Noble Library hosts personal collections from student curators

From dorm room to library shelves, two ASU students are hand picking books to include in an open-stack collection

Situated promptly in the center of the entrance, it is the first thing you see walking into Noble Library. The sign titling the shelves "Required Reading" demands your attention. 

The modest metal shelves hold the carefully curated book collections of two ASU students as part of a open-stack community curation project. 

In September, students were prompted by the library to submit a list of 10-20 meaningful books responding to prompts about growth and identity.

Open-stack curator, Rachel Leket-Mor, said the project aims to get a better picture of what students are interested in being included in new library collections.

"The project is just the first in a series of community curation exercises we are conducting to learn what our students would like to see in their campus libraries," Leket-Mor said. "We are going to do more and more of these because we are very interested about what the students have to say about the future library."

After receiving a Mellon Grant, the ASU library is focused on exploring the increase of print books in academic settings by weaving engaging, student-oriented collections with new spaces to study and read. 

The Hayden library renovations are not set to be completed until 2020, but the library staff wants to start increasing student collaboration in curating the libraries across campus now.

"We are still working on the big plans, of course, but we want to have the students input, so this is one of our projects to get the students attention," Leket-Mor said.  

The new open stack collections are set to be integrated into the new Hayden building in an effort to tell the story of the local community, Leket-Mor said.

"We would like to collaborate with students to have their voice represented in our collections," Leket-Mor said. 

Freshman English major, Rachel Hagerman, and sophomore economics major, Emerald Peist, were the first two students chosen to curate a personal collection of books for the ASU community to read and interact with. 

Responding to the prompt 'Freshman Challenge: 21 books for the Class of 2021,' Hagerman was drawn to the application because she liked the opportunity to serve as a student voice in the library. 

"I liked the idea of putting student voices out there and trying to collect new ideas for younger audiences," Hagerman said.

Hagerman's diverse collection includes "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder, "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky and "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

"I chose growing up stories with themes and ideas that you are really challenged with as you are growing to be more independent and trying to figure things out on your own," Hagerman said. 

Peist answered the prompt 'Books that make you YOU at ASU' after seeing the opportunity in the Barrett Digest and wanting to appease her resident's requests for her personal booklist. 

After being informed that she was selected to have her booklist on display at Noble Library, Peist made a bulletin board with all of the same information to have on her floor.

"I was ecstatic because these books that have been so influential in shaping me as a person and now I get to share them with all of ASU," Peist said. "It is sort of like giving a little piece of me to the community."

Careful to include books that were hopeful yet still impactful in meaningful ways, Peist chose books like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith and "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes to fill her shelf with.

Peist said she was impressed that the library was able to acquire some of the texts on her list, including the "Ellis Island Interviews" by Peter Morton Coan which documents immigrants' stories in their own words. 

"I had not been able to find it anywhere except the bookstore in Ellis Island until 2011, so the fact that they have it here for everyone to read is amazing to me," Peist said. 

Curating this collection ended up being an experience that served a source of affirmation.

"I am really proud because I feel like the reading I have done in my life is sort of validated because these are good choices and they make a good collection, they go well together so I feel like I am a little bit more together now," Peist said.

Reading what other students pick as books that impact them helps foster a culture of empathy and understanding, Peist said. 

"I think that they give us insight into the ASU community as a whole, but more importantly I think they allow us to empathize with each other," Peist said. "You can learn a little more about how we grew up, how our experiences may be different and take away that empathy to thrive and grow together."

Reach the reporter at and follow @graceoldham123 on Twitter. 

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