When the new fiscal year started on July 1, two departments in Technical Services reorganized, and a new section was created within Resource Description. The section known as Shelf Preparation folded, with most related workflows moving to Monograph Acquisitions. (Follow this blog for more news on these changes soon!)
Corrina Carter and Lesley Looper (Team Lead) remain in the Resource Description Department, in the newly formed Bindery and Monograph Maintenance Section. Our new section name is descriptive of our broad work, but is a mouthful to say, so you can call us BAMM for short! (Think Emeril Lagasse or Bamm-Bamm Rubble.) You can email our new section at firstname.lastname@example.org, or individually, as usual.
What BAMM will be doing:
Bindery: creating bindery and preservation boxing shipments, coordinating bound volumes (including monographs, serials, music scores, and items with digi-covers) to circulation points and the Library Service Center, overseeing the annual bindery budget, working with Continuing Resource Acquisitions on periodicals binding, and serving as in-house consultants for care and handling consultations and referrals to Conservation.
Monograph maintenance: cataloging queue maintenance, ALEPH reporting, declaring monographs missing, lost, withdrawn, or reinstated, updating locations and call numbers, resolving AskTech tickets, cataloging documentation review, and special projects (including outsourcing coordination and metadata projects).
Student assistants will also be an integral part of our section, helping us move materials through the section and department workflows, and on to DUL circulation points and the Library Service Center.
Corrina has been working at Duke since 1988! She started in the Medical Center, and transferred to the Surgical Private Diagnostic Clinic (later called the Private Diagnostic Clinics) in 1990. Corrina joined Duke Libraries in 1994, spending all of that time working with the Bindery, with several changes, location moves, and position upgrades along the way! One of Corrina’s favorite Duke memories is attending the DUL staff appreciation lunches (especially at the Searle Center), and getting to use work time to attend them. (Way back when, those lunches included humorous plays put on by library staff!)
Lesley has worked at Duke since 2001 (all of it in Duke Libraries), first in Receipts Management (starting as Library Assistant and later as Section Head) within the Acquisitions Department, and then in the Cataloging Department (now called Resource Description). Later, she joined Shelf Preparation Section, before becoming part of the BAMM team. One of Lesley’s favorite Duke memories is attending the Rolling Stones concert in Wallace Wade Stadium in October 2005, and running into several DUL colleagues there. Lesley still enjoys visiting Wallace Wade Stadium for Duke football home games.
Duke University Libraries Technical Services Division’s (DULTS) Resource Description Department has recently composed and adopted a Statement on Inclusive Description, which begins:
The Resource Description Department of Duke University Libraries Technical Services acknowledges that the creation and management of metadata are not neutral activities. We further acknowledge that the framework of national and international standards in which we work has served to uphold white supremacy, marginalization of sexual orientations and gender identities, and colonialism, among other forms of oppression. While we will continue to work within the parameters of national and international standards and organizations, we pledge as creators and managers to make metadata more inclusive …
The metadata that describes the millions of resources Duke University Libraries makes available to users dates back to the early 20th century, and as society has changed, so have cataloging practices. In 2020, we have perspectives on inclusion and representation that perhaps our predecessors did not have in previous decades. Our Statement on Inclusive Description is our pledge to do better, not just as we move forward but as we look at some of our old metadata and think of ways to improve it.
Limitations of Cataloging Standards
Most academic and public libraries in the United States—and in many other countries—use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as their main thesaurus to provide subject access to works in their collections. Medical libraries, by contrast, typically use Medical Subject Headings—MeSH–or a combination of MeSH and LCSH. Library of Congress Subject Headings are what most Duke University Libraries catalog users are accustomed to seeing, with familiar patterns like these:
Salvador (Brazil)—Social life and customs—19th century.
Library of Congress Subject Headings are not, however, always ideal, and can present some obstacles when trying to catalog inclusively. There is often a presumption of whiteness and maleness in LCSH; its default is frequently “straight, white, cis-gendered male,” and anyone that doesn’t fit into those categories can be seen as exceptional. For example, the LCSH “Chemists” is used for works about chemists of all genders and for works limited to male chemists; a work about female chemists gets the LCSH “Women chemists.” (There is no heading “Male chemists.”) Similarly, the assumption seems to be that “American literature” is written by straight white male authors: if a work is about any other subset of Americans as authors, the headings must be modified: “American literature—Women authors” or “Gay men’s writings, American,” for example.
Library of Congress Subject Headings also include some vocabulary that may be considered outdated, inaccurate, or offensive. You may have heard about the political controversy that arose when the Library of Congress considered a proposal to change the heading “Illegal aliens” to “Undocumented immigrants.” The change was blocked, and “Illegal aliens” remains the authorized LCSH even though many find it offensive. There are other terms in LCSH, again often dealing with marginalized groups, that some find questionable, such as “Problem children” and “Eskimos.” There is a process to propose changes and additions to LCSH, but it is extremely involved, can take a very long time, and can be blocked by external factors, lack of consensus on what a better term would be, and diminished staffing at the Library of Congress.
Finally, there are some areas in which Library of Congress Subject Headings just aren’t very good, such as terminology for LGBTQ people and culture. The default LCSH heading for anyone or anything non-straight is “Sexual minorities,” a term which may technically be accurate, but which certainly isn’t in common usage and also presents LGBTQ folks as an anthropological Other. Meanwhile, the term “Female impersonators” for the entertainers we all know and love as “Drag queens” is, if we’re being generous, quaintly outdated. And LCSH just doesn’t get specific at all for LGBTQ cultures and subcultures, making it difficult to provide appropriate access for works about them.
Making Library of Congress Subject Headings Work for Us
So, if Library of Congress Subject Headings are problematic, why do we continue to use them? Well, for most subjects, LCSH is pretty good. For many disciplines, it is extremely good. More importantly, it’s an internationally used standard. Most cataloging in the English-speaking world and beyond is done cooperatively—that is, libraries contribute bibliographic description for works they acquire to the WorldCat database, so when another library gets the same book (or DVD or anything else), they can just use the record that’s already in WorldCat rather than creating their own. It makes everything go faster: trying to catalog every monograph, periodical, map, streaming video, and e-book we receive from scratch to our own exacting standards would be an impossible task. Terms in LCSH are the international standard, and libraries have agreed to use it as our common language when describing what works are about and then sharing description of those works.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we are limited to out-of-the-box LCSH. There are several ways we provide enhanced access to our resources by bending LCSH or by using other vocabularies altogether. In addition to actively participating in the process of proposing additions and changes to LCSH mentioned above, Duke University Libraries staff also provide more inclusive description in other ways. Perhaps most obvious to the user is our public catalog, which we share and develop with our colleagues in the Triangle Research Libraries Network (Duke, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and UNC-Chapel Hill). DUL staff are able to customize what displays to the public, so even if the underlying metadata is standard LCSH, we can choose to make alternative terms both visible and searchable. For example, instead of the standard LCSH heading “Poor,” which reduces people to a financial status, we have chosen to display “Poor people.” Even though “Illegal aliens” remains in our behind-the-scenes metadata, library user see “Undocumented immigrants” when viewing the catalog. Continuing to use standard LCSH allows us to accept bibliographic records from other libraries without having to make manual changes to them locally, but our Search TRLN public catalog empowers us to display alternative terms our users say they prefer, or that we know through analyzing data, that they are more likely to search for.
In DULTS, when we create original cataloging records, or when we enhance shared records in WorldCat, we also work intentionally to make sure our description is inclusive and accurate, especially for works by and about members of marginalized groups. For example, as we describe the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection with our colleagues in Rubenstein Library Technical Services, we make sure to provide specific subject access to works about women, African Americans, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and other non-“cis white straight male” characters. “Superheroes” may be the default Library of Congress Subject Heading for caped crusaders, but we make sure users are able to go beyond Superman and Batman by adding more descriptive subject headings like “African American superheroes” and “Women detectives” so characters like Storm, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones aren’t lost in the shuffle.
We have also begun exploring specialized thesauri to supplement Library of Congress Subject Headings when LCSH just isn’t specific enough to accurately describe a work’s contents. One controlled vocabulary we’ve begun using is Homosaurus, which calls itself “an international LGBTQ linked data vocabulary.” We’re able to enhance access to works by and about LGBTQ folks by using specialized terms from Homosaurus that LCSH just isn’t able to convey, such as “Bigender people,” “LGBTQ sports clubs,” “Transgender people of color,” and—yes—“Drag queens.”
Making our cataloging more inclusive takes time, but we think it’s worth it. We also realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Until the majority of other libraries that contribute cataloging to shared databases like WorldCat start taking similar approaches, not all of our resources will be cataloged as thoroughly and thoughtfully as we might like. But the principles we lay out in our Statement on Inclusive Description are a start. As we incorporate these tenets in newly created descriptive metadata going forward, we will also explore ways to enhance and improve our old records en masse in hopes of someday providing better, fairer description of all the millions of resources Duke University Libraries make accessible to our users. It’s a huge job, but we are committed to making it happen. It’s the right thing to do.
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:
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:
Continuing Resource Acquisitions
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:
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:
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:
Meeting rooms have been re-appropriated as quarantining and staging areas:
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:
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:
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 https://library.duke.edu/ , select the Articles 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 https://library.duke.edu/find/journal-titles , 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.
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.
My first two blog posts of this three-part series focused on license organization, digitization, file-naming schemas, and controlled vocabularies. In this final blog post, I will discuss the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the transition from one library services platform to another with regards to electronic resources.
I am part of the FOLIO Electronic Resource Management (ERM) Implementation team whose purpose is to guide the transition of electronic resources into FOLIO for DUL and the Professional School libraries. Our team is responsible for customizing the ERM apps within FOLIO, such as Licenses and Organizations, that Duke will be implementing in summer 2020. We are currently working on creating the underlying metadata schemas and controlled vocabularies that essentially build the “frame” for implementing the FOLIO ERM. One of the most helpful tools I’ve found for this part of my internship is the Data Dictionary from the Digital Library Federation’s Electronic Resource Management Initiative (ERMI) Report. This document is a great reference for metadata librarians and other technical services professionals whose work requires the use of controlled vocabularies and metadata schemas.
To help put this in perspective for those who don’t work in technical services, we are essentially choosing the customizable fields and terms that are going to display within the FOLIO interface (also known as FOLIO’s frontend). Because FOLIO is highly customizable and not strictly an out-of-the-box product, we are able to select many of the specific data fields and terms that uniquely apply to our needs. Let’s look at the current state of one of FOLIO’s ERM apps, Licenses. When a DUL ERM user logs into FOLIO to add a new license into the platform, we use the FOLIO Licenses app. Here’s an example of this app’s current interface in FOLIO (see below).
The Licenses app interface
A portion of the Terms information fields
The ERM team is currently working on defining the fields we want displayed in this interface, the terms we will use to populate these fields, and any additional information we think will be pertinent in the uploading of our electronic licenses into FOLIO.
While some of you may have seen me in Smith Warehouse in our pre-quarantine days running between our licensing documentation filing cabinets and the printer like a mad woman, there is much more to my internship than scanning and filing. I am fortunate to work with a truly great group of library and information science professionals at DUL who have kindly allowed me to dip my toes into the world of technical services and electronic resources management. Having come from a museum collections background before beginning library school, I am thankful I can directly apply my knowledge in information management and retrieval to DUL’s FOLIO transition.
My last blog post focused on the basics of licensing organization and digitization in preparation for DUL’s transition to the FOLIO library services platform. This week’s post, the second in a three-part series, will focus on creating standardized file names using controlled vocabulary.
File-Naming Schema & Controlled Vocabulary
Another aspect of my digital licensing document organization is the creation of consistent terms used to name our electronic files. By creating a consistent way of naming our electronic licenses, it’s much easier to navigate our repository of electronic files (SharePoint) and locate documents. Most of our documents can be grouped into several categories: licenses, communications, and purchase orders. Within these categories, I’ve created a picklist of terms that can be applied for each document. This list is essentially a controlled vocabulary or “data dictionary” (see below).
Agreement between licensor and licensee
AKA conditions of use
Authorization or Agreement
Used in consortial agreements
A legal change to a previous license
A legal change to a previous license
AKA product order, order, etc.
Service Change Order
Akin to addendum for purchase orders
Includes e-mails, faxes, letters
List of packaged titles
In addition to this controlled vocabulary, I’ve also created a consistent file-naming structure. This structure allows us to quickly sort files chronologically and easily find specific documents (see below).
Licensor _ Document Type _ Signed date (YYYMMDD) __ Product Name.pdf
We begin our file names with the licensor’s name, which allows us to easily identify to whom this document pertains. Second, the document type field (e.g. license, addendum, etc.) allows us to sort lists of documents by their type. Third, the inclusion of the document’s sign date in ISO date format allows for more accurate sorting of documents by date. And fourth, the product name field shows us which product is described in the document (e.g. specific journal name, database, etc.). To put this in context, let’s say I’ve been asked to find the most recent addendum that DUL signed with Bloomsbury Publishing with regards to their Drama Online database. Here’s how I would find that file:
Navigate to the “Bloomsbury Publishing” folder in SharePoint
Click on the “Licenses” subfolder
Sort the files within the “Licenses” subfolder alphabetically
Locate for the most recent addendum file (see below)
List of licensing documents for Bloomsbury Publishing in SharePoint
As you may have noticed, a consistent file-naming structure is immensely helpful when you’re trying to locate a single file located within a folder containing many years’ worth of licenses, addenda, and amendments.
Check out my final blog post of this three-part series next week that will discuss my role in DUL’s transition to the FOLIO library services platform.
As the 2020 Continuing Resource Acquisitions Intern, the goal of my work is to make the Duke University Libraries (DUL) electronic resources licensing transition from SharePoint to FOLIO as painless as possible. Duke University Libraries, as well as the Professional School libraries, is in the process of adopting FOLIO as its new library services platform. As one of the first institutions of higher education in the U.S. to implement FOLIO, Duke is in a unique position to create a customized product that meets our needs in addition to providing an example for other libraries. By reviewing and digitizing our current and historical licenses, I can contribute not only to the transition of these documents into FOLIO but also to the metadata and structure of the FOLIO platform itself.
This blog post is the first in a three-part series that highlights my internship in the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department. Get ready to learn about licensing organization and digitization!
Licensing Digitization & Organization
The bulk of my work is the organization and digitization of DUL’s licensing documents. All licenses associated with DUL’s electronic resources are currently filed in two places: physical documents in filing cabinets in Smith Warehouse and electronic documents in SharePoint.
Previous interns have also worked on the organization of these documents, so the goal of my work is to now create consistency between both sets of documents – physical and digital. For instance, if a digital version of a database license were to accidentally get deleted, we would have the physical copy as a back-up. While most of our physical licensing documents are filed and organized well, our electronic documents in SharePoint need some love. Some things I must keep in mind while digitizing licensing documents for the eventual transfer of them into FOLIO is to make sure the digitized files are stable and searchable. Therefore, I have opted to use PDFs as the file type for our licensing documents. One of the main reasons for making this decision is the ability for Adobe Acrobat to perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents, making them keyword searchable. The ability to quickly search a licensing document for specific licensing language is critical for the ERM team. Searchability comes in handy when negotiating specific terms of licenses with publishers and vendors, such as authorized users, interlibrary loan (ILL), and perpetual access.
Something I didn’t expect to become so well versed in while organizing our licensing documents is the convoluted nature of academic publishing histories. For example, DUL may subscribe to an online database that was licensed with “Licensor A” years ago. However, “Licensor A,” a small publishing company, was acquired by “Licensor E,” a larger publishing company, which means the product now has a new licensor. You’re probably wondering, “Why is this important?” Well, we file all our electronic product licenses by licensor. Therefore, we may end up having several licenses related to the same product scattered throughout folders because the product’s owner has changed over time. A good way to conceptualize this is to think about large publishing companies, such as Elsevier or ProQuest. DUL has many licenses for products that were once owned by smaller publishing companies at the time of purchase. However, these smaller companies no longer exist after being acquired by companies like Elsevier. Therefore, we may end up having two licenses for the same product – one license with the original licensor and another with the current licensor.
Because of this, I end up going down publishing history rabbit holes in order to determine who the legal owner of a product was at the time of signing the license agreement versus who the legal owner is today. Being relatively new to the field of academic publishing, I’ve found Library Technology Guides to be a godsend in navigating the labyrinthine-like history of academic publishers.
Check out my blog post next week on license file-naming schemas and controlled vocabulary to see how these efforts will help DUL’s transition from SharePoint to the FOLIO Electronic Resource Management (ERM) apps.
We have been thrust into strange and unsettling times. Due to events not of our choosing, we in the library are all working from home now. For some, working from home is something they’re used to as a part of their work routine. For others, like me, it’s a completely new experience. Here are some thoughts I’ve had during this first week:
Embrace new technology. A fortune I once got read “keep your mind open to new possibilities.” I am finding that is good advice for the current situation. Embrace opportunities to learn new technologies that will help you do your job. I am learning to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and am having a great time with them, and I like seeing and interacting with my co-workers.
Take time to take care of yourself. During the day, take time to do things that are good for your soul and your body. Get out and walk or jog in the sunshine. Vitamin D is good for the immune system, and walking is great exercise. And while you’re at it, maybe give a wave or say a kind word (from a safe distance) to the neighbor you may have never spoken to, since they are home as well.
Don’t give in to fear. Try to stay positive, and let go of those things that you have no control of. I have found that I have had to limit my time on social media, because otherwise all the horrible news can lead to feelings of panic, which can keep me up at night. I am also trying to just be grateful. I am grateful to be working for the Duke Libraries, I am grateful to have the wonderful people I work with, and I am grateful, especially, for my family.
Hang in there folks, this too shall pass. We are all doing great work and learning new and wonderful things, both about each other and ourselves.
Our last blog post talked about the vast variety of materials from around the world that pass through Technical Services every day. Duke’s collections run the gamut from the most esoteric and scholarly to the most popular and mainstream. In recent decades, materials formerly considered to belong firmly in the realm of pop culture have crossed over to academia, however, and have become objects of study as well as entertainment. Comic books are perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, and the Duke University Libraries are currently cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection, one of the largest sequential art collections held by any library in North America, if not the world.
The Murray comics were a gift from local collectors Edwin and Terry Murray to Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library and consists of approximately 55,000 comic books from the 1930s to the early 2000s. While the collection has been described in an archival finding aid since its acquisition in 2003, over the past few years we’ve embarked on a project to catalog it at the title and item level. Now users around the world can see exactly what we have as well as find and interact with the collection in ways that weren’t possible before. Catalogers in Rubenstein Technical Services and DUL Technical Services have been working together to describe and provide access to this remarkable collection more thoroughly, perhaps, than any other comic book collection in the world. They are supplementing title and issue information with character names, creators, and genre headings, allowing users to search and find comics in variety of ways.
The Murray collection features some of the most famous comics ever published, like Flash Comics #92 (cover-dated February 1948), in which Black Canary, introduced a few months earlier as a minor supporting character, moves to a starring role in her own monthly feature. Seventy-two years later, she’s still one of the most prominent superheroes of all time, starring in 2020’s Birds of Prey movie and having inspired and influenced generations of readers, creators, and the hundreds of superheroines who followed her. For the Duke Libraries staff who are longtime comics fans, holding such incredibly famous, iconic, and valuable artifacts in our hands can be breathtaking, and we’re thrilled to be able to make them available for viewing and use in the Rubenstein Library reading room.
Items from this collection pass through the two Technical Services operations constantly, and at any given time we’re working on everything from funny-animal comics to spy thrillers to Westerns. The bulk of the collection consists of superhero comics, though, and includes practically everything published during the Golden and Silver Ages of comics and beyond by Marvel and DC as well as other publishers like Image, Milestone, and Dark Horse.
Right now one of the many titles we’re working on is the Legion of Super-Heroes, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) and have been one of DC’s flagship franchises ever since. Set 1000 years in the future and mixing super-heroics, science fiction, and soap opera, the team’s adventures have been published almost continuously for over 60 years. Originally supporting characters for Superboy, they became so popular that they eventually pushed him out of his own book, which changed its title from Superboy to Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes to just plain Legion of Super-Heroes. Like all the best comics, the Legion is weird and wonderful, brilliant and bonkers, and absolutely addictive.
Although the title is set 1000 years in the future, it reflects the social norms and mores of the time of its creation as well as hopeful visions of what society might look like in the future. It’s particularly interesting to look at the evolving role of women in the Legion from its beginnings to today. Early issues may have been set in the year 2958, but they were written in 1958, and female characters were portrayed as less powerful, less confident, and often less capable than their male teammates. While many of the male Legionnaires had physical powers such as super-strength, growing to colossal heights, and projecting lightning, the female Legionnaires had less showy (and less aggressive) powers like shrinking, intangibility, and thought-casting. (Even the weirder powers were gendered: Matter-Eater Lad could eat his way through anything, including metal, stone, and energy, while Dream Girl’s super-dreaming usually took the form of her becoming overcome by stress and passing out.)
Apart from Supergirl (an occasional Superboy stand-in), the only female character with purely physical powers was Night Girl, whose super-strength rivaled Superboy’s…but only in the dark, when no one could see her do it. As a result, in 1963 the team rejected her application for membership, declaring her powers too undependable.
Despite being the strongest woman in the 30th and then 31st centuries, it took Night Girl 44 years to take her rightful place among the galaxy’s greatest heroes, finally becoming an official member of the Legion in 2007.
Comic books reflect changes in society perhaps more immediately than any other literary medium, and as the role of women in the 20th century changed, so did the role of their 30th-century counterparts. New female Legionnaires were introduced who were more powerful, more capable, and more nuanced. Old characters such as mind-reading Saturn Girl and the ethereal Phantom Girl were redefined as among the toughest members of the team, and Dream Girl became one of the greatest leaders the Legion has ever seen after being elected to that role by a reader poll. Shrinking Violet, originally the shiest member of the team (hence the name), became one of its fiercest and most fearless fighters, while Princess Projectra, for many decades a spoiled illusion-caster with a towering bouffant, found new ways to use her powers in the 1980s as Sensor Girl, becoming one of the most powerful and fearsome heroes the team has ever seen.
As we catalog the Murray comics, we’re making special efforts to highlight titles featuring female characters. In addition to well-known characters like Wonder Woman and Storm, we want to make sure users can also find works about other female characters like Power Girl, Misty Knight, and Rogue. Sometimes it can be a challenge to make sure users can track characters through various titles over the decades, especially when they keep changing their names like Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle/Batgirl and Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird/Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. Fortunately for them, and the readers who love them, the catalogers in DUL and Rubenstein Technical Services are experts in keeping track of people, places, things, and titles that keep changing their names again and again.
Cataloging of the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection is an ongoing process. Clicking this link will display all the comics in the collection that have been cataloged so far, and more are added every week. Check the catalog regularly to see what new treasures have been made available!