Ruminations on finals

Ah, exam week. Worried? Unprepared? Rundown? Procrastinating? Can’t wait to find out what your grades are? You’re not alone. Despite not having Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or other social media, Vassar students from years past had their own outlets for recording their feelings about this most stressful time of the year. Lest you think venting about exams is something new, here are some excerpts from the Vassar Digital Library’s collection of student diaries and letters.

Library students studying ca 1901-1904

Library students studying ca 1901-1904

1865: Christine Ladd diary entry

We have had private examinations this week, which have done a good deal to take down my self conceit.  They have been demonstrative proof that impressions made on my mind have no more durability than if a seal plunged into the water.  … I am so inconceivably illogical.  It is impossible for me to apprehend the relations of things.  Education of such mental imbecility is a gross mistake.

1870: Ellen Adee diary entry

The revel of examinations is done and two days worry and cramming tell their tale in exhaustion mentily and bodily.  But that chapel essay could be postponed no longer, and what Nature could not do, green tea must.  It did help this morning I am sure, but this evening every muscle and nerve in my body seem about to give out.

ph.f 3.21 Main Building Library ca 1880

Main Building Library ca 1880

1871: Bertha Keffer diary entry

I wish it were the June examination instead of February.  I wish the Faculty had to be examined before a lot of people twice a year when we are.  They would soon do away with all such botherations if they came home to themselves.

1872: Frances Bromley diary entry

Examination days tire me more than almost any others. It’s a different kind of tired.


Student at desk in dorm, n.d.

Student at desk in dorm, n.d.

1872: Letter from Julia Pease to her mother

The examinations come off this week, Thursday and Friday. I dread them a good deal for I am not nearly as good a scholar as I was last year. It sometimes seems that I have grown most miserably stupid, for It is with the greatest difficulty that I can learn my lessons at all, and when I have learned them I cannot remember them long. Then, I think my teachers are none of them very good.

1896: Letter from Adelaide Mansfield to her mother

A hard week is over and a comparatively easy week is before as. Our exams, were harder than usual, and also harder to prepare for. Our exam, in Thucydides was the worst. Miss Leach gave us for the first question a passage to translate, which was the very hardest passage in the book. Some of the girls had just reviewed It, but a good many – including myself – had not looked at it since we had it about two months ago.

1915: Helen Hartley Pease Diary

Rained all day. Horrid walking. No flunk notes. Passed all my exams. Slept two hours in P.M. Didn’t go to new presidents’ reception for the weather. Only 5 nuts went. Retired early.


Good Reads

Tired of wading through textbooks and research materials as finals and end-of-term projects draw nearer and nearer? Take a break – and celebrate National Library Week (April 14-20) by checking out a book from the library’s Browsing collection. Located in the lobby alcove opposite the circulation desk, the browsing shelves house a carefully curated collection of new and notable publications, including award-winners and titles on the NYT bestseller list. From poetry and fiction to graphic novels and non-fiction, there’s something for everyone, and new titles are added regularly. Because of  high demand, the loan period for browsing books is 3 weeks (no renewals). Vassar College librarians recommend the following:

State of WonderPatchett, Ann. State of Wonder. New York: Harper, 2011     PS3566 A7756 S76 2011    

Mildly fantastical novel, where a childless pharmaceutical scientist goes deep into the Amazonian wilderness to search for a mysterious drug researcher. Patchett ties fertility issues, child bearing, woman doctors, the ethics of pharmaceutical production, use of the environment and some bird watching into her fast paced adventure story.

The Chemistry of TearsCarey, Peter. Chemistry of Tears. New York: AlfredA. Knopf, 2012     PR9619.3 C36 C44 2012    

An emotionally devastated clock expert avoids facing her grief by focusing on her most recent assignment of restoring a 19th century toy automaton (shades of “The Invention of Hugo Caberet”), which requires the reading of diaries from the original 1850s owner in the Black Forest and working with a curious intern.

The Family Fang (1)

Wilson, Kevin. The Family Fang. New York: Ecco, 2012     PS3623 I58546 F36 2012 

Camille and Caleb Fang are performance artists bent on chaos. Unfortunately for their children, Annie and Buster, they see their art as a family affair. The Family Fang is a fabulous combination of humor, family drama,   and suspense. It’s unforgettable and fresh, and you’ll find it nearly impossible to put down.

The Heart Broke InMeek, James. The Heart Broke In. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012     PR6063 E345 G43 2012

Personal definitions of morality and ethics characterize the plot line for each actor in this novel. Through themes of celebrity, power and science, the characters’ family and work lives weave together in an intimate and intricate tale of decision making and consequences.

My Beloved WorldSotomayor, Sonia. My Beloved World. New York: Knopf,  2013     KF8745 S67 A3 2013

A chronicle of  Sotomayor’s life from childhood to her first judgeship. Nicknamed  Ají (“hot pepper”) for her impulsive spirit, she was a child who, due to tumultuous life events, in many ways had to learn to parent herself. However, she also drew strength and confidence from her large, complicated, Bronx and Puerto Rico-based family.



After Hours Study Room Door Update

If you’re a denizen of the library’s after-hours study space and you don’t swipe your ID card before exiting through the after-hours entrance, an alarm will ring – and ring – and ring, until someone (an exasperated fellow student, or even a security guard) comes by to silence it with a swipe of his/her card.  Despite copious signage, the alarm is set off nearly every night the after-hours study space is open.  This is annoying and disruptive to students studying in the after-hours space and working at the Reserve and Technology Helpdesk, and it’s a burden on security as well. So now the library’s trying a new strategy.  Starting the first day of classes (1/23/13), a motion sensor with a built-in audio “reminder” will be operational from midnight – 8:00am Sunday-Thursday (with additional hours added during study and exam weeks).  Anyone within 40 feet of the door will prompt the device to broadcast the following message:

Please remember to swipe your ID before you exit the building. 

The device will repeat the message until the person who set it off swipes out of the building, or until s/he is out of range of the motion detector.  How far is 40 feet, you ask?  The library will put up discreet signs to mark the boundary.

Listen to a preview of the message: