By Jenny Shen ’23
Who do you ask for assistance when finding a book in the library? Who do you talk to for help with research, finding sources, and citations? Who do you ask for permission when going into the school archive for research projects? The answer is…Mrs. Moira Conlan, the director of the library and archive! We all come across Mrs. Conlan daily as we walk through the Tisch Library, but how much do you really know about her story?
Besides running the library and the archive, Mrs. Conlan teaches Gunn Scholar, orders books for the school, and helps students with research. Even though Mrs. Conlan had never worked in a school library or archive before coming to the Frederick Gunn School, she has been in other parts of this industry for a long time. For the past couple of years, she has been free-licensed for consulting with small archives. However, when her children grew older, Mrs. Conlan was ready to go back to work as she missed the feeling of being in a community. When asked why she chose to come to FGS, Mrs. Conlan said: “It was perfect timing when I saw the job come up. I liked the combination of archive work and library work and getting to teach and stuff, so it’s been really fun to be in that type of role.”
Mrs. Conlan’s intense passion for books and research emerged when she was only a child. As an eight years old girl, she cataloged all her children’s books by labeling them with numbers. On top of that, Mrs. Conlan also has a continual interest in history: “I was a history major as an undergraduate, and really liked the research side of it. One of my professors actually suggested that I should look at going into archives, so I ended up finding a graduate program in Boston focusing on both libraries and archives, where I was able to do both: find books and preserve old documents.”
When asked about her most memorable experience at the Frederick Gunn School, Mrs. Conlan recalled: “Maybe my first all-school walk? Getting to experience that as a community was really unique. I also really liked the pomp and circumstance moments where we all walk into commencement or the meeting house for baccalaureate and investiture. I like these as specific memories.”
As the instructor of the Gunn Scholar program, Mrs. Conlan described the class as fun and collaborative: “the way archives work is once you are looking for one thing, somewhere you’re gonna start seeing it show up all over the place when you are not looking for it.” Currently, Mrs. Conlan is working on a project with Ms. Brush and Mr. Fladger, putting together an exhibit for the outdoor leadership program. When gathering documents for the exhibition, Mrs. Conlan not only found old camping material and all-school walk photos but also a letter that a student wrote home on a piece of bark in 1875. Amazingly, the actual piece of bark was preserved until this day. “It’s fun to see these little moments of kismet where you are looking for one thing and you find seven others. I love watching the Gunn Scholars start to do that themselves.” For all the students who are interested in taking Gunn Scholar next year, Mrs. Conlan wants to say that “it’s really fun, and it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. When you are working on a project that you are really interested in, like a topic that you truly connect with, it wouldn’t seem like this huge overwhelming project. It’s actually very approachable and the class is very supportive. We are all working towards one goal.”
Lastly, here is a short book recommendation list from Mrs. Conlan: