Happy Second Birthday Devil’s Tale!

From the Gamble CollectionHappy Belated 2nd Birthday to our sister blog The Devil’s Tale. On October 8, 2009, TDT began their quest for blogging superstar-dom.

Reading The Devil’s Tale is a great way to connect to our special and archival collections as well as to our staff members. TDT’s posts (yeah Amy!) are insightful, educational and often humorous. Yes, librarians do have a sense of humor!

Without The Devil’s Tale, how would you know what new collections have come in? Or what  curious things the staff has found?

We know you want to know more about such things as gangrene and hair, don’t you? Yes you do! Surf on over to The Devil’s Tale and see what’s happening in the wild world of the Rubenstein Library.


Image “Two Betties” from the Sydney D. Gamble Photograph Collection, Rubenestein Library.

Remembering Jan Merrill-Oldham

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of the greats in our field, Jan Merrill-Oldham. Jan passed away peacefully at home on October 5th.

As one colleague put it, “she was a force of nature.” Jan’s influence stretched across generations of preservation librarians and shaped what we know today as modern library and archives preservation practice.

Many stories will be told in the next few days of Jan’s perseverance, dedication, humor and humility. I have many stories myself, and will remember many more as I reflect on her life. The one thing I will always remember about Jan is her willingness to lend an ear even when she, herself, was going through a very difficult time. Jan loved life and she loved her work. She was one of the most dedicated people I know and I’m so thankful to her, and indeed to so many, for taking me under her wing. She will be sorely missed, but we will celebrate her life and then get back to work (and life) because that is what she would have wanted us to do.

Obituary for Jan Merrill-Oldham

Jan Merrill-Oldham died peacefully at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts  on October 5th 2011 . She is survived by her husband Peter Merrill-Oldham of Cambridge, her mother and father, Alice Cecarelli Merrill and James Hershy Merrill of Milford, CT, and her brother James Wallace Merrill of West Haven, CT.

Janice Elaine Merrill was born on May 10, 1947 in Milford Connecticut and lived there until she went to college, spending most of her summers with her grandparents Ed and Esther Trask in East Sumner, ME. She graduated from Jonathan Law High School in Milford in 1965 and from the University of Connecticut in Storrs in 1969. She married Peter Oldham in 1976 in Ashford, CT, and in 1978 they changed their last names to Merrill-Oldham.

As the Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian at Harvard University, Jan directed the Weissman Preservation Center in the Harvard University Library and the Preservation & Imaging Services Department in the Harvard College Library from November 1995 to February 2010. She created and administered a comprehensive program to preserve and enhance access to the 16.5 million volumes and extensive special collections and archives held in Harvard’s more than 70 libraries.

Jan became interested in the preservation of library collections while working in the bindery at the University of Connecticut Library. In 1979, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Yale University Library allowed Jan to undertake formal training in library and archives preservation. She went on to earn a Masters in Library Science from the University of Rhode Island and to establish the University of Connecticut Libraries’ Preservation Department.

Over the course of 30 years, Jan became a recognized national and international leader in the field of library and archives preservation. Eager to learn and insatiably curious, she was an extraordinary teacher, mentor, author and administrator. Early on, her vision for libraries led her to move beyond the work of simply preserving collections to reformatting them for access via the Internet. Jan exercised her formidable powers of persuasion with university administrators, commercial suppliers, and by serving on key committees within the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Information Standards Organization and many others. She authored and edited more than 40 publications.

Jan’s powerful influence within her profession was widely recognized. In 2011, the Association of Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of ALA created a professional development grant in her honor. She also received the ALA/ALCTS Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award (2011), the ALA/PARS Banks Harris Award (1994), a University of Connecticut Distinguished Service Award (1994) and the ALA/PARS Esther Piercy Award (1990).

Jan was one of those rare people who not only changed her profession but also the lives of the many family members, friends and colleagues who came to love and respect her. A memorial ceremony will be held at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday October 15the at 1 pm in the Storey Chapel, followed by a reception celebrating her life at Pete and Jan’s home in Cambridge.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Jan’s memory may be made to the Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd 617.969.6130

The Nominations Are….

This is the time of year to start thinking about nominating your favorite preservation and/or conservation librarian for one of the several awards available from the ALA-ALCTS Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS). There are several available, summed up over on PCAN and listed with other awards over on the ALCTS awards website.

I want to highlight the newest PARS award and ask for your help in getting the word out to students, new preservation librarians, and to preservation programs and their faculty. The Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant rewards the recipient with cash to help defray the cost of attending the ALA Annual Conference.

Throughout her career Jan championed new professionals and supported them by providing internships and jobs. She willingly and quickly took many new professionals, myself included, under her wing and taught them the importance of the work and why preservation matters to the greater academic world and, indeed, to society itself.

We stand on very tall shoulders and would not be successful today without the help of many, many people. What I have found in this profession is a large cadre of very smart, very dedicated and very supportive people who are more than willing to give you their time and advice. Jan is one of these people and I owe her a great number of things. Even now, more than a decade into my career, Jan continues to inspire me and provides her thoughts and advice when I need it.

Jan is humble and shies away from the limelight. But I’m here to say that she is a gem, one of those people that in decades to come we will stand and tell our stories of how Jan helped us through the tough times and supported us through our successes. Please help honor Jan by getting the word out on this new award.

Full disclosure: I am one of two authors of the PCAN blog; I was an intern for Harvard College Libraries with Nancy Schrock (another person to whom I owe so much), worked for Jan and Pamela Spitzmueller (yet another mentor) in the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard, and I and two other librarians developed the JMO Award.

What We Find In Books: Leaves of Grass (and other formerly green things)

This book was sent down to Conservation for an enclosure. Inside were many, many pressed leaves and bits of ferns. We couldn’t leave them in the text as they were staining the paper, but we were hesitant to just remove them due to their provenance. Jennifer devised this clever solution to removing the leaves but saving the information about where they were in the book.

Each set of leaves was encapsulated with a tag that says where in the book they were found. The set of encapsulations are inside a small folder, and both the folder and book are inside a beautiful new box.

For more images from the Conservation lab, visit our Flickr site.

Duke University Libraries Preservation