Beacon Street Diary

June 30, 2009

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June 30, 2009

Deanne and Abby came into the Library yesterday letterboxing. They were successful in their hunt but we won't reveal their secret. If you are interested in finding out more about letterboxing check out: or Great fun for the whole family.

June 29, 2009

"Sundays in America" book coverIf you are looking for a book to take with you this summer, you can't go wrong by picking up this one. It is not beach reading but it will engage you on that plane, train, bus, or car trip (as long as you aren’t driving). Suzanne Strempek Shea may be familiar to you as the author of Selling the Lite of Heaven or Shelf Life. In this book, Ms. Shea travels around America searching for a new religious home. Her journey is both physical and spiritual. She has determined that the faith she was raised in, Roman Catholic, no longer provides her with the worship community she needs.

Beginning on Easter or "Resurrection" Sunday, Ms. Shea begins at New Mount Zion Baptist Church the year long journey to visit Christian churches, large and small, new and old, lead by the famous and unknowns from Maine to Hawaii. She goes to each church as a seeker with the hope that she will find the one place where she belongs. Along the way, she finds churches she would be happy to return to and churches that disappoint her. Her descriptions of the churches, congregants, and preachers will carry you into each worship place with her. Some places she visits are: Arch Street Friends Meeting House, Philadelphia; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston; Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA; Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago; Mashpee Baptist Church, Mashpee, MA; Harvest Church of the Nazarene, Las Vegas; and Interfaith Chapel, Denver International Airport.

In the end, one year later, Ms. Shea writes that her travels have distilled what she needs in a new church: a warm community that disregards politics and lifestyle; supports and is active in social justice; allows congregants decision making roles (no hierarchy); has a spiritual message "inspired by love rather than fear"; and has art and music. She has not found her perfect church but would willingly return to several that offered "lots of what matters to me".

For more reviews check out

June 26, 2009

In 1958, Corrine M. Nordquest was hired as Assistant Librarian replacing retiring Assistant Librarian Florence K. Babcock. Rev. John A. Harrer was then Librarian of the American Congregational Association (ACA). Prior to her employment at the Congregational Library, Miss Nordquest worked for Congregational societies. She was with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.M.) serving five years in Africa. On her return from Africa, she became a director of religious education. She also served at the City Mission Society in Boston.

Miss Nordquest was a graduate of Schauffler College in Cleveland, Ohio, which is now a part of Oberlin College. Upon starting at the Congregational Library, she enrolled in the library science program at Simmons College and received her Master of Library Science degree in 1961. She was promoted to Associate Librarian in 1962.

Appointed Librarian in 1963, Miss Nordquest became the first woman Librarian of the ACA. From the minutes of the Annual Meeting in May, 1963, the Library Committee reported: "Her work in the library has been of a high degree of proficiency. An advance in services to the churches by the Congregational Library through years to come is confidently anticipated." She served until 1968.

Her library career continued at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Library and at the Yale Divinity School Library until retirement. She married John A. Harrer in 1984.

She was a member of the Second Congregational Church in Ashtabula, Ohio. Survivors include a sister, Juanita Rhinehart; brother, Harland Nordquest; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; and her brothers, Leslie and Richard Nordquest.

A memorial service will be held at a later date, in Waverly, Ohio. Corrine donated her body to the Ohio State University Medical School. Messages of condolence may be sent to Corinne’s brother, Mr. Harland K. Nordquest, 1733 W. 7th St., Ashtabula, OH 44004-2878. Memorial contributions may be made to the Second Congregational Church, 319 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, OH  44004.

June 24, 2009

The following is a post by one of our most recent Simmons interns, Meg Rampton.

I started at the Congregational Library very excited and anxious to process my very first collection after started my masters degree at Simmons College last fall. I had spent hundreds of hours in archives researching but had never been on the other side: preparing and organizing the documents. The library and archive are housed together in a wonderful environment overlooking the Granary Burial ground. I knew at the beginning I would enjoy this internship. 60 hours were required for my class but I knew I could spend much more time there.

My project was to process the Blake-Goodsell Collection. Everett Blake married Lynda Goodsell in 1926 in Berkley, California. They followed Fred and Lou Goodsell, Lynda’s parents, path and shortly after moved to Turkey and spent most of their lives as missionaries in the Middle East. The collection covered 5 generations of the Everett Blake and Fred Goodsell Families. As I started there were boxes of all sizes with many different documents inside. A majority was letters back and forth between family members. After hours of sorting and organizing the letters, I came to feel as if I knew the family. When I went through the correspondence about Lynda's death I felt the emotions as if I knew her.

Blake-Goodsell collection in progress
The endless boxes of correspondence

Although I have never met any family member I felt grateful for the service they preformed for others as missionaries. As a returned missionary myself for my church, I knew the difficulties and sacrifice they went through. They were good people. And they sure did write a lot! When my project was completed there were over nine and a half boxes of correspondence.

One of my favorite finds in the collection was in one of Fred Goodsell's journal. He had three original revolutionary war dollars. They were very tattered paper about 3 inches square and in the amount of 1/6th of a dollar, 20 dollars, and 30 dollars printed in 1776.

Thank you to the Congregation Church for allowing me to work with you!

Meg Rampton
Meg doing the final sort in the reading room

June 23, 2009

Yesterday I started getting notes from librarian friends: Ohio's public libraries are about to be in a world of hurt if their budgets end up getting cut by 50%, which is the current path the Strickland camp are currently taking.

To read more about this issue:
An article by the Ohio Library Council, Library Journal, The Library is Closed -- a dedicated blog, Save Ohio Libraries Facebook group, and celebrity author Neil Gaiman's commentary, which then loops back to the Library Journal entry.

For those who can, the separate Save Our Libraries blog provides links to contacting the state's representatives. Good luck to our colleagues in Ohio.

June 22, 2009

On Saturday the Globe ran an article about our building superintendent, John. I ended up talking to the reporter, so this wasn't a complete surprise.


We had posted a small gallery of his photos of the original couple some time ago and everyone at the library always looks forward to his daily updates

Hawks on Beacon Hill catch eye of Somerville man - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

Be sure to watch the video and read the article. The comments that go with it are quite sweet.


June 19, 2009

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Charles Chauncey Wells and Suzanne Austin Wells, authors of Preachers, Patriots & Plain Folks: Boston's Burying Ground Guide to King's Chapel, Granary and Central Cemeteries, visited the library on Thursday this week.

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Mr. Wells, in his colonial finery, related some of his favorite stories about the Granary Burial Ground to a packed crowd in the Congregational Library Reading Room. (The talk was part of our brown bag lunch series, free and open to the public.)

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There are a significant number of famous Bostonians in our back yard! Since he only had an hour, Mr. Wells was only able to talk about Phyllis Wheatley, the 18th century poet and member of Old South Church; Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin.

After his talk, Wells guided his audience around the grounds, pointing out more of the notable inhabitants.

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For those interested in learning more about the book, patrons may request the library's copy, or check the following links -- be aware that the Google Book link that provides information about the book, where you can purchase it, and a WorldCat portal that links to library copies.


Google entry
Publisher's purchasing page

June 17, 2009


One of the nice things about staying in the same city where you go to library school, particularly in the case of Simmons/Boston, is that on occasion, you get to stay in touch with people who were in the program with you.

Brian Sullivan, the archivist at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, were both in the Simmons GSLIS program in '98, survived a few shared classes, and have seen each other from time to time over the past 11 years. Yesterday I happened to pick one of the best days ever to get my tour of the repository and grounds yesterday.

We did a quick visit inside to see the climate control, the boxes -- each plot (4-digit number usually) is its own catalog number, but since the grounds opened in 1832, there's still a lot to organize and frame in an archive/researcher-friendly way.


As Brian noted, Mt. Auburn is a very unusual sort of amalgamation of active burial ground, a garden, and an archive. The grounds itself is an archive with some interesting features and pitfalls. Instead of shelvers, there are gardeners. The headstones have preservation issues -- the marble melts away over the years, the slate separates. Families request changes to their plots and presto changeo, the literal landscape is altered. Oh, and sometimes trees fall down.

I would recommend touring the grounds with Brian. He is amazed, awed, enthusiastic, and on 175 acres, I suspect you could take a walk every day for months- years?- and see new things. Particularly when you remember the aforementioned ever-changing landscape and on top of that, changing seasons. He showed me amazing, beautiful, and heart-breaking. I think I overused the word "wow" just a little bit. The size and nature of the grounds are such that it's filled with famous people and particularly famous Congregationalists. I have squeezed a promise from Brian to write as a guest blogger here about someone whose collection we have -- someone yet to be determined.

Thanks, Brian, for the tour and the photos from this post. Be sure to see the thousands of entries at Flickr of the grounds.


June 15, 2009

Peggy and I attended a seminar last Friday on appraising library and archive material. Our presenter, Sid Berger of the Peabody Essex Museum, was quite knowledgeable.

Appraisal means different things depending on if you're talking about a librarian vs. an archivist. When a librarian reviews books, there are many factors, some of which are: what is its physical condition (tight binding, no loose pages), is it in demand, does it fit the collection policy?

When it is an archive collection, the processor is looking to see if there is duplication, what is its current storage condition; does it need to have folders and boxes replaced to keep it in as acid-free environment as possible. Similarly with books, does it fit in the collection policy?

One of Sid's more passionate arguments was that librarians and archivists may not offer a financial appraisal on anything. Ever. This was a point that I remember very clearly from library school. When our job is to preserve and offer access to information, determining its dollar value is a clear conflict of interest. It's also too easy for the unscrupulous to take advantage of any financial appraisal a librarian or archivist would make. It's best to leave those transactions to book dealers.

Inevitably, books must be discarded. They get damaged, they are no longer in demand, they no longer fit the patrons' needs, there are other books out there that are more important, and there is always a limitation on shelf space.

For those who are interested in the humorous side of weeding a library collection, I recommend the Awful Library Books blog. I have been following this site for a few weeks now. It is consistently entertaining, but also helps review why weeding is important and provides a forum for other professionals to discuss the nuances of the de-accessioning craft.