John Culshaw, the Jack B. King University Librarian at the University of Iowa, has been elected to serve as incoming vice president/president-elect for the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Culshaw will become ARL president on October 7, 2020.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise, promotes equity and diversity, and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information.
“John’s leadership, both on campus and with national organizations, emphasizes collaborative efforts, empowering our librarians and scholars to work together to find and share research in ways that build pathways to new knowledge,” says Montserrat Fuentes, UI executive vice president and provost.
With his direction and support, UI Libraries staff garnered a grant to become the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Greater Midwest Regional Office; strengthened partnerships with the UI’s Center for the Book and the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature; merged the Studio, a collaborative incubator for digital scholarship and publishing, into Libraries operations; and brought important new research collections to Iowa including the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. In 2018, Culshaw was invested as the first Jack B. King University Librarian Chair.
Culshaw received a BA in history from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and holds an MS in information studies from Drexel University. He received UW-Parkside’s Traditions of Excellence Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015. Prior to Iowa, he held positions at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collectionsis the new home of the renowned Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry. Founded by Ruth and Marvin Sackner in 1979 in Miami Beach, Florida, the Sackner Archive currently holds the largest collection of concrete and visual poetry in the world.
The archive includes over 75,000 items that document the concrete poetry movement. Annotated books, periodicals, typewritings, drawings, letters, print portfolios, ephemera, and rare and out-of-print artists’ books and manuscripts represent 20th-century art movements such as Italian Futurism, Russian and Eastern European Avant Garde, Dada, Surrealism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Ultra, Tabu-Dada, Lettrisme, and Ultra-Lettrisme.
Among many notable items, the collection includes materials by and about the founders of the contemporary concrete poetry movement, such as Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos, Eugen Gomringer, Öyvind Fahlström, Décio Pignatari, and Ian Hamilton Finlay. Also among the richly varied cross section of artists and poets represented in the archive are Dom Sylvester Houédard, Henri Chopin, John Cage, Johanna Drucker, Yoko Ono, and Nam June Paik.
“It’s a great honor for the UI Libraries to become the new home for the Sackner Archive, which will enrich scholarship, inspire generations of students, and draw visitors from around the world,” says John Culshaw, the Jack B. King university librarian at the UI.
Margaret Gamm, head of UI Libraries Special Collections, says the Sackners’ extensive work with item descriptions makes the archive of even greater value to scholars.
“We will soon be able to make a truly remarkable assortment of materials available, thanks to the dedication of Ruth and Marvin Sackner, their love of collecting, and their determination to create a complete archive by creating descriptive item records for each piece,” Gamm says. “I cannot wait to see how our students, faculty, and community use these materials in their research and classes.”
The entire archive has been moved to the UI Libraries, where it will be housed and maintained. The Sackner family has arranged for a scheduled donation of materials to be transferred to the UI Libraries’ ownership. The archive will be open by appointment to students, scholars, and the general public starting January 2020.
The Sackner family chose the University of Iowa Libraries as the new home for the archive due to the Libraries’ reputation as a center for the study of Dadaism, with its substantial holdings in the International Dada Archive. In addition, the Libraries’ world-class conservation program, the UI’s nationally recognized Center for the Book and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, collections in the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, and location in Iowa City (a UNESCO City of Literature) were also factors influencing their decision. The Sackners’ first encounter with Iowa was to loan work for the 1983 UI exhibition Lettrisme: Into the Present, not knowing that those items would eventually find their way back to the Midwest.
“My beloved wife, Ruth, and I had a dream that one day our efforts to build our collection into one that would reside in a world-class educational institution like the University of Iowa would come true,” Dr. Marvin Sackner says. “Our dream has finally become a reality. I am just sorry that Ruth is no longer with us to witness this monumental moment.”
In addition to housing the archive in Special Collections, the UI Libraries will maintain the condition of archive items, including fragile materials and rare or one-of-a-kind items. The Libraries Preservation and Conservation department has begun repairs on items damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
In its new home, the Sackner Archive will continue to function as a living record of the concrete poetry movement, as new works are accepted into the collections. The UI Libraries will house new items as they come in and work to make the material available to all.
“It’s a pleasure to collaborate with the University of Iowa Libraries staff to ensure the safety of the collection during the move and into the future,” says Amanda Keeley, who has served as associate curator of the Sackner Archive for three years. “Margaret [Gamm] has been a particularly helpful partner, allowing a smooth process for moving this substantial archive to Iowa City.”
The University of Iowa Libraries plans to host a celebration of the Sackner Archive in the near future. At a later date, UI Libraries staff will mount an exhibition of select archive items in the Main Library Gallery. The exhibition dates will be announced at lib.uiowa.edu/gallery.
The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry includes items created in a wide variety of styles and media. Initially, the Sackners collected examples of artists who started the concrete poetry movement, but the archive has since expanded in scope and now includes a broad array of works that integrate text and image. Examples include experimental typography, experimental calligraphy, correspondence art, stamp art, sound poetry, performance poetry, micrography, ‘zines,’ graphic design, and artist magazines.
The images below show a variety of materials and techniques such as calligraphy on an ostrich egg, a “handmade” leather book cover, pressed leaves, lithograph, embossed paper, tea bags encased in paper, one-of-a-kind artist’s book in a round box, carved/painted wood, and an altered book page on which poetry was created through a technique called “erasure.”
by Jenay Solomon, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian, UI Libraries
Celebrating student accomplishments and getting to showcase all the amazing services and resources the UI libraries provide for students is always a great thing to do. Even on a Saturday!
Earlier this spring on a beautiful sunny Saturday, I spent the day at the 2nd Annual “I’m the First” First-Generation Summit celebrating the experiences and accomplishments of first-generation college students at Iowa. The Summit is entirely student-led and coordinated by the UI Student Government, who also provide the majority of funding. UISG did an amazing job at making the entire event very student-focused, while also encouraging networking and conversation among students, staff, and faculty.
The day began with a panel of first-generation students moderated by Dr. Melissa Shivers, VP for Student Life, who is herself first-generation, where they discussed challenges of being first-gen at Iowa, while also reminding attendees of the many strengths and talents being first-gen also brings. The day continued with breakout sessions, and two fabulous keynote speakers who spoke about their own experiences being a first-gen and a continuing college student.
During the afternoon “task force town-hall” session, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with six other staff across campus in the departments of Academic Support & Retention, Academic Advising, TRiO Student Support Services, English as a Second Language, and University Counseling Service. Each of us discussed our roles in our departments and the different ways we reach out to first-gen students. It was interesting and informative listening to the others discuss their services and the various ways they reach out to students and first-gen in particular. Though we each came from different backgrounds and had distinct roles on campus, we all had commonalities when it came to caring about student success and empowering students to reach their potential.
When it came time for me to speak, I decided to showcase all the ways the Libraries provide support for students, through instruction, research consultations, our collections, and spaces. As the Undergraduate Engagement librarian, I shamelessly promoted services in The SEAM, spoke about the importance of offering flexible late night and drop-in research help for students who have different needs, crazy schedules, and who no longer fit the “traditional” mold of what a first-year student looks like. I stressed the importance of the how we all, as library staff, work hard to create a safe, comfortable, and judgment-free zone at the Libraries, whether that’s through our collections, our physical spaces, or our public outreach. I also took the opportunity to remind the students it’s our job to answer questions and help them find the information they need – so don’t be shy!
I’m hopeful we can continue being a part of the First-Generation Summit and I would encourage anyone, whatever role you’re in, to attend or present in next year’s 3rd annual summit. As librarians and library staff, we always relish the chance to promote the services we provide and remind students of the importance of their Libraries as part of their success story at Iowa. Simply attending the Summit and being a part of the program was a great opportunity to do just that.