By Margaret Kraus ‘22
When it comes to rare books and all things Denison, Jennifer Martinez Wormser’s passion is contagious. Appointed Denison Head Librarian at the beginning of January, Martinez Wormser graduated from Scripps in 1995 as an English major and French minor having worked at Denison for all four of her undergraduate years. She describes Denison as a place where “you can interact with objects from the fifteen hundreds which elsewhere you’d only get to see under glass in an exhibit,” making it a unique place of exploration and beauty, the site of serendipitous learning.
Upon stepping into Denison Library on a campus tour, Martinez Wormser looked around and thought, “I belong here.” She now considers herself “proof of the fact that you can get your dream job.” On accepting the position as Head Librarian, she says, “It’s really nice to go away and learn from other places and other people, but when you get the opportunity to come back and contribute to something you cared deeply about to begin with, it’s really exciting. You don’t often get to come back and say, ‘how can I contribute to this now, as opposed to when I was nineteen?’ I have this totally different toolbox I can offer that I didn’t have at the time.”
Martinez Wormser first heard about Scripps in high school from three Alumna with whom she worked at San Marino’s Huntington Library. It was their impressive demeanor which lead her to visit campus: “When you think about the attributes of a Scripps woman, she’s courageous and confident and hopeful,” Martinez Wormser reflects. “These three women definitely had that, but also seemed very sure of who they were as people. I liked that about them.” She applied early decision and was hired at Denison shortly after moving to campus, a step which would further her lifelong love of archives, manuscripts, and librarianship.
“It’s special to be able to have contact with rare books and manuscripts and unusual things,” Martinez Wormser says. “It opens up your world in many ways. Even when you’re doing your job, you’re given opportunities to explore and learn. That’s why I like librarianship so much, because everyday I learn something new.”
In her undergraduate years, Martinez Wormser enjoyed processing new books because it allowed her to see new materials coming into the collection. She also created signs and posters for the library with her calligraphy skill. Martinez Wormser details the changes Denison has undergone since her graduation, including the presence of circulating collections and an additional section called the Drake Wing which housed large art books and senior research carrels. Although it was a bigger space in the 90s, Martinez Wormser notes that Denison continues to fulfill the same purpose: housing a unique collection which emphasizes women’s history and women’s issues.
As a student, Martinez Wormser’s favorite items from the collection were the Kelmscott Press books, printed in the 1890s by William Morris during the Arts and Crafts movement and Industrial Revolution. Morris advocated for a return to craftsmanship from mass production, a principle which Martinez Wormser sees at work in Denison. “You can build a functional library, but it doesn’t need to have beautiful hand-carved panels like this,” she says. “There’s something special about that craftsmanship. William Morris and the Kelmscott Press were part of that movement.”
This passion drives Martinez Wormser as Head Librarian, striving to ensure that Denison continues to inspire, teach, and foster the intellectual growth of Scripps students, not just of today, but of future decades.
“I don’t want students to graduate who say, ‘I’ve only been in here once,’” she says. “I want them to think of Denison as a place to go and be and explore and grow. With a thousand students, how do I reach them and get them to come here, engage with the collections, and use Denison in a way that’s meaningful to them? I know what Denison did for me as a student, and my hope is that when you walk through the doors for graduation in your green gown, it would have played a similar role in your learning experience.”
Photo by Margaret Kraus ’22