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Students curate collections that inspire, reveal

The book collections of two students at Arizona State University are currently featured at Noble Library, as part of an open stack community curation project called Required Reading.

ASU Library selected freshman Rachel Hagerman and sophomore Emerald Peist through a process in which students submitted essays describing more than a dozen books that are truly meaningful to them and may serve as either inspiration to or a challenge for their fellow students.

“I’ve always appreciated a good coming-of-age story,” writes Peist, an economics major in the W. P. Carey School of Business, who chose the theme “Books That Make You YOU” for her collection. “Books like ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ and ‘Jacob Have I Loved’ have always resonated deeply with me.”

Among the 18 books Peist chose as having most influenced her personal development, more than half are novels examining social change that were penned and published in the 20th century – with the exception of “I Am Malala,” a 2013 memoir by the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai.

“Coupled with the coming-of-age theme that can be found in several of these books, we can start to see how social evolution has repeatedly found its roots in the youngest generation of the time,” writes Peist.

Hagerman, an English major, chose the theme “Freshman Challenge: 21 Books for the Class of 2021.”

“Each book challenges you to consider different perspectives, consider a different time period or think in a new way,” writes Hagerman. “As a freshman, you are being challenged to consider new perspectives as you learn to live more independently.”

With a collection strong in science fiction (Bradbury, Orwell, Huxley and Shelley), Hagerman wonders aloud, through the act of curation, about the significance of art, knowledge and one’s relationship to the world and with others in a society largely driven by progress.

Other selections from Hagerman, such as “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” explore the beauty and pain of ordinary human existence.

“What is happiness? How do we achieve it?” asks Hagerman, referring to Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics,” which also made her list.

The books we read

“If books have the power to change minds and lives, then the ways in which we approach, select and share them matter greatly,” says Associate University Librarian for Collections and Strategy Lorrie McAllister.

“At ASU Library, we are adopting new strategies when it comes to curating our print collections,” said McAllister. “Our overall goal is to build active, living, growing, inclusive collections that inspire, educate and foster inquiry for our ASU constituents and the surrounding community. One approach is to co-develop book stacks with students, such as this Required Reading project. It’s an opportunity for students to voice their interests, share meaningful works with others and help to build the Library’s collections for future Sun Devils.”

McAllister’s work in this area contributes to a three-year project aimed at reinventing ASU Library’s strategy and practice for open stack print collections, which was recently awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Jim O’Donnell, University Librarian, adds, “Because ASU Library holds over 4 million books, we are experimenting with ways to develop 'human scale' book stacks and find moments to engage students, faculty and our communities with great works of literature, trusted disciplinary resources, reference materials and books read just for fun. We hope that these students’ selected books will catch the attention of passersby to ignite their own meaningful interactions with these works.”

The collections of Hagerman and Peist are now on display at Noble Library, which is open 24 hours a day, five days a week.