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The Value of Slowing Down

By Elena Rosario

A few weeks ago, Stephen Gateley, the research librarian at Scarritt Bennett Center, asked me to find information on a training school for deaconesses and missionaries. My task was to search through The Woman’s Missionary Council First, Second, and Third Annual Reports dated 1911, 1912, and 1913. As the millennial that I am, before even opening the reports I clicked Safari on my MacBook Pro and googled the name of the school and the names of people involved in its inception. As I was reading the results of my Google search, Steve came over and gave me an encyclopedia that had a section on the woman that the training school was named after. At that moment we both laughed.

I have loved to read since I read books like The Giving Tree, The Outsiders and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I decided I wanted to be an educator I knew I would always have to read books and when I decided to be an historian I knew that I have to read really old books. In college, I found myself sifting through old newspapers in Puerto Rico and probate records in Barbados, and I developed a love for archival records and research libraries. I love slowly changing pages in a text, writing with a pencil, and working with microfilm readers. At this point, you are probably wondering why I chose to Google the woman’s name before looking in an encyclopedia. The quick answer is that I took the easy way out, but that’s the problem. I, like so many people today do not take time to slow down. This is when libraries and research libraries become so important.

Working in the research library here at Scarritt Bennett Center has allowed me to slow down and read hundreds of archival materials. While my task was to file and organize archival materials, I could not help but peek into some. What I found was amazing! I was fascinated by black and white photographs (some color ones too!), wedding invitations, and baby announcements, as well as the many different ways that people racially categorize themselves. Eventually, I had to get back to filing. I am not only a perfectionist, but I am also very disciplined and goal-focused. This is relevant because while I wanted to keep looking through the archives, I needed to finish my task of reorganizing them. That did not stop my brain from imagining the amazing lives of the Scarritt College alumni, who are featured in our archival records.

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I saw my work come to fruition when visitors came by the library to research family members and/or key people for their own personal research. One person that stopped by wanted to look up the life of her mother while she was a student here at the College. We had a small folder that related to her mother; however, that folder led us to a large array of other resources. While she was looking over the College’s newsletters and Commencement programs, she was able to find out that her mother wrote a thesis. We, then as library staff were able to locate the thesis for her.

Stories like this remind me how important it is to slow down, follow the clues, and allow your mind to do the work. Rather than always allowing the Internet to be your search engine, pick up a book, stop by a research library, and see what you will find.

The Laskey Research Library is open Monday – Thursday by appointment and on Fridays from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. The library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The library houses a variety of resources, including:

– Specialized collection of books on women, United Methodists, and missions

– Reference collection containing a variety of statistical and factual titles on a broad range of knowledge

– Women’s Division, Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church resources including minutes, mission, and study publications

– Journals from various United Methodist agencies

– Personal papers of missionaries and Scarritt College faculty

– Scarritt College photos

– Alumni/ae dissertations

– Rare documents concerning the institution’s history (kept in archives)

– Archives of the church and community ministry (kept in archives)

Appointments are not necessary on Fridays, but preferred. Researchers needing extensive resources should call or email the research librarian ahead of their visits, so that resources can be pulled. For the researcher not able to come to campus, photos or electronic copies can be sent to them.

Elena Rosario

Elena Rosario is a recent graduate who majored in History at Connecticut College. She is currently a fellow for the Belle H. Bennet House at the Scarritt Bennett Center where she is living in an intentional community and interning at Conexión Américas in Nashville, Tennessee. Elena is interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in History with a focus on the Atlantic world. She is both a scholar and social activist.