“Storyteller Extraordinaire” who Mentored Hundreds of Students During Library Tenure Retires

When Ben King started working for the University Libraries in 1977, conveniences like computers, printers and scanners hadn’t yet made their way into the workplace. For instance, identifying labels with call numbers affixed to books’ spines had to be typewritten, and King remembers doing so painstakingly, on an old Remington typewriter.

“I’m so sorry I got rid of it,” King said. “It would be worth something now.”

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Ben King and his former student assistant Stacey Alvie stand in King’s decorated office in Ekstrom Library.

Now, book labels are generated automatically, students and researchers access books and materials online, and a Robotic Retrieval System in Ekstrom Library, installed in 2006, houses seldom-used materials to free up study space. And, following a satisfying and storied career with the Libraries’ Technical Services department, King is retiring. Sometime this Friday, it will have been exactly 40 years to the minute since he first started.

He’s seen many changes, from Belknap campus infrastructure, to library service, to Ekstrom Library, which opened in 1981, and to the faces of student assistants who helped him sort books and stock shelves over the years.

“I’ll leave with a ton of memories,” he said.

By far the best part of his job has been working with student assistants, King said. “I feel uniquely honored to have worked with some amazing students. The students were my life.”

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King mingles with co-workers at a retirement ceremony on June 24. 

As a supervisor of shelf preparation, he has worked with UofL student assistants from over 11 countries, including India, Bangladesh, Libya, the Philippines, France, Iran, Belarus, South Korea, Viet Nam and Armenia.  Some have become like family.

“We’ve played laser tag, board games. I get invited to a lot of stuff, like birthday parties, graduation, etc. That’s why I came to work. A student said to me, ‘You’ve been more like a father than my real father.’”

One young student complained to King that her vacuum cleaner had broken. He had an extra one and brought it to work to give to her.  Five students made a tribute to him on YouTube.

“I probably have worked with a couple hundred students over the years.”

Stacie Alvey, a former student assistant who worked alongside King for over six years from 2010-2016, now works as a librarian for McFerran Preparatory Academy. Her choice of career arose largely as a result of having worked with King.

“I knew after working here with Ben that I wanted to do this as a career. Anybody who has ever worked for Ben remembers Ben. He’s a storyteller extraordinaire. I could repeat his life story. I loved it! He’s like family to me.”

“I feel the same way,” said King. “I was so glad she came to see me. I was so sorry when she left but really happy that she was able to work with JCPS, and nearby, too.”

Technical Services held a retirement ceremony for King on Monday morning, with donuts, coffee cake, fruit and lots of memories. Paying tribute to King, Technical Services Head Tyler Goldberg said, “We’ve all worked with you for many years, and we’re truly grateful for your many, many years of service.”

“And we want to welcome you to come back and volunteer with us at any time.”

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“If I’d known we were going to have a ceremony, I wouldn’t have taken down all the stuff the students have given me over the years,” he said.

King said Alvey, the last student assistant he’s worked with, helped him research some of his family genealogy. While he knew much of his mother’s history (she is one of 13 kids), he knew little of his father’s background until Alvey’s research uncovered some interesting facts, including that he is one of six other paternal relatives named Benjamin Franklin King.

“I’ve been here through many natural disasters,” including the 1981 sewer explosion when Ralston Purina leaked hexane from its former soybean processing factory into the sewers around Old Louisville and the Belknap campus; after a car’s engine ignited the gas in the early morning, major explosions along the sewer lines decimated cars, streets, and buildings, but surprisingly left no casualties.

The Libraries administration gave King several gifts for his service: two vinyl record albums: one the newly remastered Sgt. Pepper’s album by the Beatles (first released the year King entered high school, 1967), Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, and, in an apparent reference to King’s timeliness, a UofL clock with the Cardinal bird’s wings pointing to the time.

King’s future plans include volunteer work with the Parklands of Floyds Fork and traveling with his family.

 


Then and Now in the Library: UofL Libraries Promo Video from 1986 Highlights Big Changes

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.

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“Cleopatra” showing her Libraries card.

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.

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Accompanied by Yaz, the snake (at left), from the Louisville Zoo.

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.

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The two “competitors” were UofL basketball (then) rising star Pervis Ellison, and (then) SGA President Angela McCormick (now a Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge).

“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.”

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University Libraries Archivist Tom Owen (l) introduced the competition for viewers.

“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.”

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An erudite gorilla peruses a rare book in Archives and Special Collections’ research room.

“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.


Libraries Program Adds Diverse Voices, Perspectives

On a recent rainy Thursday on the eastern steps outside UofL’s Ekstrom Library, a small group gathered, defying cold and noisy UPS cargo jets, to read and hear excerpts from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Beloved and Slaughterhouse-Five, books banned at some point in the past.

The event was led by George Martinez, the 2016-17 Diversity Residency Librarian for the University Libraries, to commemorate Banned Books Week at Ekstrom.  Earlier in the week he’d staged a screening of Persepolis, an Iranian movie based on a banned graphic novel, and directed visitors toward the Writing Center, where they could create imaginative book covers.

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George Martinez, University Libraries 2016-17 Diversity Resident. (Photo by Ashley Triplett)

These tasks were among those Martinez eagerly embraced as part of his diversity residency, a Libraries’ initiative that gives a deserving individual from an underrepresented group a foothold in a competitive profession, where minority workers are trending up, but remain relatively scarce.

Unlike most internships, which are unpaid, the diversity residency provides a salary and on-the-job training; in return, the Research Assistance and Instruction department, where Martinez works, benefits from his expertise and training as a librarian and teacher.

“He brings a fresh perspective and lots of energy and enthusiasm for his work,” said Anna Marie Johnson, head of RAI.

“There is flexibility in the position,” she continued. “The resident can attend meetings and participate in the work of groups across the library to learn about the various aspects of the academic library. In addition, the residency comes with a unique opportunity, co-authorship on an annually produced bibliography of articles on information literacy which allows the resident to gain knowledge in this important area while also getting his or her name on a publication which is important in the academic library world.”

“There are only a handful of these types of librarian residencies throughout the country. It’s a great way for me to get my foot in the door of academic libraries.”

– George Martinez, 2016-17 Diversity Resident, University Libraries

The fact that the position exists highlights the Libraries’ commitment to diversity, says Martinez.

“There are only a handful of these types of librarian residencies throughout the country. It’s a great way for me to get my foot in the door of academic libraries and I would not have relocated from California to Kentucky without this opportunity. It was also very helpful to know that the Libraries cares about diversity and serving the entire UofL community.”

In 2015, 166,000 individuals were employed as librarians in the U.S.; of those 83% were female; 84% white; 8.5% black or African American; 2.8% Asian; and 4.8% Latino, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics.

There are various reasons for the imbalance, says Martinez.

“It’s complicated to pin down why exactly librarianship is not diverse. One factor is that librarianship is not viewed as a high paying profession and that could deter people from investing in a master’s degree in library science, which is a prerequisite for librarians. Some of the other factors relate to cultural competency within libraries.”

It’s important that libraries diversify, to “properly serve their patrons and show that they welcome a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If we can foster diversity in librarianship, then we can more easily connect with a wider range of communities.”

“The profession is aware of it and is working on it. The residency program is one way the UofL Libraries is tackling this,” he said.

The program began in 1999 as an internship that offered participants paid tuition to complete their master’s degree in library science. In 2008, the program changed to a post-MLS residency that supports librarians from underrepresented groups early in their careers, after they’ve finished their MLS degrees. In this way the Libraries align with the UofL 2020 Plan’s overarching goal of supporting diversity within the student body and solidifying its position as a nationally recognized metropolitan university.

The residency is designed to be limited in duration, to allow a greater number of participants. Martinez will be leaving in summer of 2017.

“I’m in a place of learning right now, I do more listening than talking. I can explore in this new part of the country. My family is on the west coast, so I do intend to go back after the residency is up.”

Martinez grew up in Salinas, California and lived there for many years.  He worked as a K-6 substitute teacher in the Los Angeles public schools, and taught English and writing at New York University where he received an M.A. in Educational Theatre.  His 2015 M.L.S. is from the University of Maryland.

“The ability to grow into my first position has been so important, just seeing how the library functions, learning the different responsibilities of my job, and getting concrete skills in teaching and library instruction has been huge.”

“I feel supported and fostered,” he said. “Everybody’s been extremely welcoming and helpful.”

The fact that he has been so well supported reflects well on Ekstrom’s environment: “A library has to be in a place where they can create that kind of atmosphere. This has given me a space to collaborate while I’m learning.”


Art Library’s Former Director remembers Bridwell as Central to Career and Creative Life

The Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library played a pivotal role in Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne’s life. Before she became its second director in 1970 – one of only four women to lead the 53-year-old library – she immersed herself in art, history, and librarianship, met her future husband in the slide library, and embarked upon an auspicious career.

This summer, Byrne (BA Art 1968) and her husband, Chuck (BS Design 1972), visited Art Library and toured the facilities, which have vastly changed. Not only has the library (named for its first director) been relocated, renovated and rebranded in the intervening years, but the collection has grown exponentially.  When she left four decades ago, the library only contained 24,000 items; it now has more than 90,000.

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Chuck Byrne, Dr. Dario Covi, and Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne

Her connection to UofL began in the 1960s when she enrolled as an art student and served as a Hite scholar from 1964-1968. During this time she worked as a student assistant in the Library, and after earning her MLS from Indiana University, she was hired as the director of Bridwell Art Library.

 

In an email, Byrne reflected on her history in the art department and with Margaret Bridwell, the Art Library’s first director:

Both Chuck and I were students in the Art Department many years ago when it was in the old administration building, and it was THE place for everyone in the Department—art, design and art history students, as well as faculty—to meet and hang out. Even after the Library moved to the basement of the then ‘new’ University Library (editor’s note: now Schneider Hall), it continued to be the gathering place for everyone, and Margaret Bridwell made it a welcoming and wonderful place.

I resigned in July 1971 when Chuck and I married and I moved to Detroit, where he was working, to join him. Chuck worked as a graphic designer and taught design for many years. I was an art/architecture/design librarian for 42 years. Our experiences with Mrs. Bridwell, the Art Department and the Art Library shaped our careers.

Byrne’s career included librarian positions at Detroit Public Library, the University of Cincinnati, and the San Diego Public Library. She concluded her distinguished career as the head of the University of California at Berkeley Environmental Design Library, a role she held for 30 years until her retirement in 2011.

During Byrne’s short tenure at the Bridwell Art Library, she made a significant impact.  In the late 1960s, much of the Art Library’s collections had been developed through personal gifts from faculty or alumni.  According to her annual report to the University Libraries’ head in 1970, Elizabeth initiated an intentional book purchasing plan in support of the expanding art department curriculum.  In particular, she purchased books on American art, architectural history, and photography.  The library is still known for its strengths in these areas today.

As the couple completed their recent tour of the Bridwell Library, they stumbled into an old friend and colleague, Dr. Dario Covi, retired Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts with UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences, who had stopped in for his daily visit (in his 90s, he still maintains office hours on campus). The couple had corresponded with Dr. Covi over the past 50 years but they hadn’t seen each other since they left Louisville. Long-time friends and colleagues were reunited in a pivotal locale that has held a special place in their hearts – the Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library.


Applying Medical Theory to Daily Clinical Librarianship: Insights from Prestigious EBCP Workshop

To benefit their patrons – physicians, clinicians, medical and dental students – clinical librarians at the University of Louisville’s Kornhauser Library are actively seeking to deepen their understanding of contemporary medical theories and practice.

This summer, Assistant Director and Clinical Librarian Vida Vaughn attended the prestigious Evidence-Based Clinical Practice (EBCP) workshop at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.  Her main goals were to learn how to assess biostatistics in medical literature, expand her awareness of evidence-based practice, and become a better clinical librarian and teacher.

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Vida Vaughn, Kornhauser clinical librarian, interacts with dental students during a seminar break.

She soon realized that biostatistics analysis “is a graduate program in itself. But I came away knowing I can look at the literature more competently now.”

Vaughn’s work involves teaching students and clinicians on the Health Sciences Campus in the classroom setting, small groups or one-on-one, and also partnering with other medical educators. She said the workshop has helped her work more effectively, particularly with medical faculty at UofL.  Gaining their buy-in and confidence is a constant mission and based on hard work, she said.

“I learned how much physicians crave the assistance of a librarian. When they heard what I do for UofL Physicians, they were just amazed and wanted to know how to get something similar started in their organizations.”

“They have so much advanced medical knowledge and training that it can be challenging,” said Vaughn. “You have to work very hard to prove yourself, to begin to gain a level of trust. But when you help solve someone’s problem for them, they become your best advocate.”

The immersive, week-long workshop is designed to benefit physicians, nurses, dentists, clinical librarians and other health-care professionals, who learn more about EBCP – and how to teach it – in a small-group setting. EBCP is a contemporary approach to healthcare practice that “explicitly acknowledges the evidence that bears on each patient management decision, the strength of that evidence, the benefits and risk of alternative management strategies, and the role of patients’ values and preferences in trading off those benefits and risks.”

All attendees work for 10-hour days throughout the week to explore a broad curricula. Vaughn worked alongside three family practice physicians, two naturopath physicians, an optician, a research professor, a mentor in training, and another clinical librarian. “It was extremely extensive, very intense. Everyone leaves completely exhausted.”

What surprised her most was how clinicians truly view her work as a librarian.

“I learned how much physicians crave the assistance of a librarian. When they heard what I do for UofL Physicians, they were just amazed and wanted to know how to get something similar started in their organizations. The type of embeddedness and buy-in that exists at our institution is not readily available to many clinicians around the country.  At UofL, our clinical librarian team has made a concerted effort to be accepted as part of the medical teams. With some departments, I’m embedded to the point of being considered part of the furniture.”

Despite the asymmetry in medical training between the participants, there was no haughtiness or “lording it over anyone. Their attitude was, ‘We’re just here to help each other get through the workshop.’ It was an intense learning experience for everyone.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how supportive the physicians were on my process and learning. They were very engaged and mentored me through the workshops. In the critique of her presentation, her fellow group mates counseled, ‘You shouldn’t apologize so much for what you feel you don’t know because you know much more than you think.’

“I felt extremely sustained by that because I had felt quite out of my league at times.”

Vaughn, who is president of the Kentucky Medical Library Association, spoke about the workshop at a recent KMLA meeting and found a highly receptive audience.

“Now that we have made this investment in my learning, it’s my turn to come back and teach my staff and colleagues and impart the things I’ve learned.”


Law School News from World War II

The Law Library and I are pleased to announce the addition of Law School News Letters to our digital collections. As they were published during World War II and focused on those affiliated with the Law School who had served in the Armed Forces, Memorial Day seemed like an appropriate time to prepare and release them to the public.

1942 Pearl with Students

This photograph from 1942 features, from left to right, law librarian Pearl Weiler, Chester Hart, William (Bill) Harvin, and Shadrach (Shad) Boaz. Miss Weiler edited the newsletter. Each of the three gentlemen above joined the Armed Forces and were included within the News Letter pages, for better and, in one case, sadly worse.

In 1943, law librarian Pearl Weiler (later Von Allmen) began to compile excerpts of letters written to her and others in the Law School along with news gathered from other sources, sending the resulting newsletter to alumni back to the Class of 1940 and other persons affiliated with the Law School who served during the war.

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The popularity of the News Letter prompted Miss Weiler to expand coverage to the Class of 1939 by the sixth issue (it had already included more recent alumni as well as students who left law school to join the ranks), and then further expand it to any interested law school alumni the following issue. The News Letter ended with its tenth issue in February 1946 not out of lack of interest, but because, to roughly quote Miss Weiler, “so many of [them were] back in civilian life, it seem[ed] unnecessary.”

To that point, the last issue had a form for the School of Law’s records, which received nearly fifty responses, and more than a handful included notes of appreciation for the news or hopes – that Pearl shared – that the News Letter would turn into a Law School Alumni newsletter.

We are still awaiting word on whether or not we can post the responses online; while most of the respondents have likely passed on and the information found within them is not confidential, it is always better to be safe than sorry in privacy matters. In the meantime, they are accessible at the Law Library.


UofL Librarians visit “Niagara of the South” at Kentucky Library Associations Spring Conference

By Anna Marie Johnson

Discussions of community engagement, supporting graduate student publishing efforts, and high-quality, free information resources took place against a spectacular backdrop as librarians from UofL’s Ekstrom Library presented at the Kentucky Library Association’s Academic and Special Section/Special Library Association Joint Spring Conference at Cumberland Falls State Park near Corbin, KY, April 7-9, 2016.

CumberlandFalls2016RobCumberland Falls is home to the only moonbow in the Western hemisphere. While the moonbow was not in evidence during the conference, pre-conference and keynote speakers illuminated practices of assessment in academic libraries as well as the Framework for Information Literacy which helps librarians identify concepts that prove especially difficult for students as they navigate in a complex information environment.

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Fannie Cox

Librarians Sue Finley, Latisha Reynolds, and Fannie Cox, from the Research Assistance & Instruction (RAI) Department discussed the results of their survey of twenty different academic libraries which found hundreds of free websites and databases that could be used by UofL’s community, especially important in difficult budgetary times. Fannie Cox also presented on her work with community engagement, exhorting her audience to form collaborative partnerships on their campuses and to present and write about their efforts.

George Martinez, Samantha McClellan, Rob Detmering, and Anna Marie Johnson, also librarians from RAI presented on the Publishing Academy, a collaborative effort between

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George Martinez and Samantha McClellan

the Ekstrom Library Learning Commons and the School of Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies. A series of five workshops on topics such as copyright, open access, impact factors, and writing for publication combined with two faculty panels helped the twenty-student cohort peek behind the curtain into the often intimidating world of academic publication.

Finally, Tyler Goldberg, Head of Collection Development and Technical Services and her co-presenter from Northern Kentucky University speculated on the future of their work, complicated as it is by changing models of publishing and formats (e-books, etc.) as well as the systems that libraries use to keep track of the material they license or buy.