Category Archives: Research Tips

Oct. 20th: Oral History Workshop

Date: Friday, October 20, 2017
Time: 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: Rubenstein Library 249 (Carpenter Conference Room)
Contact: Elizabeth Dunn,

Are you interested in creating an oral history of your family, organization, or house of worship? Do you need to do oral histories for your academic research?

In this free workshop–taught by Craig Breaden, the Rubenstein Library’s Audiovisual Archivist–you’ll learn how to select equipment, negotiate rights issues, produce effective interviews, and archive your recordings. You will also receive a guide to the best oral history resources available in print and online.

The workshop is open to all, but registration is required

Flyer for Oral History Workshop

We’re on the Move!


While we at the Rubenstein were unable to commemorate the New Year with a ball (or perhaps pickle?) drop, we do have a lot to be excited for in this newest of years. After a stint on the third floor of Perkins, we’re finally making the trek to our permanent location—a location that while physically close, has occasionally felt as though it were light years away. In July 2015, the staff and collections of the Rubenstein will move (ourselves) home.

Perhaps because we conquered a move once before, we’re feeling ambitious, even a little daring. In addition to moving nearly 18,000 linear feet of onsite material (plus offsite material!), we’re also reclassifying our entire print holdings into a single, unified system: the Library of Congress classification. No longer will we have 120+ different call number systems, ranging from Riess C246I to E F#1275. Now, all our call numbers will follow the same alphanumeric system, one that is used by the larger Duke Libraries system. Here’s how the two call numbers above might be classed in the future:

calll numbers

A brief lesson about Library of Congress classification: those lines of alphanumeric text all have specific meanings outlined the Library of Congress classification schedules and its associated texts. The first lines of letters and numbers (e.g., HV6533) always refer to the subject of the work. In case you were wondering, HV refers to the subject “Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology.” The subsequent lines are then used to provide additional clarity, narrowing in on topics, geographic locations, authors, title, and even formats. The LC classification thus packs a huge amount of information into a scant amount of space.

So how will this help the Rubenstein (and you)? By moving to a single system, we’re making our collections more browsable, both for staff and for researchers. Since every call number has a subject associated with it, we can conduct both granular and broad searches in our catalog (and if you’re staff, in the stacks). We’re also making it easier for our staff to pinpoint the locations of items. With 120+ call numbers, there are lots of pockets in the stacks where an item might live. Library of Congress will not only unify our call number system but will also create stronger shelving practices. There will be a place for everything, and everything in its place.

Some of these advantages won’t be felt until we move into our new space and finish out the reclassification project. Others are already making their presence known. Because our call numbers are now tied to specific subjects, we can use our current data to pinpoint collection strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. We’ve been able to develop some very cool data visualization:

data visualization

While we knew (and probably could have guessed) that a substantial proportion of our print work falls into Language and Literature, other topics are a little more surprising. Who knew we had works about general Agriculture (S), Plant Culture (SB), and Animal Culture (SF)?  I certainly didn’t, but now that I know, I might just be tempted to brush up on my knowledge of farm life.

There’s still a lot to do, but we’re making steady progress in our reclassification project and our many other move preparation projects.  And we’re very happy to say the Rubenstein Library is on the move!

rube on the move

A special thanks to Noah Huffman and Angela Zoss in Data Visualization for creating the incredible visualization featured in this blog post. It’s a real beauty.

 Post contributed by Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator at the Rubenstein. 


New Look for our Homepage

[Update, October 15: Our new website (slated for launch yesterday) isn’t quite ready, but is coming soon.]

As you may have heard and will certainly notice, the Rubenstein Library’s website is getting a new look!  As part of a library-wide website redesign, a new version of Rubenstein Library’s homepage will be launching today.

New Rubenstein Library Homepage


What’s changed?

  • Updates to the tabbed search box on our homepage:
  • Catalog: Search our catalog for both archival collections and print materials
  • Collection Guides: Formerly known as Finding Aids, but you’re still able to search our 2,000+ collection guides which provide provide in-depth descriptions of our archival collections
  • Digitized Collections: Now you can search our digitized collections right from our homepage
  • New location for logging in to your special collections request account and for getting in touch with one of our librarians, both in the upper-right hand corner of our homepage:log in and ask

  • You’ll also find that content throughout our website has been updated to be more current and easier to read.
  • Getting to our homepage from the Duke University Libraries’ main homepage is a little different now too.  Look for us in the header under the “Libraries” dropdown menu:

Main Library Homepage


What hasn’t changed?

  • Requesting Materials.  We’re still using the same online request system that we implemented a year ago that lets you place requests online to use material in our reading room.  Though we do have improved directions for registering as a researcher and requesting material on our new site.

Video Killed the Research Woes

With the Fall Semester well underway, we wanted to let you know about a couple of videos that can make your research at the Rubenstein Library even easier.  For example, not sure where to find us since we moved?

Know that you know where we are and you want to come do research, check out our other videos:

KIC’n It at the Rubenstein Library

As our faithful readers know, back in February we finished moving our collections in preparation for our upcoming renovation, but there is one thing that didn’t make the trip with us: our old photocopier. Instead we’ve upgraded to a KIC Scanner for our reading room. What’s a KIC Scanner?

KIC Scanner
This is a KIC Scanner

It’s a free, self-service scanner that make it easy to produce high resolution color scans. The KIC Scanner can accommodate material up to 17 x 24 inches, and it has an adjustable bed that makes it possible to scan most books without injuring their spines.

You can save your file in a variety of formats including PDF, JPG, and RTF, and for typed or printed material you can also create a searchable PDF. Once you’re done scanning, you can email the resulting files to yourself or save them to a USB flash drive.

Sample Scan
A scan from The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds, made on our KIC scanner

Post Contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian.

New Office Hours for the Medical Center Archives!

Nursing students study in the School of Medicine Library. Courtesy of the Duke University Medical Center Archives.

Nursing students study in the School of Medicine Library. Courtesy of the Duke University Medical Center Archives.

The University Archives has collections from every area of the Duke campus—except the Medical Center. Those materials are collected by the Medical Center Archives, which has an off-campus facility. The location of the office is not far from campus but not easily walkable or accessible by bus.

Recently, however, our friends at the Med Center Archives have started providing regular office hours at the Medical Center Library in the Seeley Mudd Building. Each day from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, they are available on Level 1 in Room 102A to meet with patrons, explain resources, and even (with advance notice) provide access to historical materials.

If you want to make an appointment with a Med Center Archives staff member, you can simply stop by, or contact them at dumc.archives(at) or (919) 660-1144.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

John Hope Franklin’s Grownup School List

We are in the middle of processing the John Hope Franklin Papers, and it has been inspiring to see Franklin’s wide range of intellectual interests and community engagements. He was a very busy man! One recent discovery, mixed in with folded programs and family correspondence, is Franklin’s “Grownup School List,” an all-encompassing list he created of must-reads in African American history. Always a humble scholar, he omitted his own monumental works. We’ve reproduced the Grownup School List here, along with Franklin’s annotations. You can find all of these books, along with Franklin’s own extensive scholarship, online or in the Duke Libraries.

PicMonkey Collage

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.  This is the second in a series of posts on interesting documents in our collections to celebrate Black History Month.

Researching an Important Duke Milestone

Logo for the Commemoration of 50 Years of Black Students at Duke UniversityIn 2013, Duke will mark 50 years since the desegregation of the undergraduate student body.  The campus-wide theme, “Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University” will be woven into annual events, like commencement, reunion, and Founder’s Day, and will also be a topic of reflection through exhibits, speakers, and service opportunities. Working together across the University, this milestone year offers all of us the opportunity to learn more about Duke’s history.

The University Archives has a rich photographic collection, and we have added a number of photos on Flickr as part of the anniversary celebration. They show us moments of protest and performance, as well as celebration. The photographs are featured on a new website dedicated to this fiftieth anniversary commemoration.

The University Archives contains many collections that provide historical context and primary source documentation on the desegregation of the school, the black student experience at Duke, and much more. Interested in diving in? A new guide to conducting research on African-American history at Duke is now available, and the UA staff is glad to consult on particular questions or projects. (Contact us here!)

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.

E-Records in the Reading Room

Special Collections Library reading rooms often require special equipment to view non-traditional record formats such as VHS players, cassette players, microfilm readers, etc. The Rubenstein Library recently welcomed a new piece to the set: a desktop computer.

Rubenstein Library Research Services staff check out the reading room's new e-records computer work station.
Rubenstein Library Research Services staff check out the reading room's new e-records computer work station.

Though public computers have been available in our reference room for a long time to assist in finding and requesting physical materials in the reading room this new machine has been designed to support providing local access to electronic records and audio/video materials.

Some of the materials you can explore on the computer include:

Visit the reading room today and start that e-research!

Post contributed by Seth Shaw, Electronic Records Archivist.

Duke University Archives @ the Internet Archives

Cover of Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859
Cover of the Annual Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859

The recent digitization of many years of the Chanticleer, Duke University’s yearbook, has been a great benefit for both archivists and researchers.

Now, the yearly catalogs, known as Bulletins, are being digitized thanks to the Internet Archive’s Scribe machine located here at the Duke University Libraries. These newly-searchable resources provide more and better access to historical information about Duke University. The catalogs include information like courses offered, of course, but they are also full of other useful facts.

For instance:

  • What was the Trinity College undergraduate tuition for the 1892-1893 academic year (the college’s first year in Durham)? ($25.00 per term)
  • How many bound volumes did the Library contain at the end of the 1923-1924 academic year? (71,520)

In addition, there were specialized catalogs for graduate and professional education, so that someone researching the School of Medicine, for example, can learn more about that program in particular. There are even fun extras like aerial views of campus from the 1930s.

Virtually turning the pages of these historical catalogs provides a wealth of information. In the 1934-1935 Law School bulletin, for example, it lists the current students. One, Richard Milhous Nixon of Whittier, California, was a first-year student at the time. We can also tell from the catalog that school started on September 19 that year, and that “in addition to concert programs, recitals, and lectures, motion pictures are shown in the campus auditorium twice a week.” Sounds like a pretty interesting place to get an education!

Find links to Chanticleers and Bulletins at the Duke University Archives section of the Internet Archive. Additional Bulletins will be digitized in the near future, along with other Duke University resources.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.