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Widener opens doors for Junior Parents Weekend

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    Librarians Cheryl LaGuardia and Rhea Lesage welcome parents to tours of Widener Library.
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    Parents, librarians and Services for Academic Programs staff mingle after a Junior Parents Weekend tour of Widener library.

By Beth Giudicessi, HCL Communications

February 28, 2014 - Sonja Skalbania took the red-eye flight from Seattle to arrive at Harvard early Friday for the start of the 2014 Junior Parents Weekend. One of her first stops was at Widener Library, where she was joined by her son Stefan Skalbania '15 and her friend Kelly Leonard for a tour of the Rotunda, Memorial Room, the Loker Reading Room, the Atkins Reference Room and the stacks.

"I wanted to see him in his natural habitat," Sonja Skalbania said of her son, who brought her to the library so they could spend time together.

"I come here to study in the Loker Room," said Stefan Skalbania. "But I wanted to get a better sense of everything in Widener and get a real tour of it."

Their tour included a stop by two murals by John Singer Sargent commissioned by the University in the fall of 1920. The murals, a tribute to Harvard scholars who died in World War I, are painted in the main stairwell of Widener and lead to the library's Memorial Room, where Harvard's copy of the Gutenberg Bible is on display.

"It's beautiful," Leonard said at the end of her visit.

As parents made their way through the library, they remarked about the architecture, inquired about the process for acquiring books, wondered if the page of the Gutenberg is ever turned, and looked forward to stopping by Houghton Library to see its rare book collection.

"We love doing Junior Parents Weekend because the parents are excited and we're excited to show off Widener to them," said Research Librarian Cheryl LaGuardia. LaGuardia works in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Services for Academic Programs, who helped organize the event.

"When we're showcasing the library to the public it reminds us of the job that we do and the work that we do and how important it is and what a service we're providing, and we're proud of it," added Rhea Lesage, librarian for Hellenic studies and coordinator for the classics. "It just makes you happy to be here. It works both ways - they energize us, we energize them, and it's great."