Happy Anniversary to Us! Duke University Libraries Magazine at 30

Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 1987

Thirty years ago, the first issue of this magazine rolled off the presses.

It was 1987. A gallon of gas cost 89 cents. Ronald Reagan was telling Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” while the Bangles were telling us to “Walk like an Egyptian.” Andy Warhol had just died, and Colin Kaepernick had just been born. The Iran-Contra affair was the political scandal du jour, and the 24-hour news cycle became part of life when “Baby Jessica” fell down a Texas well and was rescued before a TV audience of millions.

Closer to home, Duke had just hired Steve Spurrier as our new football coach. Elvis Costello played to a packed audience in Cameron Indoor Stadium. And a talented young student named Melinda Gates earned her MBA from the Fuqua School of Business.

Meanwhile, here in the library, real history was being made. The card catalog was going online!

No longer was a system of tiny drawers and meticulously organized index cards the swiftest search engine. Now you could find any book held by Duke, UNC, or NC State with a few keystrokes. (Well, any book published after 1979. It would take years before the vast majority of our holdings had electronic records.)

Automation was all the rage. We were even testing a new circulation system that would replace handwritten call slips with scannable barcodes. Would wonders never cease?

Needless to say, a lot has changed in thirty years. But a few constants remain.

One of the cover models featured on Volume 1, Issue 1 of this publication was Jim Coble, then head of the Library Systems Office. Jim still works here today, now as a Digital Repository Developer. In fact, he’s one of nearly thirty library employees who have been here for thirty years or more. Commitment like that is unusual in today’s work environment. But it says something about the kind of place this is. Working in a library comes with many rewards, not least of which is an enlightened appreciation for things that last. You could even say it informs everything we do.

Jim Coble today and in 1987, when he appeared on the cover of this magazine’s first issue.

And because it’s more fun to celebrate the passage of time than to lament it, we decided to mark three decades in print with a makeover—our first redesign in ten years. It’s inspiring to flip through our past issues (all digitized now, of course) and see all the people we’ve profiled, discoveries we’ve made possible, and stories we’ve accumulated over the years.

But that’s the thing about libraries and stories. No matter how many we already have, we’re always collecting more.

Thanks for reading and being part of our story.