ProQuest has been involved in the Summer of Service program since 2009, by organizing events from June through September each year. The program, prompted by the Executive Director of the American Library Association as a nationwide call to service, has been carried out locally by a passionate team of ProQuest employees, through the ProQuest Library Volunteer Program.
The Library Volunteer Program, in conjunction with the Community Action Network, holds an annual school supply drive as well. Beth Williams, a Library Volunteer Committee Member, says, “The supplies collected have helped to outfit at least 80 low-income K-12 students from the Bryant Community Center and the Perry Preschool.” Items collected included everything from office supplies to snacks, and backpacks and winter coats.
This relationship also provided the opportunity for the children to meet some of the ProQuest staff and see first-hand how we contribute to the greater information industry. Derrick Miller of the Bryant Community Center coordinated with ProQuest to organize a field trip to the company’s microfilming, digitizing and archiving facility. (Microfilm is taking center stage this summer because this is the 75th anniversary of Eugene B. Power founding ProQuest. ProQuest recently created a comic book to commemorate this milestone, featuring Power in full superhero mode. The timing could not have worked out more perfectly, as the theme of Bryant’s summer program this year is none other than superheroes!)
ProQuest employee Rick Griffith kicked off the field trip by giving a tour of the facility to Bryant’s K-5 classes. The children were taken around the office, where they observed employees at work, starting with the machine that “makes books small” for microfilm. The machine uses suction to turn pages, avoiding damage to important works.
The digitizing machine was of particular interest to all of the students, as it takes pictures of the top and bottom of a newspaper page at the same time, “like a sandwich” as one child explained. Last, the children were shown the vast storage room where documents are kept for when they need to be re-manufactured.
The Civil War demonstration presented by ProQuest’s very own in-house Civil War expert, Tom Nanzig, was a big hit with the children. Tom brought in artifacts, and entertained them by playing the blues on his harmonica, dedicating a song to one of the students, which earned a big “thumbs up” and a toothy grin. Tom then led the children on a treasure hunt in the field surrounding the facility. The kids were enthusiastically used Tom’s metal detector to find, and then dig for, buried treasure.
The trip concluded with snacks, coloring, and cutting out “Flat Eugene” from the Eugene Power comic book. The pictures will be used to decorate ProQuest’s offices, but the kids also took time to pose for pictures themselves, decked out in Civil War garb, “Microfilm Mavericks” visors, and superhero sticker tattoos.
The field trip may even recruit future employees; one child exclaimed that he wanted to work at ProQuest and asked whether the company was hiring!