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Library offers two plump prizes for undergraduates

| 26 February 2003

Do you know an undergraduate bookworm fond of hoarding favorite tomes? Or one who has made sophisticated use of library resources for a research project? Nominations are currently being accepted for two prizes honoring student book collecting and library research.

Undergraduate research prize
In mid-May, up to six undergraduates will receive prizes of $750 or $1,000 each for their use of the rich collections and resources of the campus libraries. The Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, new this year, recognizes class projects completed in summer or fall 2002 or the current semester.

While other awards on campus focus on an end product — such as a paper or scientific experiment — the new prize honors sophisticated or creative use of library resources in the process of completing a class assignment, as well as a student’s learning about the information-gathering and research process.

“We’re really excited about it,” says Lynn Jones of the Teaching Library, who helped to create the new prize. “The undergraduate experience is four years, but we hope it doesn’t stop there.That’s the long-term goal — to promote critical thinking and digging deeper than what you get in the daily newspaper.”

Students in all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Lower- and upper-division students will be honored at a May 13 reception, as will their supervising faculty members. “We want to encourage faculty to make these kinds of assignments,” says Jones.

The deadline for applications — which include an essay about the research experience, a letter of support from the instructor, and a draft or final version of the research project — is 5 p.m., Monday, April 21.

For information, see www.lib.berkeley.edu/researchprize. Faculty interested in serving on the panel of judges may contact Lynn Jones at ljones@library.berkeley.edu.

Book-collecting prize
Students with painstakingly assembled book collections can now earn a reward greater than poor eyesight for their efforts. The Bancroft Library’s Hill-Shumate Book Collecting Prize, open to all currently enrolled Berkeley undergrads, awards $600 to each year’s first-place winner, $300 to the runner-up, and $100 to the third-place finisher. To apply, a student must submit an essay of up to 1,000 words explaining his or her collection (which should encompass at least 50 pieces, including books and ephemera), along with a list detailing the items. According to Bill Brown, associate director of public services at Bancroft, the collection’s components needn’t be kept at Berkeley to be considered, so students with shelves full of Shakespeare back home are encouraged to enter.

Brown says the contest, which was established and endowed by Bancroft benefactors Kenneth Hill and Al Shumate, supports collecting and reading. It also helps promote discussion between collectors and can spark a lifelong passion.

“It’s fun for the entrants to hear how other collectors got started,” he says. “Many collectors get the bug as undergraduates, although some begin at an earlier age. Quite a few are voracious readers and want to know everything there is to know about ‘their’ topic or ‘their’ authors.”

Brown said an added benefit for the Bancroft is a peek into the minds of Berkeley students.“We’re interested in what undergrads are reading and collecting,” he says. “What are the collections of the future going to look like?”

A student’s assemblage needn’t be extensive, exhaustive, or filled with rarities to be considered for the prize. Judges focus on how well a collection hews to the applicant’s goals and interests and the creativity and perseverance exhibited in putting together the collection.

“We’re not talking about people who have hundreds of books, each worth thousands of dollars,” says Brown. “It’s undergrads who may have been collecting books on a certain topic or author for a few years. It could be something as broad as the field of political thought or theory, or somebody collecting the works of a modern author.”

The top prize in 2001 went to a student whose collection focused on the classics. The previous year’s winner won the judges over with his library of Scottish literature. There was no winner in 2002, due to a dearth of applicants; in the past, says Brown, only “a handful” of students submitted entries annually, although he hopes getting the word out will lead to increased interest this year.

The application deadline is March 3. For information, visit http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/info/fellowships.html#shumate.