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.
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.
The small white cards arrive at irregular intervals, some weeks only a few at a time. Then suddenly she’ll get a big stack that will take her hours to plow through.
Each card represents a life. Someone’s father or mother, husband or wife, child or sibling, condensed to a few basic facts. Name of the deceased, graduation year, name and contact info of the surviving relative providing the information. And finally, the most crucial detail: subject area. If some small piece of this person could live on in a book, what kind of book would it be? Please circle your choice.
It’s not a silly question. The dearly departed are about to become part of a book—or at least perpetually associated with one. And once that happens, who knows how many hands that book will pass through? How many conversations it will start? How long it will continue to be read and remembered?
This is how the process begins. It’s not a library service many people at Duke know about, because they can’t take advantage of it until they die. Nor are they likely acquainted with the person whose job it is to choose a book that will honor their memory. She mostly works behind the scenes, as she has done for the last thirty years.
But the care she takes in matching the right book with the right person is a comfort to countless strangers on the other end of those cards—not to mention a remarkable bit of librarianship.
Deirdre McCullough (“Dee” to those who know her) wears many hats.That’s not merely a figure of speech. She’s a hat person, and you’ll often see her sporting a colorful fedora or trilby at work. It’s part of her look. But the expression applies on a more organizational level as well. Dee knows how to do a bit of everything. She has worked here a long time.
Officially her title is Collection Development Specialist, and her broad areas of responsibility include library collection budgeting and financials, gathering and analyzing data on collection usage, coordinating approval plan purchasing for various subject areas, and initiating orders for an assortment of library materials, such as lost/missing replacements and faculty rush requests.
But she also handles a variety of “other duties as assigned,” including the Deceased Alumni Bookplate Program.
Here’s how it works. Duke has over 160,000 alumni around the world. During any given month, a few dozen will pass away. That’s why Duke’s Office of Alumni and Development Records conducts automated searches of published obituaries, using keywords to seek out individuals who went to Duke. Occasionally, the university will learn of a death from a family member, friend, or former classmate. Regardless of how the notification arrives, Alumni and Development Records conducts a verification process to confirm that the deceased is (a) actually a Duke graduate, and (b) actually no longer with us.
(The process exists for a reason. Embarrassing apologies have had to be made, although it rarely happens anymore.)
The person’s alumni record is then updated, and a condolence letter is sent to the next of kin. Included with the letter is a card family members can fill out if they want their loved one honored with a book in the library.
There is no charge for this modest remembrance. Nor does it matter which school at Duke the individual graduated from. In these long and winding stacks, there is room for all. When posted, the cards come to the library development office, where they are entered in a spreadsheet. Then they go to Dee.
That’s more or less how things have worked since 1985, the year the Deceased Alumni Bookplate Program first started. The internet has made the process quicker and easier, as you might expect. And the old paper bookplates that had to be glued inside a book’s cover have been replaced by virtual ones that are entered in a book’s online catalog record and initiate a pop-up plate. (Family members can more easily search for them that way.)
But otherwise not much has changed. For her part, Dee has been the one selecting the books since 2001, the year she assumed her current position. On average, she plates about 250 books per year in memory of deceased Duke alums.
When she first started, Dee says, she would simply pick a book related to the subject area indicated on the card.
“But then I started thinking, what if I’m picking something totally antithetical to who this person was?” she says. She started slowing down and being more thoughtful about the selections. “As the years have gone by, I’ve spent more time getting to know the individual.”
She starts out with a preliminary Google search, looking for an obit or online profile, any kind of digital trail she can follow. Common names like Bill Smith can be tricky, but she has various search strategies for narrowing things down, like specifying the person’s state, town, profession, or any other distinguishing characteristics she can find in the Alumni Directory.
The easy ones might take only five or ten minutes. But sometimes she’ll spend up to thirty minutes or more if an individual is especially hard to track down—or led an especially interesting life. The more personal she can make a book selection, the more it will mean to that person’s loved ones.
“The ones I really enjoy are when the obituary mentions places the person traveled or loved,” Dee says. Take the World War II veteran (Class of 1949) who served on a U.S. Navy gun crew that sailed throughout the Atlantic and Pacific and passed through the Panama Canal ten times. For him she picked Chronology of War at Sea, 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II (2005).
A grateful thank-you note from his spouse confirmed the appropriateness of the selection. “You must have known that my husband spent those years mostly at sea,” it read. Another note reads, “It’s like you read his mind in selecting The Palmetto State,” this one from the widow of a banking executive (Class of 1959) who devoted much of his life to improving education, race relations, and cultural life in South Carolina.
If someone dies tragically young, or while still a student here, Dee spends extra time considering them. There was the pre-med junior from Jacksonville, Florida (Class of 2018), who passed away last year. She suffered from a lifelong immune deficiency disorder and died from complications of a bone marrow transplant at Duke Hospital. She had dreamed of becoming a pediatric immunologist. For her, Dee selected Attending Children: A Doctor’s Education (2006), a poignant memoir of a physician’s journey from nervous medical intern to director of a pediatric intensive care unit.
Then there was the younger brother of Duke basketball great Shane Battier, Jeremy, himself a Duke grad, decorated member of the football team, and successful entrepreneur. His untimely and widely reported death drew attention to the nation’s ever-growing heroin epidemic. For him: Child’s Play: Sport in Kids’ Worlds (2016), a collection of essays about the role sports play in how young people view themselves and their place in society.
But even the happy stories of long lives that ended well and peacefully get a carefully considered selection. No death is unremarkable.
Does it ever get to her, all these daily reminders of mortality?
“I’ve been known to shed a few tears over the more poignant obituaries,” Dee says. “But actually it’s given me a deeper outlook on Duke and the people who come through here.”
There’s the story of Duke we all know. The one-room schoolhouse that grew into a Gothic Wonderland, home to world-renowned researchers and Cameron Crazies. And then there’s all the individual stories of everyone who’s ever been a student here. Each one had their own particular Duke experience, which was just a chapter in their larger life story.
Few people have a more wide-ranging perspective of those stories than Dee, a Duke alumna herself.
A double-major in English and Anthropology, she graduated in 1987. As a student, she barely set foot inside the library, an irony she laughs about now. Three days after she earned her diploma, she started working here. Her first assignment was working as a Cataloging Data Input Clerk, transcribing paper bibliographic records submitted by catalogers on a computer in the Terminal Room. “They didn’t call it terminal for nothing,” Dee jokes.
Later she became part of the Cataloging and Searching Support Team, and she even spent a year as a copy cataloger before landing in her current position.
When she was first handed the bookplating assignment, she had to fuss with the three-by-four-inch bookplates on a manual typewriter. She doesn’tmiss those days. Now she can simply key in everything on the computer, and it becomes a virtual part of the book instantaneously.
She doesn’t have to keep the little white cards when she’s done with them. But because she works in a library, she has a hard time throwing records away. So they stack up in boxes and piles around her work area like little memento mori.
She also knows that, one of these days, her own name will show up on one of those cards (Class of 1987). Then it will be someone else’s turn to choose a book for her. But what do you select for the ultimate selector? What kind of book would be just right?
Perhaps something about the kindness of strangers. There can never be enough written about that.
When John Mishler (T’09) signed up for the “Changing Faces of Russia” FOCUS Program cluster in the summer of 2004, he had no way of knowing how big an impact that choice would have. In his first semester at Duke, the jumble of first-years Mishler met in his FOCUS seminar courses would develop into a tight-knit group of friends, sticking together across all four years of college and keeping in touch even now—over seven years after graduation.
Today, these grateful alums are giving back.
As a tribute to the common academic experience that brought them together, Mishler and his FOCUS cluster friends recently made a gift through the Libraries’ Adopt a Digital Collection program to sponsor a striking collection of Soviet-era Russian propaganda posters. By offsetting the storage costs of long-term digital preservation, the program allows library supporters like Mishler and his friends to keep digitized collections like this one forever free and accessible for everyone.
Why do they do it?
“My time at Duke was definitely a transformative experience,” Mishler explained. As a practicing attorney in Houston, Texas, and a national member of Duke’s Young Alumni Development Council, he feels he owes a lot to the university and the Libraries in particular. When they heard how much a difference a donation like this could make, Mishler said, he and his FOCUS cluster knew their alma mater was due for some support.
“It was a great experience, and I’d like to see more people participate in it,” Mishler said. “You know the Libraries, they make it so easy—you just click a button!”
For people like Mishler, there’s no excuse for not getting involved in preserving some of the Libraries’ most valuable scholarly and cultural resources. “There’s such a huge variety of collections,” he said. “It’s easy to find something that catches your interest.”
About the Adopt a Digital Collection Program
Every year, the Duke University Libraries digitize thousands of items in our collections. These digital assets must be carefully managed to preserve them for generations of students and researchers to come. This work requires storage space, the specialized expertise of our talented staff, and you!
If you’re reading this magazine, we suspect you’re rather fond of libraries. (Correct us if we’re being presumptuous, but you have that look about you.) Whether you’re a bibliognost (someone with encyclopedic knowledge of books and bibliography) or simply like wandering around your favorite phrontistery (place for thinking or study), here are ten unusual bits of library lingo that are definitely worth knowing.
An initial letter in an illuminated manuscript or early printed book containing decorative animal, human, or imaginary figures, often depicted fancifully.
Thin adhesive strip of magnetized metal concealed within a library book, which triggers a security alarm if you try to remove the book from the premises without checking it out.
A weakness in the chemical or physical composition of a book or document that causes it to deteriorate over time.
An out-of-print work protected by copyright for which the copyright holder is unknown. The question of who owns the rights to orphan works has been a major bone of contention in mass-digitization projects like Google Books.
A work announced or cited as published in bibliographies, catalogs, or other sources, of whose actual existence there is no conclusive evidence.
Pieces of waste papyrus glued and tightly pressed together to form rigid sheets, used in ancient Egypt for making mummy cases. Many examples of ancient writing in Duke’s papyrus archive were recovered from mummy cartonnage.
Buckram The stiff poly-cotton cloth used to cover and protect library books. It is designed to withstand heavy use and resist moisture and mildew.
From the Latin word cunae, meaning “cradle.” Books, pamphlets and other materials printed from movable type in Europe prior to 1501, during the infancy of printing.
Pamphlets, posters, performance and exhibit programs, and other ephemeral materials produced in small quantities that are of transitory interest and therefore difficult for libraries to collect and catalog.
In medieval manuscripts, a symbol of a hand with the index finger extended, used to draw attention to an important passage in the text. Think of it as an early form of highlighting. The name derives from the Latin root manicula, or “little hand.”
That’s what we asked Duke students and faculty this year during National Library Week (April 9-15). We invited them to share their love of libraries by showing us their best bookface.
Nearly 200 people across East and West Campus accepted the challenge. We also used the occasion to kick off a new library marketing campaign, reminding people that when they support the Libraries, they are really supporting Duke as a whole. Check out the last page of our magazine to see our first ad in the new series.
National Library Week has been sponsored by the American Library Association and observed by libraries around the country since 1958. It’s a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries—school, public, academic, and special—participate.
“It is an old complaint,” wrote the eighteenth-century Swiss physician Samuel-André-Auguste-David Tissot, “that study, though essentially necessary to the mind, is hurtful to the body.”
Since antiquity, much ink has been spilled on the potential health hazards of a life of sedentary study, which can include loss of vision, cramped posture, consumption, melancholia, bad digestion—even hemorrhoids.
Given the dire nature of these warnings, scholars and students have for centuries turned to medical guides for advice on how best to counteract the effects of “hard study.” While such guides often vary as to specifics, all commend some form of attention to diet, exercise, and regimen as the key to a long and healthy life. The common refrain uniting them all is that ancient ideal—mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.
This satirical image by Johann Schellenberg (1740-1806) of a scholar being crushed to death under the weight of his own books is an ironic reminder of the futility of learning and of the scholar’s inevitable fate.
Upon its introduction to Europe in the sixteenth century, tobacco attracted both praise and scorn. Promoters celebrated it as a stimulus for inspiration and thought and touted its supposed medicinal benefits. Others condemned it as an idle vice. Giles Everard, a sixteenth-century Dutch physician, wrote in praise of “this noble Plant.” His Panacea, first published in Latin in 1587, was translated into English in 1659. Its frontispiece depicts Everard at his desk, surrounded by scholarly trappings, with a pipe in one hand and an open book in the other. The image establishes a direct link between smoking and scholarship. “Scholars use it much,” writes Everard, “and many grave and great men take Tobacco to make them more serviceable in their callings.”
For nineteenth-century education reformers, the cultivation of the mind went hand-in-hand with the cultivation of the body. Physiology became an increasingly important part of the curriculum, as indicated by the proliferation of textbooks on the subject, such as this one by New Hampshire physician and popular lecturer Calvin Cutter (1807-1873). These “catechisms of health,” as one historian calls them, played an important role in acquainting schoolchildren with the “laws of health.”
The nineteenth century also opened new educational opportunities for women. Physiology, hygiene, and physical education were important parts of the curriculum at American female academies and seminaries. An advocate of women’s education, Catharine Beecher (1800-1878) founded the Harford Female Seminary in 1823 and the Western Female Institute in 1831. After suffering from an illness, Beecher developed a system of calisthenic exercises, popularized in her Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families (1856). “When physical education takes the proper place in our schools,” Beecher claimed that “young girls will be trained in the class-rooms to move head, hands and arms gracefully; to sit, to stand, and to walk properly, and to pursue calisthenic exercises for physical development as a regular school duty as much as their studies.”
By the beginning of the twentieth century, physical education had become a staple of most college curricula, even as colleges were beginning to participate in organized sports. Wilbur Wade Card (1873-1948) entered Trinity College (now Duke) in 1895. After graduating, Card left Durham to pursue graduate study in physical education at Harvard. In 1902, President John Carlisle Kilgo invited him to return as the director of Trinity’s new physical education program, a position Card held until his death. For one dollar, Card sold packets of cards like these containing “Health Hints” and instructions for various calisthenic poses.
Richard H. Brodhead was the president of Duke University and William Preston Few Professor of English from 2004 to 2017. During that time, he spoke at numerous university ceremonies, community forums, and faculty meetings, and even appeared on The Colbert Report. His new book, Speaking of Duke: Leading the 21st-Century University, collects more than three dozen of his finest speeches.
The following remarks were given at the induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 9, 2004. The academy elects members in five categories, and Brodhead was asked to speak for the humanities and the arts.
It’s an honor to speak for Class Four of new members of the Academy. As students of rapids know, Class Four events are massively energetic and thrilling but typically not life-endangering. That fits the humanities and the arts, and no doubt explains why we were assigned this number. I won’t speak here as a professional humanist, still less as an administrator of the modern home of the humanities, the university. Instead I’ll say a word about the founding need for this form of human practice, and with your permission I’ll make it personal.
I knew poetry from the days of nursery rhymes, but the first time I “got” it was in my fourteenth year. I remember the moment fairly vividly. I was in high school not thirty miles from here and at the low-water mark of self-esteem. Each day, changing classes, my fellows would parade past, every one of them an image of some adequacy I lacked: this one cooler, that one more handsome, this one more popular, that one more athletic. Doing my homework one day, I started into a Shakespeare sonnet where I was met by these lines:
When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring that man’s art, or that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least . . .
(Shakespeare, Sonnet 29)
That’s me! I could have cried. How did he guess?
This was my first recognition of the power of someone else’s creation to give voice to my experience, an experience self-imprisoned and un-self-knowing until a stranger’s words brought it to expression. But soon thereafter, I learned another primitive power of art. That same spring I read the first poem I ever really loved (I must have been going through a sort of literary puberty), Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” which flooded me with nostalgia for the more intense experience lost with my youth. It was some years before I realized that I had not in fact lost my youth at the time when its demise seemed so drenched in pathos. When I recognized this fact, I learned that this poem had not so much voiced my experience as induced a new experience, given me access to a state of feeling that I knew through the poem that I did not yet know from life.
Some time later I learned a further variant in which, art having given me a foretaste of certain forms of experience—let’s call them virtual experiences, experiences imaginatively induced and entertained—I came to know them in reality. My sense was never of the gap between life and art. Rather, I had the sense of learning at last what art’s images had been referring to, with art still providing words for what I now came to know. I knew King Lear’s famous line over the dead Cordelia many years before I ever stood over the body of a loved one of my own. When I did, I felt I grasped at last what Lear (or Shakespeare) meant, but Lear’s line gave me a way to name the tormenting, gratuitous, inexplicable proximity of some things (for no good reason) living to others (for no good reason) dead: “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life / And thou no life at all?” I had long been struck by Whitman’s empathic identifications with the sufferings of common men in Leaves of Grass—not just the runaway slave but, less predictably, a fireman pinned in the rubble of a collapsed building:
I am the mashed fireman with breastbone broken . . . tumbling walls buried me
. . . . . in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired . . .
I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,
I heard the distant clicks of their picks and shovels . . .
September 11 supplied a real referent for what had heretofore been an imaginary experience. But in the wake of 9/11, while the rubble was still being sifted and the eventual toll of life not yet known, I felt I could enter into a plight made real by history through the medium of these 150-year-old words.
Strange beasts, we humans, who need not just to live but also to understand our lives; stranger yet that we should know ourselves not directly but through borrowed understandings, through images composed by others’ hands. The officially designated divisions of the humanities will have their ups and downs, but as long as these needs stay in play, the core activity of the humanities will not go away. As Academy member Henry James once wrote, “Till the world is an unpeopled void there will be an image in the mirror.”
In September 2012, Duke University launched Duke Forward, the most significant fundraising campaign in its history. The comprehensive $3.25 billion campaign supported strategic priorities across the university, with a goal of raising $45 million for the Duke University Libraries.
Generous hearts and minds responded to the call to make Duke’s Libraries the best they could be. Thanks to the support of our donors, we have raised (as of the time of this publication) over $63 million during the campaign—over 140 percent of our goal—a success that belongs to everyone who treasures and remains bonded to a great library at the heart of a great university.
As the stories that follow show, Duke Forward is already making an impact across every one of our strategic priorities, and its reverberations will continue to be felt for years to come. Across two campuses and the Duke Marine Lab, students and faculty gather in our libraries to exchange ideas, explore our collections, participate in cultural events, and experiment with innovative tools that enrich teaching and learning. Each one of them is part of the legacy of this campaign.
We are proud of the progress we have made over the last five years. We hope you will be inspired by a few of the outcomes highlighted here. But this isn’t simply the culmination of a years-long effort. It is a jumping-off point for even greater things we can accomplish together.
Duke students are already feeling the impact of the campaign’s success—students like Keegan Trofatter and Ashley Rose Young. We interviewed two students—one undergraduate, one graduate—to learn about their library experiences and how philanthropic support for the Libraries has made a difference to their time at Duke.
Our librarians and skilled staff provide invaluable service to the Duke community. These are the men and women who work together to meet the teaching and research needs of the entire Duke community, day in and day out. They’re accomplished specialists versed not only in their particular academic fields, but also in how to find, organize, preserve, and share the wealth of material available in today’s information-driven society. Philanthropic investment during the Duke Forward campaign has allowed us to attract and support innovative librarians, technologists, and archivists—such as those highlighted here.
Example of Impact: Endowed Conservator Position Extends Life of Library Holdings
In 2011, the Libraries received a $1.25 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a new senior conservator position to help care for the Libraries’ extensive research collections. An additional $1 million gift from the Carpenter Foundation helped to permanently endow the position.
Beth Doyle is the Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator and Head of the Conservation Services Department. She says that the endowment has helped the Libraries address a growing need to preserve and make accessible a wide variety of materials that are currently unavailable to researchers or could be damaged by use because of their fragile condition.
“This endowment not only helps our department fulfill its mission to ensure the use of our collections by current and future patrons, but it demonstrates a long-term and deeply-held commitment to the materials we acquire,” said Doyle. “With proper care and conservation, our collections can continue to be an essential part of research, teaching and scholarly communication at Duke University.”
Duke’s experienced team of library conservation professionals serves as a local and regional resource on a range of conservation-related issues. The demand for skilled conservation professionals has never been higher, as historic library collections age and technology poses new questions about long-term access to information.
Example of Impact: Endowed Directorship Helps Preserve Women’s History
“We’re pleased and grateful for this gift because it associates Merle Hoffman’s name with the directorship, creating an enduring connection between the Bingham Center and Hoffman’s outstanding contributions to the health, safety, and empowerment of women,” said current Bingham Center director Laura Micham. “The gift has enabled us to expand our activities and impact, bringing us closer to our goal of building one of the premier research centers for women’s history and culture in the world.”
In 2014, Micham was honored with a career achievement award by the Association of College and Research Libraries Women and Gender Studies Section. The award honors significant long-standing contributions to women’s studies in the field of librarianship over the course of a career. The award announcement cites Micham’s expertise, advocacy for archives, leadership, vision, and her proactive work with students.