INSIST! – Black Activist Voices in Music, pt.3

Eugene McDaniels' ‘Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse’ album cover

Picking up from Bill’s last post concerning the titular album for this series, we proceed ahead to the year 1971 and this stone classic of Black Consciousness from Eugene McDaniels.

McDaniels, already a singer and songwriter of much renown, shifted from using Gene back to his given Eugene in the late 60s, along with establishing a much more political and revolutionary bent to his music (and with moving back to the US after residing in Scandinavia for a spell). This update to his sounds first came most prominently in the form of ‘Compared to What’ in 1969 (though written in 1966).

By then, a standard of sorts, the tune became a hit for Les McCann (who McDaniels had been affiliated with since the beginning of the decade) and Eddie Harris on their smash live album ‘Swiss Movement’. The version remains the quintessential one:

‘Outlaw’, from 1970, was the first album-length foray for McDaniels into this new style, but it was the following year’s ‘Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse’ that set a standard for funk/jazz/rock protest music. And even though it sat un-reissued until the early 00s, the album (originally released on Atlantic) somehow allegedly caught the attention of silly Spiro Agnew on its release, which helped curtail promotion and distribution. The entire album is a stunning commentary, with unassailable musical chops, but one track in particular stands out on listening in 2020 and that is ‘Supermarket Blues’:

The narrator simply tries to exchange his mislabeled can of pineapple and very quickly the full blunt reality of life in America bears down and all hell breaks loose, demonstrating the tightrope on which he constantly walks.

Totally as a side-mention, Eugene McDaniels remains the phraser par-excellence of ‘Goddamn’ in song, with apologies to Miss Simone. Any potential blasphemy aside and forgiven, his emphatic usage of the term/phrase in both ‘Compared to What’ and ‘Supermarket Blues’ serves to set both songs a bit more on edge and drills the seriousness of their situations more into being. For a further example of the use of the phrase, and a sound/style also similar to McDaniels, check out this Chicago underground track from 1973 from a group called Boscoe:

One cut from ‘Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse’ is on the box set ‘What It Is: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves’ CD is available from Duke University Libraries’ Music Library, here, with all other tracks currently active on Spotify and YouTube.  Also, the album is partly well-known and regarded for the bounty of samples it supplied to hip hop tracks. Which, on that note and speaking of sampling, expect near-future posts to head in that direction…

INSIST! – Black Activist Voices in Music, pt.2

As promised in our last post, today’s post highlights an album that features, among other stellar musicians, the vocalist Abbey Lincoln, in a performance that at times can sound haunting and plaintive and at others embodies the rage and frustration felt by Black Americans during the (first) height of the Civil Rights Struggle.

We Insist! – Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite is one of the seminal recordings of activist jazz (and is the album from which our humble blog series takes its name). The album emerged from a joint project between Max Roach, one of the most significant drummers in jazz history and a lifelong civil rights activist, and Oscar Brown, a singer and lyricist also deeply involved in Black rights issues. The original intent of the project was to commemorate the 1963 centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, but after the 1960 Greensboro Sit-Ins, Max Roach felt a sense of urgency about contributing his voice and vision (both comparatively more radical than those of Oscar Brown) to the Civil Rights movement. As seen in the above picture, the cover of the album featured a picture of three of the Greensboro Four seated at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, making explicit the connection between the event and the art it inspired.

And wow – the art! The musicians on this record represented what at the time were both straight-ahead hard bop royalty (Max Roach and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, most significantly) and members of an emerging progressive sound (notably the always amazing Booker Little on trumpet and Julian Priester on trombone). This album would be an early step in the ongoing intertwining of the jazz Avant Garde and Black Activism, future examples of which we’ll no doubt get to. (Eh, Stephen?)

Abbey Lincoln’s impassioned delivery of Oscar Brown’s lyrics enhances many of the pieces, but most stirring is her wordless vocals, delivered alternately in tones of sadness, anger, and hope, in the piece “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”:

Streaming versions of this record are unfortunately scarce. None of DUL’s online music services offer the recording (as far as Stephen and I can tell), and it’s not available through any of the standard commercial streaming services such as Spotify or Googleplay or, like, FaceTunze or whatever.

Maddeningly, the physical disc seems currently to be out of print, though thanks to Laura and Stephen, our fine Music Library does hold a copy (linked above in the main text of the post).

You can stream the whole album on YouTube, though. It’s a tough, gut-punch of a listen, but inspiring and motivating nonetheless.

We should also point out that many, many articles have been written on this important recording, not a few of which are available in full text versions online via the DUL catalog. We looked at many of these, including this piece. (Also, yes we looked at Wikipedia. We’re lazy.)

Stephen, what do we have up next? I’m excited to see what you’ve picked out for us…

INSIST! – Black Activist Voices in Music, pt.1

During the recent 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge to DUL staff made by the Racial Justice Task Force, my fellow MonoACQ-er, Stephen Conrad, and I had a number of conversations about Black activist voices in music. This was partly inspired by Stephen’s work with Laura Williams to expand diversity within DUL’s music holdings, and partly due to the fact that the two of us turn to music as a way both to make sense of, and push back against, what we see in our country right now.

We thought it might be nice to replicate and continue that conversation here in Signal Boost. We’re going to do an open-ended run of (very) short posts highlighting tracks of interest. These will be in no particular order and likely will bounce around various genres.

As our first post below will demonstrate, we’ll be delving into the history of Black activism in music, but we’ll be careful not to limit ourselves to sounds of the past. Activism is a thriving part of contemporary music, and we’ll want to highlight that. When we can point to DUL holdings we will, and for emerging voices we’ll do our best to link to sources that benefit artists directly.

We’d love it if anyone else who is interested would join the conversation, either by guest-writing a post or simply by sending us suggestions!

Before jumping in, we’ll note a couple of facts that are glaringly obvious. First and foremost, as two white men we should acknowledge that, while we align ourselves with the voices we’ll be representing, our innate privilege allows us to experience these works of art basically from a position of fandom. To pretend otherwise would be an affront to those who have experienced the struggles from which these voices emerge.

And speaking of being fans, we’ll also point out that neither of us is an historian, a musicologist, or any kind of expert in the music we’ll discuss. We’re just two dudes talking about records. (Because, you know, the world doesn’t have enough of that already.)

So, Stephen, how about if I go first?

For both of us (and, I’ll note, for our fearless leader Dracine who immediately yelled the title of this song when told of our plans for this series), the first piece that comes to mind when thinking of Black activism in music is of course Strange Fruit, as sung hauntingly by Billie Holiday:

This blunt confrontation against the practice of lynching is, to my mind at least, one of the keystones of protest music. It sounds just as raw and sadly relevant today as it did when it was originally recorded in 1939. Its horrific imagery and anti-racist boldness almost ensured that it was never recorded. Columbia Records refused to record the song for Billie Holiday, as did her producer at the time, John Hammond. Only smaller label Commodore had the courage to do so.

Cover Image Billie Holiday cafe society and an early cry for civil rightsThe story of Strange Fruit’s being adapted from a poem and of Billie Holiday’s early performances of it, as well as the impact it had at the time and throughout subsequent decades, are detailed in two resources held by DUL:

  • The book Strange Fruit : Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an early cry for civil rights (online; print)
  • The documentary “Strange Fruit.”, directed by Joel Katz, streaming via Alexander Street Press here.   The DVD is available from Duke University Libraries Lilly Library, here.

(Stephen, you may notice that one of the artists featured in the documentary is Abbey Lincoln, who will figure prominently in our next post…)

Betsy Sorrell Retires after 40 Years of Dedicated Service

Betsy Sorrell with her Firefigher Monkey in her Smith Warehouse cube
Betsy’s cube mate, Firefighter Monkey, reminds her of her firefighter husband. Sadly, Firefighter Monkey has not volunteered to stay after her retirement!

As Betsy Sorrell celebrates her 40th year at Duke University Libraries, she is also retiring on October 23! We’ll certainly miss her work in Shelf Preparation Section, as well as her kind spirit and wonderful sense of humor!  All of TS will miss hearing her signature statement, “It’s gonna be allllright!”

Betsy’s Career

Betsy started on December 22, 1980 in the Marking and Repair Unit in Technical Services. One of her early tasks was learning how to use (and clean) the pasting machine. She wasn’t very impressed with that pasting machine, and considered quitting! Well, thank goodness for us, she stuck with it. (Tenacity is one of Betsy’s strong points—she doesn’t give up easily, and has a great attitude about her work!) She started out as a part-time Library Clerk for the first year, then switched with a full-time colleague who wanted to work a part-time schedule.

Over the years, Betsy has gained responsibility on the job, as her position has been upgraded from Library Clerk to Library Assistant to Library Assistant Sr. Her duties have grown, as the name of her unit has changed over the years to better describe the work of Betsy and her colleagues. Betsy started her career in Marking and Repair, which later changed to Materials Processing Unit (or MPU), and last, but not least, Shelf Preparation Section. Betsy’s early duties included typing call number labels on a typewriter, in addition to using the pasting machine that almost sent her jobhunting again! Now Betsy processes a variety of materials, from monographs to DVDs, as well as prepping the YBP shelf-ready materials for delivery to circulation points across campus.

Betsy’s Personal Milestones

Since Betsy’s been at Duke Libraries, she’s gotten married, had two children, and now two darling grandsons who think their “Nana” is the best!

 What Betsy’s Liked the Most about Working at DUL

Betsy has enjoyed learning new things throughout her career, including keeping up with all the new technology over the 40-year span of her career. (No more pasting machines or typewriters!)

But most of all, though, Betsy’s enjoyed getting to know her DUL colleagues, and I have to say that the feeling’s mutual. We’ve really enjoyed knowing Betsy over the years, and we will miss her hard work ethic and fun sense of humor!

And last but not least, here are some comments about Betsy from last week’s DUL Career Service Awards ceremony, captured from the Zoom chat:

  • Thank you, thank you, Betsy! You’ve seen a lot and been an essential part of the Libraries. Thank you for staying with us for 40 years! All the best to you in retirement!
  • My heart is melting and I really want Betsy to stay! 🙂
  • Betsy is the best!
  • Congratulations, Betsy!
  • Wow, Betsy! Congratulations!
  • Congratulations, Betsy! I am going to miss you and the joy and happiness you bring to us in DULTS every day.
  • Congratulations Betsy! I wish you the best, enjoy your retirement! We will miss you lots!
  • I remember Betsy and I filing cards in the public catalog every week. She made a tedious job a lot more pleasurable. I’ll miss you.
  • Congrats, Betsy! Thanks so much for your work and your kindness. I was always happy to see you at Smith.
  • Congratulations, Betsy!! It’s a remarkable career, and I hope you have a wonderful retirement!
  • Congratulations Betsy!! Enjoy retirement!
  • WOW Congrats Betsy….great working with you …..her favorite words…..HEY SHUGG! Enjoy retirement.
  • Congratulations Betsy! We will miss your amazing spirit at DULTS!
  • Congrats Betsy, I will miss you more than you know!
  • You go girrl!
  • And for endearing nicknames when she says hello. “Hey, shug!”

Smith in the Time of COVID (Or, How I Learned to Keep Worrying but Love the Locked Door)

After months of lockdown during which most print-based workflows were interrupted, many of the Duke University Libraries Technical Services staff recently returned to glorious Smith Warehouse as part of Phase II of the Return to Work plan:

Never have we been so happy to see Brick Prison

We are pleased to report that almost immediately our working lives went back to normal, with no inconveniences, disruptions, slowdowns, or meltdowns!

Or, wait, let me check my notes…


That is not what happened. In fact, like all DUL staff we have had to change almost everything about how we do our work in order to continue to get resources to our patrons while maximizing safety for our staff.

Only about 50% of our staff were approved to return to Smith. Included were only those whose work involves the processing of incoming physical material for Duke Libraries’ collections and by necessity must be done on-site. This included members of:

Shelf Prep

Cheerful even in the time of COVID!

Continuing Resource Acquisitions

Hard at work *and* mask-fashionable

Monograph Acquisitions

He’s smiling under there, honest

In advance of the staff’s return, Tech Services department heads reviewed the workstation layout in Bays 9 & 10, reconfiguring it like callous deities so that we could have at least one vacant cubicle on all sides of any single occupied workstation. In some cases, this meant that we had to uproot our staff from their comfy, familiar desks and send them somewhere new:

Bronwyn’s old workstation -WHERE’S BRONWYN???
Oh, there she is! She’s in Julie B.’s old cube, like some transplanted invasive species. Nice chair, tho!

In addition to creating physical buffers between workers, we have somewhat staggered our schedules to minimize the number of people on site on any given day:

Fouzia demystifying her weekly schedule like a boss Team-Lead

Once we had everyone spaced out appropriately (no double meaning intended), we established quarantining procedures in keeping with the DUL Protocols for Collections Handling.

Incoming freight is quarantined for 48 hours before being transferred to our box-opening area for unpacking:

Gobi boxes de-disease-ing over in the corner, while Tabitha does a champion’s job on the front lines of freight intake!

Meeting rooms have been re-appropriated as quarantining and staging areas:

No more people meetings! Only box meetings!
Bindery staging relocated to make space for quarantining. Oh, room 158 – you are tiny but useful

But what of the Catalogers, ask ye? (Ye were about to ask, weren’t ye?) Well, the Monographic and Serials Cataloging staff is currently working entirely remotely. We have set up a contactless system for each Cataloger to pick up boxes of books to take home for description on a regular basis. The boxes are quarantined for 48 hours before being released to staff and upon return:

Stay back! Yucky Catalogers have touched!

The above-described space and process changes have been disruptive to the level of efficiency we have come to expect from ourselves, it must be said. And returning staff experienced heightened anxiety, having to acclimate to new routines in the midst of an already stressful RTW process. But taking the time to implement these changes systematically has allowed us quickly to resume the important work of getting books, periodicals, CDs, and DVDs out to the shelves and into the hands of our patrons. We’re pleased to report that freight shipments to Smith have resumed and that, having settled into our new routines, we’re up and running at speed now.

Sadly, though, our weekly Tech Services bathroom parties are now on indefinite hiatus:

Limits on bathroom occupancy

A Virtual Look Back with Shelia Webb

Shelia Webb on the occasion of her 45-year anniversary with Duke University
Shelia on the occasion of her 45-year anniversary with Duke University

On July 31, 2020, Duke University Libraries will say a heartfelt farewell to a Superstar of our Support Staff: Shelia Webb has decided to retire after over 46 years with Duke. Although she has spent the last few years in Business Services, the majority of Shelia’s career happened in Technical Services, and her physical office space remained with us in Smith. So, although the pandemic has robbed our go-to party planner of her own retirement party, we could not let this occasion go unmarked. Shelia has been a champion of Support Staff issues both within the Library and the University. A powerful personality with a sharp sense of humor and a strong work ethic, Shelia is impossible to summarize or encapsulate in a single blog post. She’s a loyal friend to many and a constant source of support, not only in the professional sphere, but in the personal realm of boosting another up and helping them through the days, months, and years of their lives. In that way she’s a good example of what makes the staff at DUL so much like an extended family. Shelia’s contributions to the Library and to our lives will stay with us as she moves into this next chapter of her life.

Here’s a look back with Shelia over her years with DUL, as told by the Star herself, in a socially-distanced, virtual interview. Take it away Shelia!

Getting started in the world of library technical services:

I transferred to the Library from Dietary Services at Duke South on July 26, 1976, which was my 1st wedding anniversary.  I was hired by Asta Smith, whose husband Eric Smith was a Reference Librarian.  It was a great group.  I was part of Serials records, which consisted of Daisy Whiteside, Debi Woody (Eason), Vera Roberts and Asta Smith (Head).  Later Dale Edgerton, Beverly Mills, Jeannie Beck, Jacqui Brown and Jane Bloemeke completed the section.

An evolving career in library acquisitions:

I began as a Clerk Typist and when Daisy Whiteside left, I was automatically promoted to her position as Library Clerk. I was later promoted to Library Assistant, and then a lateral move as the first Library Assistant to place periodical orders.  When the libraries did Recon (retrospective conversion of the physical catalog to an online one) they needed someone to coordinate that process and I was promoted to Library Assistant, Sr. in that role.  As time evolved, my duties changed and I was given the duties back that were removed when I got promoted.  We switched off duties by the week, so we all had to learn all the duties in the Section.  We merged with the Acquisitions/Accounting Department as Acquisitions Serials.  Then later we became the Acquisitions Department. After that, the serials and periodicals check-in merged with the Documents Department headed by Ann Miller.  After I received my bachelor’s degree in 2003, Ann recommended that I be placed in a position that I showed the most interest in and that was financial.  I had a meeting with Nancy Gibbs and Marty Berryman and in my new position, I became an Invoice Specialist, which was later changed to a Staff Assistant.  After Nancy retired and Teddy Gray departed, I was under Bill Verner who was Interim Head, and then Head of Acquisitions.  In December 2016, I became part of Business Services under Jameca Dupree.

Shelia in 1998, when computer monitors were the size of microwave ovens
Shelia in 1998, when computer monitors were the size of microwave ovens

A tireless advocate and booster for her colleagues and community:

I was on DULSA [Duke University Libraries Staff Association] and the Library Support Staff Council (elected representative) from 2001-2003.  I was the second Library representative on the Duke University Parking Advisory Committee (2001-2003).  We needed representation because Parking Services would oversell the parking lots and it was a mess each year when we renewed our stickers.  Some staff who came to work later could not find a parking space and they were being charged to park. I was a member of the first Perkins Library Diversity Working Group (2001-2003). We won the first Duke University Diversity Award, which was a $750 prize.  I was also on the Staff Development Committee (2004-2008). I was a tester for OLE [Open Library Environment] for a little over 6 years (2009-2015).  That was a challenging task!  I somehow became the party planner and loved doing end of the fiscal year and retirement parties.  My latest committee was the Smith Warehouse Social Committee, which I joined in 2009.  I represented the Library for three annual social events with this committee – Holiday Party, Pizza Party, and the Ice Cream Social.  On this committee, I met people from all over Smith.  These were morale builders!

Outside the library, I am on the Executive Board of my church and also the Hospitality Committee.  I am part of several organizations, like The Order of the Eastern Star (Drucilla #19), Zafa Court #41 and the Golden Circle.  I am on one of my high school reunion Committees that we formed in the early 1990’s, NHSBAA (Northern High School Black Alumni Association).  I have been a part of planning three very successful reunions with this Association.  I am also my family’s official family reunion planner. I just turned that task over to my nieces this year.  They did a great job, but the pandemic put that to a halt.

And, DUL was just her day job:

I worked as a staff assistant (night Page Supervisor) at the Durham County Library for 20 years from December 1997 to June 2007.  I did a variety of duties there, such as working the circulation desk, new patron registration, assisting patrons at other service points, and collecting fines and fees.  I had a staff of three at night who were responsible for re-shelving the books.  I continued to work this position after I enrolled in Shaw University’s CAPE (Center for Alternative Programs of Education) program in 1999.  While at Shaw, I was crowned Miss Durham CAPE from 2002-2003. I was a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society.  To help with my tuition, I wrote an essay for a scholarship offered by Glaxo-Smith-Kline about overcoming adversity and going on to attend college and succeeding.  I was one of seven candidates who received an award and the amount awarded to me was $13,000. I graduated summa cum laude in May 2003.  I always wanted a college degree and that was my motivation.  I worked for the Durham County Agriculture as a contractor while I pursued my MBA from Pfeiffer University.  I attended online from January 2016 to December 2017.

What do you wish more people knew about your work in the library?

How hard I worked on the OLE Project.  It was a full-time job in itself.  When it was terminated, I felt that all that hard work was in vain.  I had to document procedures as a tester with no instructions, and there was no one in any of the other libraries working on the financial part of the system in the beginning.

What have been your biggest challenges in your career?

Trying to adapt to all the new systems over the years and not getting them mixed up with each other.  And also, remembering all the passwords for each of them!!!

What is the most fun you’ve had at work in DUL?

When the library staff did the entertainment for library parties, we used to have plays and singing programs.  The Plays were written and directed by library staff.  One I remember was the “The Wizard of Ros”, of course based on who else – Ros Raeford! We used to have designated days like, “Hat Day”, when all staff wore different type hats. We once hired a “Mourner” for a staff member’s birthday who was turning 40.  It was hilarious as her youth was mourned away with information about her they received from us. When Staff Appreciation Week came, Duke gave us prizes all week and a big luncheon on the quad.  To top off the week, there was a big carnival and lots of catered food and we invited our families on that weekend! We used to get bonuses in addition to our raises if you met exceeded expectations on your evaluation. There was never a dull moment back then!

What thoughts or advice would you like to leave us with, as you move into retirement?

Keep a positive attitude!  When you are thrown lemons, make lemonade.  Goodbye tension—hello pension!!!!

A Mad Hatter Party, with Antha Marshall, Debra Taylor, Marvin Tillman, Beverly Mills, and Gail Sewell
A Mad Hatter Party, with Antha Marshall, Debra Taylor, Marvin Tillman, Beverly Mills, and Gail Sewell

My Journey from Print to Electronic and Back Again: a Librarian’s Tale

Beverly Dowdy

Long before I became a librarian I had a fascination with libraries.  They were always magical places for me, and the stacks in particular were magical.  The organization of knowledge on the shelves pulled me in, and all of it was available to anyone.  So as an undergraduate at Appalachian State University, I majored in Educational Media.  The major was created to supply librarians for the public schools.  But I quickly discovered my first year that working in a public school system did not suit me.

I found my niche in an academic library – at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  I was hired in the Acquisitions department to order and receive all titles.  All those new titles bound for the stacks had to pass across my desk!  It was the height of the paper library era – all financial transactions, the card catalog, the books – everything was on paper.  A glimmer of the online world to come was a single OCLC terminal that provided the most recent cataloging information which we printed out.  The staff fought over time slots.  I still remember mine:  1:00-3:00 every afternoon.

After my husband and I moved from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, I worked briefly in the private sector.  I became a company librarian at Engineering Enterprises in Norman, Oklahoma.  They employed geologists and engineers to provide environmental remediation for contaminated groundwater.  I was hired to not only keep the company library but provide research on request.  Automated searching was now available, and I provided DIALOG searches for the geologists and their clients.  Utilizing the citations from those searches, I would drive across town to the University of Oklahoma Library to find the full-text printed articles and books.   I straddled this print/electronic divide many years before full-text online became a reality.  In that role I functioned as a sort of information detective, and I was Google before Google.

My cumulative experiences led me to think I should make librarianship my professional career.  I finished my MLS in 2000.   Another world opened at the same time as eJournals made their first appearance.  I jumped back into the academic world at the University of Central Oklahoma to order, process, and make available their eJournals and databases.   Electronic full text was another universe compared to print world and a true paradigm shift.  I remember many librarians with decades of experience were overwhelmed by it.  Perhaps because I was young and foolish, I jumped in and took on anything the Library Director threw at me.  I’m glad I did because it gave me a thorough grounding in this new format, and I could see how improved discoverability for patrons.

It also led me to a new job at Duke.  I came on board as the Head of Electronic Resources and Serials Management in 2008.  By that time full-text online had exploded.  It was imperative to decide on best practices, tools, and workflow for managing the fire hose of electronic text coming at us.  On top of this, print world didn’t die.  In fact, it still grew – just not at the same pace.  Over time ERSM became SRM (Serials and Retention Management) when the electronic pieces were shifted to other departments.  My own department focused on projects for older print (Papyrology collection) and something new:  collaborative print retention.  This was a new paradigm administered by multiple libraries to insure that aging print texts would always be available to patrons within a geographic area.

Last year I stepped out of the department head role and into my final position at Duke:  government documents.  Collaborative print retention took hold in government documents through ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries).  We began a project to resize our own documents collection in light of other TRLN document collections.  We also committed to acquire and retain all publications from six government agencies.  So I came full circle, from print to electronic and back to print with a different twist.  In July 2020 I will retire from Duke Libraries and am ever appreciative my experiences and learning.  I picked up a Master’s Degree in Graduate Liberal Studies along the way.  That also opened new worlds for me.  Keep growing, keep learning, and don’t be surprised in your career if you shift back to something you knew in an earlier time and see it with new eyes.

E-Resources—the True, Inside Story!

Many people think of Duke University Libraries as the stately, public facing buildings they use for resource access, study space, and meetings. But they don’t know what really goes on behind the scenes at the library. In an exclusive tell-all, these Electronic Resource Management (ERM) professionals from the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department divulge the inside secrets of what is truly required to facilitate e-resource access.

The E-Resources Management Team

Licenses and Renewals – Abby Wickes

As the ERM team lead, along with assisting with troubleshooting and access management I also contribute to the e-resource lifecycle by processing renewals and supporting license review. License negotiation is an important part of e-resource management, as we want to ensure optimal access conditions for our patrons while protecting the university from undue liability. Each license is reviewed thoroughly by Virginia Martin (head of Continuing Resource Acquisitions), and myself, with additional support from EG colleagues when needed. Because of this attention, license review can be a lengthy process as we carefully assess and request changes in the best interests of our patrons and the university. Accessibility and Patron Privacy are among the high priority items Duke negotiates for with licensors.

Another area of negotiation is in renewal costs. To keep our e-resources affordable, we pay close attention to increasing renewal costs and push back when inflationary costs creep above certain thresholds. While I provide support for particularly gnarly e-resource AskTech tickets (Duke University Library’s Technical Services’ troubleshooting ticket service) and access issues, my colleagues on the team do the lion’s share of access management work for eJournals, online databases, and eBooks, as they describe below.

eJournals – Will Hanley

In a nutshell, I make sure patrons have online access to our subscribed and open access eJournals. For instance, I troubleshoot eJournal access issues that come to Tech Services via AskTech. I either restore our access, contact the party that can restore our access, or inform patrons/librarians why we should not have access. I also maintain URL and coverage date accuracy for eJournals in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase (aka the KB, formerly called Serials Solutions), and contact publishers and vendors when necessary.

There are a lot of ways to access journal content via the library website, including searching for articles from Summon,  and browsing eJournal titles via the catalog and our Online Journal Page.


  • Duke University Library’s discovery service, Summon, facilitates discovery and access for millions of article-level search results. From , select the Articles tab.


  • From , select the Books & Media tab.
  • Select the option “Title” from the drop-down menu and search for the requested journal.
  • If necessary, limit the search results to online resources by clicking the Available Online facet.
  • Click the View Online button beneath the requested eJournal.
  • On the Online Journal results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Online Journal Page:

  • From , select the option “Title Begins With” from the drop-down menu next to the search box and search for the requested journal.  Note: for common-word titles (i.e. Nature), I would suggest selecting the “Exact Title” search.

  • On the results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Starting from these sources is especially important when accessing resources from off campus, as the catalog and library website both automatically include necessary proxy prefixes to URLs to facilitate authentication.


Online Databases – Pat Canovai

My primary duties revolve around access, description, troubleshooting, and maintenance of databases (aka online integrating resources). To define what is a database, we typically rely on the RDA definition of an integrating resource:
A resource that is added to or changed by means of updates that do not remain discrete but are integrated into the whole.

  • ACCESS – This includes activating databases in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase, communicating with Ex Libris when a new database needs to be added in the KB, requesting additions and updates to EZProxy, testing remote access, and sending Database Updates to LIB-collections. This work facilitates discovery and access from a few different parts of the Duke University Library website:
    • Summon: Duke University Library’s discovery service also brings search results from many databases
    • The Database A-Z List (currently maintained by Hannah Rozear) allows you to browse databases by title

  • DESCRIPTION – This includes loading catalog records into Aleph (Duke’s Integrated Library System or ILS) from OCLC as is, or enhancing in OCLC before loading. Occasionally it is necessary to create a new record in OCLC. Once the record is in Aleph, certain fields are manually modified, the most important of which is the URL that will link users to the proper landing page.
    • This facilitates discovery and access from the Catalog

  • TROUBLESHOOTING – Most troubleshooting is generated via AskTech tickets, but in our daily work we also make unexpected discoveries that prompt investigation. This frequently requires testing of access with and without VPN, confirming EZproxy status, verification of access methods, and communicating with providers and users.
  • MAINTENANCE – Databases are sometimes cancelled or ceased, or they migrate from one provider to another. When URLs change, database names change, knowledgebase targets are retired, or platforms are decommissioned, we need to keep the access up to date.

eBooks – Alaina Jones

As an Electronic Resources Management Associate, I’m in charge of granting, maintaining, and troubleshooting access to eBook collections. I grant and update access in the knowledgebase, troubleshoot access issue for eBooks via AskTech, and regularly communicate with vendor representatives and Ex Libris representatives to have issues resolved.

There are a couple of different ways to find eBooks starting from the library’s main page.

You can type keywords of what you’re looking for directly into the catalog search bar (with or without limiting your search from “All” to “Books & Media” first).

You can also click on the eBooks tab, which will take you to another page with a separate search bar for just eBooks. I think the best thing about this page though is the “Looking for more?” section. This section lists other ways to find eBooks that you may not be aware of.

I’ve used OverDrive a few times to check out novels (and graphic novels) to read during my downtime. It is a great way to download and borrow digital content while you’re self-isolating. There are a lot of eBooks and audiobooks to choose from!

Another way to access eBooks that I often use for troubleshooting access issues is the eJournal Portal. Yes, you read that right.

Here’s how you navigate to this page: Main Library Catalog Page à Click on Online Journal Titles tab,  Hit Search (don’t type anything in the search bar), on the top of the next screen you’ll see an option for Books Only. Select that and type your keywords into the search bar. Voilà!

Though it may take a little longer to navigate to this page, I use the eJournal Portal because the update time is much shorter than the catalog; it usually updates within 24 hours (when the catalog might take a few days). When troubleshooting AskTech tickets, it’s also handy for me to see which access point the eBook is being pulled from so that I know where to look in the knowledgebase. The eJournal Portal provides the necessary information that I need to investigate quickly.

I think the biggest challenge when troubleshooting remote access has been communicating the importance of VPN access. Connecting to VPN (using the Library Resources Only Group) has solved a lot of access issues for our patrons and colleagues. Logging into Library Resources Only not only gives you access to the content that Duke University Libraries subscribes to but it sort of “tricks” your computer into thinking that you’re on-campus so you can bypass having to log-in to access a lot of resources.

E-resource access management for eBooks, online databases, and eJournals can be a wild ride. Now that you know the inside story, think twice before you try to access a resource directly from a publisher site, especially without signing onto VPN. Search directly from the library site whenever possible, and be sure to check your VPN group when accessing resources remotely. The e-resource research time you save just might be your own.

Getting To Know Your Colleagues: Holiday Tree

Interview by Christina Manzella


Detail from Lunar New Year. Photo by Will Hanley.

Most of us who work in the library bays at Smith Warehouse have not set foot on campus since March 20. One of our colleagues, however, has been there 24/7, keeping watch over the place. Below is an interview with this Bay 10 mainstay, conducted just before working from home began. Holiday Tree, we miss you!

CM: What is your role here at Duke?
HT: I play the very important role of seasonal décor for Technical Services. I really love my job. You talk to most “artificial” trees out there, and they’ll tell you they’re stuck in an attic 10.5-11 months out of the year. Not me. I’m on display year round, bringing continued joy to all the residents and visitors of Bays 9 and 10.

CM: What is your favorite part of working at Duke?
HT: It’s got to be the people. I can always count on Antha Marshall (and her candy bowl) when I need a pick me up. Will Hanley always makes me look dashing in his photos. I’m also very close with Leeda Adkins. She leads the team of folks who change out my decorations each season. I’ve witnessed some very creative problem solving when it comes to tree toppers. And, obviously, Squirrel and I are inseparable.

A close up of Squirrel. Photo by Will Hanley.


CM: Do you have a favorite season?
HT: That’s a tough one. I might have to say summer. Not a lot of conifers can say they’ve seen the beach. Oh, to be clear, I haven’t either, but I really think I have a good sense of what it’s like based on my decorations. I’ve often contemplated what SPF I would need.

CM: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
HT: I bleed blue, but I live green! Please recycle.

Autumn decorations. Photo by Christina Manzella.