The Social Life of Libraries

by Paolo Mangiafico

Students studying in Bostock Library: Mark ZupanA few months ago I decided to see for myself what all the fuss was about, so I signed up for an account on Facebook (, the social networking site used by almost every college student in the country. I joined the Duke community on Facebook and began to set up my profile. Curious to see if any of my library colleagues were already in Facebook and would consent to being one of my Facebook “friends,” I typed “Bostock” into the search box and was surprised to find seventeen groups at Duke matching the name of one of Duke’s new library buildings. Would you believe Bostock Groupies R Us (9 members)? How about Bostock Is Better Than Home (22 members)? Bostock Study Group, the Bostock Bunch, even Club Bostizzel and Club Bostock (117 members!). I even found a student-sponsored library sleepover event called Bedstock (“because it’s not like we don’t spend enough time in the library,” 11 participants).

Club Bostock’s introductory page reads:

Honestly, it was only a matter of time. This is formal recognition of the resurgence that has taken place in studying interest. The opening of Bostock has either improved your grades or improved manners in which you can procrastinate. Club Bostock, your friendly campus club that has no cover charge, open later than the other spots, and you don’t have to worry about no damn A.L.E. [Alcohol Law Enforcement]

If you answer “yes” to the following questions, then you are probably a frequent clubber at Club Bostock.

1. Do you find yourself borderline excited to go to Bostock?

2. Can you run into half of your friends walking through the lobby?

3. Have you ever spent more time socializing then actually studying?

4. Can you spot finer females/males at Club Bostock than Club 9?

5. Have you had an evening where you don’t even have that much work to do, but you find some assignment worthy of a trip to Bostock?

If some of these questions have struck a cord [sic] with you, then you are clearly one who frequents Club Bostock.

The library has suddenly become cool? What’s going on here?

Club Bostizzel: FacebookBostock’s popularity among students indicates that the vision we’ve had in designing and renovating our library buildings—more inviting spaces for connecting people with people as well as connecting people and ideas — has been realized. OK, so maybe these Facebook groups are not exactly focused on academic pursuits, but amid all this socializing there must be some studying going on and some conversations and collaborations that are conducive to better scholarship.

A few years ago the former head of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center — the research and development arm of Xerox) and a colleague wrote a book called The Social Life of Information, in which they examined the importance of social networks between individuals and groups for the creation and effective use of knowledge. One of the anecdotes they include in the book is about a study of Xerox copier repair staff and how they learned and shared information about how best to do their work. An anthropologist, Julian Orr, followed the copier repair representatives around and noted patterns in their behavior. Most of the time these reps were working on their own at customer sites.

Yet Orr found that the reps were remarkably social, getting together on their own time for breakfast, lunch, coffee, or at the end of the day — sometimes for all of the above. This sociability wasn’t simply a retreat from the loneliness of an isolating job. At these meetings, while eating, playing cribbage, and engaging in what might seem like idle gossip, the reps talked work, and talked it continuously. They posed questions, raised problems, offered solutions, constructed answers, and discussed changes in their work, the machines, or customer relations. In this way, both directly and indirectly, they kept one another up to date with what they knew, what they learned, and what they did. [ 1 ]

It turned out that the social networks connecting these workers were an effective way for them to learn and improve themselves and each other and were satisfying and fun for them, too. Xerox had provided these workers with plenty of training and documentation and gave them procedures for using these resources when they were working by themselves away from the office. Yet Orr’s findings contradicted Xerox’s assumptions of how workers would acquire and use information most efficiently:

Time spent together would, from the process perspective, be non-value adding. … But, as Orr showed, the reps … were critical resources for each other. The informal and extracurricular group helped each member to reach beyond the limits of an individual’s knowledge and of the process documentation.[ 2 ]

Eventually, Xerox gave a two-way radio to each of its field workers so they could confer with their peers quickly and easily. The company also set up a database called Eureka, where the reps could write up tips they wanted to share with their colleagues and comment on tips posted by others. Through a rating and review system, tips deemed to be most useful rose to the top, and the people who submitted them built social capital and recognition among their peers, reinforcing a process that was both productive and socially rewarding.

LibraryThingXerox was ahead of its time. In the past few years almost every successful dot-com Web service has added social aspects to its information services. It’s been called Web 2.0 or the social web, and many online services now say they’re building an “architecture of participation.” While continuing to focus on satisfying the needs and motivations of individual users, these services also use individual contributions to build a communally-beneficial and socially-rewarding experience. The growing importance of this model led Time Magazine to declare in 2006 that the users of these systems — and the communities built around them — were the “person of the year.”

Let’s put aside for a moment sites like Facebook and MySpace, which are primarily social spaces, and look at sites like Amazon, Wikipedia, or my current favorite, LibraryThing. In each of these, the main focus of the site is not social networking or entertainment. For Amazon (, it’s selling books and other merchandise; for Wikipedia (, it’s sharing information on almost any topic imaginable; for LibraryThing (, it’s keeping track of books you’ve read or want to read.

Yet underlying each of these services is a culture and set of functionality that encourages participation and fosters a sense of community. At Amazon, you can post reviews, create lists, engage in discussions, or just read what other users of the site have posted. Wikipedia, on its surface, is an encyclopedia, but underneath is a huge community bubbling with discussion and debate, where issues are getting hashed out and ideas and texts are being refined. At LibraryThing, you can organize your personal library, read or write reviews, find out about books liked or disliked by those who share your tastes, and even swap books when you’ve finished reading them.

ConnoteaAt the Duke Libraries, we’re starting to experiment with some services like this, too. In spring 2007 we’re conducting a pilot of Connotea (, a “social bookmarking” tool similar to the popular service, but designed for academics. To use it, you sign up for an account to create your personal “library” of citations in the system and add a Connotea button to your Web browser. Then, when you find something on the Web you want to keep track of for future reference (a journal article, catalog record, or any web page), you click the button to add the citation to your Connotea library.

The system will pull in whatever information about the reference it can (for journal articles, for example, it usually is able to pull in the title, author, journal issue and a few other fields of metadata) and then allow you to add your own description (both keyword “tags” and descriptive prose, if you’d like) and comments on the resource. You can choose to keep your citations private and use them just to aid your own ability to find the resources again later, or you can share them with other users of the system. If you do share (and most users do), Connotea can then identify patterns in the kinds of things being cited and how they are described and use these to recommend other items you might want to look at.

When you’re browsing citations others have entered, you can use a “copy” link to add a citation to your own citation library in one click and then add your own description or comments if you wish. You can sort your library of citations by descriptive terms, the date you entered them, alphabetically, and so on, and you can export the citations in standard formats and to citation management software like EndNote.

In collaboration with Duke’s Office of Information Technology, Arts & Sciences Information Science and Technology, and the Center for Instructional Technology, the library is also exploring other “social software” tools that might provide a platform for online collaborations between Duke students and faculty. One system currently in a pilot phase is called Elgg (, which its developers describe as “social networking for education,” a kind of MySpace or Facebook for academic purposes.

Students studying: Mark ZupanFaculty and students create accounts in the system and develop personal profiles in which they can describe themselves and their interests. They can add other users of the system as “friends” and create or join any number of groups (say, a project team for a course, a study group on a particular topic, or just a social group). In their personal or group spaces, users can set up blogs and discussion boards, deposit files to be shared (including multimedia files they want to podcast), and work on collaborative projects in these shared spaces. Any of the items in the system can be tagged with descriptive terms, and as with Connotea, Elgg will highlight similarly tagged items and lead readers in directions pointed out by their colleagues. Each user has a “dashboard” page where they can subscribe to syndicated feeds from any of their friends or shared groups (or external news sources or blogs) and be notified whenever there are updates.

The library is also launching a number of blogs written by library staff. The blogs will create new avenues for sharing information with the Duke community about library services and academic resources and, perhaps more importantly, offer the community new ways to engage us in conversations. Readers will be able to subscribe to the blogs via e-mail or RSS (a standard protocol for syndication of news and blogs) or just to read them on the Web. Each page will have a comment forum that invites discussion or suggestions from library users.

And it’s not too hard to imagine a day soon when the library catalog itself might be more like Amazon or LibraryThing, a place where you could add your own annotations, descriptions, reviews, and ratings of library resources both for your own use and to be shared with others in the community. The catalog could offer recommendations of books you might want to read, based on reviews or reading patterns of other scholars in the field, or allow you to search inside the book or read excerpts from it before you head to the stacks to find it.

We hope these services and others like them will help Duke scholars find resources and work with each other in more efficient, interdisciplinary, and collaborative ways. And let’s not forget fun. The developer of LibraryThing recently wrote in his blog about the philosophy behind the site:

Why not be fun? The library itself is fun. … The catalog is a condensed representation of that fun. It’s not the books, but it has a lot to say about them, and it can be the springboard for so much more. I enjoy reading and thinking about books. I want to remember what I read, much as I want to remember my vacations. I want help finding new ones. I want to put my books out there for all to see. I want to express myself about them. I want to find people to talk about our books. I might even want to date someone who reads the same things I do.[ 3 ]

The Bostock Facebook groups and library buildings full of students are evidence that the libraries at Duke are successful spaces for social as well as solitary learning. We’re now hard at work making sure that the online services we provide are as effective at supporting research and collaboration — and as fun — as our physical library spaces are.

Paolo Mangiafico is a digital project consultant in the Digital Projects Department at the Duke University Libraries.

Students on the Bostock patio: Mark Zupan


1. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000), 102.

2. Brown and Duguid, 103.

3. Tim Spalding, Is your OPAC fun? (a manifesto of sorts)

DukePlays: The Party

More than 2,000 guests—students, alumni, faculty and University staff—partied throughout the first floors of the Perkins and Bostock libraries and the von der Heyden Pavilion on Friday, 23 February, from 9-midnight.  Subdued lighting, pedestal tables swathed in colorful spandex linens, gourmet desserts, cash bars, and two jazz bands, one in the Pavilion and the other in Bostock, transformed the library complex into an elegant club-like setting.

Library party

The Party, with more than thirty campus sponsors and assistance from the Duke University Libraries, was proposed and planned by two Duke seniors, Rachel Weeks and Haley Hoffman, who are also the originators of the “Work Hard, Play Well” campaign on campus.  Weeks and Hoffman conceived the idea of having a party in the library as a way of encouraging the campus community to come to see a photographic display of campus student life that they created from reproductions of hundreds of images from the University Archives.

Library party

Duke Summer Reading: Mission Impossible?

Ryan Lombardi

Your task: pick a book that everyone at Duke will like.

Your timeline: three months.

Welcome to the Duke Summer Reading Book Selection Committee.

Started in 2001, the Duke Summer Reading Program offers a shared experience for incoming Duke undergraduates. From The Palace Thief, Ethan Canin’s collection of novellas, to Khaled Hosseini’s NY Times best-seller The Kite Runner, the selections have been varied to match the many interests of the students who will read and discuss them.

Students discussing summer readingFirst-year students discuss the selection during orientation, but the reading program also features a campus visit by the author and/or subject of the book for a public conversation. Other events related to the summer reading program have included panel debates on bioethics (My Sister’s Keeper) and visits to journalism seminars by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains). Faculty members who work specifically with first-year students in the focus, writing, or first-year seminar programs are invited to weave the selection into their syllabi and plans for the semester.

During the summer before freshmen take up residence on Duke’s East Campus, they receive a copy of the reading selection chosen for their class and information about participating in a discussion of the book during orientation. Although many of the students view this as their ‘first academic assignment,’ the program organizers have a very different perspective.

The selection committee and others involved in the program are thinking broadly about the intellectual growth and mental shifts that occur during an undergraduate’s four years at the university. And they’re keeping in mind that some of the most transformative experiences take place outside the classroom. Late night conversations in the dorms or dining hall or passionate arguments in a tent in K-ville create both meaningful memories and moments when students begin to examine their values and ideals. Fostering these informal, peer-to-peer exchanges is at the heart of the Duke summer reading program.

Summer readingTo further empower the first-year students to engage each other in conversations about significant issues, First-Year Advisory Counselors, themselves students, convene and lead the discussions of the summer reading selection. This differs from the practice at other institutions where faculty lead the discussions in similar programs. At Duke, sophomores, juniors or seniors, matched with 8-10 first-year students, find their own time and place.-Some groups talk over a bowl of queso in the ‘dillo, while others find a nice shade tree where they try to beat the late August North Carolina heat. The hope is that this is only the beginning of a college career filled with meaningful conversations, both during classes and also as they come throughout the day.

But these relaxed summertime book talks are only a glimmer in the eyes of the book selection committee members when they begin the search for the next book. The nomination process for Duke’s summer reading selection is open to any member of the campus or local community, although the program is really only marketed on campus. Anyone with a book to suggest can submit their title in the early fall at the summer reading program website. Nominators are asked to explain briefly why their book would be good for the program. The committee reviews every book that is recommended through this process, albeit some with more care than others. No title is discarded without some discussion, even those that are recommended every year!

“I’ll fall on my sword to ensure this is the assigned reading this year!,” declared a faculty member at the second meeting of the book selection committee this year. Members reviewed the initial list of approximately seventy nominations at their first meeting, which occurred between Thanksgiving and winter break. Although the next four weeks would be the prime reading time for committee members, this particular faculty member felt certain that she had already found the winner. Two weeks later, several students on the committee countered her passionate endorsement, arguing that, while the book had merit (after all, it had just been included on the NY Times list of required readings for 2007), it would not capture the interest of typical Duke freshmen. Don’t anoint it just yet, they cautioned; there may be better options.

Summer readingSo what makes a book the right choice? The committee considers points ranging from readability and story line to number of pages and topic. What is missing from the consideration, at least at the beginning of the process, is the theme that the committee is ‘hunting’ for. Every year the committee considers entering the process looking for a certain type of book with a theme that we might deem worthy of further exploration by our students. And, annually and unanimously, the committee members decide that they’d rather look for the best book. That’s not to say that theme and messaging don’t enter the selection conversation; they certainly do, but not until the list gets much shorter and the options become more clear.

This is when we start talking seriously about connections that could be made with the book during discussions and throughout the year. This year, more than any other, this conversation has seemed especially relevant. Following a media firestorm in which a gamut of social and campus culture issues have surfaced at Duke, we are asking ourselves how the summer reading program might engage students in conversations that could contribute to improving our campus culture. We have agreed to keep this question in mind as we go through the process. Subsequently, the word ‘opportunity’ has come into our conversation regarding several of the books we’re considering.

Speaking from experience, I can say that the process of selecting the book moves along beautifully. That doesn’t mean that we don’t occasionally have dueling books! The most hotly contested selection was The Kite Runner, which was a last-minute winner over Dead Man Walking. Last year’s selection of My Sister’s Keeper was fiercely debated, too. Mountains Beyond Mountains, on the other hand, was the easiest pick – no other titles came close that year.

The more we read, the more evident it becomes that some titles are rising to the top while others are falling quickly from the list of nominations. Each committee member volunteers to read several books (the number varies depending on the committee member’s regular responsibilities and work load between meetings) and then reports back to the larger group. Based on this report, a book is either removed from consideration or remains on the list for additional reading by other members of the committee. It is conceivable that a book could be removed from consideration after having been read by only one committee member, while those that emerge as contenders are eventually read by the entire group.

The thirteen members of the committee (3 students, 3 faculty members, 4 university staff, and 3 adjunct faculty) are trusted to keep the goals of the program at the forefront of their thinking as they prepare their comprehensive reviews. Some committee members have had to veto an all-time personal favorite because they realized that the book just wasn’t the right fit for the program. This is easy for some, harder for others, but in the end the group has always come together around the final selection.

While the list is being narrowed to the finalists, I am working behind the scenes to determine the availability of books, authors, and peripheral resources for hypothetical selections. One book we’re considering this year is out of print, so while there are still fourteen other options on the list, extensive conversations with press outlets and publishers are already taking place to determine the feasibility of a book that only has a one in fifteen chance of being chosen. It wouldn’t be very prudent of the committee to pick a book that wasn’t available for purchase on a mass scale, just as it wouldn’t be a good idea to pick a title that wouldn’t appeal to an 18-year-old college-bound student.

When the list has been narrowed to 3-5 finalists, these titles are publicized to the broader Duke community for feedback. Not to be mistaken for a vote, this is a chance for those not on the committee to offer their thoughts on the books still on the table. Last year when this step was added to the selection process, the committee received more than a thousand unique visits to its website in a one-week span and several hundred insightful comments about the books that were on the short list. It was a great barometer for the committee to make sure they were on track in thinking about the issues presented in the finalists and how these would resonate with the broader Duke community.

In our first year, The Palace Thief was an early reject, only to be resurrected later in the process and ultimately selected as the program’s inaugural pick. Other selections have been unanimous after a quick process, while some have been made only after multiple votes and even impassioned speeches of support from committee members. This year the selection process seems to be moving at a rapid pace, but it is likely that the committee will debate the final few titles thoroughly.

As the summer reading program has become more firmly established at Duke, campus interest in the books being considered has grown. In the first couple of years, no one cared (or knew) about the book selection process. Now, it’s a hot topic of conversation and is often scrutinized pretty closely. But one thing is certain: The process flows like a good book, with unexpected turns and twists, ups and downs, undeniable tension and joy, but ends, just as it should, in a way that everyone understands and ultimately accepts.

Ryan Lombardi is Associate Dean of Students and Chair, Duke Summer Reading Program.

Postscript –

On 8 March the Duke Summer Reading Selection Committee announced that it had chosen The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson as the “freshman read” book for the Class of 2011. The other finalists were The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, What is the What by Dave Eggers and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Best of Enemies describes the history of the civil rights movement in Durham by focusing on the friendship between C.P. Ellis, a one-time KKK member, and Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist, and their work to bridge the racial divide during school desegregation. The book is currently out of print, but the publisher, the University of North Carolina Press, is doing a special reprinting of the paperback edition for Duke that will include an inset letter from President Brodhead. The reprint should be available by May.

Summer reading finalist books

Past Selections of the Duke Summer Reading Program

  • 2006 – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (2004)
  • 2005 – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
  • 2004 – Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (2003)
  • 2003 – Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol (1991)
  • 2002 – The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin (1994)

Where Did All the Evils Go?

Writer’s Page

Michael Allen Gillespie

From a fading photo on the title page of Ron Rosenbaum’s recent book, Hitler: The Search for the Origins of his Evil, [1] a small child peers out at us. Who is this child? A victim of the Holocaust? An image of all that was lost? Or perhaps a shattered survivor who lived on haunted by the ghosts of those who died? No, it is something worse, a photo of baby Adolf, as innocent as any child who has “not yet bitten of the apple.” There is no hair combed carefully into place, no steely glint in his eye, no narrow mustache above an unsmiling lip, no arm extended in salute, and no indication of future deeds so horrible as to beggar the imagination. Just a small child, filled with all the promise that youth has to offer. The question at the heart of the book is captured in this photo. It is a question posed not merely by the victims of the Holocaust or the millions killed in Hitler’s war, but by our very humanity. Is there a humanly comprehensible path from that small child to the gray and brooding figure searing his course across our history? And if there is, how can we ever use the word “humane” again? How can we look at ourselves in the mirror and not wonder if that unspeakable something that was in him is not also in us?

Rosenbaum’s personal search takes him not only to piles of crumbling newspapers and letters, to distant towns and lost places in all corners of Europe, Israel and North America, but also into the pages and the living rooms of nearly all the world’s most famous Hitler scholars. What he discovers there is quite disturbing. Although they are all ardent foes of Hitler and everything he stood for, they fundamentally disagree about his moral character. For some, such as Emile Fackenheim, Hitler is evil incarnate, utterly inhuman, the epitome of absolute evil. In stark contrast, others such as H.R. Trevor-Roper (author of The Last Days of Hitler), argue not only that he was not evil but that he was in fact an idealist, horribly misguided, to be sure, but an idealist nonetheless, who sought to do good. There was not evil will at work in Hitler, they maintain, only (terribly) faulty reasoning. There are some, such as Robert Waite, who try to steer a middle course between these two extremes, but this proves difficult, for while they describe a path from here to there, they are almost all forced to admit that at some point that path is profoundly ruptured, that it passes through an unfathomable abyss, an anomaly of such magnitude that it is difficult to say how the human being who entered it is related to the inhuman being who comes out the other side.

If we accept Rosenbaum’s account, we seem compelled to choose between one of two impossible alternatives: either Hitler was not evil or Hitler was not human. This dilemma is particularly troubling because for many years Hitler has been the only absolute in our relativistic moral universe, the one point on our moral map that always flashed “Forbidden! Do not enter here!” And our certainty of his evil has been just about the only thing that has given us the resolve to defend the cause of humanity. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and the like evoke not merely disapprobation but action because, at some level, we see in them the reappearance of that malignant spirit we imagine to have possessed Hitler. If we doubt that Hitler was evil, how can we sustain any notion of evil or find any ground for moral judgment or action? And if we are left with only silence in the face of this question, how can we not conclude that we are lost on an infinite moral sea, beyond good and evil?

Nietzsche believed that such a fate was inevitable, for the death of God and the collapse of everything built upon that God were already well underway, even if most Europeans had not yet recognized that fact. [2] He was equally convinced that the consequence of this “greatest event” would be the collapse of European morality, centuries of brutal war, and the advent of a world in which everything is permitted. Was he right? Is this the source of the difficulty we face when we consider the question of evil? Are we at heart already entertaining that “uncanniest of all guests,” nihilism? While it is tempting to leap to such a conclusion, it might behoove us to ask a preliminary question, not whether the absence of a point of absolute evil on our moral map is the result of a creeping atheism and nihilism, but how it came about that all the lesser points of evil were effaced. Might our difficulty in coming to terms with the possibility of “radical” or “ultimate” evil not be connected to our difficulty in believing in evil in all of its lesser forms?

The existence and variety of evil was certainly not a question for the High Middle Ages. Aquinas and Dante, for example, knew what evil was, described its forms and degrees, and laid out the appropriate punishments and remediations. Judas, the medieval moral equivalent of Hitler, was in this way clearly connected to the baby who, according to Augustine, concupiscently sucked at its mother’s breast. For these thinkers, there is no problem with how we get from the child to the monster. Medieval Christianity had a moral map that was complex, rooted in reason and revelation, reflected in civil and canon law, and embedded in creation. Yet by the middle of the seventeenth century, the points on this map had largely been erased. Indeed, Descartes and Hobbes, the two great pillars of modern thought, proclaimed that good is what pleases me and evil what causes me pain or opposes my will. Where, then, did all the evils go?

This is the question I address in this essay. I believe that the answer helps to explain the mysterious ambiguity of evil in modern times. In what follows, I argue that the answer to this question lies in the theological and philosophical transformations that mark the passage from the late medieval to the early modern world. Descartes and Hobbes are not the source of this change. They articulate a radically subjective, quasi-utilitarian view of morality. However, they do so not because they clearly prefer it but because the alternative they see in front of them is much worse. They turn away from a notion of evil so vast and a notion of good so compelling that it had become easy on moral grounds to justify not merely casuistic equivocation but the slaughter of whole populations. To understand how morality came to this pass and why our moral map has become so useless to us, we thus need to examine not Nietzsche, or even Descartes and Hobbes, but the tremendous theological and moral transformation of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. In doing so, I believe we can see that our inability to sustain a notion of evil arises not from the death of God but from the proclamation of his omnipotence, thus not from atheism but from a particular kind of theism.

Michael Allen Gillespie

Michael Gillespie is Acting Chair of Political Science 2006-07; Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Professor and Professor of Philosophy and Director, Gerst Program in Political, Economic, and Humanistic Studies at Duke.

This selection is excerpted from his essay, “Where Did All the Evils Go?,” which appears in Naming Evil/Judging Evil, edited by Ruth W. Grant and published by the University of Chicago Press, ©2006.


1. Ron Rosenbaum, Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (New York: HarperCollins, 1999).
2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 1974), 343.

Seeing Japanese Popular Culture through Anime

Collections Highlight

After your first random fifteen minutes of any (non-dubbed) anime you’re bound to be overwhelmed by its otherworldliness. You will encounter a different gravity, an unlikely atmosphere, an unexpected moisture. Tangible one moment, it melts into a strange texture the next. Once caught by its ocular excess and sonic gestalt, your sense of the imaginable future is radically changed. The growth in Western audiences for anime over the past decade testifies to the addiction these worlds induce… Dive in-things become viscous, shiny, loud. This is the appeal, the fascination, the allure of anime.

– Philip Brophy from his introduction to 100 Anime, British Film Institute, 2005

Introducing Anime

Anime: Courtesy of AnimEigo, Inc. (c) Kitty Films. Licensed to AnimEigo by Fuji Creative, LTD.Anime, pronounced a˘n´-ma¯´, describes a Japanese animation style as well as the films created in that style. Unlike American animation, which is predominantly a children’s medium, anime, with richer and more challenging story lines, is the major form of visual entertainment in Japan. Anime also differs from Western animation in its use of sophisticated cinematic effects such as panning shots to create background motion and shifting the visual focus from background to foreground. The artistic rendering of anime characters-their large eyes, tiny mouths, and wildly colored hair, instantly recognizable-further distinguishes the style from Western animation. Another hallmark of anime is its relationship to other media, including video games and manga (Japanese comics and print cartoons). It’s quite common for anime to be based on a manga or even a video game – and vice versa.

The first anime to appear on U.S. television was Astro Boy, which aired in the 1980s on NBC at about the same time that anime broke into the U.S. film market with Akira (1989), directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.[1] Anime was firmly established in the U.S. by the 1990s when the television series, Sailor Moon, began airing. These early successful forays into American homes and theaters were followed by the arrival of blockbuster anime feature-length films like Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2005).

The Genesis of the Duke Libraries’ Anime Collection

In 2002 the Freeman Foundation made a four-year grant to the Libraries’ International Area Studies Department (IAS) to expand its support of undergraduate education and teaching in Japanese Studies. Professor Tomiko Yoda of Asian and African Languages and Literature (AALL), and Kristina Troost, the head of IAS and librarian for Japan and Korea, worked in collaboration to build a collection of manga and anime. Professor Yoda uses these resources in “Topics in Japanese Anime,” a course she teaches regularly to capacity enrollments. Professor Yoda recently related these observations about her class and its relationship to the Libraries’ collection:

Anime has offered me both opportunities and challenges as a teacher. It is the first cultural medium produced in Japan that has been almost instantaneously subtitled/dubbed and distributed in the U.S. The availability of diverse anime titles allows me to organize undergraduate courses, in which I teach students with no background in Japanese language, under a large range of specific themes. I have never taught a material that so many students express such powerful personal interest in.

In the Duke classrooms today, we have a generation of students who grew up in the U.S. and around the world-including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, England, Brazil, Mexico-watching various anime series on television. Part of the challenge of teaching anime lies in the fact that my course has tried to treat not only anime films but also TV animes that can span 13 to 26 episodes per season, and some titles go on for multiple seasons. I assign selected episodes from these series. But without the library’s willingness to collect these long and expensive series (which also poses some cataloging and shelving challenges), I would not be able to handle TV anime series.”

Professor Yoda continues to recommend new anime titles for addition to the Libraries’ collection, which currently includes almost two hundred DVDs. And while anime are readily available for purchase, the Libraries still encounter various challenges in acquiring them. One is sorting out series and the titles belonging to each. Another is deciding whether to buy the Japanese DVD release of an anime, which will not play on North American DVD players, or to wait for several months, if not longer, for the U.S. release. If a title has been requested for use in a class, the Libraries may decide to import it from Japan and then purchase another copy when the anime becomes available in the U.S.

And then there is the question of language. Some fans prefer the original Japanese voice acting with subtitles because they feel they are experiencing the film more nearly as the creator envisioned it. However, in recent years serious fans in increasing numbers have begun to prefer English dubbing-especially as Western producers spend more money to add a high-quality English language track.[2] Most currently released anime DVDs come with both options: original Japanese language track with optional English subtitles and a dubbed English track.

So, delve into the marvelous, otherworldly realm of anime, at Duke or another library near you.

Danette Pachtner is the Film, Video & Digital Media Librarian at the Duke University Libraries

Finding Anime Titles at Duke’s Lilly Library

Go to the Duke Libraries’ online catalog. Choose “advanced search”-limit the format to “film/video”-use subject keywords “animated films japan” or “animated television programs japan”

Links to Anime Resources


1. BWI, Public Librarian’s Guide to Anime (Lexington, KY: , BWI, 2006), 6.
2. BWI, 11.

Nineteenth-Century American History

knowledge bytes

Internet Sites Selected for the Readers of Duke University Libraries

Annie Oakley [requires RealPlayer]

For those who still think of Annie Oakley as portrayed by Betty Hutton belting out “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” in the film version of “Annie Get Your Gun,” this fine website created as part of PBS’s American Experience series reveals the nuance and introspection of the real-life sharp-shooter and noted American heroine. To begin, it is worth noting that Oakley, in spite of her Old West image, lived her entire life east of the Mississippi. It is also interesting to note that while Oakley overcame some stereotypes about the abilities of women, she opposed female suffrage throughout her life. On this website, visitors can learn more about Oakley’s life through an interactive timeline. The gallery section includes some gloriously inventive promotional posters for Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, touting Oakley as “Little Miss Sure-Shot,” and celebrating a few of her extraordinary marksmanship feats, such as riding a bicycle or standing on a galloping horse while shooting. Finally, visitors can also browse through the special features, which include an interactive poll and a question and interview session with the PBS program participants on Oakley’s attitudes toward women’s issues of the day.

Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

In the fall of 1881, anthropologist Alice Fletcher set out on a trip to the Dakota Territory with two companions and an Omaha Indian woman to live for six weeks among Sioux women on reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota. She recorded her experiences in two journals. This digital version of her diaries, made available by the National Museum of American History, includes in addition to her daily entries, 26 drawings and 36 photographs that can be viewed alongside the text or in a separate photograph gallery. Visitors to the website can view the diaries by date or browse through them from beginning to end. During her time with the Sioux, Fletcher transcribed fifteen folktales, which can be read in her journal entries, where they appear without titles but often with some contextual information. Rounding out the site is a “Learn More” section that lists books, archival collections, and other websites where there is additional information on Fletcher.

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

This website presents the papers of the nineteenth-century African American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. Included are approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images) relating to Douglass’s life as an escaped slave, abolitionist, editor, orator, and public servant. The papers span the years 1841 to 1964, with the bulk of the material from 1862 to 1895. Visitors will find correspondence with many prominent civil rights reformers of his day, including Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Horace Greeley, and Russell Lant, and political leaders such as Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. The collection can be searched by keyword or browsed by series. The website also features a timeline, links to online versions of the three autobiographies of Douglass, and a family tree.

And on the lighter side ….

The History of Eating Utensils

Presented by the California Academy of Sciences, this online history of eating utensils is both fascinating and educational. Scroll to the bottom of the webpage where you will find links to pages describing the various utensils. The brief essays on individual utensils give their history as well as images of examples from the Academy’s collection, which covers various geographic areas and time periods. Learn, among other things, why the French were slow to adopt the use of forks. Equally worth consideration is the history of chopsticks as they have evolved over the past 5,000 years. First made from a single piece of bamboo, chopsticks only gradually came to be separated into two pieces and made of less and less precious materials. In this brief online history learn all about chopsticks and the rest of the instruments humans use to eat gracefully.

Thanks to the Internet Scout Project (Copyright Internet Scout Project, 1994-2007, for identifying these sites. If you would like to recommend a website for inclusion in a future issue of Duke University Libraries, contact Joline Ezzell at

In Memoriam

More than 250 people come to work every day in one of Duke’s libraries.  And in spite of our numbers, we are a close-knit staff because our work connects us to each other.  Collection development librarians select books that are ordered by the staff of the Acquisitions Department and later prepared for the shelves by the catalogers. Those same books then pass into the care of the employees of Access and Delivery Services, and perhaps Preservation as well.  These and the many other interlocking relationships of people working together are the spirit of the Duke University Libraries.

So, the deaths of three of our colleagues over the past year have left us feeling diminished.  Joyce Farris and Gertrude Merritt were long retired but not forgotten—remembered for the pleasure it gave us to know them and for the contributions they made to the Libraries during their long careers.  The third, Helene Baumann was still working with us when she died in July 2006.

Helene came to the Libraries in1979 as a library assistant and copy cataloger.  For most of her career, she was the subject librarian for Africa and Western European Studies and a reference librarian.  Helene was also active in professional organizations.  She won honors and awards, organized international conferences, and was appointed or elected to leadership positions of Western Europeanists and Africanists alike.

Joyce Farris, who died in December 2006, was a catalog librarian at Duke’s Perkins Library, where she put to good use her knowledge of seven languages.  She came to the Libraries in 1978 and retired in 1992. Her husband, Donn Michael Farris, the director of the Divinity School Library for over forty years, preceded her in death.

Gertrude Merritt retired from the Libraries in 1979, having served the University for 43 years.  During her career she was Head of Serials, Chief of Technical Processes, Assistant Librarian for Technical Services, and Associate University Librarian for Collection Development.  She helped build the Libraries’ collections to more than a million items before her retirement.  Miss Merritt was our living memory, and we continued to rely on her until her death in October at age 97.

Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award Presented to Duke’s Nancy Gibbs

The Acquisitions Section of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) has selected Nancy Gibbs, head of acquisitions at Duke University, to receive the 2007 Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award.  The Award, sponsored annually by Harrassowitz, an international bookseller and subscription agency, recognizes a librarian for contributions and outstanding leadership in the field of acquisitions.  The Award includes a $1,500 gift.  Gibbs will receive the Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award in June in Washington, D.C., during the annual meeting of the American Library Association.

The Award Jury for the ALCTS/AS Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award noted Nancy Gibbs’ strong record of dedicated service to both the institutions in which she has worked and the associations with which she has been active and described her as “highly respected for her selfless work ethic and the leadership she has brought to the academic library profession.” Gibbs was one of the first acquisitions librarians to report to the profession on incorporating electronic books into the academic library environment.

Gibbs has held the position of Head of the Acquisitions Department for the Duke University Libraries since 2001. Prior to coming to Duke, she was the head of the Acquisitions Department at North Carolina State University’s D.H. Hill Library.

Duke Reads – Together

Duke alumni and friends now have their own virtual book club, thanks to the leadership of Rachel Davies, director of Alumni Education and Travel for the Duke Alumni Association, and the sponsorship of the Duke Libraries and other campus organizations. Called Duke Reads, the program will be announced formally to alumni during Reunions Weekend, April 13 & 14.

Over the course of the 2007–08 academic year, seven different members of the Duke community will lead discussions of seven books.  The discussions will take place on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, September through November and January through May, from 7:00 – 8:00pm, Eastern time, in the format of an online chat.

The September book will be the title selected for the Class of 2011 summer reading: The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson.  The other books will be the choice of each month’s discussion leader.  For information about participating in Duke Reads, visit after 1 June 2007.