Oberlin College Libraries


This month’s feature on Oberlin College Libraries is a special traveling, two-part series.  Please join us on October 17th when we explore the libraries further, particularly the Oberlin College Conservatory Library.

Oberlin College, located in northern Ohio, celebrates a rich history of providing excellent equality in education.  The college, founded in 1833, was the first college in America to adopt a policy to admit African American students and the first to grant bachelor’s degrees to women in a coeducational program.  The city of Oberlin has a long history of supporting racial justice, including when the town banded together with neighboring Wellington to keep runaway slave, John Price, free. In addition to providing exceptional service to students, the Oberlin College Library helps to preserve the college’s history and educate students on the history of the institution through their amazing collections.  As a result of their shared history with the city, the college maintains an impressive collection of abolitionist materials and original records.

“From it’s inception, the school represents education and social justice. The library is the steward of that concept” – Alexia Hudson-Ward.


Library Director Alexia Hudson-Ward and Head of Special Collections Ed Vermue show pieces from their abolitionist collection – slave stocks and chains leave a powerful impression when you feel the weight and learn the story

Hudson-Ward joined Oberlin College as the Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries in July of 2016 and oversees the college’s four libraries – the main Mudd Center library and the arts, science and conservatory libraries.  The library’s founding director, Azariah Smith Root, was a visionary and thought leader behind the concept of bibliographic instruction who also held leadership roles with the American Library Association.

Hudson-Ward explained that the college’s 3,000 students have access to all of the libraries and visit them depending on which unique atmosphere suits their needs.  The Mudd Center library serves as a meeting place and student union, the art library provides hands on learning opportunities, the conservatory library is musical and often students are found singing in the stacks and the science library is a silent study space.


Commemorative gateway in front of the art museum and library

Head of Special Collections Ed Vermue discussed the power of physical objects in the library collection.  Library staff are working to increase the use of haptic learning by delivering physical objects from their archives into the hands of students. These experiences engage students in learning and often lead them to explore other materials including documents and manuscripts. Oberlin is exploring methods to capture the essence of what is lost in the digitization process and to display materials while making them part of a readily available collection.


Fully functioning media viewers are part of the library archives and special collection

The library has also been tasked with documenting the biography of President Marvin Krislov, who will depart the college at the end of the academic year. As the first “digital president,” the library will explore methods for capturing his presence on the campus through his social media and other digital communications.

Hudson-Ward is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. As someone new to the campus, she enjoys seeing the greatness of the college and its libraries through fresh eyes and sharing her enthusiasm with her team, students and library visitors.








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