Thursday, September 27, 2012

Modernity Banned

On Thursday, Oct. 4 from 4:00- 5:30 pm in the Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library Jon Abel and Bill Brockman will present "Modernity Banned" as part of the fall 2012 Materials Text Workshops.

Celebrating “Banned Books Week,” this workshop will address the question how we read censored texts. The Material Text Workshop at Penn State engages participants in thinking about the parameters of book history/print culture studies and the variety of material sources on which these fields rely.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Archival Adventures (Let's Explore!)

In Garth Nix’s novel Lirael, archives and libraries hold special powers. They are dangerous, alluring places filled with ancient books seething with written magic, where the librarians equip themselves with swords and the knowledge that they might not come back if they wander into the wrong section. Behind every door, ancient secrets come to life from ink and paper and there’s no turning back once you look in.

It’s a good thing that those libraries are fiction (imagine the insurance bills!), but Nix’s imaginings do hold a bit of truth. If knowledge is power, then libraries and archives are weapons of mass construction. Don’t worry, in Special Collections, enchanted creatures don’t come springing out of our shelves and you won’t need a sword to peruse the archives. However, there’s something magical about exploring archives. Time seems to disappear and your research pile mysteriously grows taller. You find connections in history between people, places, and things you had no idea about when you started. The most important thing, though, is that you come away with a broader perspective, more understanding about what you're researching, and a greater desire to explore and learn.

On that note, with the start of the fall 2012 semester and the Pattee/Paterno Library Open House, I'd like to take you for a backstage tour of some things you don't get to see when you visit Special Collections. Unfortunately, while we can’t show you everything here on the blog, I thought I might unveil some of the mystery of where exactly we get all that stuff we bring out to you in the Reading Room. 

When you first walk in, you get a nice sample of some of the rare books, manuscripts, and items we keep here at Special Collections. The exhibits do change, so check back frequently to see the newest offering!

On display until September 24th is "The Land Grant Act at 150: Promoting Liberal and Practical Education at Penn State"

See the doors at the very back? This is our Reading Room. Come on in...just make sure to check in at the desk--out of frame on the right--first! If you're not quite sure of the procedure, please either visit our home page or read our Special Collections tutorial (#8 on the list is a walk-through of the Reading Room with pictures). Now to the part you don't normally get to see!

Behind the doors in the Reading Room, we've got offices, the processing area, and other things needed to keep Special Collections serving you and functioning day to day. Nothing too fancy, and nothing really too interesting for anyone who isn't working here. The really cool part, the heart of Special Collections, is one floor down...

This isn't even all of them.

Each of those shelves moves with the push of a button for even more storage space and accessibility. Just think, try to imagine for a moment, how much we have down here based on this one picture double it. Quadruple that and you might get a decent estimate near what we have in the main storage, cold storage, the Annexes, and our other storage rooms for Fred Waring's America and Blockson combined. I know I'm getting excited here, so bear with me, but the knowledge held in this picture is priceless. It would also take many, many years and lots of people to go through and harvest that knowledge completely, because we're still getting boxes of new material pretty much every day

Boxes upon boxes upon boxes. What will you find?

If you're an academic explorer, this place is the treasure vault that never runs dry.

Finally, I've gotten to the books. But we all know we had those down here!

Just for the heck of it, I also took a picture of one of our intern's pamphlet folder work since she so neatly laid them out to dry. These will be used to help preserve our more delicate pamphlets.

I've been working here nearly two years, gone through multiple tours during my time as a student, and I still get all excited just looking at the pictures. Actually getting to go down into the heart of Special Collections is a trial in maintaining my composure (aka not getting distracted or sidetracked). If you're like me, hunting for one book means you don't come back with it, but you do come back with 10 other books nowhere near the same subject as the original prey. I may not be in Nix's universe, but libraries and archives are still an exciting promise of adventure, learning, and mystery...just without all the physical danger.

So, if you like exploring history and want to find out more about Special Collections, come visit us during our Open House (September 12th/13th, 2012)! We look forward to seeing you there and continuing to help you research in the future. Otherwise, keep tuned for more archive adventures...I'll try to get some good stories, focus on interesting collections or specific items, and continue my search for intrigues and oddities!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Managing Born-Digital Materials

Together with colleagues from Duke University, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan, Michelle Belden, Jackie Esposito, Ben Goldman, and Tim Pyatt recently published Managing Born-Digital Special Collections and Archival Materials as part of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) SPEC Kit series (no. 329).

This publication includes the results and analysis of a survey of the ARL to assess the emerging best practices for the acquisition, preservation, processing, and access of and to the increasing volume born-digital materials in special collections and archives. Included as appendices are examples of workflows, job descriptions, and policies submitted by some of surveyed institutions. The report offers a good snapshot of where major research libraries are in the establishing best practice for managing born-digital materials and suggests trends for where we are headed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall 2012 Material Texts Workshop

“Japan, Japonisme and Material Texts”
Thursday, 6 September
4:00-5:30 Mann Assembly Room
Pattee Library

The session is free and open to the public.

Presentations by:

Willa Z. Silverman, Professor of French and Jewish Studies

Charlotte Eubanks, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian

Christopher Reed, Professor of English and Visual Culture

The inaugural 2012-2013 workshop will discuss methods for studying the print
culture of Japan and Japonisme, drawing on materials from Penn State
University’s Special Collections Library. The Material Text Workshop aims to
provide a forum for thinking about the parameters of book history/print culture
studies and the variety of material sources on which these fields rely.

For more information contact Sandra Stelts, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts-

Fred Waring's America releases new music

As a tribute to the Big Ten Conference and the upcoming college football season, Fred Waring's America announces a newly released compilation of vintage collegiate songs.  These songs of the Big Ten were originally recorded in the 1930s on aluminum disc and featured on Fred Waring's weekly radio shows.

Panel Discussion: The Land Grant Act at 150: An Historical Perspective

Thursday, September 6, 2012, Noon-1:00 p.m.
Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library

Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act on July 2, 1862. The Act authorized states to sell federal land scrip in order to establish an endowment to support one or more schools in their states where:

“…the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanic arts (engineering)…in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in several pursuits and professions of life.”

As Pennsylvania’s Land Grant institution, Penn State has a distinguished history of educational service to the Commonwealth. This panel discussion will focus on the educational legacy of the Penn State pioneers of Land Grant education, Evan Pugh and George Atherton.

•        Roger Geiger, Penn State University, Distinguished Professor, Higher Education will discuss the overall impact of the 1862 Land Grant Act

•        Kristen Yarmey, Digital Services Librarian, University of Scranton will discuss Evan Pugh’s role in the establishment of Penn State as Pennsylvania’s Land Grant Institution

•        Roger Williams, Penn State University, Executive Director, Alumni Association will discuss the role George Atherton played in the development of the 2nd Land Grant Act, 1890

This panel discussion complements an exhibition currently on display in the Special Collections Library (104 Paterno Library) entitled The Land Grant Act at 150.