The staff members in Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College continually are looking for ways to be progressive in their service to the campus and community. This year, they have found several ways in doing so.
The library recently was awarded the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, a non-cash grant project of the National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures initiative, which includes a collection of 25 books, three films and other resources that focus on teaching the American public about the history and culture of Muslims in the United States and around the world.
The hub of conversation on a campus that serves students from 21 countries, the library is committed to global culture and understanding; this bookshelf will serve as yet another step toward that sentiment.
"These resources are not just histories and theologies," said Beth Rogers, coordinator of reference, instruction and outreach at the library. "These books are for general readers who want to know more about the Muslim culture and faith. We need to get students thinking beyond sound bites and connect them with people through biographies and memoirs."
Paula McGrew, director of library services and associate professor of library sciences, said, "In Appalachia, what we hear in the media about Muslims and their faith and culture is incomplete. This could potentially change that perception for people in this area."
Another way the library is connecting the college's students to cultural roots is by their addition of an Appalachian Regional Interest Collection. Alongside the large international population on Wesleyan's campus is the even larger count of students from the Appalachian region, and Rogers put together an initiative to begin this permanent, circulating section.
"I could talk about the stereotypes of this region for days," Rogers said. "I do not think we have taught our students that being from this region is something to be proud of because of these stereotypes. By highlighting these amazing things, hopefully people will see that we deserve to be recognized."
The resources in this collection are either written by Appalachian authors or about the region itself. The section also includes a small film niche that is available for check-out. Rogers' hope is that this collection will serve to educate the campus and community on the rich cultural history this area has to offer.
Rogers' sentiment rings close to home, as West Virginia and Appalachia have produced some award-winning authors, such as Jayne Anne Phillips, Jessie Stuart, Denise Giardina and Wesleyan's own late Poet Laureate Irene McKinney.
"A lot has happened here that we should be proud of," Rogers commented. "Why are we not acknowledging what is coming from here? Why are we not reading our own stories? These stories mean something here."
In addition to these two interest collections come slight renovations to the library, including a brand new wall that is now home to a large mural, painted by student Spencer Kinnard, a junior art major from Friendly. The mural, completed in gray latex paint, depicts the likenesses of great thinkers and creators, exactly the types of students that Wesleyan works to foster.
McGrew stated that since the library is a place for people to find, think about and talk about information, the space the library offered needed to be updated a bit. When McGrew approached Ellen Mueller, assistant professor of art, about the possibility of getting students involved, she was enthusiastic and jumped at the chance to do so. She worked with students on proposals and integrated the project in her curriculum. Kinnard won the chance to display his work.
Mathematicians like Einstein, musicians like Lennon and writers like Shakespeare all have a place on the wall; even Irene McKinney can be seen in the upper left hand corner, smiling down at the lot.
Kinnard chose the following tagline to represent his mural: "Despite everything that we have learned, questions linger and remain; who are we, what's our point, and what will tomorrow bring?"
These are perfect reflections of not only Kinnard's mural, but also of the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library. With such positive, progressive changes that have occurred this year, both the college and library staff cannot help but ask themselves, "What will tomorrow bring?"
To learn more about what the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library offers, anyone interested can visit the library's website or contact Paula McGrew at 304-473-8462 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Beth Rogers at 304-473-8013 or email@example.com.