All posts by Aaron Welborn

Endnote: Before/After

Gothic Reading Room Before the Pandemic and After
The Gothic Reading Room in Rubenstein Library in normal times (left), and on March 18, 2020 (right).

Jorge Luis Borges famously said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”

In that case, a library in quarantine—locked down, devoid of people, utterly silent and inaccessible—well, that’s the opposite of paradise. But that’s how the libraries of Duke looked for much of this spring and summer.

True, we have a rich and substantial online library, including millions of e-books, e-journals, databases, streaming videos, and digitized collections. And it has been inspiring to see how much our incredible staff have been able to do, and assistance they have been able to offer, during this extended period of working from home. But there’s nothing quite like the simple pleasure of walking into a library and wandering around, wherever your curiosity may lead you.

The following pictures were taken on March 18, the day we bid farewell to our last library visitors in the spring. We have paired them with images of the same spaces taken during “normal” times, as a reminder of what a library is supposed to look like—and what we will look like again one day—a hub of activity and engagement, as well as a refuge and place of inspiration. Looking at such pictures today, it feels a lot more like paradise lost.

As Duke gears up to welcome students and faculty back to campus in the fall, we are excited to see them in the Libraries again, albeit in a more limited way, safely distanced and masked. And our entire staff looks forward to the day when it’s safe to throw the doors wide open again and welcome everyone back to paradise.

Von der Heyden Pavilion Before and After
The cafe inside the von der Heyden Pavilion at Perkins Library.


Rubenstein Reading Room before and after
The Rubenstein Library Reading Room


Library service desk Perkins Library before and after
Perkins Library, first floor


Chairs outside Perkins Library before and after
Outdoor seating area, Perkins Library


More Perkins Library study areas before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor


Holsti Anderson Room before and after
The Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library


More study spaces in Perkins Library before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor


Yet more study areas, Perkins Library, before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor


Perkins Bostock bridge outside, before and after
Outside Perkins and Bostock Libraries

How To: Make a Mini-Zine

Hand holding up zine
Our Summer Bucket List Quaran-zine, a pocket-sized zine to help you get organized and excited about a summer spent primarily at home.

With so much time at home these last few months—and unknown months to come—many of us have been searching for inspiration and activities within easy reach. Allow us to recommend starting your own zine.

What’s a zine? Short for fanzine, a zine is a short homemade publication, usually printed or reproduced on a photocopier, with limited circulation and often about a specialized topic. You could think of zines as “underground” publications that tend to have a niche audience. They often serve as vehicles for ideas, personal expression, and art.

But zines are also rich primary sources that can tell us a lot about the time, place, and culture that produced them. Because they are self-published, zines allow marginalized voices to express themselves beyond the hierarchical and commodified world of mainstream media. They also let authors take control of the process of publishing.

The Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, part of the Rubenstein Library, has been collecting zines created by women, girls, and LGBTQ authors for years. Their collection includes over 6,000 zines, most of them dating from the 1990s to the early 2000s. They are used widely by Duke instructors and visiting researchers. You could say we’ve been big zinesters for some time.

Open zine showing quotations
Print, Fold, Ponder: a zine of inspirational quotations.

In May, just as Duke students were finishing up their online classes and final papers, we put together a little zine anthology of quotations we’ve been thinking about during this difficult time. The title says it all: Print, Fold, Ponder: A Wee Zine of Wise Words We Need Now. It’s a little collection of quotes about optimism, hope, leisure—words that inspire us to look on the bright side of what we’re going through—but also about the seriousness of the situation we’re in.

Encouraged by the positive response we received, we decided to try it again. This time we offered a Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaran-zine to help people organize the things they want to read, listen to, watch, make, learn, or otherwise accomplish during this most unusual summer.

Print our Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaranzine and start checking off all those things you want to do!

Both zines are easy to make and require only a single sheet of paper. A printer is handy if you have one, but not required. You can always just hand-copy what you see on the screen and make it your own.

Download and make our mini-zine of inspirational quotations, Print, Fold, Ponder: A Wee Zine of Wise Words We Need Now.

Or download and make our Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaran-zine and start checking off your planned accomplishments for the days and months ahead.

Highlights from Our Student Survey

Here in the Libraries, we never stop trying to improve our game. To help us serve our students and faculty better, we conduct periodic surveys to understand how they view our services, spaces, and materials, and how satisfied they are with their overall library experience.

Back in January (Ah, remember January? Innocent, unquarantined January…), we sent out a brief survey to approximately 4,000 Duke students. More than half of them responded, evenly split between undergraduates and graduate students. Their answers were both gratifying (“Everyone I’ve interacted with at the Library has been absolutely wonderful”) and candid (“Improve signage to reduce the chaotic feel of navigating the library”).

Student Survey Graph
One way we measure how students feel about the library is to ask about their agreement with the statement: “For me, the library is a welcoming place.”

In a recent blog post, our Assessment and User Experience department unpacked some of the more interesting findings. Over the next few months, we will be analyzing the survey data and ultimately use it to make service enhancements, expenditures, and other library improvements. Feedback is what helps the Libraries grow, and the more input we get, the better we’ll be able to renovate, rethink, and refine our work—even during times of crisis.

Read the survey highlights and see what steps we’re already taking to improve.

FAQ: How We’re Planning to Reopen the Libraries

People wear face masks while on the Bryan Center Plaza on Duke’s West Campus. Image by Meghan Mendenhall, University Communications.

Ever since COVID-19 pandemic began, members of the Duke community have been asking us when the Libraries will reopen, to what extent, and what level of access and services we will be able to offer when we do.

If you’re reading this, you have probably seen some of the updates from President Price about the university’s plans for the upcoming fall semester. Because our work in the Libraries supports and facilitates so many aspects of teaching and learning at Duke, we wanted to share some important information about our phased plan for returning to normal operations, which was developed in conjunction with university-wide planning efforts.

We have been maintaining and updating a detailed FAQ on our website that answers many of the biggest questions. But it’s worth calling out a few of the more important points here.

First of all, the safety of library staff and patrons is our highest priority. Library staff will follow all state and university public health guidelines, including maintaining social distance, wearing masks, handwashing frequently, sanitizing and disinfecting workspaces and equipment, and self-monitoring for symptoms. In addition, we will be quarantining books and other collection materials for 48 hours between hand-offs to minimize the risk of viral spread through touched surfaces.

Bins of library books
Bins of returned library books wait in quarantine before being reshelved.

Ramping up library services for the fall semester has been a gradual process, with an initial focus on scanning and digitization for course and research support, followed by a plan to get physical items into the hands of our users.

In July, we implemented a contactless “Library Takeout Service” for books and other physical materials at Perkins Library on West Campus and Lilly Library on East Campus. To begin with, this service was only available to Duke faculty and graduate students, but it will be expanded to other groups of library users as the fall semester gets under way.

To comply with state and university public health guidance, and for the safety of library staff and patrons, we are implementing these initial services with the fewest possible library staff on-site.

Of course, while parts of our buildings remain closed for the time being, we continue to provide consulting, resources, and services online, as we have done since the present difficulties started.

We hope to continue to move forward and expand current service offerings throughout the fall and spring. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we ramp back up to a “new normal” of library services and operations, and we look forward to welcoming more patrons back into our buildings as soon as it’s safe to do so.

See the FAQ on our website about resuming library services.

Putting the “Global” Back into Global Pandemic

By Ernest Zitser, Ph.D., Librarian for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies, library liaison to the International Comparative Studies Program, and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University.

Illustration of the Black Death in Florence from the Decameron
Illustration of the Black Death in Florence, from the Decameron. BNF Fr. 239, f. 1r.

Pandemics, by their very definition (< Greek pandēmos = pan “all” + dēmos “people”), affect everyone in the entire world.  They expose the permeability of border walls and remind us of the invented nature of all geopolitical boundaries.  They also provide us with an opportunity to learn something about the lived experience of people from around the globe, those external “others” whom it is all-too-easy to stereotype as strange, exotic, or dangerous. That is, pandemics invite us not merely to recognize the humanity of, and suffer alongside perfect “strangers,” who speak “foreign” languages and write in “squiggly” scripts, but actually to draw lessons from the way human communities in other parts of the world are dealing and/or have dealt with the same issues as us.

In order to help foster a more informed and compassionate approach to the current global health crisis, the subject specialists of Duke Libraries’ International and Area Studies Department devoted a series of blog posts this summer to the topic of plagues, epidemics, and pandemics in each of the world regions for which they collect materials and about which they offer reference and library instruction. Our goal is not to provide exhaustive coverage of the topic, but merely to suggest one or two resources—preferably those available online and in English—that each subject specialist has found particularly meaningful or useful in helping him or her to understand the role that infectious diseases have played in the countries, continents, and world areas for which s/he is responsible.

If you would like to get more information about a particular world region or recommendations for additional resources on the topic, please feel free to contact the appropriate IAS librarian.  And do let us know if you have your own recommendations!

See our recommended pandemic reads from around the globe:

  • The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry. Reviewed by Holly Ackerman, Head, International & Area Studies Dept. and Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino/a Studies
  • The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio. Reviewed by Heidi Madden, Librarian for Western European and Medieval Renaissance Studies

Living Through History

Libraries in Times of Crisis

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

Closed due to COVID sign on gallery door
A sign outside the Biddle Exhibit Suite in Rubenstein Library.

Historians often say that history never looks like history when you’re living through it. They probably aren’t talking about years like this.

The global pandemic of 2020 turned everyone’s world upside-down, including the world of higher education. On March 10, Duke joined many other colleges and universities around the country and made the unprecedented but necessary decision to move all classes online for the rest of the spring semester. Events, athletic competitions, and large gatherings of all kinds were canceled. Residence halls and campus buildings were shuttered, including all libraries. As spring stretched into summer, one half of Duke—the health system—was mobilizing every available resource to respond to the public health crisis, while the other half resembled a ghost town.

Then, as if things couldn’t possibly get worse, we woke up to another plague in our midst, starkly symbolized by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—a societal sickness of longstanding racial inequities and injustices that demanded urgent action and response at the local, national, and global level.

By the time life returns to any semblance of what it was before, there will be enough books, articles, movies, and stories about the times we’re living in to fill several libraries like ours. And for those of us whose job is to collect, preserve, and share such knowledge and history, our work has never felt more vital.

From the moment classes migrated online to the university’s current plans for a safe and phased return to campus in the fall, the Libraries have played an essential role in keeping teaching and learning going at Duke. We’ve also seized this unprecedented opportunity to reimagine some library services and our responsibilities to collect and highlight the voices of underrepresented groups.

What follows are just some of the examples that demonstrate the many ways our staff pulled together in the face of an unanticipated, historic, and serious public health crisis—and the simultaneous crisis of faith in our most important civic institutions—to keep Duke moving forward.

Supporting Teaching and Learning in a Crisis

As soon as university administrators announced that all instruction was moving online, our staff quickly mobilized to digitize as many course-related materials as possible. At the same time, our online learning experts in Duke Learning Innovation spun up a website and daily e-newsletter to walk faculty through the transition to teaching online. Our librarians also shifted their instruction and research consultations online, assisting students and faculty with finding the materials they needed to complete assignments and research projects remotely. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we were moving quickly to license even more e-books (in addition to the 1M+ already available in our catalog) and to work with publishers, vendors, and organizations to pursue creative paths to open access for many academic resources.

For example:

  • Digital Scanner scanning a map of Duke Campus
    One of the last items digitized before our closure in March was this historical floorplan of a Duke classroom building.

    Even before our buildings closed to the public on March 18, library staff were undertaking the herculean task of scanning books, documents, and other materials. Our top priority was to digitize course materials, as well as Rubenstein Library resources that seniors needed for their theses. Meanwhile, staff in our Continuing Resource Acquisitions unit spent much of March working with faculty members to secure digital files of textbooks and other materials to support classwork. They also sorted through resources that publishers temporarily made free to assist with remote learning. From March 10, when Duke made the decision to teach all classes remotely, through the middle of this summer, usage of library e-books, e-journals, and other online resources was up 12 percent over the same period last year.

  • Throughout the semester, our librarians and other experts continued to offer consultations and instruction sessions with faculty and students via Zoom and to field online research questions via chat and email. While COVID-19 pushed them away from their customary posts at the library, many of our public services staff remained on-call with expanded hours, ready to lend aid from home.
  • Some of the unsung heroes of Duke’s spring 2020 semester were the almost thirty staff members of Duke Learning Innovation, a division of the Libraries that specializes in educational technology, innovative approaches to teaching, and online instruction. In February, when the novel coronavirus still seemed half a world away to most Americans, the DLI team dropped everything to help Duke Kunshan University in China transition 579 undergraduates and more than 100 faculty to online learning. Then, just a few weeks later, they were called upon to replicate that experiment with Duke as a whole, an effort that involved thousands more individuals and classes, scattered across many different time zones and with varying levels of internet access and other technology. The Keep Teaching website they developed offered step-by-step instructions on how to shift courses quickly online. They even put together a video montage (embedded below) celebrating how Duke faculty rose to the challenge. In preparation for the fall semester, DLI launched a new Flexible Teaching website help Duke faculty develop courses that can be successful in any mode of delivery—face-to-face, online or hybrid.

  • Meanwhile, the Duke University Archives and Duke University Medical Center Archives were hard at work documenting this unique moment in time. Together, they sent out a call inviting members of the Duke community to submit their COVID-19 stories, which will be permanently preserved for posterity so that future generations may look back on what Duke University President Vincent E. Price dubbed “the greatest experiment in our university’s history.”

Graphic inviting people to submit COVID-19 stories to Duke Archives

Celebrating Our Students, Researchers, and Staff

Students are an indispensable part of our workforce, and without them we could not be one of the top research libraries in the nation. The Libraries are one of the largest employers of students on Duke’s campus, with more than 250 undergraduates and graduate students employed in various positions throughout the year. When the pandemic hit, we were saddened to bid them goodbye, especially those who were about to graduate. But we still celebrated their accomplishments, as well as those of our researchers and library staff who continued to do exemplary work.

For example:

  • Staff in Lilly Library realized that five of our graduating student employees had worked in Lilly ever since they arrived at Duke four years ago as wide-eyed first-years. As a way of expressing their appreciation, Lilly staffers wrote profiles of the five students—Sarah, Jessica, Esha, Toni, and Noelle—on our library blog. Although Duke’s commencement this year was virtual, our regard for our student assistants is very real and enduring.
5 graduating seniors who worked for Lilly Library
Lilly Library paid tribute to five graduating student workers (left to right, Sarah, Jessica, Esha, Toni, and Noelle) who worked in Lilly all four years of their time at Duke.
  • The Rubenstein Library awarded over thirty travel grants to non-Duke researchers whose work would benefit from visiting the Rubenstein to use our archival collections. Due to widespread travel restrictions and uncertainties about when the library will fully reopen, the travel grants can be used any time through December 2021.
  • Photo of Laura Wagner
    Laura Wagner, Project Archivist for the Radio Haiti Archive

    Laura Wagner, Project Archivist for the Radio Haiti Archive in the Rubenstein Library, was awarded the Philip M. Hamer–Elizabeth Hamer Kegan Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award recognizes individuals or institutions that have increased public awareness of archival documents. The Radio Haiti Archive documents much of twentieth-century Haitian history and amplifies the voices of ordinary Haitian people. The collection has already supported the work of many scholars, and Wagner has presented on the project in Haiti and to the Haitian community in the U.S. She has also worked to take the history of Radio Haiti back to the people to whom it belongs by sharing copies of the recordings with organizations, libraries, and archives in Haiti.

Reckoning with Racism, and Extolling Black Excellence

Like many others, we were angered and heartbroken this summer by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, as well as the numerous other abuses of power against Black Americans that led to widespread protests and calls to action. The Duke University Libraries are committed to answering that call, and to taking action to confront the longstanding impact of institutional racism within our organization and in our community. Libraries occupy a natural and essential space to seek understanding, have challenging conversations, and together determine what we can do to be a civic-minded and just society. With that in mind, we have already identified a number of actions we will take over the coming months and years, and we will continue to identify others.

For example:

  • In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the Duke University Libraries issued a statement of our commitment to reckoning with racial injustice. The statement outlines specific actions we will take to expand our cultural competence and combat racism, such as dismantling white privilege in our collections and services, diversifying our staff, and renewing our commitment to documenting and sharing Duke’s complex institutional history. We also appointed a Racial Justice Next Steps Strategic Task Force, with broad representation from across the Libraries, to recommend more ways we can actively contribute as a community to a more just and equitable future for Duke, especially for our Black students, staff, and faculty.
  • In-depth focus groups with Black students revealed insights about their experience of using the Libraries.

    In the fall of 2019, long before the events of this summer captured the world’s attention, our Assessment and User Experience department conducted several in-depth focus groups with Black students at Duke. We wanted to explore their experience of using the Libraries, whether they viewed us as an inclusive space, and what changes we could make to our spaces, services, and programs to make them feel more supported and included. We shared and published our findings online in March 2020, and we have been analyzing them for steps we can take to improve. This work builds on previous user studies with under-represented student groups that report lower feelings of safety and welcome at Duke, including first-generation college students. A future study is planned in the coming years that will focus on the experiences of international students as well.

  • While working remotely, staff in the Rubenstein Library have been blogging and sharing stories from our collections that underscore the long documentary trail of racial injustices against Black people, such as an 1852 diary of a slave trader in the Congo, or the architectural maps of Durham’s urban renewal projects of the 1960s and 1970s that ultimately led to the destruction of the historically black Hayti District. They have also unearthed stories of Black excellence and resilience in the archives, such as a fascinating collection of letters by W. E. B. DuBois in the Charles N. Hunter Papers.
Antiracism books displayed on shelves
A selection of books on antiracism from our online resource guide compiled by Heather Martin, Librarian for African and African American Studies
  • In response to the Duke community’s call for education as a prelude to action, Heather Martin, Librarian for African and African American Studies, put together an excellent resource guide on anti-racism and Black liberation. It focuses on books, videos, and other resources available through the Duke Libraries. Meanwhile, Danette Pachtner, Librarian for Film, Video, & Digital Media and Women’s Studies compiled a curated list of movies to stream for Juneteenth. And Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies, offered a list of recommended e-books and audiobooks highlighting the Black experience and Black excellence.

Moving Programs Online

Every semester, the Libraries offer a variety of public programs and workshops, ranging from author talks and exhibit openings to tutorials on data visualization and publishing digital projects. Although our physical spaces were closed, we continued to organize and offer a number of programs remotely throughout the spring and summer.

For example:

  • In the month after campus shut down, our Center for Data and Visualization Sciences saw a nearly 400 percent spike in viewership of their recorded workshops. The workshops, several years’ worth of which are available on our website, cover everything from making infographics in PowerPoint to managing sensitive data and making scientific research more reproducible.
  • Photo of Rachel Lance
    Duke biomedical engineer Rachel Lance, author of “In the Waves”

    On April 9, we hosted a virtual book talk with Duke biomedical engineer and blast-injury specialist Rachel Lance, author of In the Waves: My Quest to Solve the Mystery of a Civil War Submarine.In the new book, Lance brings readers inside her incredible three-year investigation into the mysterious fate of the HL Hunley, which took her from Duke’s Hyperbaric Medicine facility to the archives and museums around the country. Lance’s research has been featured in SmithsonianNature, CNN, and other news outlets, and the book has been named a Scientific American “Recommended Book” and an Amazon “Best Book of the Month” for history.

  • Our popular Low Maintenance Book Club, which normally focuses on quick reads for busy Duke students and researchers, shifted into classic novel mode to satisfy the community’s desire for escape reading. Over the course of three monthly meetings, they read and discussed Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, in anticipation of the upcoming feature film adaptation of the book starring Dev Patel.

Expanding Access to Digitized Content and Collections

Even before the pandemic, we already offered a substantial online library, including millions of e-books, e-journals, databases, streaming videos, and digitized collections, all discoverable through our website. When the university shifted to remote learning, our staff worked quickly with academic publishers to expand access to materials that would support Duke classes, ensuring that students and faculty could utilize digital files of textbooks and other materials they needed.

For example:

  • We applied for and received the HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service, which offers provisional access to in-copyright titles that match Duke’s print holdings. As a result, Duke students, faculty, and staff could access approximately 40 percent of our print collection online, which they would normally not be able to do. This is in addition to the 6 million public domain and Creative Commons-licensed works that are normally accessible through HathiTrust.
  • Capping off a year of planning and six months of development work, we launched a new and completely redesigned discovery and access interface for our special collections in the Rubenstein Library. The site offers information about the contents of nearly 80,000 boxes of material held in the Rubenstein, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, organizational records, photographs, audio visual recordings, oral histories, objects, zines, digital materials, and much more.
Image of new ArcLight finding aids
Our newly redesigned discovery and access interface for special collections offers many improvements over the old finding aids.

This Is Working from Home

At the time of this writing, plans are being finalized for a safe and phased re-opening of the Libraries as Duke resumes classes with students on campus this fall. Although a limited number of essential staff will return to working in our buildings—with masks, daily symptom monitoring, lots of social distance, and frequent handwashing—most of our workforce will continue to work remotely, as we have been doing since mid-March. Running a world-class research library from home—make that 267 individual homes, with all the children and extended family they come with—is no easy feat. But throughout this difficult time, all of us have found new ways to stay connected with and serve the communities that depend on us, even as we stay physically apart to keep everyone healthy and safe. We have also found new ways of keeping our spirits up, pitching in, and reminding ourselves that we’re all in this together.

For example:

  • Plants temporarily located at Library Service Center
    Library plants in their temporary home at the Library Service Center, where Marvin Tillman dropped by to water them a couple of times each week during the shutdown.

    On March 18, the last day our physical buildings were open to the public, some of our staff noticed that dozens of plants around the library were in danger of being left behind. Members of our Shipping and Receiving department gathered up some 40 plants large and small, loaded them into a truck, and drove them out to the Library Service Center (LSC), our offsite collections repository. Marvin Tillman, Head of the LSC, has been dropping by to water the plants each week ever since. A few weeks ago, as a small number of library staff began reporting back to work on campus, the plants returned too, none the worse for their long vacation.

  • Photo of working mom with two young children
    The author’s three “co-workers” help to manage the strange new normal of working from home.

    Throughout the spring and summer, our Staff Recognition Committee held a regular “Co-worker of the Week” contest, inviting library employees to submit photos of their pets, children, significant others, roommates, and other “co-workers” who had helped them manage the strange new reality of working from home.

  • Even during a global pandemic, ordinary accidents still happen. Case in point: In April, a water pipe burst in the History Department’s building on East Campus, leaking all over books in empty faculty offices, including some library books. A month later, a leaking sprinkler head in the Library Service Center soaked over 250 books before anyone noticed. Luckily, staff in our Conservation Services department rushed to the scene and, with considerable effort, were able to restore all of the books to usable condition. While ill-timed, both accidents offered useful practice in responding to disasters when everyone else is at home.
Books drying under a fume hood in conservation lab
Library books drying under a fume hood in our Conservation Lab, after a water pipe burst in the History Department’s building on East Campus.
  • Date crisps
    Date crisps, from the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

    While not everyone has been culturing a perfect sourdough starter, many of our staff have found solace in cooking and crafting and sharing the results. Our Stacks Manager in the Rubenstein Library found a 1925 cookbook we had digitized and recreated some nearly century-old recipes for date muffins, date crisps, and date meringues as part of our Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen blog series. Meanwhile, one of our Conservation Specialists took a break from Zoom meetings to practice her hand at creating woven and interlocking books, with handy instructions that are easy for anyone to follow at home.

  • By this point, it’s easy to take Zoom for granted. But the technology that helps us endure a pandemic has been over a century in the making. Our digitization experts in the Digital Production Center spent part of their time in quarantine digging into the fascinating history of videotelephony. Meanwhile, we pulled together a virtual background gallery of everyone’s favorite library spaces to help our students and faculty feel like they were back where they belonged.

One of the saddest parts of working remotely is being unable to celebrate major milestones together. This summer five of our outstanding long-time library staff members retired, with over 150 combined years of service among them: Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer (20 years); Beverly Dowdy, Government Documents Processing Coordinator (12 years); Ros Raeford, Head of Resource Description (43 years); Kris Troost, Japanese Studies Librarian and Head, East Asian Collection (30 years); and Sheila Webb, Accounting Invoice Specialist (46 years). Although we were unable to gather together to celebrate them in proper fashion, we wish them the best and appreciate their years of dedication and hard work. 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 appreciation for things that last, through good times and bad.

Photo montage of 5 recently retired library staff
Five longtime library staff who retired this spring and summer (left to right): Winston Atkins, Beverly Dowdy, Ros Raeford, Kris Troost, and Sheila Webb.

A Message from the University Librarian

Photo of Deborah JakubsI want to take a moment to say thank you for your support and encouragement of the Duke University Libraries.  We have faced many challenges over the past months, but our staff has shown its resilience and our community has come together in a way that only a Duke community could—with compassion, strength, and an eagerness to serve.

On March 18, the Libraries closed our doors to patrons in response to COVID-19.  Our staff quickly adapted, digitizing as many course reserves as possible while also assisting faculty as they transitioned to online teaching.  Our work has neither stopped nor slowed down as we have learned to run a world-class academic research library from our homes.  Our librarians and data experts remain as available as ever to our users, and our collections development and technical service teams have been working behind the scenes to make our books and e-resources as accessible as possible.

This summer also brought the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as numerous other abuses of power against Black Americans.  We have re-committed to our mission of inclusiveness and our dedication to support excellence in research, teaching, and learning for all members of the Duke community and for researchers around the world.  We strive to create a welcoming environment for all who walk through our doors or log on to our website.  Yet, we recognize that racial injustice is rooted in historical and systemic white supremacy, and that our institution has played a role in that injustice.  We are prioritizing our commitment to one of the guiding principles in our strategic plan: “Diversity Strengthens Us.”  We have already identified a number of actions we will take across the Libraries at Duke, and we will continue to work actively to identify others.

As our community has come together in this time of uncertainty, I am reminded of the strength of our libraries and those who work to advance them.  Libraries endure—thanks in part to supporters like you.  Through it all, we have had a remarkable year at Duke Libraries.  We have continued to raise money for the renovation of Lilly Library, acquired exciting new collections, and hired a number of talented staff to join us in our mission of excellence.  Here are just a few of our accomplishments:

  • Upcoming Renovation of Lilly Library: This continues to be our top fundraising priority. More than 1,700 first-year students make East Campus their home each year, and Lilly serves as their gateway library.  The plans for renovation and expansion will modernize spaces and ensure the facility meets today’s standards for safety, accessibility, usability, and service.
  • Consumer Reports Archive Acquisition: This massive collection includes archival materials, books, photographs, and artifacts documenting the history of Consumer Reports, the mission-driven nonprofit committed to creating a fair, safe, and transparent marketplace for consumers. The collection offers researchers from multiple fields a rich historical repository.
  • Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection: This exhibit provided a first glimpse of the diversity and depth of the Baskin Collection and was the largest single-collection exhibit ever presented by the Libraries. The exhibit later traveled to the Grolier Club in New York, and was celebrated with symposia, workshops, and tours.

These are just a few highlights of this year.  You can read more about what we’re doing in response to this unprecedented year of change in our feature story, “Living Through History.”  Thank you again for your generous support.


Deborah Jakubs
Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian & Vice Provost for Library Affairs

Bringing the Best of West to East

A Preview of the Lilly Library Renovation and Expansion

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications

Architectural rendering of Lilly Library
A rendering of the new planned west entrance of Lilly Library. Image by Dewing Schmid Kearns Architects and Planners.

Lilly Library, the primary academic support space for first-year students at Duke, is scheduled to be renovated and expanded over the next two years. The renovation promises to transform one of the oldest and most architecturally significant buildings at Duke into a much-needed intellectual and social center of East Campus.

The project has been in the works for years, dating back to a feasibility study in 2015. Since then, a team of library staff and architects have been meeting regularly with various stakeholders to review plans and gather feedback, including faculty based on East Campus, university administrators, and our three student advisory boards.

One unavoidable conclusion from those conversations was that, while Lilly is popular with many library users, it simply doesn’t have room to accommodate the first-year student population any longer.

The building was last touched almost thirty years ago, in 1993, when a partial refresh upgraded computing facilities and increased the book stacks capacity. But overall, the stately Georgian edifice has remained remarkably well-preserved since it opened in 1927. And that’s part of the problem.

Lilly lacks most of the elements of a modern research library. Its outdated building systems and cramped, poorly lit study spaces do not serve researchers well. Many of the library services and spaces today’s students need to succeed are available in Perkins, Bostock, and Rubenstein Libraries on West Campus, but not on East.

The planned expansion will dramatically increase the building’s footprint. When complete, Lilly will be half again as big as it is now (65,670 gross square feet, up from the current 42,000). It will have significantly more seating and offer more collaborative study spaces and technology-equipped project rooms. The project will also update facility needs—including the heating and cooling systems, lighting, technology infrastructure, and furnishings—to meet today’s standards of safety, accessibility, usability, and service.

Updates will also extend to the elegant Thomas, Few, and Carpenter reading rooms. The charm and character of these beloved spaces will be preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting, and technology infrastructure will be enhanced.

Historical photograph of Lilly Library under construction, 1926
Lilly Library under construction in 1926. Image from University Archives.

One of the most dramatic new features is the addition of a second entrance on the west side of the building. Enter the library from that side and you will find yourself in a café-like commons filled with natural light—just the kind of cozy gathering space currently lacking on East Campus.

To accomplish this vision, the Libraries are working with architectural firm Dewing Schmid Kearns. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2020, with the library reopening after 18 to 24 months. In the meantime, library staff are working to relocate materials, services, and personnel. Although the building will be closed, Lilly collection materials will continue be available to students and researchers throughout the project.

The total cost of the renovation and expansion is anticipated to be $47 million, which will largely be funded through philanthropy.

In what follows, we want to share some of the exciting changes in store. We think—and we hope you’ll agree—that the design preserves the intimacy and charm that generations of Blue Devils have always loved about Lilly, while adding modern conveniences and spaces that will dramatically improve the student experience at Duke for generations to come.


1. Gallery

One of the first changes you will notice walking into the renovated Lilly Library is that the big circulation desk and computer terminals in the main lobby are gone. In their place is a spacious, light-filled gallery, featuring artwork and inviting benches, with a second-story balcony connecting the building’s two wings.

Rendering of Lilly Library Gallery
A rendering of the gallery that will greet you as you enter Lilly Library from the East Campus quad.

2. Booklover’s Room

The first librarian of Duke’s Woman’s College Library, Lillian Baker Griggs, believed that a college library should promote “the love of books and libraries in the heart of the average student to such an extent that a library will be necessary to a contented life.” To that end she made the library an inviting place, starting with the popular Booklover’s Room, a comfy spot for casual reading furnished like an elegant living room. The new Lilly Library will bring back the Booklover’s Room, featuring new and popular books in a warmly furnished and relaxed atmosphere.

Rendering of Booklover's Room
A rendering of the Booklover’s Room, a comfy spot for casual reading.

3. Writing Studio

One of the busiest spots in Perkins Library on West Campus is the Thompson Writing Program’s Writing Studio, a dedicated space where students can meet with tutors and improve their writing skills. The same tutorial service is also available in Lilly Library, but it’s confined to a small table with two chairs on a hard-to-find landing in the stacks. The renovated Lilly will feature a greatly expanded Writing Studio near the main entrance, similar to the one at Perkins.

4. Carpenter Reading Room

Fans and devotees of Lilly Library will be happy to hear little is changing about the handsome Carpenter Reading Room. Ditto its mirror-image, the Few Reading Room, on the opposite side of the floor. These capacious and inspiring study spaces will appear much as they do today, with updated furnishings and finishes.

Rendering of Carpenter Reading Room
Not much will change about the beloved Carpenter and Few Reading Rooms, although they will get updated furnishings and finishes.

5. Assembly Space

Lilly has always sadly lacked a space for public events and programs. The renovated library will feature an assembly space on the main level, an easy-to-find venue for workshops, lectures, book talks, symposia, music performances, award ceremonies, and other library events.

6. New West Entrance and Commons

An added entrance on the west side of the building faces the bustling residential “backyard” of East Campus and connects the library with a main pedestrian throughway. Inside, a new café-like commons promises to become the crossroads for East Campus that the von der Heyden Pavilion is for West, a place where students and faculty can meet over coffee and snacks.

Rendering of Lilly Library Commons
One of the most dramatic new features is the addition of a new entrance on the west side of the building, leading to a cafe-like commons.



1. Thomas Room

The picturesque Thomas Room has long been a favorite quiet study spot. The room is decorated with Asian works of art donated by the family and friends of James A. Thomas, a tobacco merchant, Duke trustee, and personal friend and business partner of the Duke family. The renovation will preserve the historical charm and character of the room, while updating the furnishings, lighting, and finishes.

Thomas Room, Lilly Library
The elegant Thomas Room, whose historical charm and character will be preserved.

2. Innovation Co-Lab

Staffed by Duke’s Office of Information Technology, the Innovation Co-Lab is a maker-space and creativity incubator, where students can work hands-on with new and old technologies, including fifteen 3D printers, a 3D scanner, hand tools, electronics, and even a sewing machine. The Co-Lab will move upstairs from its current home on Lilly’s first floor.

3D Printers
3D printers in the Innovation Co-Lab in Lilly Library, which will move upstairs to the second floor.

3. Testing Center

Learning at Duke can be demanding—even more so if you are a student with a learning or attention challenge. A new testing center, designed in collaboration with Duke’s Academic Resource Center, will offer a secure and convenient testing environment for undergraduate students registered with the Student Disability Access Office who have been granted testing accommodations.

4. Open Reading Room

A new open reading room will combine collaborative work space with traditional private study, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed brick, offering a more modern counterpart to the historic Thomas, Carpenter, and Few reading rooms. The room also features four new group studies.

Rendering of Open Reading Room
A rendering of the new open reading room on the second floor.

5. Seminar/Screening Room

Lilly is home to Duke’s extensive film and video collection. Multidisciplinary and international in scope, the collection supports teaching and research on Duke’s campus across disciplines and departments. This seminar room will double as a screening room, with black-out curtains and projection equipment for screening films for classes and events.



1. High-Density Mobile Shelving

Library collections grow larger every year, but library buildings do not. The majority of Lilly’s physical collections will be housed on the Lower Level in high-density mobile shelving. This not only allows us to store more books and materials in less space, but creates more study and work space throughout the building for library users.

High-Density Shelving
High-density shelves, like these used in the Rubenstein Library, will allow us to store more materials in less space.

2. Group Study Spaces

Unlike Perkins, Bostock, and Rubenstein Libraries on West Campus, Lilly Library currently has no collaborative group study spaces, and only one reservable room. The plans for the renovation include twelve new group studies, half of which are on the Lower Level.

3. Multimedia Viewing and Open Collaboration Space

Multimedia viewing stations, equipped with a variety of players, will allow students and faculty to watch movies from Lilly’s extensive film and video collections. Players for legacy formats—including laser disc, U-matic, and even 16mm film—will also be available upon request.

4. Prayer/Meditation and Lactation Rooms

Several years ago, in response to student requests, we set aside a small room in Perkins Library for prayer and meditation, open to members of all faiths. Frequent and regular usage of the space convinced us to do the same at Lilly. The renovated library will also feature a reservable lactation room (one of only two on East Campus) to support women balancing their return to work or school with their needs as mothers of young children.


Consumer Reports Archives Come to Duke

Collection Chronicles Social, Cultural, and Historical Impact Over 80 Years

By Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications


Photo of instant coffee taste test, 1951.
Taste test comparing instant coffee brands (Consumer Reports photo, 1951).

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of Consumer Reports (CR), the mission-driven nonprofit consumer organization, committed to creating a fair, safe, and transparent marketplace for consumers.

The massive collection—which spans some 2,800 linear feet and required two tractor trailers to transport to Durham from CR’s headquarters in Yonkers, New York—includes archival materials, books, photographs, and artifacts documenting the history of the organization from its founding during the Great Depression to its eventual prominence as a household name for safety, reliability, and informed decision-making.

October 2019 cover of Consumer Reports
The October 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

As the collection reveals, that reputation was long and hard in the making. “Even many longtime Consumer Reports members would likely be surprised by the organization’s colorful and controversial history,” said Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, director of the Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History, where the collection will formally reside.

It began in February 1936, when a group of journalists, academics, engineers, and labor leaders founded Consumers Union, a membership organization dedicated to scientifically testing common products and services, educating the public, and aiding consumers “in their struggle as workers, to get an honest wage.”

Three months after the organization formed, the first issue of Consumers Union Reports appeared, featuring articles on breakfast cereals, Alka-Seltzer, toilet soaps, stockings, milk, toothbrushes, lead in toys, and credit unions.

Volume 1 Issue 1 of Consumers Union Reports
Where it all started: Volume 1, Issue 1 of Consumers Union Reports, May 1936.

From a few thousand initial members, the magazine quickly grew to a circulation of 37,000 by the end of its first year, and 85,000 by 1939. Its rapid success was notable, given the opposition from the business community and the commercial press, which viewed the publication and the fledgling consumer movement it represented as a radical threat to corporate interests.

More than sixty newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, refused to sell advertising to Consumers Union, on the basis that consumer product testing represented “an unfair and subversive attack upon legitimate advertising,” according to Norman Silber in his authoritative history of Consumers Union, Test and Protest (1983).

During the organization’s early days, it advocated on behalf of unionized workers who produced the kinds of products featured in its pages. “By reporting on labor conditions under which consumer products are produced,” wrote the magazine’s editors in the inaugural issue, “Consumers Union hopes to add what pressure it can to fight for higher wages and for unionization and the collective bargaining which are labor’s bulwark against declining standards of living.”

Toothbrush tester
The collection includes a variety of original testing equipment designed and used by Consumer Reports scientists, like this toothbrush tester with false teeth (date unknown).

Such statements earned Consumers Union the ire of powerful corporate interests and politicians, who branded it as “anti-capitalist” and even communist. From 1944 to 1954, Consumers Union was actually blacklisted as a subversive organization by the House Un-American Activities Committee, a charge that was only lifted after years of legal protests. The organization’s leadership, including economist Colston Warne and engineer Arthur Kallet (both of whose papers are included in the collection), suffered similar character attacks for their outspoken support of product safety standards, government regulations, and other measures—largely uncontroversial today—that put consumer interests over corporate profits.

Eventually, the magazine’s editorial emphasis shifted towards more scientific testing and trusted consumer guidance. Its refusal to accept paid advertising, or free samples from manufacturers, bolstered the publication’s claim to independence, nonpartisanship, and credibility. The magazine’s member base continued to grow, especially during the prosperous postwar era, when consumer spending boosted the economy and a growing middle class was hungry for advice on what to buy.

Today, Consumer Reports reviews approximately 2,500 products and services across more than one hundred categories, and it reaches tens of millions of people through print, digital, and broadcast media, which includes the network television series Consumer 101 on NBC and Taller del Consumidor on Telemundo.

Testing TVs then (1961) and now (2019). Images courtesy of Consumer Reports.

In addition to its consumer research, product testing, and investigative journalism, Consumer Reports leads far-reaching policy and advocacy initiatives, working to secure pro-consumer policies in government and across industries. Over the course of its history, the organization has played an influential role in championing pro-consumer protections and rights in the automobile, food, healthcare, and financial services industries, as well as the creation of several government safety commissions.

In 1953, Consumer Reports was the first publication to warn consumers about the dangers of cigarettes. Its research and reporting eventually led the U.S. Surgeon General’s landmark report on smoking in 1964. The organization’s advocacy efforts were also instrumental in the U.S. government mandating seat belts in all automobiles (1968), stricter standards for child safety seats (1981), and a ban on the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups (2012). In 2010, Consumer Reports played a significant role in mobilizing congressional support for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among other regulatory measures it has championed.

In its new home in Duke’s Rubenstein Library, the Consumer Reports archive complements existing collection strengths, including the Hartman Center—home to the largest collection of materials on the history of advertising and marketing in the U.S.—and the Economists’ Papers Archive, which holds the papers of more than sixty significant economists.

Buying Guides
Consumer Reports is well-known for its flagship magazine and buying guides, but the collection also includes thousands of guides and pamphlets on special topics issued over the decades.

“In our current modern society, where trust in institutions and the marketplace have eroded, the legacy and mission of Consumer Reports have never been more relevant,” said Marta L. Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports. “The rich social, cultural, and historical impact of CR is essential to share not because it belongs to the past, but because it is as urgent today as it has ever been—at a moment when the stakes could not be higher for consumers, and when we must fight even harder to keep the market honest.”

The collection has already attracted the interest of researchers and Duke faculty. “Through the acquisition of this remarkable archive,” noted Duke Vice Provost and historian Edward Balleisen, “we have further solidified the Rubenstein Library’s status as a pivotal repository for the study of modern American capitalism. For historians and other social scientists who wish to research or teach about economic life during the American century, the Consumer Reports collection will beckon as an essential source of evidence about technological change, consumer culture, business-state relations, the evolving dynamics of consumer protection, and non-governmental arbiters of quality and value.”

It will take approximately three to four years to catalog the archives, the majority of which will be open to researchers.

Mark Their Words

Celebrating Our Research and Writing Prize Winners

By Mikaela Johnson

Every year the Duke University Libraries run a series of essay contests recognizing the original research of Duke students and encouraging the use of library resources. These awards include the Lowell Aptman Prizes, for use of the general library collections and services; the Ole R. Holsti Prize, for excellence in the field of political science and public policy research; the Chester P. Middlesworth Award, for research using the primary sources and rare materials held in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library; and the Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, for an outstanding work of creative writing. Winners of these awards receive cash prizes of $1,000 or $1,500 as well as recognition at a reception during Duke’s Family Weekend. This year we wanted to highlight a few of our winners and ask what they planned to do with their winnings.

Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen, a winner of the Lowell Aptman Prize, had a central research question, asking how different communities that face barriers from higher housing rates in the Lower East Side of New York intersect, and how one represents that intersection in art. As an art history major, Jessica was able to further her studies by visiting art galleries in New York that represent these communities. Her research confronting the history of ghettos in New York also allowed her to explore different fields of study – such as urban policy – while reading historical 1920s newspapers provided by the library. Her research resulted in her paper “Post-Modern Folk Chronicler.” Jessica says that she plans to use the prize money to “finally organize [her] life by buying an iPad and Apple pen for note-taking.”

Blaire Zhang (right) with librarian Arianne Hartsell-Gundy

Blaire Zhang might not fit the profile of the typical student who wins the William Rosati Creative Writing Award. She’s a computer science major. Her paper, “Sapiens,” was actually the first creative writing assignment she ever had at Duke, and she managed to have it recognized as one of the top creative writing assignments out of all the undergraduates last semester. The intersection of Blaire’s abilities won’t stop with this award, however. She plans to use the prize money in order to create a digital visualization of her writing.

Jack Bradford (right) with Professor of English Tom Ferraro

Jack Bradford received the Lowell Aptman prize for his honors thesis, “Errand into the Water Closet: Scat and the Making of the American Modernist Novel.” Jack dug his nose into the portrayal of feces in six different novels from the 1920s-1930s. He explains that one can use scatology to view race, gender, and religion throughout these novels. “The modernist novel became the vehicle through which I synthesized an eclectic bibliographical dung heap into a systematic theoretical paradigm,” he quipped.


Valerie Muensterman

Valerie Muensterman’s name might sound familiar. This is now Valerie’s third time to be a recipient of our Rosati Award. Valerie, who studies English and Theater Studies, is a playwright. Last year, when she won for a collection of plays, she told us that she hoped the prize money would provide the opportunity to explore her passion. And that she did! But this time she used her skills to write “Did You Forget Your Name?” a screenplay about a stuttering female protagonist, borrowing from the experiences of her older sister. She uses the protagonist to bring forward her central theme: waiting. While accepting her award, she explained that just as she learned to wait through her sister’s speech, perhaps the slower speech of the protagonist can teach us that we must wait for the most critical moments in life.

Mikaela Johnson (T’20) is an English major and student worker in the Library Development and Communications department.

Complete List of This Year’s Winners

Lowell Aptman Prize
Recognizing excellence in undergraduate research using sources from the Libraries’ general collections

  • First/Second-Year: Veronica Niamba for “The Day Man Stood Still,” nominated by Gray Kidd
  • Third/Fourth-Year: Jessica Chen for “Post-Modern Folk Chronicler,” nominated by Dr. Paul Jaskot
  • Honors Thesis: Jack Bradford for “Errand into the Water Closet,” nominated by Dr. Tom Ferraro

Chester P. Middlesworth Award
Recognizing excellence of analysis, research, and writing in the use of primary sources and rare materials held by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

  • Undergraduate: Sierra Lorenzini for “Fair Haired: Considering Blonde Women in Film and Advertising,” nominated by Dr. Kristine Stiles
  • Graduate: Michael Freeman for “P. Duke Inv. 664R: A Fragmentary Alchemical Handbook,” nominated by Dr. Jennifer Knust

Ole R. Holsti Prize
Recognizing excellence in undergraduate research using primary sources for political science and public policy

  • Amanda Sear for “To Smoke or to Vape? E-cigarette Regulation in the US, the UK, and Canada,” nominated by Dr. Ed Balleisen
  • Yue Zhou for “Learning Languages in Cyberspace: A Case Study of World Languages Courses in State Virtual Public Schools,” nominated by Dr. Leslie Babinski

Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award
Recognizing outstanding undergraduate creative writing

  • Valerie Muensterman for “Did You Forget Your Name?”
  • Caroline Waring for “The Roof”
  • Blaire Zhang for “Sapiens”