For the past two years, I have had the great fortune of learning about the inner workings of special collections and archives as the Olson Graduate Assistant at The University of Iowa Special
Collections. It’s hard to believe my time at Iowa has already come to an end. It feels like just yesterday when I arrived on my first day and was in complete awe of the amazing collections and people in the department. I remember being so utterly terrified, however, of the stacks upon stacks of materials. How would I ever figure out where something was?! It took time and, well, a library catalog. But I also relied heavily on the talented staff and students of the department to help me adjust to what seemed like a never-ending world of manuscripts, books, maps, and artifacts. I have learned so much in the past two years, and I am forever grateful to the department for their guidance and knowledge that they have graciously shared with me. Also, thank you to my friends – both old and new—and my family for your unconditional support and love over the past two years. Like former Olson Hannah Hacker’s goodbye, I have also decided to leave with my own spin on a classic song. Here is “The Stacks are Alive,” a rendition of “Prelude/ The Sound of Music.”
The stacks are alive with the sound of book carts With squeaks that they have sung for several years The books fill my heart with the sound of reading My heart wants to hear every word that appears
My heart wants to beat like archival boxes that open and close by patrons My heart wants to sigh like brittle paper from near and far places To laugh with a friend when you are working tears on the way To sing through the day like an old book cart hoping to stay
I go to the stacks when my heart is lonely I know I will hear what I’ve heard before My heart will be blessed with the sound of libraries And I’ll return once more
Thank you Micaela for everything you’ve done for this department! We wish you the absolute best in the next chapter of your adventure.
The University of Iowa Libraries is excited to announce that Diane Dias De Fazio will be joining Special Collections as the new Curator of Rare Books this July.
Dias De Fazio is joining us from New York, where she has been working as a librarian at the New York Public Library since 2016. Her work with the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy, as well as her work with the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, included outreach, instruction, and various public service duties such as reference and research consultations. She was also instrumental in running various social media outlets for the library. Dias De Fazio brings with her a strong background in book arts and more than a decade of special collections experience to the University of Iowa.
“I am deeply honored for the opportunity to work with the staff, students, and collections at UI and UICB [University of Iowa Center for the Book] and look forward to collaborations and engaging with the UI community across departments,” said Dias De Fazio.
A graduate from Fordham University in New York, Dias De Fazio received her Bachelors in Drama and History. She went on to get her Masters of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science with a concentration on Archives & Special Collections and Museum Libraries from Pratt Institute in New York. In 2016, Dias De Fazio was named a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books & Collections magazine, and continues to actively engage in ACRL Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS) Annual Conference.
Special Collections is thrilled to bring Diane Dias De Fazio on board, and we cannot wait to see what new, exciting things she brings to the department.
My Favorite Things (a la Special Collections) by Hannah Hacker
For the past two and a half years, I have had the honor to work as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa Special Collections. I am thrilled about graduating from my Library Science and Book Arts program this semester, and I am excited to see what adventures I’ll embark on next, but I will certainly miss my Special Collections family. I am thankful for the friends I have met here and the opportunities that I was given. I’m not the best at waxing emotional, so, instead, I will leave you all with my own little rendition of a classic, “My Favorite Things”:
And sketches of spaceships
Bright crimson wax on some very aged papers
Gray Wonder boxes high on the shelves
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream-colored parchment and crisp comic pages
Dress swords and old maps
And Medieval doodles
Really small books with tiny wood-prints
These are a few of my favorite things
Kids in the classroom with handwritten letters
Red rot that stays on my shirts and nice sweaters
Staple-bound fanzines and pulp magazines
These are a few of my favorite things
When the day’s long
When the class is done
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
Thanks to Hannah for the hard work, laughs, and pure librarian magic that you brought Special Collections!
The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections is looking for the next Olson Graduate Research Assistant. If you are a graduate student, or an incoming graduate student, find out more here.
However, you might be asking what does being the Olson Graduate Research Assistant actually mean? Well, who better to explain that then those with the experience. Hannah Hacker was Special Collections’ Olson GA from 2016-2018 and will be graduating with her Masters in Library and Information Science this winter. Micaela Terronez has been our Olson GA since 2017, and she will be graduating May 2019 with a Masters in Library and Information Science. Below they explain what it means to be an Olson GA and the experiences and opportunities that come with the job.
From Hannah Hacker:
Being an Olson is like being at a buffet, but with rare books and archives. You get a little taste of everything in special collections librarianship. If an aspect of the department gets you really excited, you can dive right in and have a big helping.
For me, the areas that I dove into were instruction and reference. My passion for librarianship stems from the enthusiasm of a student or patron who discovers something for the first time or is eager about researching a particular topic, and that happens the most when I’m in a classroom or at the front desk. Talking with people one-on-one and listening to what gets them excited is one of the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed my time as an Olson as much as I have. It’s those small moments with people that get me fired up about being a full-fledged librarian some day.
From Micaela Terronez:
This past year as the Olson Graduate Research Assistant has been a wonderful opportunity for me to gain practical knowledge and experience in the work of special collections and archives. For example, I have learned about the day-to-day operations and responsibilities of a large university special collections — an experience that nicely complements my MLS coursework and previous professional work. Additionally, I cannot express how thankful I am for working alongside such incredible and supportive coworkers. Through this fellowship, I’ve been lucky to gain several mentors that have taken the time to listen, discuss, and collaborate with me as a new staff member.
Thus far, my favorite experiences in this position have been in the Special Collections classroom where I’ve had the opportunity to instruct courses utilizing library materials — a responsibility that I was completely terrified to do originally! But because of the support and training I received as the Olson, I’m more comfortable than ever to conduct classes and experience some great moments with students. One of these moments was with a group of 20 Latinx high school students from Upward Bound, a program that brings first-generation students from the state to experience life as a college student for six weeks. The students gravitated toward stories of migration and underrepresented individuals that could be seen in several collections from the University Archives and the Iowa Women Archives. By far, this was one of my favorite classes because I saw firsthand how archival materials can resonate with students and the effect it can potentially have on their self-identity.
For more information about the Olson Graduate Research Assistant position or application, please contact Lindsay Moen. The deadline is October 29th, 2018 at 5:00pm.
Environmental activist and Beyond Dirty Fuels creator Bryan Parras presented this question during the final plenary at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) conference in New Orleans. Despite the simplicity, I felt at a loss for a response. Sure, many things are important to me—family, education, my love for all things coffee—but with preservation, what is truly “special” to me? I left the plenary to ponder the query by wandering the colorful streets of the French Quarter.
I strolled under Bourbon Street’s French and Spanish balconies, lost in the rhythms of jazz musicians. Performers lined the sidewalks: from Poets-for-Hire and human statues to bellowing singers and bucket drummers, the street was alive, despite the sweltering heat. The sights and sounds of the French Quarter were unlike anything I had ever experienced, and that’s when it hit me. These individuals from various walks of life carry distinctive, stratified identities that are important to their past, present, and future.
In a special collections or archive, I want to see my identities represented in the collections I am preserving, researching, and marveling. Several collections at The University of Iowa resonate with me because of my identities as a woman, a Mexican American, and a student. I am, however, well-aware that others do not have this equal advantage, nor the opportunity to engage with items in a special collections or archive. The supplemental panels, plenaries, and seminars at the RBMS conference extended the ways that I can assist in diversifying collections and the individuals that engage with them. RBMS made me increasingly more interested in how a special collections can contribute to constructions of self-identity and belonging.
This year’s theme, Convergence, focused on “the idea of convergences and [spoke] directly to our field’s preparedness for increasing environmental vulnerabilities on our facilities, our readiness for the inclusion of different people and cultures in what we collect, how we perform outreach and programming, and who we select to staff and lead our repositories…” (conference.rbms.info/2018/). The conference offered numerous speakers from a variety of backgrounds, interests, and practices speaking on the many collaborations within special collections.
I attended several sessions throughout the conference including presentations on diversity in the workplace, oral history projects, instruction, collection development, and outreach. The most helpful session for my research interest on equal representation in special collections included the panel “The Value of Diverse Collections: Changing Collections, Institutions, and Researchers” given by several archivists on their collection development projects. Laurinda Weisse from the University of Nebraska-Kearney discussed her recent oral history project with the local Latino/a communities and their previous silence within the archives. Dr. Francesca Marini and Professor Rebecca Hankins of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives presented on their collection of LGBTQ+ communities and how Texas A&M utilizes them in instruction and outreach initiatives. Lastly, Jessica Perkins Smith of Mississippi State University and Jasmaine Talley of the Amistad Research Center demonstrated how archivists can support the research and study of African American history by highlighting “hidden” collections through exhibits, social media, workshops, and instruction. This panel of presenters provided an open forum for discussing ideas in collection development with and within marginalized communities.
Moreover, most of the sessions I attended directly spoke to my previous research and interests in diversifying collections, users, and the people leading these collections. During the first plenary on workplace diversity, Ana M. Martinez of Boston College presented on an action plan to attract more candidates of color in higher education. Monika Rhue, Director of the James B. Duke Memorial Library, followed this presentation by recounting the lack of diversity within library workplaces despite the extensive work towards moving the needle. Audra Eagle Yun, Krystal Tribbett, Thuy Vo Dang, and Jimmy Zavala, all from the University of California-Irving, discussed how they incorporated and assessed their instruction services to students of Ethnic Studies courses. During a papers panel, I was amazed by the outreach initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Inherit, a cultural heritage research organization. Their program titled Maya from the Margins connects the Mayan youth of North Carolina and Yucatan, Mexico with exploring their identities and heritage by using primary sources found in special collections. These sessions and many more centralized diversity and inclusion in the conversation. Critical analysis and constructive dialogue is needed in these types of conversations, and I believe that RBMS was an ideal environment for me to learn, speak confidently, and become further aware of the underrepresentation in libraries.
Beyond the eye-opening sessions, I also enjoyed how RBMS supports emerging librarians and graduate students by providing networking opportunities and informative introductions to RBMS/ACRL. As a new member, I had the opportunity to attend an orientation where I met current RBMS leaders and learned how to get more involved with the ACRL section. I also discussed employment, graduate research, and day-to-day experiences with fellow graduate students and new librarians during the Scholarship Recipient Breakfast. These opportunities created a welcoming environment for me as first-time attendee and allowed me to visualize myself as a continuing member of RBMS.
I left New Orleans with many take-aways, but two stick out most prominently. First, this conference reaffirmed that I belong in this profession. As an ethnically marginalized first-generation college student, it’s been difficult to visualize myself working alongside others in my profession with significantly different, homogeneous backgrounds. However, Athena Jackson’s closing remarks deeply affected my mindset. A Mexican-American herself, she noted to, “Look around” and know that people are rooting for me and here to support me in my endeavors. And second, our work is not just about books, it’s about people. The unique, rare collections we house are meant to be shared, explored, and criticized. However, that can’t happen without wider communities being a part of the process of our work. In environments traditionally set aside for academics, I hope that I will assist in building relationships with wider communities left out of the conversations in special collections and archives. This conference was indispensable to my future as a librarian, and I hope to return again in the future.
The University of Iowa Libraries is delighted to announce Margaret Gamm as the new Head of Special Collections. She replaces Greg Prickman, who leaves on July 2 to become the Eric Weinmann Librarian and Director of Collections at the Folger Shakespeare Library after serving as Head of Special Collections since 2011.
Gamm joined the UI Libraries in 2013 as the Special Collections Librarian in the Map Collection. In 2014 she was appointed Acquisition and Collection Management Librarian for Special Collections, and this past year served as Assistant Head of Special Collections.
Gamm arrived at the University of Iowa having interned at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the University of Georgia Georgiana Collection, and served as a research assistant in the Rare Book Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Over the past five years, she has overseen the acquisition of new materials, supervised staff, managed budgets, led the implementation of new software programs, and curated rare works–particularly medieval manuscripts, incunabula, cartographic works, and artists’ books. Gamm has also worked to bring Special Collections further into the UI community, teaching sessions on book and cartographic history, working closely with donors, and devising new engagement opportunities for patrons.
“I am thrilled to begin my new role as Head of this incredible department that has accomplished so much,” said Gamm. “We have a lot of momentum here in Special Collections that will carry us into the future, and I am so excited to lead us there. I am already looking forward to a busy year filled with new exhibits, visiting medieval manuscripts, the debut of an online patron registration system, and so much more.”
As a dedicated and visionary librarian, Gamm maintains a staunch commitment to the evolving staffing needs of a 21st century Special Collections, as well as the dynamic spaces required to house and showcase the UI Libraries’ remarkable holdings. Looking ahead she sees great potential for new collaborations across campus and within the Libraries to advance understandings of and access to these collections.
A 2010 graduate of the University of Georgia, Gamm majored in English and History, before obtaining her Master of Science in Library Science with a concentration in archives and records management at UNC-Chapel Hill. In 2015, Gamm was named a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books & Collections magazine.
Special Collections is excited to see Gamm as the new head of the department and cannot wait to see what the next chapter will bring.
Summer for a Midwesterner means corn on the cob, days at the pool or setting up the sprinkler in the front yard, gnats galore, and humidity that makes the air feel like soup. However, summer in the Midwest also brings to mind pictures of tornadoes that swoop down from the sky and destroy so much in so little time. As scary and damaging as these moments are, the sheer power of Mother Nature can leave lasting impressions of awe in us.
Our own University Archivist, David McCartney, has been recollecting his own experiences with tornadoes. David’s home town, Charles City, Iowa, recently marked the 50th anniversary of when an F5 tornado ripped through the town, killing 13 people and injuring 450 more. On May 15, 1968 a tornado estimated to be half a mile wide hit Charles City at 4:50 PM. Roughly 60 percent of the city was damaged by the tornado, and the damage was estimated to be around $30 million. The tornado continued on for 65 miles, destroying farms and anything else along the way.
David was 11 at the time, but he still can recall many of the events of the day, including his school’s annual track and field event, that earlier afternoon being incredibly windy, and his brother watching the progression of the tornado from the basement window and reporting it to the family who sat waiting nearby. To mark the 50th anniversary, David appeared as a guest on KCHA, the local radio station, which aired a special program to commemorate the event. For David, he first heard the news about the approaching tornado when he got home from school and turned on the TV and believes the local TV and radio stations reporting the progress of the tornado helped save many lives. David, himself a former broadcaster, assisted the station’s staff with research of the event and arranging several interviews with those who witnessed the tornado’s destruction.
A lot can change in a matter of moments, and we are glad David is here to share his stories.
It is with a mix of sadness and joy that Special Collections bids goodbye to Colleen Theisen as she leaves to start her next big adventure. Colleen has accepted a job at Syracruse University as their Chief Curator of Exhibitions, Programs, and Education. Although we are sad to see her go, we cannot help but feel excited for this new chapter in her life. While at Iowa, Colleen helped create the group Historic Foodies, curated the exhibit “The Land Provides: Iowa’s Culinary Heritage” at Old Capitol, grew Special Collections instruction program, and brought national attention through NBC Nightly News and Atlas Obscura to our collections. Colleen’s last day will be June 1st, and we wish her the best of luck!
Taking over as our new Outreach and Engagement Librarian is Elizabeth Riordan. A recent graduate from the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science, Riordan has been involved with Special Collections for the past two years, working as the Brokaw Graduate Research Assistant this past year. A Des Moines native, Elizabeth received BAs in Anthropology and in Theatre Arts from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. A self-diagnosed silent film nut, Elizabeth is excited to work more with the Brinton Entertaining Company Collection and other film-related material here at Special Collections. She looks forward to getting involved with the community and finding ways to bring the collections out of the stacks for all to see.
University Archivist David McCartney has been elected president of the Midwest Archives Conference for a two year term.
MAC is one of the nation’s largest regional professional associations for archivists. Founded in 1972, MAC now has more than 800 individual members. MAC’s institutional members include a variety of corporate, government, religious, and university archives, as well as historical societies and other manuscripts repositories and special collections.
The MAC region is the 13 heartland states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
David has been a member of MAC since 2001 and has previously served as secretary and also as vice-president.
Join us in congratulating David for this honor and join us in thanking him for his willingness to serve and make an impact on the field.
Last month on August 17-21, two of our very own, Peter Balestrieri and Laura Hampton, went to represent the University of Iowa Libraries at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, Mid AmeriCon II, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Some may wonder what a couple of Special Collections librarians were doing at a Science Fiction convention. Well, they weren’t just there to recline on the Iron Throne. In fact, this will be the University of Iowa Special Collection’s second consecutive year at World Con, promoting the UI Libraries, the Hevelin Collection, the Hevelin Digitization Project, and other science fiction holdings here at the library.
Balestrieri and Hampton had a UI Libraries fan table, decorated and branded with the University logo and colors, at the entrance to the dealer’s room full of fan groups, art displays, interactive activities, an enormous astronaut, and, of course, dealers.
There, they chatted with attendees, gave away over 500 free branded flying saucer stress toys (see below), pencils, and badge ribbons, as well as handouts on the Special Collections science fiction holdings and projects. They got attendees to sign up to volunteer as transcribers for the Hevelin Digitization Project, collected hundreds of emails, and spoke to passersby about the UI Special Collection’s current ventures. “We were met with overwhelming praise and support for our efforts,” Balestrieri said. Special Collections may even be receiving new donations from some prominent fans and figures in science fiction and fandom in the future.
However, their time at the World Con wasn’t all work and no play. Hampton was able to attend the exclusive George R.R. Martin Alfie Awards celebration. Check out some pictures and read more about this event on the Hevelin Tumblr. Some of the photos feature George R.R. Martin himself!
“I see our attendance at the convention as a genuine success,” Balestrieri said, “not only because of the contacts made and the donations that resulted or were promised, but in the greater sense of establishing UI Libraries and Special Collections as one of the recognized leaders in this collection area and a trusted and respected friend to science fiction and the preservation of its history.”