Senior Slocum Award Draws More Students

By Liz Lyon '12, Design Editor

On April 2, the 76th Senior Slocum Award exhibits went up in Denison Library with the highest number of participants in the last ten years. A total of 11 seniors from the Class of 2012 entered the competition with collections as diverse as Sarah Murtaugh’s “Books that Have Been Translated into Latin,” Katie Lesnya’s “Health and Human Rights: A Collection of Books on Global Health Disparities and the Culture, History, and Politics of Africa,” and Sarah Stringer’s “Moments of Being.”

Judy Harvey Sahak (’64), Sally Preston Swan Librarian and Director of Denison Library, recognizes that Slocum comes at a time when many seniors are busy with thesis and post-graduation plans, which accounts for the varying number of entrants every year. However, she believes that personal libraries are important. She said, “A thesis is over when it’s over, but libraries stay with you the rest of your life. They grow as you and your interests grow.” A personal library is something which outlasts one’s time at Scripps.

Having the exhibition shown in Denison during the last six to seven weeks of the semester means that visitors see it over Alumnae Weekend, Commencement weekend and the Admission Office’s prospective student event, Spend a Day in our Shoes (SADIOS), not to mention end-of-year visits. According to Sahak’s anecdotal experience, a higher number of visitors come to see the Slocum exhibits than others.

“They come and they look,” Sahak said. “Prospective students will come back after tours and look at the exhibits.”

A number of the participants this year , including Karin Weston, Sarah Stringer, and Felicia Palmer, saw the exhibits as first-years and they decided to participate. Said Catherine Parker Sweatt, whose personal collection is on philosophy and poetry, “I can mark my years and seasons here by the books I’ve read. I discovered philosophy in Core I, and about the same time I started writing poetry. Poetry allowed me to ask questions in the same way as philosophy.”

Two personal collections this year have themes which Sahak has never seen before: “The Wonderful World of Disney Books” and “Assassin’s Creed and Books: A Literary Guide to Gaming.” Absent from the collections this year are collections on one book or author and scholarly texts on feminism. Other themes, such as antiquarian illustrated books, memoir, and travel, infrequently make their way to Senior Slocum, but always with an original flare.

“There’s always an original view, a twist,” Sahak said. “The collections are as individual as the collectors.”

A new part of the Slocum Award this year was the Tuesday Noon Academy panel on April 10, where participants gave a panel discussion. The libraries will be judged April 24 by Director of the California Rare Book School based at UCLA Susan M. Allen, , Scripps College Professor of French Studies and Humanities Eric Haskell, and Curator of Early Printed Books at the Huntington Library Steve Tabor.

Professor Haskell, who has been a judge for Senior Slocum for two decades, wrote in an email, “The judges are looking for a book collection that has a central, cohesive theme. Our evaluation includes not only a careful viewing of the collection but also reading the student essays, perusing their annotated lists of books,and–last but not least – interviewing each student.”

Other changes to the Slocum Award may be coming soon. Sahak has received inquiries about virtual exhibits and compiling bibliographies for books that the compiler would like to have. Additionally, Sahak is open to ways in which to exhibit virtual books. “I think that opening up the Award digitally is absolutely inevitable. It is just a matter of finding a way to let it happen,” she said.

Sahak is also working on a “Junior Slocum Award,” where a cash prize will be awarded to a first-year for her library. The goal of such an award, Sahak said, was to support students who enjoy reading, but may be constrained by time or finances.

“My favorite part of the exhibition is seeing how students choose to install their books and hearing them articulate the specific features of their collection,” wrote Haskell. “The Slocum Awards present a rare and unique opportunity for our students to showcase their collections.”

The exhibition runs April 2 through May 12 at Denison Library.