(Article written by 12th grade student, Gabe Robinson-Leith)
Hanover was in full autumn swing when we finally arrived in town last Thursday. The leaves were turning, the birds were chirping, and New England hipsters stood motionless on crosswalk corners, too sleep-deprived to notice that the pedestrian signal was urging them across the street. Embracing the small town vibe, we picked up our pumpkin spice vanilla lattes from Hanover’s small town Starbucks coffee shop, and made our way towards the Baker-Berry library (maybe we are as bad as the “leaf-peepers”). A woman working for the library gave us a quick tour of the main entrance hallway and gave us information about the history, lore, and esteemed financial backers of the Dartmouth University Library System. She had even printed out library cards for students enrolled in the Understanding Terrorism class, and she showed us how to find a book with the online cataloguing tool. We were then set loose to peruse with two hours of free-time.
The hunt had begun! Alex Crivici and I used the cataloguing tool to search for everything and anything related to literary criticisms of the Beatnik Generation for a research essay I was working on Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Cell phone in hand, the cataloguing tool mapped the way to a shelf on the sixth floor marked red on my phone, and so we were off on a ‘beatific’ treasure hunt. Once we found the shelf we were looking for, we began pulling books out two at a time until a sizable pile of Beatnik literature surrounded us on the floor. We picked out books with interesting titles and ones we thought may be relevant to our research, and I piled them up in my arms. Grinning wildly and overloaded with books, the alarm stopped me on my way out the door; I had forgotten to check out the books. Embarrassed I returned to the front desk for further assistance.
After checking out my books, I returned to the library and searching for books related to “terrorism-enabling environments” for my Understanding Terrorism class. After almost getting lost in the stacks once again, I returned to the lobby (remembering to check out my new handful of books) to meet Claudia, Eric, Nori, Alex, and Izzy. The group was then headed down the street to the Rauner Library, where they kept all the interesting and historical collections. After being instructed by the librarian to leave my bag outside the door, I asked if the collection had an original copy of “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine. The librarian went to the stacks and came back with a barely bound raggedy collection of sheets. This was a first edition copy of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary Revolution era pamphlet, and the librarian let me flip through the pages. It was incredible; I was holding a piece of history in my hands. However, the pages were coming apart, and before destroying any more artifacts of the American Revolution I asked if they had a copy of the “Little Red Book.” Claudia had mentioned to me that the Rauner Library was in possession of one of only four in the world. The librarian came back from the stacks with a little box. Incredulous, she asked me if I understood the significance of what she was holding in her hands. In that box was a first edition copy of selected quotations from Mao Zedong. This book was one of the most widely distributed artifacts of propaganda in Communist China, and consequently an incredibly important artifact of modern history. The librarian allowed me to open up the box and flip through the pages. I was holding in my hands a piece of history; it’s too bad my Snapchat story selfie with the book only lasted for 24 hours.
After leaving the library, the whole group met again at Starbucks to go to a photo exhibit. We walked into a small room decorated with photographs of children overlaying geometric fractals and symbolically-clad dollhouses. The woman working at the photography exhibit led us in an analytical discussion of one of the photos, telling us that Laetitia Soulier, the exhibited photographer, takes up to two or three years to make a single image. Many of the students quickly picked up on some of the themes in her pictures concerning the cycle of life and fertility.
After a long day of playing tourists, we were ready to go home. I brought home several books with me about terrorism and the Beatnik generation as well as thoughts about historical artifacts. I wonder if I will ever be shelved in the Baker-Berry Library!