It’s time to submit apps for library’s undergrad-research prize

Good news for Berkeley students stoked about the “research” part of research university: Applications are now being accepted for the 2013 Library Prize for Undergraduate Research.

The application period, which began this week, runs until 5 p.m., Friday, April 19, 2013. In May, up to six new recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony.

exhibit case

Research by Library Prize winner Patricia Kim is on display in Doe Library.

The annual research prize comes with green: $750 for lower-division winners, $1,000 awards for juniors and seniors. Winners, of course, earn bragging rights; many get a professionally mounted exhibit as well.

Currently, scholarly sleuthing by 2012 winner Patricia Kim, on ancient-Egyptian handmade knives, is highlighted in a display case outside the Heyns Reading Room, on Doe Library’s second floor.

Her project ties together lab experiences — students actually learned how to make stone tools in an anthropology lab course — and numerous resources on campus libraries,” notes Bancroft Library specialist Sam Redman, who served on the judging committee and curated the exhibit.

“She was able to explore similar artifacts brought back to Berkeley by the archaeologist George Reisner, in one of several major expeditions personally funded by Phoebe Hearst,” he says. “Many of the materials are still housed in the Hearst Museum.”

The prize encourages undergrads to find and explore, as Kim did, the campus’s rich trove of library and museum collections. Information-literacy skills and methodological sophistication are two qualities that the prize committee — typically made up of campus librarians and faculty — looks for.

Morgan Shahan, another 2012 winner, hunted down first-hand accounts of the 1971 prison uprising in Attica, N.Y., in which close to 40 prisoners, correctional officers and civilian employees died. “I tried to take a very human perspective,” she says.

Morgan Shahan

Morgan Shahan describes her prize-winning research project as “exhilarating, frustrating and amazing.”  (Cathy Cockrell/ NewsCenter photo)

Shahan did voluminous background reading and analyzed five individuals’ accounts of the event, accessing materials found at Berkeley and, using Interlibrary Loan, beyond. Among those whose stories she knits into her thesis: a prison commissioner, a state assemblyman and an inmate leader on the prison yard.

As a history major, Shahan has found that scholarly writing in her field “can get very dry very fast.” Which is why — emulating “amazing” exceptions that “read like novels” — she opens her thesis as follows: “At 9:46 on the morning of September 13th, 1971, Bobby Seale heard live gunshots on his car radio and knew that his role as a negotiator with the D-yard Attica brothers was over.”

She says that researching inmate unity at Attica was an “exhilarating, frustrating and amazing” experience. History teacher Edyth Bielenberg describes Shahan’s effort as “an epic treatment of the uprising,” sure to provide other scholars in the field with “a wonderful body of research to draw upon.”

Information on the library prize can be found its website. Students and faculty may direct questions about the award to prize@library.berekeley.edu.