Thoughts of a Special Collections Intern

[As told by Amanda Wentworth]: As someone who relatively recently became interested in the wonderful world of librarianship, it was not too long ago that the term “Special Collections” would’ve passed through the air over my head with no recognition and no further consideration. Mentioning it to people around me now inspires a similar reaction.

In fact, my general notions about librarianship were relatively limited. When I thought of a librarian, I thought of someone sitting at the front desk of a library to scan books out, filling shelves, answering reference questions, and so on. What I didn’t know was that this is a rich and diverse field of work that manifests itself in a wide range of career environments. Librarians are the backbone to a professional society that demands amassing and retrieving information, and its storage, organization, and cataloging. Meaning, schools and universities are not the only places you will ever find a librarian. Any place that has records or data that need tending likely has a librarian to do so, from law firms to medical research facilities; everything in our present world revolves around information, to which librarians are the custodians.

While the image of a librarian might even seem “old-school” to our tech-generation that lives and works digitally, the librarian is arguably more essential to our academic and professional society than ever. Librarianship is moving seamlessly into the digital world, and, in fact, dominates it in many instances. Here at Geneseo, our librarians are cyber-wizards; masters of online research, data retrieval, digital guides, and more. Right before the semester began, I stumbled upon this article, which highlights the importance of librarians in avoiding the largely political and social issues revolving around fake news, and inspired my pursuit of this field even more.

A section of Milne’s Special Collections

In light of this, and given my own interests, further exploring the greater domain of library science seemed natural to me. There are a few areas of study that I could have based my internship in, specifically research and instruction, and Special Collections. When considering which path I’d take initially I thought, why not start with the aspect of academic librarianship that is most unknown to me? And thus my internship with Milne’s Special Collections began.

Although I didn’t have any personal experience with the Special Collections prior to my internship, it didn’t take long for me to find out just how valuable and useful they are on our campus. Geneseo’s Special Collections include several distinct collections, many concerning unique facets of the local and college community, as well as the rare books collection known as the “X” Special Collection. During my time at this internship, I’ve seen students, professors, and alumni utilize this resource for both research and nostalgia. Thanks to the organization and accessibility of the collections, as well as the knowledge and know-how of the librarians that oversee it, most inquirers easily find what they’re looking for. This is an example of reference, which is a large part of any librarian’s job, and has been a hands-on and interesting part of my own internship experience.

Photo by Daniel Fink

My other responsibilities involve collection management, and have included sorting and taking inventory of new collections as well as additions to existing collections, and selecting items to be considered for accession to a collection. As mentioned, modern librarianship is largely focused on the digital, and how the digital world can connect others through the sharing of information. So, naturally, my internship would have to reflect this growing aspect of a librarian’s skills. I’ve had the opportunity to work with New York Heritage, a digital repository created to give easy, free access to digital collections from various libraries and other cultural organizations in New York State, to digitize a portion of a collection found in Milne’s Genesee Valley Historical Collection: a series of photographs taken by Daniel Fink collectively titled The Architecture of Livingston County. I selected the images, scanned them, and input the metadata for each into a digital management system called CONTENTdm so that it could be uploaded into the New York Heritage site, to join other collections that have been contributed by Milne Library. I have also been collaborating on an existing project that requires extensive metadata work in a CSV file for thousands of photographs in the College Archives, for import into an Omeka website.

It’s clear that librarians with digital and technical skills are currently in high demand as our society dives further and further into cyber-world, in desperate need for skilled navigators of the information landscape.

Dr. Walter Harding to be Subject of Exhibit

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Dr. Walter Harding (1917-1996)

Library Intern Demi Monachino and Milne Library’s Special Collections Librarian, Liz Argentieri, are currently hard at work creating an exhibit dedicated to one of the college’s most distinguished and influential professors, Dr. Walter Harding, who was on the Geneseo faculty from 1956 to 1983. Dr. Harding was one of the world’s leading Thoreau scholars, and we find ourselves up to our elbows in the many essays, articles, and tributes he wrote centering on Henry David Thoreau (an original Transcendentalist and the author of Walden). Among all of these scholarly documents on Thoreau, however, we are also finding some truly amazing information on Dr. Harding himself.

This man, who accomplished so much in a lifetime and amassed one of the world’s largest collection of Thoreauviana, was a large influence on not just the Geneseo community, but the world. It is somewhat hard to believe that a professor from our small college town in western New York was sent to Japan by the State Department to teach Thoreau there, and received letters from the likes of President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Albert Einstein, just to name a few. For us, Dr. Harding is truly starting to come alive once again through these testimonials and remnants of his legacy, found in our own Milne Library and in the Thoreau Society’s Walter Harding Collection at Walden Woods, where we’ll be visiting later this spring.

Walter Harding wrote the definitive biography of Thoreau

Walter Harding wrote the definitive biography of Henry David Thoreau

Image courtesy of the Thoreau Society

Image courtesy of the Thoreau Society

The goal of the exhibit, which will be on display in Milne during the weeks surrounding the annual Walter Harding Lecture this fall, is to share with current Geneseo students and faculty the kind of awe and pride Dr. Harding’s life and work has inspired in us. We want to reintroduce to the community this remarkable man and scholar that many have never had the pleasure to meet (and some may have never heard of), and to open their eyes to a man who, despite having such a large global impact, always remained humble. In this presentation of Dr. Harding’s knowledge, wit, and accomplishment, we only hope that we do justice to his legacy.

~ Article written by Demi Monachino

Local Resources: Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley

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Photo of the GAGV’s LGBTQ Resource Center’s new library.

If you are new to Western New York, you might not be privy to the city’s extensive history in the LGBTQ movement that formed what is known today as the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley (GAGV). The GAGV has been monumental in making Rochester a safer place to live for those who do not fall into a binary with regard to sexuality or gender expression.

You may have witnessed the impact of the GAGV right here on-campus: the rainbow signs hanging by many faculty and staff’s offices indicate they have received SafeZone Training. This training serves as an educational tool to educate supportive faculty, staff, and students on LGBTQ terminology, issues, and questions.

Recently, the GAGV has opened the doors of its new LGBTQ Resource Center at 100 College Avenue in Rochester. This resource center serves an educational and safe space for LGBTQ individuals as well as their allies. The center features a library, archives, and hosts weekly social events.

  • The library contains over 10,000 fiction and nonfiction books, periodicals, and DVDs, which are all available for you to borrow. You can browse the center’s collection online via LibraryThing.
  • The archives have plenty of historical material that help document the progression of the LGBTQ movement in Rochester, including The Empty Closet, the original publication used to advance the rights of so many individuals in Western New York.
  • The resource centers hours are:
    Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00 pm &
    Wednesdays, 6:00-8:00 pm.
    Everyone is welcome!
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The volunteer staff of the GAGV Library & Archives.

If you cannot make it all the way up to Rochester, no worries! Milne Library and SUNY Geneseo have many available LGBTQ resources. You can find many books on LGBTQ topics in Milne’s collection as well as specialized LGBTQ research databases.  Aiden Cropsey, Coordinator of LGBTQ Programs and Services, along with the student-led Pride Alliance, host several events throughout the year, and even have their own floating book collection. You can also like and follow them on Facebook!

All photos and images used with permission from the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

~ written by Brandon West

Government Documents Are Moving Back to Milne

GDocsCollectionThis summer, the library is moving our government documents back to Milne in preparation for building renovations in Fraser. The loss of the space in Fraser gave us opportunity to work with faculty across several disciplines in a re-evaluation of this collection. “We know that there just isn’t enough space to bring everything back to Milne. However, most of the material in this collection is available online. In fact, over 95% of materials currently published by the Government Printing Office are freely available in full-text online,” said Justina Elmore, Coordinator of the Government Documents Collection. “We spent last semester working with faculty to determine what and how much of this collection we could, and have room to, retain.”

Now that the size of the collection has been reduced to just the government documents that our patrons actually use, the library has begun the process of moving them back to Milne. Additionally, Milne Library will continue to offer quick delivery via IDS for any deselected items that are not yet online, should the need arise. Luckily, there are two Federal Depository libraries in the area from which to draw.

Bringing these materials back to Milne will make finding and using government documents easier. Most of the material will become part of the general collection, allowing us to reduce the number of places a researcher must look in order to find materials on a particular topic.

“A Camera in 1888” Exhibit Opening Tuesday, Nov. 4, 6-7 p.m. in Milne Library

Please join us at the opening of an exhibit featuring the remarkable, often beautiful and historically important photographs of Martha Blow Wadsworth (1864-1934) from Milne Library’s Special Collections.  The event will take place in Milne Library on Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 6-7 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.

camera1888“A Camera in 1888: Martha Blow Wadsworth, Chronicler of American Moments” highlights photographs taken during her travels to Alaska with an Army surveying party, to Panama while the canal was being built, and to the American west and southwest (again with an Army surveying party ) — all in the early 20th-century. Through the talented eye of one local amateur, the exhibit illustrates what the consumer camera, introduced in 1888 by Kodak, made possible. It will be on view through December in the lobby of Milne Library.

Ms. Wadsworth was a native of St. Louis who lived  in Avon, N.Y. with her husband, Herbert Wadsworth (of the prominent Geneseo family).  An avid horsewoman and amateur photographer, she has been described as vivacious, energetic, and adventurous. Thirty-three of her albums, as well as hundreds of glass slides, from which the photographs have been selected were donated to Milne Library in 1976 by nephew-in-law Michael Moukhanoff and are housed with the larger Wadsworth Family Papers collection.

“A Camera in 1888” was curated by Special Collections Librarian Liz Argentieri and Regina Carra ’15, with assistance from Jack Scott ’06. It is part of the larger campus-wide program, 1888 in America: William Trost Richards’ Seascape Contextualized, which opened Oct. 24 and runs through the end of the semester.

Historical Cookery Now Available

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Image credit: Warner’s Safe Cook Book

As part of the Genesee Valley Historical Reprint Series, Milne Library is pleased to share the release of 8 reprinted cookbooks originally published between 1817 and 1921. This collection may not be the best resource for everyday cooking in the modern kitchen, but if you want to know how to cook chicken soup (starting with choosing the unlucky bird!) and other little-known culinary tricks, these are the books for you.

Old cookbooks preserve otherwise lost culinary and household knowledge. Many of these reprinted books, which are largely put together by the members of institutions and societies local to the Geneseo area, include recipes and advice for removing stains, concocting cleaning agents, and creating curatives that many people may be glad to rediscover. Warner’s Safe Cook Book has a robust section of miscellanea which ranges from laundry (“To Clean Clothing,” “To Keep Furs,” and “Old Fruit Stains”), to first aid (“For Severe Sprains”), to smoothing irons and putting together a bouquet of herbs. The Genesee County Cook Book offers “Substituting for Wheat in Any Recipe,” and The Genesee Valley Cook Book contains a recipe for “Good Paste,” as well as for various lotions and creams.

Also illuminating to read are game recipes that used to be quite common but are now almost never seen, calling for creatures such as turtles, blackbirds, and squirrels. One might find it interesting to know that the old nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” speaks truth in the line “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,” for that is how many birds are needed in a Blackbird Pie!

More timeless, and contained in each of the eight cookbooks, are sections on jams, pickling, and preserving, which may be useful to cooks interested in canning or gardners with excess crops.

The cookbooks in the Genesee Valley Historical Collection, and in the Genesee Valley Historical Reprint Series, remind us of what life must have been like for women and their families during this time period, and how important and fortunate it was that they shared their wisdom in book form, when this wisdom otherwise was contained within families and communities and mainly passed on orally. My own reliance on the internet for simple cooking basics, or to learn something new, reminds me how lucky we are to have (often) free and easy access to this vast world of cultural and academic knowledge.

The books in the Genesee Valley Historical Reprint Series are available free online, through our website at go.geneseo.edu/omp.  The titles are also available for purchase through Amazon.com (with proceeds supporting Milne Library’s Special Collections), and the originals are available for the community to browse and check out at Milne Library.

~ written by Allison Brown

Library Publishes More Titles in its Genesee Valley Reprints Series

ReprintSeriesSept2013There are some items among Milne Library’s collections that just can’t be found in many book shops, or even in many libraries. Now, though, access to them is easy through the  Genesee Valley Historical Reprints Series, one of several publishing endeavors  Milne has undertaken in recent months, along with the Library Publishing ToolkitGREAT Day Proceedings, Tagging Along: Memories of My Grandfather, James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr. (an original monograph), and the SUNY Open Textbooks initiative (the first two titles of which will be available in October).

The Library launched its reprints series last fall, and with it a publishing model that offers both for-profit sales and free downloads of scarce and unusual books selected from Milne’s special collections. To date, Milne has published eleven titles in the series and is adding more each week.  By the end of this fall, the series will be 30-40 titles strong. The range of subjects represented is broad and varied, and among the titles currently available through Amazon (for sale) and Open Monograph Press (free) are Recollections of Three Rebel Prisons, a memoir of local soldier G.G. Prey’s Civil War experience as a prisoner in the South; Rochester Through a Kodak, a “snapshot” of the Flower City in the late 1800s; and Recipes of Quality, one of several local early 20th century cookbooks offered in the series.

Besides breathing new life into older, hard to find, out of print titles – many of local interest — this new publishing venture aims to make some of Milne’s rarest and most interesting materials widely available, to preserve them in both electronic and print formats, and to develop efficient publishing services for the wider campus and community.

Go loco for local history!

Here’s a resource you probably didn’t know about, but really should — even if you’re just curious about Geneseo and its regional environs: the Local History Subject Guide.  It will lead you to all kinds of cool sources dealing with many aspects of the Genesee Valley region, including Livingston, Monroe, Wyoming, Genesee, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Allegany counties.

Geneseo Main St., looking toward Park St.

Geneseo Main St., looking toward Park St.

The Guide is a must-see first stop for students seeking a local take on their research topics, from American history to demographics, Native American studies, geology, business, education — you name it.  Milne Library’s own Genesee Valley Historical Collection, located on the lower level, is home to a wide variety of local historical materials, but the Guide also points to other collections, both online and physical, that are worth knowing about.  This is especially important since so much of the local history record is unique — i.e., original source materials held by single agencies.  Increased digitization of unique materials, however, is removing barriers to access, and libraries, historical societies, and museums are able to more easily share their treasures with everyone.  A great example, and one in which Milne Library has added some of its unique collections, is the New York Heritage digital repository.

So whether you’re a student on a research mission, a local history buff, genealogist, author, or simply someone a little interested in the area you’re calling home these days, check out Milne’s Local History guide and see where it leads you.

Milne display memorializes architect Edgar Tafel

Edgar Tafel (2nd from right) with Wright and other Taliesin Fellows

Edgar Tafel, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices and an original member of Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship, died on January 18, 2011 at the age of 98.  Tafel is perhaps best known in the Geneseo community as the architect both of  the College’s 1964 Facilities Master Plan, the blueprint from which the campus’ 1960s-era construction boom flowed, and of several buildings constructed here from 1967-71 — most notably, Brodie Fine Arts Building.  At Geneseo’s 2001 Commencement ceremony, Tafel received an honary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York in recognition of his excellent work for SUNY.

To commemorate Tafel’s passing as well his contributions to the architectural landscape of SUNY Geneseo, Milne Library has assembled some relevant materials from the College Archives and elsewhere and placed them on display in a table case in the lobby.  The mini-exhibit will run until February 23.