Vote for the Library!

Earlier this fall, we got into the election spirit here in the Libraries and decided to host a little competition.

We challenged Duke students to “be our Super PAC” and make a mock election video explaining why the Duke University Libraries get their vote.

Was Perkins their ideal of hope and change? Did Lilly have what it takes to fix the knowledge economy? Should librarians rule the world? With so many hearts and minds up for grabs out there, we thought we could win a few.

The rules were simple. Videos had to be 90 seconds or less, and they had to look, feel, and sound like an actual political commercial. Parody, irreverence, swelling music, patriotism, fear mongering, and nostalgia were encouraged. We also encouraged students to use the new Multimedia Project Studio in Bostock Library, which has everything you need to edit and produce your own videos.

Eligible video entries were posted on our blog and on the Libraries’ Facebook page, where we invited people to vote for their favorite. It was the epitome of the democratic process in action.

We received a number of creative submissions. But it was two sophomores, Jordan Thomas and Reem Alfahad, who won first prize: two tickets to this year’s Duke vs. UNC men’s basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Jordan’s and Reem’s video demonstrates not only their great imagination, terrific sense of humor, and talent, but also their superb appreciation for what we try to provide our students, faculty, and library users here at Duke. Early in their careers at Duke, they already recognize that our librarians are knowledgeable and accessible, that our library spaces are comfortable and inspiring, and that our collections—both print and electronic—are vast. They also did a great job of making it look like an actual campaign ad!

But don’t take our word for it. Check out their video on our YouTube Channel and see why they helped us win another term as the best library system at Duke by a landslide.

A Cut Above: Duke’s Longest-Serving Barber Gets a Place in the Library

Robin and Mark Prak with David Fowler (R).
Robin and Mark Prak with David Fowler (R).

The plaque next to the door reads: “In honor of David W. Fowler, Jr., the Duke of Barbers for Over 50 Years.”

You could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there, tucked away in a corner on the lower level of Perkins Library—a coveted nook of peace and quiet in an otherwise bustling hub of high-tech classrooms known as the Link.

It’s a place of refuge, this small group study with glass walls that students can write on. In that respect, it’s not so different from another campus hideaway in the basement of Duke’s West Union: the Duke Barbershop, a much-loved institution owned and operated by the same David Fowler whose name is on this plaque.

Duke has had a barbershop on its campus since 1912. Fowler has worked there for more than half that time. He started out as one of six employees in 1959. Now he runs the place, often arriving at 6:30 a.m. to meet his early-rising clientele.

Over the course of five decades, this North Carolina native from Smithfield has cut the hair of thousands of Duke students, faculty, physicians, staff, alumni, and not a few Duke presidents. He has seen the campus grow from a small but respected liberal arts college in the South to a globally renowned research institution.

But one thing that hasn’t changed in all that time is the character of the man Mark J. Prak (’77, JD ’80) calls “a true southern gentleman, one of a dying breed.”

Earlier this year, Prak and his wife, Robin Huestis Prak (’75), decided they wanted to pay tribute to the man who has been their family barber and good friend for many years. That’s when they hit upon the idea of naming a library group study in Fowler’s honor.

At a naming ceremony in the Link this past August, with many of Fowler’s close friends, family, and longtime customers in attendance, Mark Prak spoke fondly about the barbershop as a beloved fixture of campus, as much a part of “Dear Old Duke” as basketball or gothic arches.

“This barbershop was and always will be special to me,” said Mark, who first sat down in Fowler’s barber chair as a Duke freshman in August 1973. “Like the bar in the TV show Cheers, it’s a place of community, fellowship, and conversation, where everybody knows your name.”

“Dave Fowler is the only person who has ever cut my hair, and I dread his retirement,” said Robin. “Our whole family has wonderful memories of coming to the barbershop. It’s something that has kept me coming back to campus every six weeks like clockwork, even if it isn’t football or basketball season.”

The Praks aren’t alone. Everyone at the ceremony seemed to have a story about David Fowler. And he could tell some stories on them as well—enough to fill a library as big as this one. Not that he ever would. “A good barber knows how to keep secrets,” Fowler joked.

With plans under way to renovate the West Union, changes are coming for the barbershop. But Fowler doesn’t seem too concerned. He has seen building renovations come and go, and the shop has changed locations more than once. His devoted customers should take heart. “I’m not retiring yet,” he said.

If and when he ever does, the Duke of Barbers will always have a little spot on campus he can call his own.


Library Naming Opportunities

Naming a library space is a great way to honor someone in your life or celebrate a milestone, and it meets a critical need for today’s busy students—an attractive space to work. The Libraries have a variety of spaces available. We invite you to check out our new interactive map of naming opportunities online.

Click on the building image above to find out more about naming opportunities.
Click on the building image above to find out more about naming opportunities.

Postcard from Johannesburg: How One Student Got the Most Out of Her Library

By Aaron Welborn

It isn’t often that librarians find out what happens to the people we help. Most interactions follow a familiar pattern—another question answered, another obscure reference tracked down, another student sent off feeling smarter and more confident. But what then? What comes of all that knowledge and discovery? Most of the time, we simply don’t know.

But once in a while we receive encouraging reports from the field, as in the case of Ryan Brown.

In 2010, when Ryan was a junior history major at Duke, she wrote a paper for a course on twentieth-century South African history about a brilliant though little-studied journalist from Johannesburg named Nat Nakasa. She never expected it would be anything more than a small research project. “The short life of a writer from a repressive society halfway around the world seemed both too obscure and too specific to be effectively researched at Duke,” Ryan said.

Ryan Brown in South Africa, where she spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow researching the life of journalist Nat Nakasa.
Ryan Brown in South Africa, where she spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow researching the life of journalist Nat Nakasa.

But she soon found herself spending long hours in the study carrels in Perkins Library, immersed in a wealth of information about Nakasa. He was a victim of cruel times, forced to relinquish his citizenship in 1964 when he accepted a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and the apartheid government refused him a passport to return home. The experience of living in exile ultimately led Nakasa to take his own life, ending a brief but prolific journalistic career.

The paper Ryan wrote for that class got an A. Not only that, but it struck her professor, Karin Shapiro, as “superbly researched and written.” Ryan had used almost every primary and secondary resource at her disposal—biographies, databases, scholarly books and journals, theses and dissertations. For an undergraduate, it was impressive work.

Shapiro nominated Ryan’s paper for the Duke University Libraries’ Robert F. Durden Prize, which recognizes undergraduate excellence in research. Ryan won that prize and the $1,000 that goes with it. But more than that, she had found a topic she could sink her teeth into.

During her senior year, Ryan expanded her research on Nakasa into a 160-page honors thesis. It was, Professor Shapiro acknowledged, “well beyond what was required.” This time Ryan really dove deep into her subject, combing through obscure South African newspapers on microfilm and poring over the Rubenstein Library’s complete set of Drum magazine, the South African periodical for which Nakasa did most of his writing.

When she learned of a slim volume authored by Nakasa’s father in the 1940s, Ryan tracked down the only known copy of it for sale in the United States, offered by a rare book dealer in Chicago. With the help of Professor Shapiro, Ryan contacted librarian Margaret Brill, who set in motion the process of purchasing the book and adding it to Duke’s collections. Another librarian, Mark Thomas, aided Ryan in filing Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain classified U.S. government documents relating to Nakasa, which had never been seen or used by other researchers.

“The Libraries’ resources allowed me to hop across oceans and decades,” Ryan said, “pulling from obscurity the life story of a man whom I once assumed would be too difficult to access.”

Once again, Ryan got an A on her paper. Once again, she was awarded the Libraries’ Durden Prize and racked up another $1,000. But this time, Ryan turned her honors thesis into a Fulbright Fellowship to South Africa, where she has spent the last year completing her research and writing a book about Nakasa. She sought out and interviewed people who knew him personally, including members of his family and contemporary South African writers like Nadine Gordimer. She unearthed original papers and letters at the South African National Archives and the University of Witswatersrand.

Nat Nakasa (front row, second from right) with other Nieman Fellows at Harvard, 1965.
Nat Nakasa (front row, second from right) with other Nieman Fellows at Harvard, 1965.

The result is A Native of Nowhere: The Life of South African Journalist Nat Nakasa, the first full-length biography of this important South African author and public figure. The book has already been accepted by a South African press and will be published in 2013. Not bad for her first year out of college.

“I never thought the first city I would live in after graduation would be Johannesburg,” joked Ryan, who grew up in Denver. But the experience of interviewing subjects connected with Nakasa’s life opened her eyes to the fascinating cultural landscape of another country. “These are people who have been observers and critics of South Africa for over fifty years. They are some of the most sharp, witty, and insightful people I’ve ever met.”

Her year abroad also helped Ryan discover a career interest in journalism. In order to supplement her Fulbright funds, she wrote occasional freelance pieces for the Chronicle of Higher Education and the South African Mail & Guardian. “What I would love to do is tell international stories to American audiences,” she said.

She may soon get that opportunity. Ryan was recently hired as an intern by the Christian Science Monitor editing international news.

Reflecting on her former student’s success, Professor Shapiro said that she wasn’t surprised Ryan was so drawn to a subject like Nat Nakasa: “I think she saw something in him that she sees in herself. Like him, she has an eye for the magnificently turned phrase and for irony and satire.” As a researcher and journalist, she is also dogged and resourceful. “If it’s out there, she will find it,” said Shapiro.

And what about the Durden Prize money? How did Ryan use that $2,000?

“I bought a rickety old Toyota, which I drove all over Johannesburg and all the way to Durban and back,” she said. In a country with poor public transportation, there’s no other way she could have conducted all those interviews and visited all those archives. “I call it my research-mobile.”

“As Ryan’s advisor, I am incredibly proud to be associated with her work,” said Shapiro recently, “and I can only imagine that the many librarians she consulted will be, too.” Indeed, and when her book is published next year, it will have a place in Perkins Library, where it all started out as a question looking for an answer.

The "research-mobile" that Ryan Brown purchased with money she won from the Libraries' Durden Prize.
The “research-mobile” Brown purchased with money she won from the Libraries’ Durden Prize.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Illustration detail from "De campanis commentarius" (1612), by Angelo Rocca
Illustration detail from “De campanis commentarius” (1612), by Angelo Rocca

Angelo Rocca (1545–1620) is best known as the founder of the Angelica Library, the first public library in Rome. He was also head of the Vatican printing office and a prolific author and philologist in his own right, with more than sixty works to his name. One of those was De campanis commentarius (A Commentary on Bells). Published in 1612, it is one of the earliest comprehensive studies of bells and bell ringing.

Working in the Vatican gave Rocca a broad knowledge of bells and their many uses. In De campanis, he investigates the origins of bells, bell terminology, the office of the bell ringer, and bell ringing customs for secular and ecclesiastical occasions. One chapter is entirely devoted to musical bells, and there is a special chapter on clock-chiming at the end. Two illustrated folding plates show the 24-hour astrological clock of the tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, and the elaborate chiming clock of St. Lambert’s in Liège. Also illustrated are a giant bell requiring a team of 24 ringers, and a bell-organ which uses 33 bells sounded by one man from a keyboard.

This extremely rare first edition was recently purchased and added to the collections of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in honor of J. Samuel Hammond (‘68, MTS ’96), who retired this fall after more than forty years of service to Duke, most of them spent in the Libraries.

Sam is perhaps better known (or heard) as Duke’s official carillonneur. Every weekday at 5:00 p.m., and also before and after Sunday worship services and on occasional special events, he ascends the tower of Duke Chapel and sits down at a special keyboard that operates the carillon’s 50 bells, which range in size from 10 pounds to five tons and span four chromatic octaves. Sam began playing the carillon as a Duke undergraduate in 1965 and was appointed University Carillonneur in 1986 by President H. Keith H. Brodie. He is only the second person to occupy the post.

Although he has retired from the library, Sam will continue playing the carillon on weekdays and after chapel services, carrying on the familiar refrain of another day at Duke.