From the Back of the Vault: An Introduction to Fenwick Library, 1989

By Greta Kuriger and Bob Vay

Wouldn’t we all love to step back in time more than 20 years and see what our office looked like back then? In the rapidly changing world of libraries and information management, even five years is a lifetime.  Imagine going back twenty-two years.

A frame from An Introduction to Fenwick Library showing a 1989 touch screen.

This recently-discovered video is an instructional piece on using George Mason University Libraries‘ Fenwick Library, which is on the university’s Fairfax campus.  It features a white jeans and suspenders-clad scholar navigating the different departments of the library in search of material on presidential use of the media back in 1989. With the help of library staff he is instructed in the use of the cutting edge technology of the time and he is thus equipped to travel to the stacks, access microfilm, visit Special Collections & Archives, and finally, check out some books. Although the way we access the many resources the library has to offer has changed dramatically since the creation of this video, there is no still no substitute for visiting the library in person.

The film was found in the recently re-processed George Mason Universities libraries records. The collection consists of materials documenting the history and activities of the University Libraries and is a part of the University Archives.  This video adds to our knowledge of how researchers accessed the library and interacted with library staff over twenty years ago.

Our researcher prepares to check out books at Fenwick's circulation desk.

The original video is on 1/2″ VHS tape and contains a significant amount of  video noise, or “snow” as they used to call it back before the days of dvd’s and digital television. Hence the digitized video, along with a small loss of video quality due to compression from encoding, is of less-than-desirable quality.  Still the audio is very good, and viewers should be able make out most of the action in the film.

Part one of the two parts can be viewed at: