“Which bridge did Muhammed Ali throw his medal off of?” and other interesting questions answered by the Research Assistance & Instruction DepartmentPosted: October 10, 2017
By Anna Marie Johnson
Imagine a job where you were able to learn about all kinds of different and fascinating topics in the process of helping someone answer a burning question that they have. That is part of the work of the Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI) office. Librarians, professional staff, and peer research assistants answer questions like these (and much more prosaic ones such as “Why can’t I access this journal article I need?”) via e-mail, chat, phone, or face-to-face:
- How many buildings are there on Belknap Campus?
- How did St. Paul come to be a Roman citizen?
- What is the childhood address of Hunter S. Thompson?
- What was the roll call vote for the Kentucky senators and House members for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
- Can you help me research design for justifying the excavation of a privy?
- What are the cultural reactions regarding American Indians during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1870-1929)—particularly in how American Indians and the related federal policies were represented in the media?
- Where can I find industry and consumer data for Gillette Fusion?
- What are the general prosodic characteristics of English and Spanish?
Over the years, we have helped with questions that ranged from the esoteric (journal articles on the dead Sabaean language, from someone wanting to piece together the language and write a book about it) to the downright impossible, such as the patron who wanted a copy of the WHAS Radio broadcast license from 1927, or the patron researching obscure magicians and street performers from Europe.
“What’s the best book you’ve ever read?”
While we go to great lengths to track down an answer, sometimes there’s a little luck involved. One day, a call came in to Rob Detmering, the librarian responsible for Film Studies. The caller was looking for one of the original copies of a 1972 film called Asylum of Satan. The film had reportedly been shot here in Louisville and the out-of-state caller thought that the university might have a copy. Rob asked around to the Archives, the Art Department, and a few other campus contacts that he thought might know something,
“How many theaters exist in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel?”
but to no avail. Rob did some digging in the online database for the Courier-Journal that the library subscribes to and discovered the film had been shown at a film festival in 2008 at Baxter Avenue Theatre. Rob called the theater and spoke with someone who not only knew the film but knew the location of the copy that they had used in the showing.
We often learn a lot as we’re helping. Our former Libraries Diversity Resident George Martinez received a question from a faculty member asking about the history of the African American Theater program at UofL. He looked through some microfilm and consulted with our colleagues in the Archives & Special Collections to find articles that traced the history of a controversy over how money generated by the Fiesta Bowl was being used for scholarships. The results of that controversy was the increase in hiring and scholarship distribution to increase the diversity at UofL.
Got Questions? Ekstrom’s RAI Department can help you track down your answer! Oh, and there is some doubt as to whether Ali ever threw his medal off any bridge, but the closest answer is the Clark Memorial.
One of life’s greatest pleasures is browsing bookshelves, searching for topics at random, finding the unexpected, neglecting all commitments to ponder at leisure.
Anyone seeking such non-digital delights can visit libraries on the Belknap or HSC campuses, or for virtual browsing, our website. But how did these physical and virtual books make it to the stacks and website, to be discovered by inquiring eyes and fingertips?
Each book’s journey to the shelf is deliberately egalitarian, says Tyler Goldberg, Head of Technical Services and Print Collection Development. Anyone affiliated with the University may request books, videos, recordings or other materials via this link on the Libraries’ website (http://library.louisville.edu/forms/order-recommendation). Allowing suggestions from University-affiliated individuals aligns with the Libraries’ mission to provide free and open access to information for our patrons.
After a request comes in, Tyler and Technical Services Acquisitions Specialist John Burton confer to determine: 1) whether we already have an item; 2) whether it meets basic criteria for inclusion in our collection; 3) if so, where to order it; and 4) how to pay for it.
After searching Amazon or other online sites, John orders an item, inspects it when it arrives, and ensures it is as advertised, i.e., not ripped, not missing pages, published in the wrong language, or another book altogether. (These errors have all happened.) Before the book is ordered, John has to choose a fund from which to order the book, either from an endowment or gift*, or from the main Libraries budget.
Continuing the journey, a book, DVD or other item arrives at a Technical Services staffer’s desk, to be barcoded, cataloged (added to Libraries’ online catalog), and passed to a staff member for labeling, stamping, and a final check. Items without records or incorrect information are bounced back to Tyler. For those items without records, she creates and adds a record to the WorldCat database.
After final processing, materials arrive at their final destination, perhaps the Browsing Collection on the third floor of Ekstrom Library, or the African American Collection on Ekstrom’s second floor, or the general stacks — wherever it will be among its counterparts, waiting to be gazed at fondly by browsing eyes.
So there you have it. Our librarians and staff deal with machinations behind the scenes so you can study, research, write that scholarly paper, or continue in the simple pleasure of book browsing.
*Many of our loyal and fantastic donors have contributed funds for general materials and specific genres, and the Libraries depend upon these gifts to augment our collections. Some of these funds support specific subject areas, such as Asian studies, humanities, engineering, women’s studies, finance, children’s literature, biology, American literature, and even railroads. Given the budget cuts to collections, these gifts are more valuable than ever.
By Amber Willenborg
Research assignments can lead to enlightenment, but, as the scholarship on information literacy indicates, the path isn’t easy. The Project Information Literacy Freshmen Study found that students face many challenges with finding and using information, from locating appropriate databases to reading research articles and evaluating information. With this in mind, and in direct response to faculty requests for a one-stop research resource for students, the library has unveiled our new Research DIY website.
Research DIY is an online tool featuring visually appealing infographics, videos, and step-by-step instructions to help students get started with a wide variety of research tasks. The PIL Freshmen Study revealed that students struggle most with formulating online searches, selecting and locating research resources, and reading and comprehending materials. On the DIY website, students will find resources that directly address these struggles: a video on generating keywords for searching, numerous videos with instructions for finding a variety of source types like scholarly articles, and an infographic on how to approach reading research articles. Research DIY also includes content created in conjunction with the University Writing Center to help students appropriately integrate sources into their research papers.
While the website is easy for students to find and use on their own, we encourage instructors to link to the site on Blackboard or in their syllabus, or direct students to sections of the website that would be helpful for particular assignments. In addition to Research DIY, the library offers a variety of teaching tools including online learning modules for practice with information literacy concepts and research guides for more in-depth information on research topics and resources. Librarians are also available to create custom content tailored to your class or assignment. The path may not be easy, but the library is here to illuminate your way forward to success.
Perhaps nothing terrifies a college student like the research paper: finding a topic, creating an original thesis, searching and vetting sources, reading thoroughly, writing meaningfully – all difficult, time consuming tasks requiring focus and perseverance.
However, today’s technologically transformed library offers students tools that vastly simplify the research process. Sources emerge with a finger swipe, and incorporating them into a paper is simpler with an online library catalog. Compared with 30, even 20 years ago, searching and finding sources today has never been more streamlined, and academic research has benefited.
Students curious about library research methods pre-Internet – or promotional videos from the mid-‘80s – should see this quirky, parodical video, made in 1986 to feature Ekstrom Library, which had been built five years earlier. Unearthed recently by Anna Marie Johnson, UofL Libraries Head of Research Assistance and Instruction, the video is interspersed with tongue-in-cheek “ads” promoting various library resources (one features Cleopatra requesting information on asps, a large python curling nearby). It presents a pseudo-athletic event, held in Ekstrom library, in which two students compete to find information the fastest on an obscure subject (“squirrel cage motors” and “dancing mice”) using the various tools in the library.
In the video, students confront the difficult “athletic” challenge of conducting research, something intended as parody. However, compared with today’s research methods, the students’ tasks do indeed look athletic.
“Conducting research was very different from today’s methods,” says Johnson. “In fact, back then the process of finding a scholarly journal article involved several time-consuming steps in three separate locations.”
“First, you had to find the right subject index. So, if you were looking for articles in psychology, you needed to know that there was such a thing as Psychological Abstracts and that those were located in the reference section of the library. In addition, if you wanted all the articles on your topic for the last five years, it would likely involve paging through multiple volumes of the Abstracts.”
“Once you settled on some articles – which may have required you to also look up a journal abbreviation since the journal names were often abbreviated to save space – and wrote down the citations , you had to look at a printed list, which was often on a different table or shelf, of all the journals the library subscribed to in order to determine if the articles you wanted were in the library.”
“Remember, there were no cell phones handy to take pictures of your citations,” she added.
“Finally, you would take your list of citations upstairs to the journal stacks and choose the correct bound volume of the journal that you needed.”
“Contrast that with today,” Johnson goes on. “You probably are not even walking into the library, but you are accessing a database on the web that Ekstrom Library subscribes to, searching 50 years of those printed volumes, and with often one or two subsequent clicks, finding a PDF of the article you’re seeking, all without leaving your couch.”
So while we sympathize with students confronting their first college research paper, we can say this: researching a topic today is wildly more convenient than in years past, and as a result, the act of writing, research, and even thinking, can be deeper, better synthesized, and stronger.
You can see the video for yourself here.
Across the country, a substantial number of academic musical archives are dedicated to folk, world, country, bluegrass, classical and other musical genres, while other popular forms – namely punk, hardcore, indie and rock – are left out of the mix.
Aiming to correct this imbalance, UofL’s Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) was established in 2013 to preserve recordings, photographs, videos, ‘zines, set lists, fan mail, and other artifacts of the Louisville underground music scene from the late 1970s until the present.
Not only does LUMA not consider these musical genres to be chopped liver, it recently pursued and was given a grant of $1,800 by the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC), allowing LUMA to add oral histories – interviews with individuals from the era – to its collection.
“These oral histories will be an excellent way to round out our collection” said Heather Fox, co-director of the Oral History Center and archivist for manuscript collections with Archives and Special Collections. Eighteen-hundred dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it makes it possible for us to do this work,” said Fox, who will oversee the project.
Matched by funds from the ASC’s oral history budget, the project will be built with $3,600, most of which will go toward paying local journalist and former punk rocker Chip Nold to conduct interviews with musicians from the era.
Nold is not only an experienced journalist and interviewer, with a degree in history from Princeton, but was also the lead singer for Babylon Dance Band (aka “the Babs”), one of the first punk groups in Louisville, thus “the perfect candidate for the project,” Fox said.
“Chip had experience interviewing people for feature stories, but we made sure to train him on oral history methodology, and then sent him out with a trusty Marantz PMD 660 [a portable compact flash recorder] to get started.”
“The oral history project fills in the gaps of our collection,” she continued. “It lets us discover what it was like to be playing music during that era, and what it felt like to be there then. This is something oral history is great at fleshing out.”
Among the first interview subjects was a local music critic, with other musicians from the scene also on tap.
“LUMA is an effort to document part of Louisville’s culture that might not be documented otherwise. Music has played an important role in cultural life of Louisville and still does, and LUMA is filling in that gap.”
“When we’re collecting artifacts around a music scene, we’re less interested in the published material, because there are multiple copies of that. We’re more interested in finding unique items, like fan mail.”
As an example, LUMA has a collection of fan mail sent to Louisville hardcore band Endpoint. Mail addressed to the band came from fans in Louisville, around the U.S., and even Germany.
“Fan mail demonstrates the impact this music had on this community and in other parts of the country and world. . . .It documents the ways in which people communicated before the internet, which is really neat,” Fox said.
“There is fan mail from Louisville fans just across town to the guys in the band. I doubt that ever happens now. People are on Facebook or other social media and have immediate contact.”
Once completed, Fox will upload them to the digital collections where visitors will be able to search for specific passages within the recordings. Archives and Special Collections will be “integrating a new software that will allow us to index digital oral histories and then provide online access that will include a search box, to make the recording key-word searchable. It’s also time-coded, so you can go to the exact place in the audio to find that passage.”
“Ideally what we want is a full transcription of an interview; that’s the most time consuming thing of the process,” she continued.
Fox has eight years of experience with all aspects of oral history, including recording, transcribing and conducting such interviews. She also provided access to oral histories through her work at the Kentucky Historical Society on the Pass the Word website and at the University of Louisville’s CONTENTdm instance which provides online transcripts and streaming audio.
The LUMA advisory board is comprised of local musicians like Nathan Salsburg, musician and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive; musician and actor Will Oldham; Diane Pecknold, professor of popular culture who has written and edited books about country music (who is married to a member of the Louisville band Squirrel Bait); and other members of the community like John Timmons, owner of celebrated ear X-tacy, an erstwhile record store that employed many active participants in the scene, developed a list of active and well-known musicians in the scene during the early to mid-1980s.
Please browse the LUMA collection and find out more about Archives and Special Collections.
By Carolyn Dowd and George Martinez
Following the November election, George Orwell’s 1984 became an instant best-selling novel. It is one among a number of 20th Century dystopian novels making a resurgence in popularity recently. A bitterly contested American election and subsequent change in governing style may have prompted some to seek out fictionalized accounts of dystopian realities, as an odd form of comfort.
What is dystopian fiction? Contrary to utopian fictions, in which an author projects an ideal worldview of humanity, dystopian fictions offer a darker vision of human behavior, where desired societal norms are turned on their heads. Thus, a society might led not by a beneficent, wise and humane ruler, but an immature, inhumane, simple-minded fool.
In 1984, Winston Smith lives under the intolerable, crippling and constant scrutiny of the ironically named ruler of Oceana, Big Brother. His attempts to find individual freedom within such a society forms the main drama of the novel.
Want to dig further into our collection of dystopian fiction? Here’s a list:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
The Stand by Stephen King
V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Blindness by José Saramago
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
By Rachel Howard
Most peer-reviewed academic journals are subscription-based: some require high fees from academic libraries and their institutions, while others charge authors directly if they want to make their content freely available to other scholars and researchers through open access. The University of Louisville recently launched its own open access, peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Respiratory Infections, using ThinkIR, the University of Louisville’s institutional repository in University Libraries.
Released on January 30, the new journal is one of several open access journals planned for hosting in ThinkIR that will serve the needs of scholars and researchers worldwide regardless of their means and without toll barriers.
Left to right: Rachel Howard, Sarah Frankel, and Jessica Petrey of University Libraries; Dr. Julio Ramirez, Dr. Bill Mattingly, Kimberley Buckner, and Matt Grassman of Division of Infectious Diseases.
Doctors in UofL’s Division of Infectious Diseases approached their Clinical Librarian, Kornhauser Library’s Jessica Petrey, last year about their idea to publish two open access journals: one focused on respiratory infections and the other on refugee and global health. They had thought through the aims and scope of these journals, and identified who within the division and the field they wanted to be involved, but they needed the Libraries’ help with hosting it and providing digital preservation of journal content – a prerequisite to getting it listed in PubMed.
Jessica put them in touch with Rachel Howard, Digital Initiatives Librarian, whose work involves digital preservation as well as open access. As a result of the work of Rachel, Sarah Frankel, the Libraries’ Open Access and Repository Coordinator, Dwayne K. Buttler, the Evelyn G. Schneider Endowed Chair for Scholarly Communication at UofL, and the Scholarly Communication and Data Management Work Group, the Libraries developed policies, procedures, and agreements to support the Division of Infectious Diseases as a pilot project for a new phase of repository development. Jessica expanded her support of the Division by serving as copy editor of the journal.
On January 30, 2017, the Division of Infectious Diseases celebrated the launch of Journal of Respiratory Infections Volume 1, Issue 1, with a party at MedCenterOne. Petrey, Howard, and Frankel were in attendance, where they were warmly thanked by Division of Infectious Diseases Chief Dr. Julio Ramirez.