There is now one more way to connect with the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center on social media – Visit our library’s new profile on Goodreads! The digital catalog for the Jill T. Rinehart Library at the Center boasts a collection of resources covering a variety of topics related to gender studies – all available for the public to peruse online and check out in person.

Library and front desk volunteer Holly Morcos, a third year double majoring in biochemistry and philosophy at U.Va., along with library volunteer Sam Abdelhalim, helped to finalize the digital library catalog under the supervision of Sarah Steele, Executive Assistant to the Director of the Center.

“The most important thing Sarah wanted to accomplish with this catalog was easy access to the books we have for anyone in the community,” Morcos said. “[…Goodreads] will allow anyone to see the books organized as they are in the physical library. This is helpful because the books are sorted by specific topics. I would imagine it would be extremely helpful for anyone doing research on a specific women’s issue or someone who wants to get more information on a general topic. Overall, it’s a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of not only women’s issues, but literature and lesser known genres.”

Morcos began working at the Center during the summer of her second year. As a first year, Morcos noticed the Center while walking on the Corner, and in her second year, her curiosity piqued enough to research it online. However, she wanted some first-hand experience before applying to an internship program, so she called “hoping to get a position doing what can be helpful to the staff and those who come in.”

For Abdelhalim, his curiosity about the Center stemmed from the recent media coverage of the University in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone article addressing sexual assault on Grounds. As a 2011 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in political science and gender studies, his passions and interests also aligned with those of the Center.

“The U.Va. response to the Rolling Stone article – namely President Teresa Sullivan’s response to funding the hiring of a new trauma counselor for the Women’s Center, among other things – increased my attention. And it is my understanding that PR problems require bodies.”

His past experience as an archivist of a gender studies library at Ahfad University in his native country of Sudan became an asset as he started his work as a volunteer at the Center. After spending some time job searching following his graduation from VCU, he had decided to visit Sudan and work at the University in which his family member was the dean of students.

“[Working in a gender studies library] re-focused me on what I wanted to do with my life,” Abdelhalim said of his time as an archivist in Sudan. “If I could do anything without being paid, it would be gender studies, social justice, anything like that, really.”

The library at the Women’s Center is more than a collection of books to Abdelhalim – It’s a “resource center or an idea factory.”

“We developed a sort of resource center for anyone to come learn why they believe the world shouldn’t be the way it is – the heart of critical thought,” he said. “This library will give people the tools to examine the world in a way that they haven’t before. The library isn’t what you think it is – it’s not purely academic, research-based, it’s a collection of narratives. In the way that much of academia is gendered, the contributions from women tend to come from a personalized, applicable form.”

Morcos observed Abdelhalim’s sentiments in the latter stage of the process of their digital library catalog project this school year.

“The last shelves I worked on, and those that Sam is currently working on, have an astounding collection of women’s literary fiction and biographies that would make a great read for anyone, and many of them in my opinion are must-reads.”

Besides the digital library catalog’s advantages for patron use, the other benefit to the online catalog on Goodreads is that it acts as a database that will show specific needs for the Center and will better equip people who want to help and contribute resources. Others will be “more aware of the kinds of books we have and ones we do not, which I believe will increase the collection over the years,” according to Morcos.

In her time volunteering at the Center, Morcos has discovered “a tight-knit community of very supportive women who are happy to help with everything.” She wanted to expressly point out that the online catalog would not have come to fruition without the guidance of Sarah Steele.

“[…] The whole project was started and made great progress under the initiative of Sarah,” Morcos said. “Her initial work of adding all the books to the digital database was enormous, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it, and I hope to continue to make the Goodreads page more specific and even more accessible with possibly adding reviews and ratings.”

For more information regarding the Jill T. Rinehart Library at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at U.Va., please visit this link.

Story by Agnes Filipowski