Mount celebrates 11th Annual Library Week

February 17, 2017

Bryan Collier, illustrator and author, speaking with children at Bishop Dunn Memorial School.


Mount Saint Mary College’s Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center recently hosted its 11th Annual Library Week.

The celebration showcased a series of fun and engaging activities and lectures.

This year’s Library Week kicked off with the Technology Petting Zoo, an interactive walkthrough of all the technology available in the Kaplan Library and tips on the most effective ways to utilize these resources.

Library Week programs included in-depth conversations regarding challenged and banned books in public schools and libraries during the “Censorship in the Library & Classroom” program. Guest speakers Mary Ann Politi, former administrator and school librarian for the Wappingers Central School District, Hopewell Junction, N.Y.; and Theressa Yost, media specialist for the Lounsberry Hollow Middle School in Vernon Township, N.J., provided examples of how they have handled challenges to books in their collections, beginning with asking the complainant whether they have read the book, then asking them what their specific complaint about the material is.

“Every book has a target audience and when selecting a book, you have to know who the audience is, and what it is you hope they will get out of the story,” said Yost. “Remember that there’s a reason you’re using a book, so you need to always be ready to defend the decision to have a book available.”

The lineup of programs also included two tributes to Black History Month. The first was a discussion of the newly published book “In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in the Hudson Valley.” Book authors Susan Stessin-Cohn, former professor of social studies education at SUNY New Paltz, Director of Education at Historic Huguenot Street, and the current historian for the Town of New Paltz; and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini, former Manager of Collections and Archives at Historic Huguenot Street, put together a collection of 523 archived newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves, notices for slaves captured, the sale of slaves, and notices offering to purchase slaves. According to Stessin-Cohn, the advertisements, published between 1735 and 1831, are the only historical records of the 607 individuals.

“The names and descriptions of most slaves who lived, worked, and died in the area are lost to time,” explained Stessin-Cohn.

Because of their book, however, we now know a bit about individuals such as Robin from Eastchester, N.Y., Tom from Columbia County, N.Y., and a slave named Jack who called himself “Free Man John.”

The second tribute to Black History Month was led by renowned children’s book author and illustrator Bryan Collier. During his program, “Diversity and Art in Children’s Literature,” Collier – who earlier in the day held a program for the students at Bishop Dunn Memorial School – discussed how he first became interested in art and the impact it has had on his life. He also walked through his process for capturing the essence of a story, how it translates into his artistic vision, and the final product.

On Saturday, Feb. 11th Collier also served as the keynote speaker during the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) 18th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, which was attended by more than 1,000 people.

Evan Merkhofer, assistant biology professor at the Mount, delved into a scientific “hot topic” during his session, “Cut & Paste with DNA.” He focused on a DNA editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9, which works similarly to a word processing program’s “find and replace” function. The applications for this technology, Merkhofer explained, are far-reaching, including creating new kinds of cell therapies, new antibiotics, and controlling insect-borne diseases.

“Gene editing is completely changing what biology is all about,” said Merkhofer.

The consequences of using this technology, however, could be equally far-reaching, from impacting the environment in the case of use in plants, to the potential for creating a host of unknown health-related issues.

This year’s Library Week concluded with a special treat for the Mount community in the form of hot cocoa with all the fixins.