Mysteries in the Stacks; or, The Allan P. Kirby Jr. Collection

Left: Protagonist Nick Carter and friends use rifles to ambush the bad guys, below, from a rooftop in Tokyo, Japan. Right: Protagonist Nick Carter and others watch a woman shoot a man outside a burning building.
Left: Carter, Nick, pseud. New Nick Carter Weekly 602. Talika, the Geisha Girl; or, Nick Carter’s Japanese Rival. New York: Street & Smith, July 11, 1908. Right: Doughty, Francis Worcester. Secret Service: Old and Young King Brady, Detectives 208. A Queen of Her Kind; or, A Beautiful Woman’s Nerve. New York: Street & Smith, January 16, 1904.

Dime novels were hastily written, formulaic and sensational stories marketed to teenage boys. Examples of the genre held in Burns Library are the related “nickel weeklies.” Popular subjects include detectives, pirates, inventors, and heroes of American history. Publishers employed an array of pseudonymous authors and anonymous illustrators to churn out tale after tale using familiar, recurring characters and situations. Issues were published weekly in New York City from 1887 to 1915 before being distributed throughout the country. Each included about 30 pages of text in double columns, with no illustrations beyond their covers —  where the casual racism, sexism, and violence that permeates the stories is on clear display. 

The protagonists, in a fortified wagon pulled by robotic deer, intervene in a fight between outlaws and miners in rugged terrain.
Left: Senarens, Luis. Pluck and Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure 166. Jack Wright the Boy Inventor, Exploring Central Asia in his Magnetic Hurricane. New York: Frank Tousey, August 7, 1901. Right: Senarens, Luis. Pluck and Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure 222. Jack Wright and his Electric Deers; or, Fighting the Bandits of the Black Hills. New York: Frank Tousey, September 3, 1902.

The advent of moving pictures for the same price hastened the dime novel’s decline in popularity. Dime novels or nickel weeklies stopped publication, but pulp magazines and paperback novels soon followed in their melodramatic footsteps. 

Young collectors purchased, traded, and kept issues of their favorite series. As those youngsters grew up, the urge to collect was bolstered by nostalgia. One such collector was Allan P. Kirby, Jr., who assembled a collection of Nick Carter Mysteries and Early Dime Novels, which could no longer be stored in Pennsylvania. Popular fiction is a collecting area at Burns, and the role of dime novels in the mystery genre made the collection a good fit.

Left: On the deck of a ship, the protagonist, Thad, shoots Captain Kidd. Right: During the chaos of a naval battle, fictional hero “Paul Jones” stands above the crowded deck of a ship on a rope ladder, waving an American flag.
Left: The Red Raven Library: Stirring Tales of Old Buccaneer Days 1. Captain Kidd’s Sea Swoop; or, Carried Off by Pirates. New York: The Winner Library Co., 1905. Right: Paul Jones Weekly: Stories of the American Revolution 3. Paul Jones’ Pledge; or, The Tiger of the Atlantic. New York: The Winner Library Co., October 14, 1905.

Dime novels are a lens to view American popular culture at the turn of the 20th century. Original issues are now incredibly fragile, since they were printed on cheap, acidic paper. Many images are available in digital collections and exhibits. Issues from the Allan P. Kirby Jr. collection have not been digitized, but can be requested from the library catalog using the Burns Library online request management system. These materials are stored offsite, so we require at least 3 business days notice before your appointment. 

The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. collection includes issues from the series Pluck & Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure, published by Frank Tousey (1891-1904); Nick Carter Weekly; New Nick Carter Weekly, published by Street & Smith (1897-1912); Secret Service, Old and Young King Brady, Detectives, published by Frank Tousey (1899-1912); The Liberty Boys of ‘76: A Weekly Magazine Containing Stories of the American Revolution, published by Frank Tousey (1901-1925); Red Raven Library: Stirring Tales of Old Buccaneer Days, published by Winner Co. (Street & Smith) (1905); and Paul Jones Weekly: Stories of the American Revolution, published by Winner Co. (Street & Smith) (1905-1906).

Right: The two protagonists fight with nine anarchist assassins in a room.
Left: Doughty, Francis Worcester. Secret Service: Old and Young King Brady, Detectives 453. The Bradys and the Chinese Juggler; or, the Opium Fiend’s Revenge. New York: Frank Tousey, September 27, 1907. Right: Secret Service: Old and Young King Brady, Detectives 89. The Bradys’ Battle for Life; or, The Keen Detectives’ Greatest Peril. New York: Frank Tousey, October 5, 1900.

—Shelley Barber, Reference & Archives Specialist, John J. Burns Library

Works consulted:

Cox, J. Randolph. The Dime Novel Companion: a Source Book. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Stanford University. Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls.

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Streaming Audio: Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, Reel 6, Side 2

Photo of reel-to-reel tape recorderFor all our readers and researchers eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, we continue a series of blog posts featuring audio from the Joe Lamont collection. The open-reel analog audiotapes in Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings are a mix of live instrumental music—much of it from New York City’s Irish music clubs of the 1950s and 1960s—along with dubs of both published and unpublished 78-rpm discs.  Compiled by fiddle player Joe Lamont (1905-1974), the collection is now digitized and is part of Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives.

This blog post presents the entire content of reel 6, side 2 in eleven digital audio clips. The corresponding portion of Lamont’s typed tracklist appears below each audio clip.

Lamont's tracklist for reel 6 side 2, Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Lamont’s tracklist for reel 6 side 2, Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

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Beautiful Historic Wooden Book Covers in Burns Library

In the course of my job at John J. Burns Library, I often find amazing archival materials by chance while working on conservation projects. The jeweled binding of a Bulgarian manuscript held at Burns Library is one such serendipitous find.

During the fall of 2019, Amy Brown, Head Library, Special Collections Technical Services, worked closely with John McLaughlin and Robert Ribokas, Boston College ITS senior application developers, to build a new conservation database to track conservation treatments. While Burns Library had to close its doors due to COVID-19 from April through May 2020, I worked at home to import old conservation records into the new conservation database, including reports by my predecessor, Book Conservator Mark Esser (1). As I reviewed his reports, I noted that Mark had made a custom box for a book he described as “bound in wooden covers. Covers decorated with carving. Faceted red gems.” My interest was piqued and when I returned to the library, I retrieved the boxed book from the stacks to see this unusual binding for myself.

Book opened to display carved wooden cover
The cover of Burns Library’s copy of Istorii︠a︡ slavi︠a︡nobŭlgarska : Zografska chernova, DR74 .P33 1998 GENERAL

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Navigating Maps at Burns Library

Maps can tell us as much about the people who made them as the places they depict. Like all texts and images, maps serve the agendas of their creators, implicitly or avowedly. Consider this map produced around 1920, during the Irish War of Independence and title The English Terror in Ireland: List of Irish Towns and Villages Ravaged by British Troops or Police During the Past Twelve Months — the author’s pro-Irish stance is easy to discern, and we can interpret the data with the proverbial grain of salt.

Map showing list of towns ravaged by British troops or police with outline of Ireland and red dots for each town named
The English Terror in Ireland: List of Irish Towns and Villages Ravaged by British Troops or Police During the Past Twelve Months, G5781.S6 E5 1920 FLAT STORAGE John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

More often, however, a map invites the viewer to contemplate a multitude of angles. This 18th-century map showing the locations of Jesuit missions in Paraguay and Brazil, for example, offers insight into the aims of the Jesuit missions, the imperial ambitions of European powers, and how these powers viewed the rights and interests of indigenous South Americans.

Section of a colored map of Paraguay, showing the location of Jesuit missions in Paraguay
Detail from Neueste Vorstellung und Beschreibung der, der [sic] Gesellschafft Iesu zugehoerigen Provinz Paraquay mit den angraenzenden Laendern, aus den Reise Geschichten und vielfaeltigen Beobachtungen der P.P. Missionarien, G5380 1732 .N48 FLAT STORAGE  John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The range of subjects found within Burns Library’s maps corresponds closely with the collecting strengths of the library generally. Maps relating to Irish history, Boston history, and the Jesuits are therefore well represented. So too are maps of Africa and the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, collected by the Jesuit missionary and anthropologist Joseph J. Williams (1875-1940) and dating from about 1630 through the mid 20th century.

Square map in Latin showing section of West African coastline, titled Guinea
This map of the coast of West Africa and the island of São Tomé dates from between 1608 and 1630 and is one of the oldest maps in Burns Library. Guinea, G2605 1608 .G8 WILLIAMS, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

To view a map at Burns Library, you will first need to find it in the library catalog. Depending on your patience for sifting through irrelevant search results, you may prefer to begin with a Google-style keyword search, or else take a more targeted approach. I recommend using the Advanced Search option, selecting Maps from the Material Type drop-down box, and searching the Subject field for the location that interests you. In the screenshot below you can see how my search for maps of Boston yielded 22 results.

Screenshot of advanced search where Any field is Boston and Material Type is Maps. 22 results found

Map showing Irish roads from Dublin to Trim by Killock

An example of a map you wouldn’t find with the material type of maps

It is important to note that by limiting the material type to maps, you are searching for maps produced as individual sheets, and for atlases wholly made up of maps. Excluded are books which may happen to include maps among its illustrations. For instance, this 18th-century book of Irish road maps, would be excluded by a search limited to Material Type Maps, on the basis that it is not a map but a book containing some maps.

While I know of no simple, targeted approach to searching the catalog for these books-that-contain-maps, one fruitful strategy is to search Any field contains map* (the asterisk will make the search engine return results for both “map” and “maps”). Combine with a Subject search for the locale of your choice (I used Vermont), and you may serendipitously discover that 1794 edition The Natural and Civil History of Vermont you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.

Screenshot of advanced search string for any field is map* and any field is vermont

–Noah Sheola, Special Collections Cataloging Librarian

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900 Years of Beautiful Tradition: The Domesday Book Facsimile

One of the most important parts of historical research is looking at primary sources, which scholars use to interpret the past and draw conclusions. Primary source research has never been easy, especially for medieval studies. There are often few sources, and they are dispersed around the world in academic or government institutions with limited access. Before digitization projects could bring these rare resources to the masses through the internet, one of the next best things was facsimile editions. A facsimile is different from other forms of publication in that it attempts to accurately represent the original as closely as possible. This includes reproducing the size, condition, and color as well as content. Some facsimile editions will even recreate holes in manuscripts for an even more authentic experience.

All twelve volumes of Great and Little Domesday.
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Pivoting Outreach in a Pandemic: Changes to Burns Library Outreach Efforts, 2020 – ?

Outreach usually involves efforts to connect an organization’s services to a community. Burns Library uses many avenues to promote our resources, services, and events, believing these efforts help us build relationships with our very different audiences. Much of our outreach is based on material collections, and the belief that physical objects have intrinsic value beyond their content. So how do you continue to promote such material in a pandemic situation that requires distancing, crowd control, and/or isolation?

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Streaming Audio: Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, Reel 6, Side 1

Photo of reel-to-reel tape recorderFor all our readers and researchers eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, the Joe Lamont collection (featured earlier on Burns Library’s blog) contains a treasure trove of audio. The open-reel analog audiotapes in Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings are a mix of live instrumental music—much of it from New York City’s Irish music clubs of the 1950s and 1960s—along with dubs of both published and unpublished 78-rpm discs.  Compiled by fiddle player Joe Lamont (1905-1974), the collection is now digitized and is part of Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives.

This blog post presents the entire content of reel 6, side 1 in seven digital audio clips. The corresponding portion of Lamont’s typed tracklist appears below each audio clip.

Lamont's tracklist for reel 6 side 1, Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Lamont’s tracklist for reel 6 side 1, Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 1 (00:00 to 05:45)

  • Michael Coleman, fiddle with Kathleen Brennan, piano
    • Kid on the Mountain (slip jig) (Decca 12067)
  • Michael Coleman, fiddle with Michael Andrews, guitar
    • Bonnie Kate; Jeannie’s Chickens (aka Jennie’s Chickens) (reels) (Decca 12015)

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 1 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 2 (05:45 to 06:18)

  • Unidentified musician, piano accordion
    • Gentle Maiden (waltz) 

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 2 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 3 (06:18 to 09:25)

  • James “Lad” O’Beirne, fiddle and Tom Cawley, fiddle
    • Nellie’s Night Out (aka Tailor’s Thimble); Lads of Leith (aka Lads of Laois) (reels) 

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 3 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 4 (09:25 to 10:56)

  • Denis Murphy, fiddle and unidentified musician, piano
    • The Wicklow (aka Sonny Murray’s) (hornpipe)

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 4 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 5 (10:56 to 14:55)

  • Michael Coleman, fiddle
    • Humours of Lissadell; Dowd’s Favourite (reels)
  • Michael Coleman, fiddle and probably James “Lad” O’Beirne, piano
    • Ownie Davis’ (aka Davy’s); The Collier’s (reels) 

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 5 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 6 (14:55 to 16:07)

  • Michael Coleman, fiddle and probably James “Lad” O’Beirne, piano
    • Paddy on the Turnpike (aka The Bunch of Keys) (reel)

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 6 of reel 6 side 1


Reel 6, side 1, audio clip 7 (16:07 to 31:31)

  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Mark Callahan, guitar
    • Mullingar Lea; Star of Munster (reels) (Decca 12112)
  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Mark Callahan, guitar
    • Crowleys (aka Master Crowley’s); The Roscommon (reels) (Decca 12105)
  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Jack McKenna, guitar
    • Paddy Finley (aka Paddy Finley’s Fancy, The Galway Rambler); Sheehan’s (aka Joe O’Connell’s Dream) (reels) (Decca 12192)
  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Jack McKenna, guitar
    •  Jeannie’s Welcome (aka Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie) (reel) (Decca 12164)
  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Jack McKenna, guitar 
    • Dowd’s Favourite (reel) (Decca 12171)
  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle with Jack McKenna, guitar
    • Lawson’s (aka Farewell to Leitrim); Tom Steele (aka Hand Me Down the Tackle) (reels) (Decca 12186)

Portion of Lamont's tracklist for audio clip 7 of reel 6 side 1


About the Joe Lamont Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from Audio file 99567_0000 (reel 6), Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The seven audio clips above represent reel 6, side 1 from beginning to end. The side is 31 minutes and 31 seconds long and contains both published and unpublished music. Some of the music — for example, audio clips 5 and 6 — likely originated on homemade 78-rpm discs. The library-assigned reel number (in this case, “6”) is in the upper right corner of the tracklist.

Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch aberrations.

An emigrant from Co. Derry, Lamont began working for the New York City Transit Authority in 1926. As a fiddle player he was actively involved in establishing clubs for Irish musicians in his adopted city. He brought his reel-to-reel tape recorder to live events; he also used it to dub sound discs onto reels. Lamont’s personal collection of 60 open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his nephew James Lowney.  Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts about the Joe Lamont collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

— Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

  • Bradshaw, Harry. Liner notes. Michael Coleman, 1891-1945. Michael Coleman. Gael Linn/Viva Voce CEFCD 161. CD. 1992.
  • Discography of American Historical Recordings
  • Gillespie, Hugh. Classic Recordings of Irish Traditional Fiddle Music. Danbury, CT: Green Linnet, 1992.
  • Irish Traditional Music Archive
  • Irish Traditional Music Tune Index
  • Milestone at the Garden: Irish Fiddle Masters from the 78-rpm Era. Cambridge, MA: Rounder Records, 1996.
  • The Session
  • Spottswood, Richard K. Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893-1942. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

 

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Welcome Back to Burns Library

It’s the start of a new semester here at Boston College. And while this semester will certainly be different then past fall semesters, we’re still excited to work with students, faculty, and the wider public in our reading room and in instruction sessions.

While our reading room has been open to researchers with appointments since June, we’re expanding our hours as the new semester begins.

Our reading room will be open Wednesday-Fridays from 9:30am-1:00pm and from 2:00pm-4:30pm. We’ll be closed from 1:00pm-2:00pm each day to sanitize tables and allow for staff lunch breaks.

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Self Portraits from Isolation: Early Steps Toward Taking Special Collections Instruction Online

When Boston College shut down in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and announced that the rest of the spring semester and all summer classes would be moved online, BC faculty and staff went to immediate planning on how to transfer our favorite parts of in-person teaching to a remote, asynchronous format.  Prof. Caleb Cole, from the Art, Art History, and Film Department, reached out to the Burns Teaching Librarians for a discussion about how to keep the BC Libraries component of an established, in person class (Introduction to Digital Art) in this new teaching format. The assignment—draft two symbolic tarot cards, one a recognizable self portrait, and the other a design of the student’s choosing—remained the same, designed to meet the class goal of using a computer to develop technical, conceptual, and aesthetic images. 

Using the by now ubiquitous Zoom meeting, we met to draft a class plan that would both present the concept of symbolism in art and model visual analysis steps so students could develop their assignment proposals, outlining why/what they mean/how their symbolic images tie into their overall messages.

Nina Bogdanovsky, Senior Research Librarian / Art & Architecture Bibliographer, recorded and narrated a presentation on symbolism in art. Prof. Cole and Burns Teaching Librarians Kathleen Monahan and Katherine Fox captured a short Zoom call in which they modeled how to look at images critically, how to look for symbols within images, how to look symbols up in reference sources, and how to realize that the meanings of symbols can and do change across time and cultures. We also provided a list of diverse symbolism reference titles available through the HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and other digital options on the class platform.

Prof. Cole was pleased with the results, reporting that the students “definitely ‘got it’” and several referenced the videos in their proposals. Even far away from campus, BC students continued to come through with creative and carefully thought-out artwork. We present the student’s output below. How do you think they did?

Cups: Lone figure at table at night, lit by laptop, surrounded by glasses; Hermit: solitary figure walking by dark window, lit by cell phone screen

Sean Ahearn, BC ‘23

The star: portrait with background of stars, eagle, dove, butterfly, and golden bird; The High priestess, praying figure with crown of roses and book, against background of star and moon

Ashley Antico, BC ‘22

Sun: portrait with halo against strong, geometric background, with celestial images; Moon: Phases of the moon with stars, Irish Harp figure, and triskelion

David Bligh

Crosslegged figure, with face in hands, looking at various emojis on floor: Prosperity: Figure in lotus pose atop earth that is being cupped in hands

Jocelina De Pina, BC ‘22

Magician: Portrait of Dr. Strange (as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) with portal, against celestial background with phoenix and lightbulb; Fool: Joker (as portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix) against background with fireworks, fireball, and

Jose De Romana Palacios, BC ‘22

World: portrait over image of world, with compass rose; cardinal points have butterflies, ordinal points indicated with lotus flowers; Moon: Image of moon weeping/vomiting into water/waves

Sofia Geocadin, BC ‘23

Emperor: Image of seated Buddha, wearing a necktie and holding a blue ball and scales, against background of throne, water, and clouds: Hermit: portrait of artist in a hoodie, against a window, holding

Colin Guan, BC ‘21

Lotus: Skeleton wearing a blue cloak with lotus flowers and carrying a lit lantern, against dark background with crescent moon and 4 stars; Vulnerability: Blindfolded figure above scales, with cup (decorated with a heart) full of eggs and a lion with facial markings and a

Alicia Lam, BC ‘21

Fisherman: figure hanging from hook, holding a fish, with forked lightning against a blue background: Ignore: 2 figures on stone surface, with fiery shadows, with a orb encircling a shamrock

Alexander Ronan, BC ‘21

The Sun (portrait against mountains with sun, chain, and phoenix); The Moon (howling wolf agains mountains, trees, mountains)

Yujia Shi, BC ‘23

Untitled: the bottom half of 8 red balloons, filled with water, float in sky with Buddha figure and clouds background; Death: bottom half of a single while balloon, filled with water and a skeleton torso/head, with a buddha figure imposed over a sun

Grace Yang, BC ‘22

While Prof. Cole believed this necessary approach was no substitute for actually visiting the library in person and working with original format materials, he feels confident that we will be able to work something out for his fall class—either in person or synchronously online—because we managed to make this work so well this summer. 

The Burns Library Instruction program, through collaboration with faculty and other community members, supports intellectual inquiry and scholarship through an active engagement with primary and historical resources, in both original format and digital. We are happy to encourage wider use of Burns Library’s unique materials for teaching and research, and will work enthusiastically and creatively with faculty, subject liaisons and others to develop customized classes, activities, assignments, and out of classroom experinces around syllabus topics, course objectives, and primary source literacy standards

Instructors interested in using special collections materials to enhance the learning outcomes of their courses and/or research assignments should complete the Burns Library Instruction Support Request form as far in advance as possible. 

  • Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services & User Engagement, Burns Library
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Responding to Ongoing Racism: Our Commitment to Our Community

In light of the tragic deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans, and amidst ongoing national conversations about systemic racism, Burns Library staff grieves with the families of those who have died and all those who are affected by these deaths, particularly the Black students, faculty, alumni, and staff of Boston College.

We’ve been prioritizing discussions regarding our need to work for equity and inclusion through our roles as librarians and archivists, and want to publicly acknowledge our responsibility and privilege to continue this important work. 

We must examine our conditioning, biases, and awareness of racial issues on a continual basis. Beyond one-on-one interactions with our patrons, this also involves analyzing our policies, procedures, and acquisitions to ask: Do these contribute to systemic injustice? What can we change to make our processes more inclusive?

We are especially aware of our instructional roles, particularly in light of the collections we mediate. Some of the materials in our collections were written by White racists and classists who were creating and upholding systems of oppression. Much of our collection centers around the perspectives and experiences of White men. We need to explicitly acknowledge such bias, and provide the scaffolding to contextualize how to understand the structures in place today. 

We acknowledge the prevalence of racism and stand against it. We strive to understand both the history of and our roles in racist systems, admit the discomfort in doing so, and accept the challenge to continuously educate ourselves, acknowledge the inequalities, and address the injustice through our work and in our personal lives. We invite community feedback to hold ourselves accountable. We commit to making any necessary changes so that all feel welcome in Burns Library.

  • The Staff of John J. Burns Library, Boston College
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