“Which bridge did Muhammed Ali throw his medal off of?” and other interesting questions answered by the Research Assistance & Instruction Department

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.

 


Telling the University Libraries’ Story

What are we, the University Libraries, all about? What do we do, and what is our story?

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Discover. Create. Succeed.

These three words describe our patrons’ process of interaction with the Libraries. They evoke the wonder and excitement of learning, the reciprocal interaction between finding material and turning it into scholarship, and the projected outcome of having interacted with our invaluable resources, whether printed, digital or human.

The University Libraries are vital to the academic success of the University of Louisville community. Both on campus and online, we are a key resource, teaching students best practices in scholarly research and collaborating with faculty to support their pedagogy. Our rich resources promote academic success. Above all, we help make UofL great.

With an important place in the UofL framework, the Libraries invite students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors to revisit our facilities and interact with our resources, and our people.

The University Libraries support over 170 fields of study within 12 schools and colleges. Over three million people visit our libraries annually, and millions more access our website at http://www.louisville.edu/library. As members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the University of Louisville Libraries rank among the top 100 academic research libraries in North America.

Visit your University Library to learn more!


Bound Together: Two New Exhibits Highlight the Art of Bookbinding

In an era when tablets and screens compete to replace printed media, it seems important to understand the pleasures and physical intricacies of books. Two exhibits focused on bookbinding structures, held at UofL’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC) and Bridwell Art libraries, aim to enlighten visitors on these pleasures. The two exhibits, “Under Cover: Five Centuries of Bookbinding” and “Folded Books” feature unique and artful bookbinding methods.

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Biblio Tech book set. Photo courtesy of Karen Hanmer

Highlighted in “Under Cover” is the art book set Biblio Tech: Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures with a Focus on Board Attachment, created by book artist Karen Hanmer.  This set of model books is designed to be used by students learning new bookbinding structures.  Each of the 12 miniature books is only partially completed, allowing the viewer to see the steps taken to sew and glue the final bindings together.  To compliment these contemporary samples, several finished books will be shown at the ASC Library.

“We chose to purchase Biblio Tech due to the very instructive nature of each model,” said Bridwell Library Director Sarah Carter.  “The set comes with an instruction booklet, which students may use to learn how to sew their own book.  Our entire artist’s book collection, with over 300 items, is a teaching collection.  That means that students may examine them in person, versus looking at them in a display case.”

The book is a recent gift to the Art Library from Guy and Libbye Montgomery, Libraries donors who greatly value physical books, and who wished to support hands-on study for student learning. Another book presented within the ASC exhibit was conserved through the Montgomerys’ funding is a Little Gidding version of the Book of Common Prayer.

“I’m excited to show Bridwell Library’s new book alongside such beautiful and fascinating specimens from Archives and Special Collections,” Carter continued.  “I think that anyone who sees the models side-by-side with a finished example will have a better appreciation for the complexities of bookbinding.”

A companion exhibit, “Folded Books,” will also be on display simultaneously in Bridwell Art Library.  The focus is a small selection of artist’s books which use only glue and folded paper, rather than the sewn bindings emphasized in “Under Cover.”  Unusual bindings, such as flag books, tunnel books, and ox-plow books, will be on display.

“These book structures are aligned with pop-up books, but professional artists use these structures in their work to convey complex ideas that wouldn’t have the same effect in a more traditional format,” said Carter.

Students and faculty may contact Carter to make an appointment to see additional examples of artist’s books.

 

Under Cover: Five Centuries of Bookbinding

February 1st through April 30th

Archives and Special Collections Library

Ekstrom Library Lower Level

 

Folded Books: Selections from Bridwell Art Library’s Artist’s Books Collection

February 1st through April 30th

Bridwell Art Library

Schneider Hall 102

 


The Archivist’s Eye: African-American Artistry and Community Activism Found in Collector’s Artifacts

By Tom Owen, Archivist for Regional History, Archives and Special Collection

Last September, I returned from vacation to find on my desk chair a file folder of fifteen or so miscellaneous archival items related to African-American history. They had been left there by Donna Woods, the niece of a committed friend of UofL’s Archives and Special Collections, Juanita White, who has been involved in local Black history research for decades. Woods subsequently told me that the materials had been part of a larger cache of historical documents found on a shelf in an upstairs closet of an abandosigma_theta001ned house in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood that her father had purchased decades ago. She believed the collection of memorabilia had been assembled by a long-deceased African-American school teacher named Lucille Keene.

A couple of weeks ago I got around to putting my archivist’s eye on what at first blush might be like useless left-behinds found in an empty sock drawer. Should the disparate items be kept or pitched?   Just because some items date to the mid-1920s doesn’t automatically mean you keep them. Is the information duplicated elsewhere? Is it relevant to the history of the Louisville area? Do the documents answer questions that future inquirers might ask?

If retained, should the items be kept together as part of a small identifiable collection or dispersed among topical reference files here in our archives? Could I make a better judgment if I knew more about the person who conscientiously clipped articles from newspapers, picked up a funeral leaflet at church, or assembled concert programs over a four decade period? Are there threads of meaning that give deeper purpose to Lucille Keene’s collecting?

The items in the file primarily document performances in Louisville of two classically-trained African-American concert artists, internationally-renowned Roland Hayes and Marian Anderson. Hayes, a native Georgian, actually worked as a waiter at Louisville’s Pendennis Club — a Louisville City Directory confirms he boarded in a West Chestnut Street home in 1911 — long before he hit the big stage. Clearly with both hometown and racial pride, Ms. Keene had kept Hayes’ programs from concerts in our River City in 1925, 1926 and 1961. Marian Anderson’s 1957 and 1959 Louisville concerts are documented with associated news clippings describing the turn-away crowds, the African-American sorority that sponsored her visits and a reception for Anderson in a private home. Finally, there is a 1960 funeral flyer containing a biographical sketch for Eugene S. Clayton, who had been elected to the old Louisville Board of Alderman in 1945 as the first African-American local legislator.

My archivist’s eye saw sufficient evidence that Lucille Keene had stashed away documents that celebrated Louisville-connected African-Americans who made a significant mark in the face of hostile circumstance. Clearly, her effort was worth preserving for future generations but did those few disparate items need to stay together as a Lucille Keene Collection? Led by both the collection’s small size and the fact that the items revealed no details about the life of the collector, I decided that research would be better served if the documents were placed in biographical reference files for Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson and Eugene Clayton that we maintain here in the archives.

Interestingly, after I decided the disposition of the file’s contents, I learned a lot more about Lucille Keene. With the help of Ms. White, an inveterate researcher in African-American history, we determined that Keene was not a teacher after all. In fact, born in 1893, Lucille (Hall) attained only an eighth-grade education and worked as a maid and tobacco factory “stemmer” before her marriage to John Keene, a butler and house man, when she likely became a housewife. From online searching it was determined that the Keenes owned their home in the Russell neighborhood for over fifty years with Lucille dying in 1969 and John in 1983. An even fuller picture of Ms. Keene emerged when I asked our research friend about those items from the closet cache that were distributed—a few at a time—to various schools and archival repositories across the U. S.

Had I known earlier, I would have urged Ms. Woods to keep Ms. Keene’s “archive” together here at UofL in a larger collection bearing her name. In that way, a researcher could quickly ascertain in one place many of Keene’s interests and commitments based on the totality of what she decided to stow away years ago! An online search of the archival finding aid that would be prepared for her papers would turn up documents that were specific to the organizations, institutions, individuals and places she touched.

From a verbal description of those items dispersed elsewhere it appears that John Keene’s income as a butler must have been sufficient for his wife to be fully engaged in the religious and social life of African-American Louisville. Despite her limited education, Lucille was a leader in the women’s movement of her American Baptist Church sometimes traveling to state and national conferences. In addition, she once served as president of her local women’s club affiliated with the Kentucky Association of Colored Women and was honored for her extensive volunteer service to both the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society. Several postcards sent back home chronicle her travels to Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York noting her stops at sites that commemorated African-American achievement. When considered along with those items left on my desk chair, Lucille Keene was a busy Louisville woman who took great pride in the achievements of her race despite hobbling discrimination.

I’m grateful that I was able to put my archivist’s eye on a few things discovered in Ms. Keene’s closet and, with the help of Juanita White, to learn more about her significant community involvement.


Libraries bid Fond Farewell to OLT’s Sahab Bolhari

On Friday, the Libraries says goodbye to a familiar, friendly member of the technical crew. Sahab Bolhari, a student worker with the Libraries’ Office of Libraries Technology (OLT), has been hired as a Technical Specialist with the History, Anthropology and Geography/Geosciences departments, and begins work on January 11.

Highly proficient, congenial, and a member of the tech crew since July, 2012, Bolhari will be greatly missed by his co-workers. sahab_bolhari

“Sahab has that renaissance blend, a unique pairing of preeminence as a technician, but also someone who likes people and is nice to work with,” said Troy Plumer, OLT technology consultant. “He embodies that liberal arts adage, ‘The next best thing to knowing is knowing how to find out.’”

“IT is constantly changing . . . Sahab really understands this and is constantly evolving,” Plumer continued.

“We’ll miss him greatly.”

Bolhari is set to graduate in May with a major in political science, and a minor in Russian Studies. His first love is IT, though, and he has enjoyed working with OLT for the past three years.

“IT is my passion. I haven’t had a single day where I’ve dreaded going into work. I really enjoy what I do, so that makes things easy.”

So why the political science degree? “The degree is just to make me a more well-rounded person,” he said.

He had praise for his co-workers as well.

“I learned a lot from Sheila [Birkla],” he said. “She has been kind of my mentor here. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did when I first got here. She gave me lots of advice and that has been very important.”

Members of OLT will honor Sahab with cake and cookies on Friday, January 8th, celebrating his new position, and bidding a sad farewell.

Luckily he’ll just be a two-minute walk across the Belknap campus, in Lutz Hall.

Sahab is among some 90 students who work for the University Libraries with tasks such as research, customer service, administrative support, checking out books and equipment, and other duties. Students learn how to navigate a real job, and the Libraries truly benefit from their efforts.

“We are one of the largest employers of student workers on campus,” said Libraries Associate Dean Melissa Laning. “They are a hugely important part of the services we offer.”


UofL Libraries Dean Robert E. Fox, Jr. Wins 2015 Campus Development Award

Dean Bob Fox was awarded the William J. Rothwell Faculty Award for distinguished service in development for 2015. Eligible recipients must be a dean, associate dean, department chair, professor, or associate professor who has distinguished him/herself among their colleagues in service specific to development during that calendar year. Dean Fox was the only person outside University Development to be awarded.

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Libraries Dean Bob Fox and Director of Major Gifts Denise Nuehring.

Nominated by Libraries’ Director of Major Gifts Denise Nuehring, Dean Fox received the award from Keith Inman, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, on December 16th. Nuehring’s nomination praised Fox’s “leadership and unwavering support” in building a development program within a difficult fundraising atmosphere over the past four years.

The letter continues:

The library is a challenging fundraising environment due to the alumni being the priority of the academic units for fundraising purposes.  Working within this constraint takes creativity to identify methods to expand the prospect pool.    Dean Fox has shown a willingness to try different avenues and has been supportive of the many ideas presented to him.  He participates in the development process continually and often contributes financially as well to cover program expenses.

Dean Fox is an excellent leader with an exceptional ability to motivate and inspire his direct reports.   He creates an environment which allows one to not feel daunted by challenges but instead to see them as opportunities for exploration, growth and success personally and professionally.


Libraries Upgrade Cloud-Based Catalog and Management System

As many of you are aware, the University of Louisville Libraries system is upgrading its catalog to the latest version, OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery, a cloud-based system. The upgrade, scheduled for early June, will enhance search capacity, expand user services, and continue to meet the evolving requirements of library faculty and staff.
Most of the changes will be minor shifts in the interface or functionality, but you may also notice changes in:
• The login screen for off-campus access.
• The process for renewing books online.
• The process for requesting items from the Robotic Retrieval System.
• The Journal Finder.
All changes will be described in this WorldCat Discovery Guide. (Please check back as the guide will be regularly updated).
Simultaneous to the switch of the catalog, a much larger transition will be happening behind the scenes, on the library staff side of the system. The UofL Libraries will move from the Ex Libris Voyager system, in use since 1998, to OCLC’s WorldShare Management System (WMS). The change in workflow is significant, as WMS’s technology represents an evolution to a cloud-based system of library operations. While some issues are inevitable in a transition of this scale, the Libraries will strive to minimize the impact on patron services.
Three other Kentucky universities, Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, Northern Kentucky University, have either gone live, or plan to soon, with WorldCat Discovery. Over 325 libraries in three countries are currently using WMS to share bibliographic records, publisher and knowledge base data, vendor records, serials patterns and more. UofL Libraries will be the third Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member to use the system.
The UofL Libraries apologizes in advance for any inconvenience caused by this upgrade, and welcomes your feedback on the new system. For any additional questions, please contact the Libraries’ WMS team: Tyler Goldberg (stgold01@exchange.louisville.edu), Randy Kuehn (rtkueh01@exchange.louisville.edu) or Weiling Liu (w0liu001@exchange.louisville.edu).