In October of 1948, Life Magazine featured a photographic essay on the University of California. The subtitle of the essay suggests the grandiose aims of the university system at mid-century: “The Biggest University in the World is a Show Place for Mass Education.”
The aspirational language fit well within the sentiment of the magazine’s founding publisher, Henry Luce, who coined the phrase “The American Century” in an effort to project the ideal of post-war US prosperity and global influence.Prominent in the 1948 photo essay on UC is a shot of a crowded north reading room in Doe Library.
The photo is just one example presented in the magazine’s depiction of the library as filled to the brim with students studying for exams — a familiar sight for those of us working in the library today. Of the Berkeley faculty, bold type proclaims, “Big Libraries and Up-to-the-Minute Labs Have Lured Top Minds to the University” (italics mine).
Indeed, the University of California, and the Berkeley campus in particular, has been blessed with an exceptional network of libraries for decades. Having a large and dynamic library on campus not only benefits UC Berkeley faculty; our libraries are routinely accessed by our students, as well as visiting scholars and the public. The reach of the library even extends beyond campus itself, through a vital interlibrary loan program that makes available some of our many resources to other institutions.
Recent numbers point to the staggering scope and recent growth of the UC Berkeley libraries, now standing at 15 subject libraries and 10 affiliated libraries, holding over 11 million books, hundreds of thousands of manuscript collections, and staffing dozens of expert librarians and archivists. Lost in the bare statistics representing the number of available volumes or computer terminals is the remarkable impact these libraries have on the lives and minds of our undergraduate students. The Library Prize for Undergraduate Research recognizes not only the achievement of Cal undergraduates in terms of creating an original research project, it also recognizes the personal growth experienced by these students in their learning through the research process itself.
A recent prize winner wrote of the experience, “Winning something like the library prize can truly change the trajectory of a student’s career, encouraging them to take on research endeavors they never would have attempted without the prize.” The prize committee works with faculty across campus to encourage students to engage in their own inquiry-based learning experiences, reading deeply and bringing to bear new resources. Working with UC Berkeley faculty–often considered the very top in their respective fields–undergraduates at Cal are afforded a unique opportunity to learn about their respective discipline in a new way, striving to contribute new knowledge to the field while simultaneously learning methodological approaches to research.
The library prize strengthens the undergraduate teaching mission of our university by encouraging students to explore the many treasures of our campus, leveraging students to construct their own ideas, arguments, and creating original contributions through research projects. The library prize intends to recognize the very best of lower- and upper-division undergraduate papers from classes taught in departments across the campus.
The major aim of the library prize is to recognize the work of students who demonstrate excellence in the entire research process, not merely the end result. Papers and other application materials submitted to the library prize judging committees are scrutinized in part on the basis of information literacy skills and sophistication of methodology, but are also weighted by the demonstration of successful use of library resources. The committee awards up to six prizes annually–$750 awards for lower-division students and $1000 awards for upper-division students. A panel comprised of esteemed faculty, librarians, and other campus staff judge projects based on the originality or unusual depth of the library research, use of library collections, and evidence of personal learning and development.
One recent prize winner noted, “The collections themselves inspired my research.” Another added, “The Library is one of UC’s greatest assets. It helped me develop as a young scholar, and gave me the opportunity to learn the craft of my professors.” Last year, papers in Art History, South and Southeastern Asian Studies, Public Health, Near Eastern Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies were among those that received prizes. In recent years, projects from departments such as Architecture, Music, Political Science, History, and Linguistics have been recognized with prizes.
Libraries represent one of the most important pillars that make our university great. Students at UC Berkeley today benefit from over a century of library building and collecting, all of which brings to our campus a remarkable array of resources now available on our campus. The Library Prize underscores the value of these assets by encouraging undergraduates to delve into these resources – learning something of value about both their disciplines and themselves.
More information about the library prize can be found here: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/researchprize/ Students and faculty with questions about the Library Prize for Undergraduate Research may write firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be accepted between December 10, 2012 to April 19, 2013.