Hidden Libraries Tour

On Thursday, March 15, four “hidden” libraries were toured by MIT students and MIT Libraries staff. The tours were organized by Herng Yi Cheng ’18 and consisted of visits to the Anime Club, the Science Fiction Society, the Lecture Series Committee, and the WMBR radio station. The tours provided a fascinating look into some of the student / volunteer run libraries around campus.

First stop was the Anime Club.

MIT Anime Club member and shelves

MIT Anime Club member and shelves

  • Located 4th floor of student center (W20) between the Chocolate Club and the Assassins Guild
  • Formed in 1993
  • 5 officers, 20-35 members
  • Member fee $5, open to MIT and public
  • Collects DVDs, has 2100 manga, 500+ magazines, organized by title
  • In addition to the library they host weekly showings
  • Catalog online – http://anime.mit.edu/ – created by student in 1998
  • In the collection there are many original Japanese manga, one popular use is to assist in learning Japanese
  • They try to buy direct from Japan to support creators

Next we visited the Science Fiction Society (the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction).

MIT Science Fiction Society stacks and map of stacks

MIT Science Fiction Society stacks and map of stacks

  • Online – http://mitsfs.mit.edu/
  • In the beginning they tried to collect ALL science fiction and fantasy publications
  • Estimate ~40 to 60 thousand books and ~35 thousand individual titles
  • Buy ~50 books per month – emphasis on keeping up with series already own
  • Books are sorted by size
  • They believe the library is “not really public if people can’t access” the collection physically, so keeping books off-site is not ideal
  • In addition to books, also have bound magazines

Bound copies of Weird Tales at the MIT Science Fiction Society library

  • “keyholders” = librarians and there are 30-40
  • Over 100 members total – open to anyone to join

MIT Archives note: In 1981 the SFS transferred 1 box of material to the Archives. It is collection AC331 and it consists of minutes of the organization from 1949 to 1960, correspondence with speakers and others interested in science fiction, and photographs.

Folded movie posters stored alphabetically in filing cabinets; 35mm movie trailers, at the MIT Lecture Series Committee library

Folded movie posters stored alphabetically in filing cabinets and 35mm movie trailers at the MIT Lecture Series Committee library

The next library got us away from libraries of books and moved us into the world of audio and visual material. The Lecture Series Committee (LSC) began in 1944 as a student group dedicated to hosting lectures for the MIT community. Today it is a group that brings movies to campus, sometimes with speakers. The LSC collection consists of movie posters and 35mm movie trailers.

  • Online – http://lsc.mit.edu/
  • They do have archives of administrative material that they would like to see digitized, but at the least could use better storage
CD stacks at the WMBR library

CD stacks at the WMBR library

The final stop on the tour was at the WMBR (Walker Memorial Basement Radio) on-campus radio station.

  • Began in 1958 all student run
  • 1960 became a broadcasting station
  • The original broadcast board is in the MIT Museum
  • The Late Risers’ Club – longest running series, started in 1977
  • Today run by the Technology Broadcast Corporation
  • To stay on MIT campus needs 50% student participation
  • We talked to the record librarian who has been there since 1980
  • Originally records were arranged by the Dewey Decimal System – didn’t really work
  • Today arranged alphabetically with colored stickers on the spines to indicate genres
  • Each genre has own library director
  • No catalog – “the collection is the catalog”
  • Estimated ~500,000 items
  • In the library there are 2 listening stations
  • Most music is sent to station by record labels
  • Today music is sent digitally, but that doesn’t allow the flexibility the DJs need, so CDs are burned and added to the library

-Greta Kuriger Suiter


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