Trans Pride in the Duke Libraries Catalog

To wrap up Pride Month, we wanted to highlight some acquisitions from the past few years. The following photobooks feature portraits of trans individuals.

 

To Survive on This Shore, photographs by Jess T. Dugan

From the publisher: “Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from our culture and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. For over five years, photographer Jess T. Dugan and social worker Vanessa Fabbre traveled throughout the United States creating To Survive on this Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Older Adults. Seeking subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location, they traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this important but largely underrepresented group of older adults. The featured individuals have a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last ninety years, offering an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States.”

 

TransCuba, photographs by Mariette Pathy Allen

From the publisher: “For more than 30 years, New York-based photographer and painter Mariette Pathy Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide…[In] TransCuba, Allen focuses on the transgender community of Cuba, especially its growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is transitioning into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro’s presidency. This publication therefore records a cultural watershed within Cuba.”

 

 

On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories,
photographs by Mark Seliger

From the publisher: “[Seliger’s] portraits of trans people on Christopher Street combined with their moving and deeply personal stories remind us of our need for sanctuary, for a space to call our own. Their presence challenges us to redefine home, community, and ownership. Their presence challenges us to stop and reflect. No longer will we remain idle and pass by them in fear and prejudice. We will stand with them, recognize them, and see them. These are our streets, and these are our people.”

 

Female, photographs by Pilar Vergara

From the publisher: “Female strives to capture transgender women without artificial studio lighting or the irrelevance of color. While trans people are often sensationalized in the media, Pilar Vergara set out to quietly capture their individuality through intimate portraits.”

 

American Boys, photographs by Soraya Zaman

From the publisher: “American Boys by photographer Soraya Zaman is a bold and intuitive representation of the transmasculine community from big cities to small towns across the USA. For three years, Zaman traveled to 21 states to photograph and interviewed 29 transmasculine individuals aged 18 to 35 in their hometowns at distinct stages of their transition. Zaman’s sincere and tender portraits and accompanying essays candidly capture their grace and humanity providing viewers with a snapshot into their lives, personality, honesty and journeys across the transmasculine spectrum.”

 

Finally, we would like to highlight a photobook by Duke alumni, Mikael Owunna.

 

Limitless Africans, photographs by Mikael Owunna

From the creator: “I found photography as my voice…and in 2013 I began Limitless Africans. Over the course of four years, I would travel to ten different countries across North America and Europe to document, for the first time, the LGBTQ African immigrant experience. Shooting and interviewing over 50 LGBTQ African immigrants, I found that every one had experienced a similar sense of rejection on all sides. This body of work is a collaborative response between me and my community, to re-define what it means to be an immigrant, African and queer in North America and Europe at this time. To confront, with our self-love and stories, the oppressive narratives that say we should not exist. We are Limitless.”

Antiracism Resources at Duke University Libraries and Beyond

Over the past few weeks, there have been many resources shared on race, racism, and antiracism. Libraries have been working to find solutions to the meet the demand for antiracism books.

This list below is just a start. There are many resources to be found, in Duke University Libraries and beyond, to educate, inspire, and call to action. Please feel free to email Jacquie Samples (jacquie.samplesr@duke.edu) with any additional resources you find helpful, and I will add them to the list.

Statement from Duke University Libraries

Videos:

5 Tips for Being an Ally

Back to Natural

Exploring the Emotions of White Racism and Antiracism

Taking a Stance Against Racism and Discrimination

TED Talks to Help You Understand Racism in America

The Thirteenth Amendment and Civil Rights

White Like Me: Race, Racism & White Privilege in America

 

Articles:

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies by Courtney Ariel

Here’s how to teach Black Lives Matter

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 1 “Centering the Privileged”

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 2 “He-peat, Re-white, and Amplification”

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 3 “Spoken-Language Microaggressions”

How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

Understanding Our New Racial Reality Starts with the Unconscious

White Anti-Racism: Living the Legacy

 

Books:

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel E. Joseph

West Indian Immigrants: A Black Success Story? by Suzanne Model

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White Men Challenging Racism: 35 Personal Stories

 

On the Occasion of Ros Raeford’s Retirement

May 29th will mark the last day of Rosalyn Raeford’s forty-three-year career at the Duke University Libraries (DUL).  Ros is the Head of the Resource Description Department. The department is responsible for creating and stewarding the metadata that make discovery of library resources possible, as well as shelf preparation of physical materials. When Ros joined the Duke library staff in the late 1970s automation of library cataloging existed, but it was deep in the background.  Its tangible output was the card catalog, local access points were added manually in aid of user discovery and access.  As time and Ros’s career went on, the interplay between the technological and the manual trended more and more toward automation.  Yet, a lot of manual work was still involved in cataloging, as catalogers worked on printouts that were then converted to computer format through data input.  During these years of change, Ros was there not only to witness, but to shape the trajectory of DUL’s approach to resource description.

Photo from the Duke University Archives, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dukeyearlook/3811954463/

Ros began her career as a clerk-typist responsible for typing local access points, such as call numbers, on printed cards.  This regularly entailed typing unique access points per title on multiple cards.  Though critical to the user experience, it was not the most enlivening work. Ros always found ways to make it fun, for herself and her colleagues.

Next for Ros was working with the Demand Cataloging team.  This group managed a huge backlog of books by boxing them for storage, creating a paper trail on boxes and on catalog cards, and retrieving titles for cataloging when library users requested (or demanded) a title.  Think a very low-tech Library Service Center.  Ros really began enjoying her job when she became a copy cataloger, working directly with materials to assign call numbers, and then moving onto subject heading work.  Ros remembers that the more complicated an item was, the more she enjoyed it.

Ros circa 1980, top row 5th from the left. Photo from the personal collection of Amy Turner, retired Library Original Cataloger.

About eight years after Ros joined the library staff, at around the time computers first became part of cataloging, Ros became the supervisor of the Pre-Cataloging team.  It was in supervisory work that she found her “true love.”  This true love encompassed both people and process, and that is where the magic happened.  Ros saw opportunities for workflow efficiencies that leveraged both available technology and the skills of her colleagues.  An early efficiency that Ros envisioned and worked with colleagues to realize was automation of call number creation for copy cataloging.  Cataloging work was done exclusively in a DOS environment with command prompts.  Another efficiency that Ros conceived of was cataloging in a Windows environment.  She and a colleague designed a Windows-based system that a third colleague programmed.  Thus, the Cat Editor was born.

Automation, efficiency, and process saved time and created an environment that freed up resources to tackle bigger things.  Remember that the more complicated something was, the more Ros enjoyed it?  Ros has led many large projects over the years, but the project to reclass DUL’s collection from the Dewey Decimal Classification system to the Library of Congress (LC) Classification system stands out because it enabled efficiency on a massive scale.  Until late 2004, DUL was one of a very small number of large academic libraries that used Dewey.  At various times over the years, the library had looked at switching to LC Classification.  Arguments for the benefits of switching were never compelling enough to effect the change.  Switching to LC was always deemed too expensive, too undoable.  Ros made it happen!  She analyzed and synthesized in-house cataloging statistics to show that upwards of 85% of catalog records had LC class numbers.  Ros showed that by using LC classification, it would be possible to move the bulk of materials more quickly through the cataloging workflow and into the hands of library users.

From Left to Right: David Ferriero, then University Librarian; Ros; and Deborah Jakubs, current University Librarian ca. mid-2000s. From Deborah’s personal collection

The LC Reclass Project was a multi-year project that began in 2004 and transformed DUL’s collection and how we catalog.  Once LC classification was in place, Ros was able to lead further process changes, namely shelf-ready processing of new monograph titles and working with vendors to provide cataloging when it was not feasible to do in house.  A philosophical change also ensued that led the Resource Description Department to its current approach toward cataloging: follow national standards and avoid local practices.  Certainly, elements of this approach were already there prior to LC reclass, but the project pushed us further in that direction.

Now cataloging is on the brink of a fundamental shift in the creation and use of metadata to linked data.  Ros will not be here to lead us through this sea-change, but her approach to people and process will continue to inform how we embrace and manage it.  We will thrive, and library users will benefit as a result.  Ros said that in her first days at Duke, she felt smarter just being here.  Well, DUL and Duke are smarter, too, because Ros was here. (Recommended reading: Dennis Christman’s January 31, 2020 post titled A Linked Data Primer.)

Now for a parting gift from Ros, here are some of thoughts in her own words.

On joining the library and what stood out to her at the time:

“The first few days that I was there I remember walking out on campus and just being awestruck.  I remember just this really warm feeling of just being on Duke’s campus. … I felt smarter just being there.”

On being a manager:

“Being a manager was like the best thing that could have happened to me.  And, being a manager in a process-oriented environment. It’s my ideal thing because it was a breeding ground for creativity.  There was no limit to what you could do.”

On automation and its opportunities:

I was fascinated about how to make things more efficient and what could be automated. … We were automating and most people hadn’t even thought about it.”

On having fun at work:

“I love planning and problem-solving.  And I think that for me that was what the LC reclass project was.  The fact that so many people had looked at doing it and it got abandoned at least four times. … I don’t know how you describe it.  It was almost like a competition.  Like when I played basketball; it was like sports.  I’m competitive.  I was like, ‘okay this can be done.’”

On linked data and the future of cataloging:

“Something major is about to happen. Another major shift in how we think about metadata, another major shift in how we think about discovery.”

“If you can give catalogers something else to embrace that taps into their intellectual value, that taps into their skill set regardless of how those skills play out, I think they will embrace it.”

Ros at work on a project in 2000.  Photo from the personal collection of Lynda Baptist, retired Head of Holdings Management.

Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse Into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part III

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.

FOLIO Implementation

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.

Wrap Up

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.

A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part II

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).

Folder Names Document Types Definition
License(s) License Agreement between licensor and licensee
Terms of Use AKA conditions of use
Authorization or Agreement Used in consortial agreements
Addendum A legal change to a previous license
  Amendment A legal change to a previous license
  Schedule AKA appendix
Purchase Order(s) Purchase Order AKA product order, order, etc.
Service Change Order Akin to addendum for purchase orders
Communication(s) Communication Includes e-mails, faxes, letters
Title List(s) Title List 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:

  1. Navigate to the “Bloomsbury Publishing” folder in SharePoint
  2. Click on the “Licenses” subfolder
  3. Sort the files within the “Licenses” subfolder alphabetically
  4. 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.

A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part I

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.


Adapted from Flickr

Interested in how these publishing mergers and acquisitions have shaped the world of academic publishing? Check out Larivière and colleague’s 2015 paper, The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.

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.

Making the Most of HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS)

At the end of March, HathiTrust announced that one of the ways they are responding to the widespread closures of libraries is to launch their Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) to allow the circulation of millions of digital copies of books now locked up in library stacks. Even those digital books that are still in copyright which under normal circumstances are not available. This is very exciting to those of us whose regular job duties include getting resources into the hands of patrons. Most of us in Technical Services have that mission at the core of our jobs, even though we do not work directly with patrons providing reference or instruction.

After HathiTrust outlined parameters of the ETAS with representatives from member institutions on April 2nd, 2020, an announcement went out to the Duke Community letting everyone know to look for the “Temporary Access” button on HathiTrust’s site, which gives us access to view one page at a time for in- copyright materials of which DUL holds a print copy.

Cory Lown and I quickly started communicating on how we could improve access for our patrons. Because the Hathi BibAPI is already in use for the Books & Media catalog for open access materials, we considered that avenue. Initially, there was not enough metadata available to us to reliably determine which digital books are available through ETAS. So, I started to strategize on how to add records to our Aleph ILS and communicated with our colleagues at UNC-Chapel Hill to determine if their method would work for us. The number of records that would need to be created, though, was high at 1.3 million. That much new access for our patrons is great, but developing the process to get records in, and plan for getting them back out later when ETAS ended, meant that loading records into Aleph was going to be very time consuming.

On April 8th, HathiTrust published an article on their website, “How to Add ETAS Records to Your Catalog” which discusses three ways to provide direct links to the digital surrogate of an institution’s holdings. After reading this article, investigating what our peers were doing, and searching for the information needed to succeed, I realized all of the methods described meant that we had to have access to the HathiFiles database, the Overlap Report for Duke, and authentication credentials so that patrons would be prompted to login with Shibboleth to prove they are Duke people.

I reached back out to Cory to discuss which of the three methods we should use; ultimately, we decided that a combination of two was best for Duke. So, Cory updated how we use the BibAPI to harvest data from a local store of the HathiFiles and Overlap Report to generate URLs that are embedded in records as they are displayed in the Books & Media Catalog.

So, as of April 17th, in addition to being able to search for materials directly in HathiTrust, as they had since April 2nd, patrons now see “View Online” links to the ETAS items directly in our catalog. This temporary access means that approximately 38% of our print holdings now have links to HathiTrust materials (this percentage includes the open access links that were available before making this change).

Here is an example record that shows a “View Online” link: https://find.library.duke.edu/?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_field=all_fields&q=D02036262L

With teaching, learning, and research activities now having to be done remotely I expect we will continue to look for ways to help our users gain the most effective access we can manage under the circumstances.

Visiting the Library From Home

Even as the Duke University Libraries remain closed, there is no shortage of library resources to be enjoyed remotely.  We asked the Technical Services staff to share how they are using the libraries to make the most of their time at home. Here are some of their responses:

“My family has enjoyed Naxos Music Library. It has over 2.3 million tracks!”
(Natalie Sommerville, Team Lead, Monographic Original Cataloging)


 

“I’ve been playing mandolin for a few years now, and I like to check out music from the library to work on. I’m pretty slow, so these two should be able to tide me over for some time. Also, both of the Fantastic Beasts movies are on Swank Digital Campus!” (Dennis Christman, Metadata Transformation Librarian)


 

“I have an issue of one of my favorite manga at home. It’s volume no. 2 of ‘Yotsuba &!’ The series shows the zany antics of a young girl (about 5 years old, I think?) in Japan.  It’s a slice-of-life comedy that always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood.  I brought the volume home in case I need help feeling joyful in these times.” https://find.library.duke.edu/catalog/DUKE005833895
(Will Hanley, Electronic Resources Management Specialist)


 

“I really needed a break from all of the terrible, frightening news, and I REALLY needed to laugh, so I decided to check out Swank Digital Campus.  Swank has a pretty good selection of films in a number of different genres, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some I’d always heard about, but had never seen.  I decided upon ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (I know, I can’t believe I never saw it either!), and really enjoyed it.  I needed something lighthearted and fun and that fit the bill. I may check out ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and I noticed Swank also has ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed.” (Ellen Maxwell, Library Original Cataloger for Monographic Resources)


“I am using Duke’s OverDrive (in conjunction with Durham Library’s – it’s great, you can combine access to both in the OverDrive Libby app) to find ebooks for leisure reading on my Kindle.

Birds of the World is a great database for those of us who have become amateur bird watchers while at home. We have a great view out of my living room window onto a bird feeder and watch the birds come and go all day. I even spent some time trying to learn to identify bird songs this weekend (not super successful on that one).” (Virginia Martin, Head – Continuing Resource Acquisitions)


“I have stacked on my dining room table around 20 books from DUL that I am using to write an historical article.  It will be entitled, “Selling Virginia: promoting English emigration in the seventeenth century” and will be published in Advertising and Society Quarterly.

I’ve taken photos of many of the images of promotion literature included in these illustrated texts (all public domain, of course.)  They included broadsides, official documents, lottery headers, etc.  Many people don’t realize how rich our collections are in older texts, and the value they provide.” (Beverly Dowdy, Coordinator – Government Documents Processing)

Working for the Library During a Pandemic

image source

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.

Cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection

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!