Happy Retirement, Debbie!

Debra (Debbie) Taylor is retiring from Duke University Libraries after over 45 years (!) of service to Duke University. Thank you, Debbie!

First, we hear from Debbie herself, reflecting on her time at Duke:

Debbie Taylor portrait on blueCelebrating retirement as a Library Assistant. A person who stops at nothing to achieve her goals. Known to be full of joy, full of energy, and an immense love for people.

I have had the honor of being at Duke University for 45 plus years working in various departments. As much as I have enjoyed my time working here at Duke, it is now time for me to embark on my next adventure. I am excited to be able to spend more time with my family and friends.

In all sincerity, I will miss seeing smiling faces of my colleagues and friends, and although I am retiring from Duke University, I find joy and solace in taking your friendships with me. It has been an incredible journey. As the saying goes, our professional lives are filled with people usually who come and go. Personally for me, I will always hold in my heart everyone that I have met along my Duke journey. I am so grateful for all the times my colleagues and I have worked together. My colleagues have always been such an inspiring and an admirable group; just like family from the very beginning.

Debbie office portrait

To all my lunch friends, your kindness and your friendships have been such a blessing to experience. All of my experiences, filled with lots of laughter and fun, I will take with me and treasure the years we have worked together. Time has passed us by so fast. It seems like only yesterday when we all met and became a family. There are times where I ask myself, “Where did all those years go at Perkins Library and Smith Warehouse?” As time continues to move, the memories that I have of my Duke family will remain steadfast in my heart. I am grateful. Thank you, Duke University, for an incredible journey. I would like to leave this special word with everyone,



And of course, her colleagues wanted to share a few words in congratulations:

Virginia Martin:

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Debbie better over the past few years after she joined the CRA department. When I think about Debbie, what stands out to me the most is how much love and kindness she offers to others, whether it be her family, friends, or colleagues. She is generous with her time and energy, always willing to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. I will definitely miss the positive energy that Debbie brings to Smith every day. Earlier this year, when she returned to the office after a couple of months away, we all noticed the change in office vibe –

Party picture for Debbie

Debbie was back! And somehow Smith was more lively and fun. With 45 years of service, however, Debbie deserves a break. I hope that the next magazine she picks up is one that she is taking to the beach!

Bethany Blankemeyer:

Even though we only worked together for a short period of time, Debbie made such an impact on my time here at Duke. From day one she made me feel welcome and comfortable. I always enjoyed checking in and chatting with her about her family or her time here at Duke. Debbie is such a kind and thoughtful colleague and she will be greatly missed here at Smith! I wish her a happy and restful retirement filled with lots of family time!

Abby Wickes:

From the first time I met Debbie during my interview with the department, I remember her being incredibly friendly and welcoming. She’s a gracious colleague who checks in on teammates regularly. She was particularly thoughtful this past year when I was expecting, always asking “how y’all doing?” whenever I’d see her. I’ll really miss seeing Debbie around Smith, and I wish her lots of fun and relaxation during this exciting next chapter!

Antha Marshall: Party photo with Debbie and Antha

Debbie began working in the Acquisitions Department in Perkins Library in 1980.  It has been a pleasure to have worked with her all these years.  Getting to know Debbie’s family as well has been wonderful.  We recall how much fun we have had through the years attending DULSA parties for Halloween and Christmas and birthday parties for co-workers.  Debbie will be missed!  I wish her much happiness and joy as she retires!

Adam Hudnut-Beumler:

Working with Debbie has been a complete joy. Even though we only got to overlap in our department for a little over a year it feels like much longer because Debbie’s innate kindness made me feel so welcome right away. I have met few people in my life as reliable and resilient as Debbie Taylor. In truth, Debbie is a model colleague, friend, and person. We will all miss Debbie and the frequent loving stories of her tight-knit and talented family greatly, but I am happy Debbie will have even more time to spend with that very special family!

Debbie at field dayDebbie party 2

Thank you for everything, Debbie!

Catch Three Lobed Recordings at the Music Library

Logo for Three Lobed  Monographic Acquisitions recently undertook the pleasurable task of acquiring numerous LPs and CDs released by the North Carolina independent record label Three Lobed Recordings. Cory Rayborn (’98) is a Duke grad and corporate attorney based in Jamestown, NC, (just outside of Greensboro) who, for the past two decades, has also run one of the most esteemed underground record labels going. With a keen attention to design, and an ongoing impressive roster of artists, Three Lobed has set a standard that is bolstered by every new release. This has especially come into relief as the label turns 21 this year and is celebrating with a festival  on April 14-16, 2022,  by Duke Performances. Working directly with Rayborn, and sourcing elsewhere as needed, we were able to purchase a large chunk of the Three Lobed catalog in advance of the upcoming celebration and festival. Let’s take a closer look at just three of the releases in the Three Lobed catalog, which patrons can find at the Music Library or listen to immediately via Bandcamp links.

Sonic Youth:  In/Out/In (At the Music Library | On Bandcamp) Album cover for Sonic Youth In/Out/In
Perhaps no other band in the Three Lobed catalog is as known or esteemed as the mighty Sonic Youth. These 5 tracks are culled from studio outtakes during their last years of recording, 2000-2010. Call them “jams” if you like, but these mostly instrumental tracks find the group extending and exploring in the studio with always compelling results. ‘Social Static’, especially, recalls the series of more experimental recordings that the band released on their own Sonic Youth Records imprint.

Album cover for Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore Ghost ForestsMeg Baird and Mary Lattimore:  Ghost Forests (At the Music Library | On Bandcamp)
These two prolific stalwarts and friends collaborated for the first time on this 2018 release. Meg Baird has numerous recordings that can best be described as modern folk, whether solo or in the groups Espers and Heron Oblivion. Mary Lattimore is an experimental harpist who is continually pushing the boundaries and possibilities of her instrument, via loops and avant techniques. Together they created this beautiful, pastoral and engaging album, full of the best of their sounds and approaches.

Daniel Bachman:  River (At the Music Library | On Bandcamp) Album cover for Daniel Bachman River
Solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar that the former Durham resident refers to as “psychedelic Appalachia”. Bachman really came into his on with this 2015 release, evoking the classic sounds of the American Primitive style of playing and pushing his own sound and take further. He also covers a tune by the late Jack Rose (‘Levee’), another artist with several Three Lobed releases, who tragically passed away in 2009. You can find more Rose recordings here: https://jackrose.bandcamp.com/

For more information, and an interview with Rayborn, see this recent Duke Arts post: “Q&A with Cory Rayborn ’98, Founder & Manager, Three Lobed Recordings
Tickets are still on sale for some of the festival sessions. See the roster and learn more via Duke Performances: THREE LOBED RECORDINGS 21ST ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL
And for further reading, here’s a post from the Indy Week about the label and fest: “For Artists at Three Lobed Recordings, Its Durham Festival Is Another Family Reunion

Sharing: Resources on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

In Technical Services, our jobs revolve around obtaining and making available information and resources. Right now, we can’t think of more important information to share than this vital post by our esteemed colleague, Ernest Zitser, with reliable sources of news, scholarship and places to take action. Ernest, thank you for your hard work – with you, we wish to work towards a peaceful resolution to this conflict, as soon as possible.

Logo and title for IAS blog: Been All Around This World

Resources on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Happy Retirement, Jean!

Jean Hall and friends in 1994

Join us in wishing a hearty congratulations to Jean Hall on her retirement this month! Jean is nothing short of an institution at DUL and Technical Services, and is retiring after a career of 45 years. Take it away, Jean:

“I started on January 27, 1977. I had just graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration in December 1976.  I worked all of my 45 years in the Acquisitions department.

I started out as a clerk typist in Acquisitions. I typed up all of the purchase orders from the professors. Somewhere down the line my position was upgraded to a library assistant. I was in the accounting unit at one time. I even learned how to write computer programs for accounting.  I was upgraded to a library assistant senior at one point.  Over the years, I have processed approval book and firm order books.  I really enjoyed working with the Weinberg approval books. I couldn’t speak Hebrew, but I had fun matching up some of the Hebrew books to the Hebrew characters on the invoice.

I was one of the first group of library workers to organize the Ergonomic Committee in the library.Jean Hall and friends at a retirement party

I also bowled in the Duke Blue Devils Bowling League.  I was given the nickname Mean Jean the Bowling Machine.

As I start this new chapter in my life, the first thing that I will do on Monday morning, is to sleep past 5:00am. I will have to remember to turn off my alarm clock.”

An impressive list of roles and experiences for sure, Jean will be missed (though if there’s ever a bowling league again we are bringing her back as coach)!


One of Jean’s colleagues over these many years has been Antha Marshall, who shared a few words about Jean:

“Jean was born at Duke Hospital and continues to live in Durham.  She is a graduate of Durham High School and played in the band.  Jean remembers how downtown Durham was from the late 50’s through the early 70’s before there were many malls.  Most of the department stores were located in downtown. She and I frequently reminisce about Belks, Amos & Andy’s hotdogs, Five Points, and the sweet fragrance of cured tobacco in downtown.

Jean belonged to a bowling league that included her parents.  She and her family would often travel to bowling competitions in other states.  It was always interesting to hear her describe different parts of the United States that she had traveled to and also a variety of musical groups, such as Alabama, that she got to hear.  When Jean first heard the group Alabama, at Myrtle Beach, SC, they had not yet become famous.

Jean is an expert at processing Hebrew materials.  She would lend her expertise to anyone that had a question regarding an invoice, a vendor of Hebrew material, or a book.

I wish Jean much happiness in her retirement!”

We wish you all the best Jean, enjoy retirement and don’t forget to turn that alarm off!

INSIST! – Black activist voices in Music, pt.7

The links in this post may be considered indecent, obscene or offensive, listener discretion is advised.

Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap coverThanks Christina Manzella for the last Insist post all about Lizzo, that was great! For this latest post we turn our focus to the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap, a sprawling 9-CD and hardback book release that begins with the Fatback Band in 1979 and concludes with Drake in 2013. This massive set was being discussed and dissed extensively before it even became available. Everyone had canonical statements to make, omissions to argue, selections to challenge, and inclusions to debate, and the anthology serves as the jumping off point for this seventh post in the Insist series.

In the spirt of debate and alternate choices spurred by the box set itself, this post is about choosing representative artists from the anthology but presenting different songs to match with the theme of this blog series. There are myriad tracks and artists to choose from to fit this purpose, and I welcome any and all nit-picking about what could have been included. So, without further ado, here are three tracks not actually on the anthology but very much in the mode of Insist – Black Activist Voices in Music!

Public Enemy-Apocalypse 91 album coverNo strangers to controversy and militant political statements, Public Enemy ratcheted up their rage even higher with their fourth album ‘Apocalypse 91…the Enemy Strikes Black’. Almost any cut on the album could work for our purposes here but none hits quite as hard or mercilessly as ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’.

Riffing on the name of the similarly titled Jimmy Webb tune (The definitive version of which was done by Isaac Hayes. Argue THAT!) and featuring a nasty and perfect sample of the Mandrill song ‘Two Sisters of Mystery’ by the Bomb Squad, the song pulls no punches in criticizing the decision of the Arizona (and New Hampshire) governor to rescind the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. And if the lyrics don’t get the point across then check out the video, in which Chuck D and the S1Ws are depicted murdering a senator and other white male politicians in Arizona. If you want more from these masters of political hip-hop then don’t miss both ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ and ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back’.

Mos Def-The Ecstatic album coverMos Def and Slick Rick are both hip hop legends, and well represented on the box, but this oddball (maybe not that odd, as Mos Def and Talib Kweli did a version of Slick Rick’s ‘Children’s Story’ on their Black Star album) pairing from 2009 is on another level, both politically and sonically. Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey) released ‘The Ecstatic’ as somewhat of a comeback album and Slick Rick…..well, Slick Rick is easily one of the most singular and beloved rappers of all time. ‘Auditorium’ features an Eastern-tinged backing track by producer extraordinaire Madlib and a superbly poetic and conscious first verse from Mos Def. But then Slick Rick appears, and anyone expecting some La-di-da-di party rap is in for a surprise as instead “The Ruler” drops an amazing Iraq-war themed verse in which he inhabits a persona of himself as a US solider on a 15-month tour of duty. Encountering a “young Iraqi kid” carrying laundry, the narrator asks what’s wrong and if he’s hungry and the reply is  “No, gimme my oil or get the [f*ck] out my country”. It is a disorienting, succinct and real-time commentary on the folly and destruction of the war and the effects on both Iraqis and the invading soldiers.

Dead Prez-Let's Get Free album coverNo other modern hip-hop group is so consistently and unrelentingly political as Dead Prez (okay, sure, The Coup takes that crown) and one of their toughest tracks is ‘Police State’ from their 2000 debut ‘Let’s Get Free’. There’s no shortage of police commentary content to choose from (for starters see the anthology-included ‘Fuk Tha Police’ by NWA or KRS-One’s ‘Sound of da Police’), and this indictment starts with the police but goes way beyond to advocate for socialism and revolution. With vocal sample bookends, by Omali Yeshitela (founder of the Uhuru movement) at the beginning and Fred Hampton and an unknown speaker at the end, the duo of Stic.man and M-1 leave no doubts about the injustices they see and where they stand: “I throw a Molotov cocktail at the precinct, You know how we think”.

A Virtual Conference: Black Communities 2021

Text image: Black Communities Conference 2021: the Virtual Experience

After viewing the 2021 Black Communities Conference (BCC), presented by the University of North Carolina via Zoom, I felt thoroughly enlightened and was inspired to share my experience.  Held from March 15th to the 24th, the conference featured roundtable discussions, collaborative attendee sessions, and talks by filmmakers and authors.  From their website at https://blackcommunities.unc.edu/2021/index.php/about-us/ : 

“The Black Communities Conference, a.k.a. #BlackCom, is a vibrant and uniquely important gathering featuring panel discussions, local tours, film screenings, workshops, keynotes, and more.  Our core mission is to foster collaboration among Black communities and universities for the purpose of enhancing Black community life and furthering the understanding of Black communities.” 

When the UNC Institute of African American Research and the UNC Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise created the BCC in 2018, their goal was to bring black community leaders from across the African diaspora that were concerned about the future of their communities together with academics from a broad range of disciplines that were also interested in black communities; either because of their research focus, the work they were doing, or because of something unique and special in their goals that was particularly important to these communities. 


Here are just a few of the presentations that I attended: 

Are Anti-Racist Public Schools Possible? 

What would it take to create a school culture that affirms the value of Black life?  Is achieving that culture possible within the American public education system?  This roundtable discussion of four researchers and educators from around the U.S. featured questions such as these. 

While the panelists debated the possibility of an anti-racist public school, the general consensus was that such schools were achievable, with several conditions.  For instance, an anti-racist school could not be predominantly white as diversity is essential in such a system.  Also, the creation of this school or system would have to start as a local initiative, mainly because there are different layers and intensities of racism across America.  Plus, the system’s formation would be a hard-fought battle that could take years on the national level. 

Additionally, panelist Dr. Carol D. Lee (Founder of the Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools (BSICS, https://www.bsics.org/), and Professor Emeritus of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University) mentioned that white supremacy is a huge spider-web of assumptions.  As such, anti-racism culture does not always have to push for the same mindset of western society in education and elsewhere.  For example, at BSICS, educators use an African-centered education that incorporates African cultural elements and influences found on each continent into every aspect of the school environment and curriculum.  From their website, “From inception, our school has consistently produced exemplary, high achieving students who have self-confidence, a strong sense of cultural identity, and a commitment to make positive contributions to their community and the world.” 

Another example came from panelist Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock, co-founder and lead curator of the non-profit “We Are” (which stands for “working to extend anti-racist education”).  From their website at https://www.weare-nc.org/ , We Are is an “organization that provides anti-racism training for children, families, and educators.”  In Bullock’s words, it is almost like a school for children activists.  Staff at We Are disrupt the biases in small children, and teach them to use their power even in elementary school. 


Film Talkback – “Black Ice” 

In this presentation, filmmaker Johnathan “Malik” Martin discussed his documentary film “Black Ice”.  The movie follows a group of black youth from Memphis, Tennessee who take an unexpected excursion with rock climbing instructors to the mountains of Montana, where mentors Manoah Ainuu, Conrad Anker and Fred Campbell teach them how to ice climb.  A brief story behind the film is available from CBS This Morning: 

The youth start from Memphis Rox (https://www.memphisrox.org/about-us/), a rock-climbing gym in South Memphis, which according to Martin is one of the poorest zip codes in America.  But the gym is more than a place to practice their climbing skills.  It also serves as a community center where no one is turned away regardless of ability to pay, where people give back to the community by giving food, clothes, and volunteer time. 

Once in Montana, the film documents the joy, struggles, and triumphs of the climbers as they come face-to-face with a frozen wilderness for the first time in their lives.  For many of the climbers, the expedition was their first time outside of Memphis.  For Martin, the trip was his first time out of Memphis, his first time on a plane, and his first time to ice climb. 

During the movie discussion at the BCC, Martin said that “Black Ice” is a film that shows the humanity of people from black neighborhoods.  It’s a film that knocks down barriers. 


Future of the Black Commons 

The genesis of this roundtable discussion came from extensive news coverage in Summer 2020 of the Freedom Georgia Initiative (FGI, http://thefreedomgeorgiainitiative.com/), a group of Black Georgians who purchased 100 acres of land to start their own community.  The session featured Ashley Scott, Vice-President of FGI, as well as other researchers and activists who discussed histories of Black place-making as well as the future for Black self-reliance through community building and connections to land. 

According to Scott, the FGI brings back a culture of ownership of land as well as empowerment, healing, and taking accountability for their own community.  Their vision includes food sovereignty, sustainability, and building in a way that’s environmentally friendly.  From these goals, they are able to allow the land to tell them when the community is ready to include more people. 

FGI also has their own government base as a company.  In other words, while FGI serves as a government internally, to the outside they are a company with lawyers and bylaws. 

The discussion session also included Dr. Kofi Boone, University Faculty Scholar and Professor of Landscape Architecture at NC State University, who mentioned that there has been up to $300 billion of land loss in black communities since the 20th century.  This is partially due to a lack of knowledge of black spaces and communities. 

Entrepreneur Patricia Zoundi Yao talked about her ambitious project Canaan Land (https://canaanland.africa/en/canaan-land/) – a sustainable agriculture social enterprise in Côte d’Ivoire.  Its ultimate goal is to feed West Africa by developing its model of local, sustainable agriculture that benefits small producers, with priority given to women on small farms in difficult situations.  Canaan Land provides them with a complete assistance service: cultivable land, tools and inputs, training and access to markets.  In Yao’s words, she would like Canaan Land to be a “paradise for rural women in West Africa.”  Through the implementation of this program, she has seen a change in the economy, education, and quality of life for these farmers. 

While the session included a discussion of many factors that will influence the future of the black commons, one overarching point was that the black community is not just facing a problem of amassing wealth.  Instead, the larger issue is the lack of keeping and maintaining wealth.  And not just capital wealth, but land value, educational wealth, and cultural wealth.  Programs such as the Freedom Georgia Initiative and Canaan Land are well designed to address this issue. 

Climbing Your Family Tree: Genealogy Resources Available to the Duke Community

Genealogy word cloudInterested in researching your family history, but don’t know how to start? Wondering whether or not Duke University Libraries has any resources to help you find your ancestors? Jacquie Samples (Head, Metadata and Discovery Strategy) and Lesley Looper (Team Lead, Bindery & Monograph Maintenance) have been working collaboratively to update and maintain Duke University Libraries’ Family History & Genealogy Research Guide to help members of the Duke community navigate their genealogy journey!

Below are some highlights:

One of Duke Libraries’ genealogy resources is a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition, accessible with your Duke NetID and password. Resources within Ancestry Library Edition include U.S. Census records, vital records, military records, and immigration records. Additional resources include city directories, school yearbook photos, and some newspaper obituaries.

HeritageQuest Online is another online database available through the DUL online catalog, thanks to NCLive. (It is also available through other libraries across North Carolina.) Available resources include U.S. Indian Census Rolls, Agricultural and Industrial Schedules, and the U.S. Freedman’s Bank Schedule- 1861-1875.

In addition to these and other databases, like America’s Historical Newspapers, World Newspaper Archive, and others available with a Duke login, there are several online resources available to everyone, regardless of Duke affiliation. Favorites include FindaGrave, Cyndi’s List, and the National Archives Resources for Genealogists. Google and Google Translate are also helpful resources.

Duke University Libraries also has print and online books and serials, as well as videos, related to genealogy. One interesting collection is several seasons of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Other genealogy resources within DUL can be discovered by searching here.

Since Jacquie and Lesley began updating the Family History & Genealogy Guide, they have enjoyed presenting these resources and more to various groups within the Duke community, including a Duke Libraries Lunch & Learn, a DiversifyIT Brown Bag session, and most recently, an undergraduate Public Policy class. They also host a Microsoft Teams group, Genealogy@Duke, for genealogists of all experience levels within the Duke community.

INSIST! – Black activist voices in Music, pt.6

I was so pleased when Bill and Stephen began this series, and I especially enjoyed reading about one of my all-time favorite artists, Nina Simone. Music frequently serves as a source of inspiration for listeners. It can bring people together around a common cause. At times though, and sometimes more important than this call to action, music can serve as a much-needed source of comfort. Therefore, I asked if I could contribute a post focused not only on activism in the traditional, outwardly-directed sense, but also on what I think of as activism on a more personal level. To that end, when I think of music centered on knowing one’s worth and demanding respect from others, one artist inevitably comes to mind, and that artist is Lizzo.

Years before she garnered mainstream success, Lizzo released her debut Lizzobangers. Songs like “Be Still” and “T-Baby” (short for tar baby) reference the difficulties she faced in those early years trying to make it as an artist, namely her experiences with houselessness and food insecurity. Numerous tracks speak to the experience of living in a world that devalues blackness, women, and bodies that have never been and will never be a sample size. These themes continue in Lizzo’s second studio album, Big Grrrl Small World. From the opening song “Ain’t I,” a reference to a speech by the abolitionist Sojourner Truth, to the penultimate track “My Skin,” Lizzo reveals to us her confidence while also highlighting the long journey it takes for so many of us to overcome self-doubt. The world does not often know how to handle such brazen self-assuredness from a bigger-bodied black woman, and, luckily for her listeners, Lizzo could not care less.*

cover of Lizzo's Coconut Oil album The final album I want to address in this post is my personal favorite, her 2016 EP Coconut Oil. While her earlier and, tragically, lesser-known music spoke of struggle—both personal and more broadly—this six-track EP exudes joy in its reminder to take care of ourselves. In “Scuse Me” and “Coconut Oil,” we find self-love anthems. With lyrics like “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen” in the former and “Don’t worry ’bout the small things, I know I can do all things” in the latter, Lizzo exudes a sort of self-assuredness toward which we all strive. Furthermore, she stresses that, if we can love ourselves, then we know just how deserving of others’ love we are, as illustrated in the lyrics of “Worship” and her first big single, “Good as Hell.” Activism, whether it entails fighting for the collective or for oneself, is exhausting. This EP provides us with that brief break necessary to avoid burnout and to practice a little self-care.

Of course, if you are completely unfamiliar with Lizzo, go ahead and start with her most recent album Cuz I Love You, which you can borrow from the Music Library here. Do yourself a favor though, and go back and stream all her earlier releases.

*I wanted to include an addendum after the online bullying that occurred in response to the release of Lizzo’s most recent music video. In stating that the singer “could not care less,” I am in no way implying that she is unfazed by the racist and fatphobic comments she receives online and in the media. The confidence that Lizzo displays in her lyrics and her media presence is something to which so many of us aspire, and I hope this post illustrates my gratitude to her for that.