Personal & Institutional News

Column Editor: Richard Hacken

WESS Newsletter
Spring 2005
Vol. 28, no. 2

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For the first time in WESStitutional memory, the Winter Games of the American Library Association took place in Boston last January. Before, between, and after scintillating WESS meetings, those of us less familiar with Beantown were mightily impressed, despite the oft-times double-digit negative wind-howling chill, with such historic or noteworthy surroundings as the spot where cups and saucers were rinsed after the Boston Tea Party; the duck ponds in the Boston Public Garden that inspired the book “Make Way for Ducklings;” Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, and a Lindt chocolate shop near the convention center; Old Ironsides, not made of iron; Bunker Hill, where the Battle of Bunker Hill was not fought; Booth # 18 in the Union Oyster House, where JFK habitually enjoyed lobster and cornbread in the company of various attractive individuals ushered in through the back entrance; and then across the long Fellow Bridge over the Charles River, the latter referred to by 17th century French trappers as “le fleuve de Chuck;” past and beyond the Frank Gehry buildings at MIT, whose bulges have been called the architectural equivalents of Chomskyian linguistics’ formative years; thence by MBTA to Harvard Yard with its narrow entrance opening out to a wider vista leading to the even Widener Library. Tragically, few were able to see the Green Monster at Fenway Park. On a happier note, the French WESS Conference reunion – in a feat of inspired venue selection – was held in the only bar in Boston not broadcasting the New England Patriots’ league championship football game then in progress. Speaking of progress, WESS persons and institutions just keep on moving forward in a most (and sometimes mostly) positive manner, as the following vignettes shall attempt to illustrate for your reading pleasure.

As of the end of March, Emily Stambaugh has left the forests and meadows of Wake Forest in her wake to go down by the riverside, to become the new social sciences bibliographer at UC Riverside. Being a California native, she can’t help but see this as a sort of homecoming. (There’s something hard-wired into some of us Westerners that won’t let us go too far east for too long a time. No doubt some of you native Easterners, Mid-Westerners, Southerners, and Europeans feel a similar way about the soil upon which you first stood… and in which you first gardened.) Emily expects to continue her dual allegiances to ALA-WESS and to SALALM, depending on her assignment at UCR and its relationship to Europe and Latin America. Since she is an important part of the WessWeb Iberian Studies web team, she will be transferring certain Iberocentric web files cross-country, if they can make the trip intact. As she leaves Winston-Salem, we will no longer be able to make tobacco-town jokes at her expense.

As of now, WESS member Stephen Corrsin is the new Chief of Acquisitions at New York Public Library. He previously held a slightly lesser position for a short period, namely, Associate Chief of Acquisitions, to which he was appointed in September. Less than three months later, the cream rose to the top. Now that, my friends, is a fast rise. One of his favorite musicals on Broadway, as you might expect, is “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He warns us that the power will probably drive him mad.

Last fall Sue Roberts organized, posted, and then literally carried out two exhibits for the Yale Library. The first was “France at War: Additions to the War Poster Collection." During the summer of 2004, the library had acquired a collection of 85 French posters from the First and Second World Wars. These add to Yale's extensive War Poster Collection, which has over 500 French posters from World War I but ex ante facto previously very few from World War II. The newly acquired posters come from the region of Anjou, some of them trailing clouds of local context. The 58 World War II posters significantly expand Yale's holdings beyond the 14 French posters previously in the collection, documenting mobilization and recruitment activities, the fall of France, establishment of the Vichy state, and themes of Vichy ideology and propaganda. Then, December and January and Sue herself brought "Napoleon: Legends and Legacies, 1804-2004" to the exhibit area. This commemorated the bicentenary of Napoleon's coronation as Emperor of the French on December 2, 1804. The display illuminated Napoleon's contributions to military history and theory, French politics, law and administration; exploration and science; and the arts, literature, and culture. Books and documents drawn from several library collections explored the creation and perpetuation of Napoleon’s legend, mystique, and various legacies. Sue also produced an article on the trials of a neglected Italian nun, "Benedetto's sister," (see Personal & Institutional News Column of Spring 2003 for more details) and one on European libraries in the 19th century. Comprehending the art of granting herself a well-deserved rest after the flurries of activity, Sue then proceeded to fly off with her husband and his Yale Alumni tour group to Egypt in late February. (NB: Egypt is a country where peasants in antiquity were disposable, particularly those who referred to Ramses II as “The Old Giza.”) This trip was professional development for Sue, in any case, since she was following Napoleon to Egypt!

The state of North Carolina now receives mention for the second time in this column. This time, however, it is for someone who is staying in the state rather than leaving it, i.e., e.g., m.l.s., John Rutledge, who – at the state’s flagship institution – worships in a Chapel on the Hill. Or is the mention of Chapel Hill too daring a mix of church and state? John truly captures the essence of John in his own words, and so we quote him now verbatim: “…But who really cares that I came in second overall in our windsurfing club's 2004 race season[?]. Fairly off topic for most folks. (Except maybe for Jim Spohrer, who is a sit-down sailor.) It only proves Allen's apothegm, most of life is just showing up. Or my co-authored study of H-Net book reviews that just appeared in College and Research Libraries, Jan. 2005 (66/1). But most Wessies deprecate library literature, don't they? Remember that exchange we had on German-e about using Google for ‘goethe-values’? I converted that to an article for Collection Management, which I hope will see print soon. (But that's counting my hitchings before they check, I suppose.)” Leaving the realm of direct Rutledge quote, and then returning to it, John’s final message to us is a truly humbling concept that proves the old adage (conundrum? theorem? rule?) that the exception proves the rule: “What else [can I tell you]? I don't travel, don't digitize, don't teach, don't take courses.”

Dominique Coulombe of Brown University, new Vice-Chair of the Romance Languages Discussion Group through June, will serve as Chair of that group for the following year. Dominique has been an active member of WESS and RLDG and has particular expertise in French Studies. She has also been a recent Chair of ALCTS Education Committee. Dominique may, in fact, be surprised to see herself mentioned at all in this column, since the following information was extracted in its totality from an electronic nexus of information shining forth from a 17-inch screen, not from any correspondence of her own. Beware: you may be the next nugget taken from data-mining! Dominique has been way ahead of the digital game, having taken a practical and hands-on course for electronic texts at the Rare Books School of the University of Virginia ten years ago (1995, which was then an age barely advanced beyond the prehistoric era of the Web). As she drove around the countryside near Charlottesville, she noted that “…the surrounding landscape resembles some parts of France, namely Burgundy and the Rhône Valley.”

Though it seems old news by now, Gail Hueting is Senior Monographic Cataloger at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on a permanent appointment (for one year previous to this past January it had been an acting position). In trying to be helpful to librarians and staff doing cataloging, she has discovered that a lot of their questions have to do with foreign languages and the conventions of international publication. Cataloging at UIUC has been reorganized several times in the past six years and faces further changes as the Illini move into metadata (a new challenge for Gail, though she never metadata she didn’t like). She keeps a foot in WESS territory by continuing to do cataloging for the Modern Languages and Linguistics Library and book selection in Scandinavian languages and literature. Among all those whose family name appears to be a gerund, Gail is one of the most faithful WESS members.

At first glance, it might appear that Margit Smith’s dual responsibilities as Head of Cataloging and of Preservation at the Copley Library, University of San Diego, would produce a massive conflict of interests: the cataloger cranks out logical and clear access points so that users can find books to get their grimy hands on, while the preservationist dreams about an unsoiled, unsullied sparkling gem of a book that floats untouched in an ether of perfection. But somehow she has found a way to run a department of seven people engaged in various cataloging, binding prep and preservation functions in the real world, balancing the needs of access and ethereal lucidity against any excess of material acidity. Her research interest, however, lies in hand bookbinding (she has been a hand bookbinder for over 30 years) and in the physical makeup of very early books, particularly medieval ones. She has taken many workshops with bookbinders in the US and in Europe and has attended courses in Montefiascone (Italy) with the Montefiascone Library Project, and in Ascona (Switzerland) at the Centro del bel libro. Last year after the Montefiascone class on constructing a medieval girdle book, she decided to concentrate on that format for the time being. Together with one of the instructors of the course, she is in the process of planning the documentation of all 23 surviving girdle books, which is obviously a very small number of originals that still exist. Twenty of them are held in Europe and three in the US. With the assistance of university and other funding sources, Margit plans to travel to them all and to document them in word and photograph/illustration/drawing. Right now she is in the literature review phase and has amassed a considerable body of information about these rarities. As of now, no inclusive resource exists to describe and picture them all – she wants to fill that gap in the literature of bookbinding. If any WESSie knows about girdle books (no, this term does not refer to whalebone bodices), or has one in their collection which has not been described yet, Margit would very much like to know about it. One of the project outcomes she hopes for is the discovery of additional girdle books as more people become aware of their importance and their scarcity. They may be difficult to identify, since it is thought that often the pouch part of the binding was cut off to make shelving easier.

Editor: Sarah G. Wenzel

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