions. A freshman found without a beanie might be subject to “sing and dance to entertain sophomores and upperclassmen.”

Red and white MWC beanie with an attached handwritten nametag reading "Mary Lee Stevens, Marshall Hall". The beanie partially covers a piece of paper titled "Mouse Week Rules."

An alum’s donated beanie and the accompanying “Mouse Week Rules.”

Other gifts included a lovely framed print of some of the college’s buildings, a collection of campus handbooks and other publications from the late 60s, and a signed copy of a Dean Edward Alvey book.

In addition, this year, Special Collections & Archives stars Carolyn Parsons and Angie White co-taught a session for the Alumni College. About 35 attendees were present in the Digital Auditorium to hear about the fascinating history of our rare books, archives, and digital collections, and to learn some very useful preservation tips for both physical and digital materials.

If you’re an alum who’s wondering about how to make a donation, or if you’d like to know more about the topics covered in the Alumni College class, please let us know! Our staff is always happy to help.

June 8, 2018

May Day Memories

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For almost 55 years, the month of May was synonymous with May Day at Mary Washington. One of the biggest events of the year, the May Day celebration was planned months in advance with each of the classes providing a list of nominees and voting for candidates with the most “poise, bearing, beauty, and queenly presence.”

May Day Program, 1917 and list of student nominees

Held first on May 16, 1914, the event initially was intended to celebrate both the victors of the athletic Field Day events and the elected May Queen and her court. Future years would see the sports portion of May Day dropped and only the May Queen activities remain. The event’s location would also change from its original home in front of Monroe Hall to the newly built amphitheatre in 1923.

Crowning of May Queen Betty Billingsley, 1929

Crowning of May Queen Betty Billingsley, 1929

May Queen Jamie Redwood, 1941

May Queen Jamie Redwood, 1941

The procession always began with heralding trumpeters, followed by the Queen and her attendants, and then the classes in order with their colors. Senior students had the honor of participating in the Maypole dance.

Seniors participating in the Maypole dance.

Senior class attendants participate in the Maypole dance.

Tickets were highly prized, especially once the entertainment expanded in the 1940s to include elaborate orchestrated ballet productions involving much of the student body.

Myron Russell portraying Joan of Arc in the first May Day ballet program, 1941

Myron Russell portraying  Joan of Arc in the first May Day ballet program, 1941

From 1914-1968, campus culture had changed, and by 1968 the Vietnam War was underway. May Day seemed unimportant and outdated to many of the students. In the March 25, 1968 Bullet, abandonment of “May Day, Emerald Ball and the Christmas Formal” was suggested to be “replaced by a fall and spring weekend of greater student interest and participation.”

The following year the Senate unanimously approved a new Spring Festival with an art exhibit, band concert and open air dance to take the place of May Day and with that the long-lived tradition was over.

A brief resurrection of May Day occurred in 2001, as students strived to modernize the event – changing the selection criteria to an essay on school spirit, giving proceeds to breast cancer research and selecting both a king and queen. But long-term interest couldn’t be sustained and by 2003 the tradition that was once the “high point of the semester” was history again.

This summer, Special Collections will have on display a photographic history of May Day, so come by and check out the Library’s second floor exhibit cases or search online for photographs at Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections.

Sources Consulted:

Alvey, Edward, Jr. History of Mary Washington College: 1908-1972. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.
Crawley, William B., Jr. University of Mary Washington, A Centennial History: 1908-2008. Fredericksburg: University of Mary Washington, 2008.

May 26, 2018

Guest Post: Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Megan Lindsey ’18. 

I began my work here at the Digital Archiving Lab in the fall semester of 2017. Since then I’ve really enjoyed working with rare books in a way I wasn’t expecting or used to. I always had an assumption that archivists mainly worked in more traditional ways, focusing more on the physical preservation and upkeep and not getting involved in the digital. From working at the Digital Archiving Lab, I have learned that you can do both. I love working with older pieces and books, and because I am digitally archiving them, I feel good knowing they are preserved in more than one way.

Scanned image of a scrapbook page with two photographs depicting winter scenes at Mary Washington College.

Winter scenery at Mary Washington College. From the scrapbook of Mildred Lenore Burke, courtesy of her niece, Mary Kathleen Burke House, ’65.

Scanned scrapbook page with two photographs of students grouped together in front a building.

Groups of friends posing together at Mary Washington College. From the scrapbook of Mildred Lenore Burke, courtesy of her niece, Mary Kathleen Burke House ’65.

One of my favorite things to do is use our Cobra overhead book scanner to scan old and rare books. I really enjoy being able to work with older books this way. Some of my favorites to scan are people’s personal books such as scrapbooks or photographs, though usually the latter are scanned on flatbed scanners. I get to see personal perspectives through these pieces and see what they thought was important enough to save.

I love working with rare books because it means I get to work directly with history, which has been my whole goal as a history major. It’s also interesting to see what people in the past thought was important enough to publish. Some of the works have been books or newspapers, but one of my favorites was a strange little book from 1662. I think it’s one of my favorites that I’ve worked with since my whole perception of people in 1662 was that they were more serious, but I realized through a brief read while scanning it that it was full of mild but technically inappropriate jokes that were popular during the time.

Scanned image of the title page of the book, "Rump: or An Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and songs relating to the Late Times."

Title page from “Rump: or An Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and songs relating to the Late Times.”

Being able to work with books this way has been really enjoyable for me. It’s made my year working here really fun and interesting and it’s made me look forward to finding a future job similar to what I do in the Digital Archiving Lab.

May 11, 2018

Introducing Digital Collections: An Access and Preservation Platform

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In celebration of Preservation Week, UMW Libraries is excited to announce the release of a new digital preservation and access platform, Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections, powered by Preservica. Simpson Library has been providing access to its unique digitized collections for ten years, and this new platform takes our digital preservation initiatives to a higher level, as well as provides the user community with more materials for research. Many of our readers may be familiar with Archives@UMW, our previous platform, and we hope that you will find just as much use and enjoyment from our new system as we move forward with our digital preservation technology and goals.

A screen capture of the home page of the Digital Collections system. It shows an introductory paragraph and five collections.

The home page of the new Digital Collections system.

As more and more formats are created and used by our University community, library staff must develop strategies to select, acquire, preserve, and provide access to these unique resources. While we will always archive traditional, analog formats, many of our campus community members submit papers as PDFs rather than printed pages, and create class projects on blogs and YouTube rather than poster board. In addition to viewing our fantastic physical materials, we know that future researchers will also want to take a look at those PDFs, videos, and websites. A large part of our mission at Special Collections and University Archives is to collect the institution’s history, and much of that today is digital.

While storing multiple copies of digital resources is always a good start, we also want to make sure we are pursuing active digital preservation. That is, we need to constantly be able to assess the usability of our digital files, making sure they are formatted for consumption (i.e. could you still open an electronic file you created in the early 90’s with today’s software?). If not, we must migrate those files to new, sustainable derivatives. It’s important to confirm that none of the records we are acquiring have viruses or other issues, and that none of the data deteriorates or “rots” over time. Perhaps most importantly, though, we must be able to provide access to the materials we are archiving. Our new platform will help us effectively manage all of these tasks.

We have lots of goals, ideas, and imaginings for Digital Collections. This summer, in collaboration with the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, we plan to start an archival appraisal and acquisition project of the many UMW blogs created over the years. We will also proactively collect current projects created on Domain of One’s Own as we work with community members to decide what should and can be preserved. We plan to continue digitizing our unique materials, such as scrapbooks and ledgers, as well as our audiovisual materials, expanding current collections and creating new ones.

A screen capture of the Trinkle Hall Blueprint collection, showing website features such as facets and a search box.

Trinkle Library, a part of the UMW Blueprints and Architectural Drawings Collection, incorporates facets to assist with narrowing down browse and/or search results.

As access is a top priority for us at Simpson Library, we hope that you will take a moment to browse our new website. With the exception of undergraduate honors projects and graduate Education projects, which have been migrated into Eagle Scholar, all of our digital archival collections are available to search and browse through Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections. University Publications are still searchable through our custom interface, Eagle Explorer. Archives@UMW will be available through the summer, but we will have all links pointing to our new platform by the start of the fall semester. As you are viewing the new system, please send us any suggestions or feedback you may have. We are always appreciative of your ideas for improving access and usage of our collections!

April 26, 2018

Celebrating National Library Week

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It’s National Library Week, friends! To celebrate, we’d like to take a look back at the history of our libraries at Mary Washington and see how we’ve grown over the course of more than 100 years.

Students study at tables in the original library.

Students study in Monroe Hall, 1911

The first library on the Fredericksburg campus was in a small room in what is now Monroe Hall. The collection focused primarily on the education curriculum and literature, but included volumes on various other topics such as agriculture and managing a home. This room would support the students from 1911 until 1915, when the library moved to Virginia Hall.

A view of the books, tables, and chairs in the library.

Library in Virginia Hall, 1915

The Virginia Hall library provided more room for the student body and the collection to grow. While housed in Virginia, the library would expand twice–once in 1926 and again in 1937–until it eventually encompassed the bulk of the first floor of the building. By that time, the school was expanding and evolving and the need for a dedicated library building was clear.

The front of Trinkle Library is pictured from across Campus Walk.

Exterior of Trinkle Library

E. Lee Trinkle Library opened in 1941 and would serve as the main library for the campus until 1989. By 1959, according to the Mary Washington College Catalog, the facility “contains more than 130,000 volumes, subscribes to 500 periodicals and newspapers, and has ample space for reading and studying.” By 1988, just before the the end of Trinkle’s run as the library, it would boast nearly 300,000 volumes, 1,300 subscriptions, and 142,000 microform units.

Below, you can see a few images of students using Trinkle library through the years.

Rotunda with circulation desk and card catalog in Trinkle Hall.

Interior, E. Lee Trinkle Library

Students gather at the tables in Trinkle Library, studying.

Students studying in Trinkle Library

A student searches through the card catalog in Trinkle library.

Student with card catalog, 1981

In 1989, Simpson Library opened and continues to serve the students and faculty on the Fredericksburg campus to this day. Today, our collections include more than 500,000 physical volumes in numerous topics, with more than 100,000 electronic books on top of that. Our databases and subscriptions provide access to millions of articles from multitudes of academic journals, magazines, and newspapers. We also have Federal and Virginia government documents, unique rare and archival materials, computers and scanners and printers, a ThinkLab and Digital Archiving Lab, treehouses, sunrooms, and fish! We’ve come a long way since the little room in Monroe.

Two students are depicted reading between the bookshelves in Simpson Library.

Students reading in Simpson Library, 1999

Staff sit at a computer workstation in the Stafford Campus Library.

Stafford Campus Library, 1999

Mary Washington students are doing so many great things, one library isn’t enough to support them! In 1999, the College of Graduate and Professional Studies opened a library at Mary Washington’s new Stafford campus. Currently, the Stafford library supports the education, nursing, and business programs offered at the Stafford campus. Stafford library, like Simpson, is open to all UMW students, faculty, and staff. Members of the community can also use our spaces and resources too! Check with any of our friendly library staff members about rules for alumni or community access.

Front exterior image of Simpson Library with flowering trees in foreground.

Simpson Library in springtime.

Come celebrate National Library Week, or any week, at your nearest library soon!

April 12, 2018