An Interview with Rachel Finn, the Newest Research Services Librarian

To get things started, can you give a brief overview of what you’ll be doing in your position with the Vassar Research Library?

My official title is Social Sciences Librarian. I’m part of the team of research librarians, so I’ll be doing many of the same tasks as my colleagues in the research department. I’ll be working with students answering reference questions and providing support in that way and I’ll be a liaison for most of social science departments and a couple of programs on campus. I’ll be working specifically with economics, sociology, political science, urban studies, and Africana studies.

What motivates you? What (or who) inspires you to do what you do?

In general, I’d have to say I motivate myself. But I care very deeply about actively contributing to the common good. What inspires me? Black people. We excel, create beauty, and inspire envy and wonder, often in spite our circumstances.

You’ve mentioned your work as a food historian. Can you elaborate on your experiences with that? What led you to that field?

I’ve written lots on African Diaspora and Middle Eastern food. I’ve traveled around the world to give presentations on African Diaspora foodways and I’m working to build a foodways library focused on Afro-foodways. I’ll actually be working on that this summer with a Ford Scholar. I began working first as a food writer while living in France, an experience that led to my first article on Algerian pastries being published in Gastronomica. I’ve been on a hiatus of sorts for the past few years but I’m slowly re-entering the field with a few new ideas I’m developing to pitch in various places.

What advice would you give to Vassar students?

I was a high school teacher in Chicago for a long time, which was often pretty tough. I’ll share the different things I tried to impress upon them in my classroom back then, things I think are pretty universal. Most of it has nothing to do with academics or school necessarily and everything about how to navigate the world as a decent human being, something we all need reminders of but especially now in our current climate.  Understand that all actions –good or bad, positive or negative- have consequences. Just because you might not like the consequences doesn’t mean you didn’t have a choice in arriving at them. Be generous of spirit, and always do things with a pure heart.

“Our guests”: the dogs of Vassar College


“Like all owners of all other dogs, we quickly came to believe that Mary Ann was ‘different.’ While she was not a trick dog, we were sure that no other dog had ever shown so much intelligence and that if she had been trained in her early youth she could have out-tricked all the trick dogs in the country.”

Our guests: Mary Ann and her predecessors, by Lucy Maynard Salmon



You may have heard of Mary Ann, Scrap, Queen, Fritz, Raggles, Snookum, Ponto, and Lady, the various guests of hostesses Lucy Maynard Salmon and Adelaide Underhill (see “Light is given to discover onward things” for more information on both Lucy and Adelaide). But what about the latest generation of Vassar guests? The Zine Collection at the Vassar College Library would like to create a zine showcasing the various dogs of Vassar. If you are a member of the Vassar College faculty, administration, or staff, we encourage you to send a photo and a brief blurb about your furry friend to

A few requests, if you please:

  1. Make sure you tell us your dog’s name.
  2. Make sure you tell us your name and your job on campus.
  3. Let us know your dog’s favorite book. If they have a favorite spot on campus, we’d like to know that too!

You can send along more information if you like, but please be aware that we may do some edits depending on space constraints. If you send a color photo, we will convert it to black and white for the printed zine.

We would appreciate your dog’s photo and information no later than November 30th!!

We would also like to include the Vassar pups in a digital exhibit. Please let us know in your submission if you would be interested in participating.

All Families Weekend 2016

This coming weekend, September 23-25, 2016 is All Families Weekend at Vassar.  What better time to show off the Library and all its architectural details to family and friends?

Here a few highlights:

The Library has a rich architectural history.  The Main Library was built in 1905 and has been expanded and updated several times over the past 110 years.  Most of the original architectural details are still present today — along with some breathtaking newer ones!  Bring your family and friends to the Library this weekend and enjoy this beautiful, historic building as well as the contents within!

For further information on the history of the Library, visit:

For more information on the events happening on campus during the weekend, please visit: