#37 Spring 2001
- My Life as a Humanities Librarian: First in a Series
- News from the Chair
- Carving Up Europe: Discussing the Coverage of European Culture, Publishing, and Librarianship by LES, SEES, and WESS
- New Literary Serials Published Since ca. 1996
- A Favorite Reference Tool: Author Chronologies
- Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Online: Product Review
- Personal and Institutional News
- San Francisco Program
- Editor's Note
- LES and Related ALA Resources
My Life as a Humanities Librarian: First in a Series
My life as a humanities librarian is in some ways a sham, a fraud. Like many librarians, I have, at times, in various jobs, been assigned (or volunteered) for liaison duties to subject areas that are a complete mystery to me. At one point, I worked with the department of sports science. At other times, I’ve been liaison with psychology, sociology, and military science. Perhaps one of the perks of age, experience, and being able to apply more selectively for jobs is the pleasure of finding a position that fits with one’s interests, education, and talents.
At present, I am the liaison to the English, history, and languages departments. History I am comfortable with, having a BA and MA in that field. I have a grasp on the research process and some of the basic sources used. A healthy dose of college-level French and Latin gives me a little understanding of the Romance languages, and I can recognize at least half a dozen words in German. However, I took only one literature class in college, other than the required freshman comp, and that was a basic honors poetry course. The instructor was John Miles Foley, in his first year at the University of Missouri. He is now very well known for his research on oral literature, but back then, he was trying to find his way. My strongest memory of the class was a fellow student named, I swear, Muffy, who asked if our assigned paper on a given poem should be about "like, how the poem has influenced our life?" Foley managed not to laugh, but just barely. Thus ended my familiarity with formal literature instruction.
Literature and literary criticism compose a research-intensive discipline, one with a deep emotional attachment for its disciples. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like to read and a variety of literature. But literary criticism doesn’t hold much attraction, and theory of any kind gives me nosebleeds. Acting as the liaison for the English faculty and graduate students is a bit tricky. It’s like being tone deaf in a concert hall full of music lovers listening to a symphony. I can see the passion these people feel for their chosen field of study, but I cannot hear the music myself. I can master the mechanics of the MLA International Bibliography and the standard reference tools and revel with patrons when they find some hidden gem or the "perfect" article. Where our interests overlap, I can talk with the teaching faculty and students about the writings of specific authors and our enjoyment of those works, but theirs is a deeper understanding than mine will ever be.
To make up for this shortcoming, I use my workmanlike skills to the best advantage of my assigned departments. Mine is a small shop, primarily an undergraduate population with a few master’s degrees tossed in, including ones in English and history. I keep watch on the new-book shelf, and when I see something right on target with a specific professor's interests, I copy the table of contents and title page, note the call number, and send it over to the department. Ditto with items in review journals that I’m not ordering but that someone might want to get on interlibrary loan. I watch for other things as well, and when I see something I think someone might be interested in, I send it to them--the citation for a horseman’s manual written by a medieval Turk for someone interested in horsemanship, Turkey, and medieval literature; an article on the significance of the name Timothy for someone with that name; anything on a specific author for someone on the editorial board of a journal on that author. When I write, specifically anything that reviews products, I use the research interests of relevant faculty for my sample searches. They get free search results; I get varied examples. It's a win/win situation.
Many librarians in ACRL and ALA generally feel a bit lost trying to find a home in one of the many sections, groups, and committees. I often feel that way myself, sitting in meetings of just about any group. Those who have found a home at smaller schools can be intimidated by the comments of our colleagues at research universities, where a sufficient cadre of librarians allows them to specialize in just one or two areas and who can discuss the finer points of specific schools of literature and speak with a close reader's familiarity of the works of literary authors I have never heard of. My in-depth knowledge of the barflies in Spider Robinson's Callahan science-fiction books is probably not all that impressive in return. And I would never confess to having read a Jayne Ann Krentz or Amanda Quick romance. (Shhh, don't tell anyone.) On the other hand, though, some of those folks at research institutions may have been pushed into specialization just as folks at smaller schools are pushed into being generalists. One thing I do know is that those differences, regardless of how alarming they may sometimes be, are also one of the reasons I go to ALA and sit in those committee meetings, feeling uneducated and out of place. Because it is there that I learn what other people are doing and what authors are considered up and coming (and that I therefore need to buy) and whether other humanities librarians are able to hold the line against the growing push to throw out older journals because they are available online. I also get great mystery-novel recommendations from the people in front of and behind me in line for the Internet room.
I like my life as a humanities librarian. It is a good life and one that I have suggested to a variety of students over the years. It allows me to pursue my own interests, come in contact with books I would otherwise not found ( Obituaries in American Culture being my current fave), talk with the nice people in English, history, and the languages, and chat with all of you at ALA.
This is the inaugural column in this series and, as there wasn't anything to follow, I made it up as I went along. If you were repulsed, enraged, intrigued, or amused, please consider writing your own "My Life as a Humanities Librarian" column. The editor will be glad to hear from you.
Paul Robeson Library
News from the Chair
Last fall, I wrote about the intense presence of ACRL in our professional lives (or mine at least). This time, let’s talk about us. LES is a remarkably active section, and its committees are busy with important and useful projects.
The Membership Committee works to welcome new members; this is important because, remembering my own new memberhood, once a person makes the commitment to join LES, there’s some question or doubt about what happens next and what membership brings. It should at least bring a "Welcome; thanks for joining us; let’s get together at Annual or Midwinter; here’s what’s going on in the section and some ways you can become involved." In addition, this year, the Membership Committee is also spearheading the logo-project, on which more below. Louise Greenfield (Arizona) is chair.
The Publication Committee is active in several directions and is developing ideas for a print and/or Web guide to information literacy activities specific to literatures in English, a national directory of literature subject specialists, and a book-length collection of essays on reference and instructional services. They have initiated a mentoring plan through which "new" or "younger" librarians can work with established LES librarians to gain effective ideas and help in getting started publishing. As more libraries emulate publish-or-perish hiring and promotion policies, younger librarians need sound mentoring and models. Good mentoring may, of course, lead to more LES publications.
Publication is also collaborating with Membership on a project to design a new logo for the section. With our name change from EALS to LES, we need a new logo for use on our brochure, Web site, newsletter, and letterheads. More ambitiously, however, we want to develop our future programs and projects in conjunction with the "branding" that a carefully designed logo would help us achieve. The idea of "branding" is not simply the use of an attractive logo but, more importantly, an attempt to make the section more visible and significant to librarians, to library administrators, and to literature faculty and students. Nancy Kushigian (California Davis) is this year’s chair.
The Planning Committee recently revised our by-laws, which revision we will all vote on (and "for," I hope) in this spring’s ALA elections, and now has turned to revising the so-called "Officers’ Manual." It’s not just for officers but for all members, and when revised, it will make the section’s operations much more flexible and easy to work with. A good manual means good governance means good operations and more fun for all (professionally speaking). Austin Booth (SUNY Buffalo) chairs Planning.
I won’t say anything here about the Program 2001 Committee’s plans for a program on the Beats at this summer’s Annual meeting in San Francisco because it is described elsewhere in Biblio-Notes, but even as we are at work, Kristine Anderson’s Program 2002 Committee is also at work on their program. The beat goes on.
All is not, however, just committees. Kathy Anderson (Nebrasksa) moderates LES-L; Cindy Shirkey (Dartmouth) edits the Web page; Michael Adams (CUNY Graduate) edits Biblio-Notes; Dan Coffey (Iowa State) is now Section Bibliographer and compiling a permanent record of publications in our field. Candace Benefiel, Heather Martin, John Tofanelli, and chair discussion groups and a task force where any members can drop in and join the discussion of reference services, nineteenth-century materials, and defining and fostering research competencies.
So, the section is really busy and productive. Whew! Members can become active in many ways, all of them rewarding. This activity, however, really serves ultimately to make our work in our own libraries better informed by being better connected with our professional colleagues. It is here in LES that we meet, talk with, and learn from librarians who are deeply engaged in the same work we are doing. I hope all members can, at some time in their careers, become more active and share, as I have, the pleasure of working hard with librarians who know what they’re doing and really enjoy doing it.
Carving Up Europe: Discussing the Coverage of European Culture, Publishing, and Librarianship by LES, SEES, and WESS
Are the categories we use to delineate ACRL sections and distinguish ourselves from each other adequate? As Jeff Garrett, current chair of the Western European Specialists Section (WESS), remarks, "Since the end of the Cold War, the old boundaries between the area specialist sections in ACRL have become increasingly artificial. Europe generally is becoming a much more integrated and, at the same time, a much more complicated place. For example, publishers in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, and other countries increasingly publish in English. Publishers in the US and the UK, both print and electronic, devote themselves equally to foreign-language materials." To explore these issues, areas of common interest, and future collaborations, WESS held a discussion at ALA on January 16, 2001, and invited members of LES and the Slavic and East European Section (SEES) to participate.
These basic questions led to others dealing with how individual libraries and their institutions are organized and why ALA members choose to belong to one section or another when in fact their job responsibilities may be encompassed by several. Some surprising facts came to light. For example, many small-to-midsize institutions have been reorganized along area studies lines in response to Federal Title 6 grants. Many individual librarians also choose the sections they wish to belong to according to extrinsic reasons having more to do with personal preferences and respecting their local colleagues' turf.
One WESS member pointed out that there are generally three axes around which our jobs are constructed: geography, language, and subject. The same could be said for ACRL sections. This gave me the idea of going to the ALA handbook, looking up the sections that seemed the most akin to us, and analyzing them using the aforementioned three axes as distinctive features. According to this analysis, LES can be defined as +language, +subject and –geography because we deal with materials in only one language, English, and focus on a particular subject, literature, but do not limit ourselves to publications from any particular geographic location. By the same system, WESS can be viewed as +language, -subject, and +geography because members generally focus on materials in languages spoken in a limited geographical location, Western Europe, but theoretically do not limit themselves to any particular subject. It did come out in discussion that, in practice, WESS also emphasizes literature, but there was a bit of WESS self-flagellation over the relative neglect of the social sciences and the almost complete neglect of the sciences for Western European coverage, indicating that subject limitation is not one of their core values. SEES came up in my analysis as + geography, +language, and +subject.
Admittedly, I am less an expert on SEES than on WESS or LES, but its description in the ALA handbook would support my supposition: "Represents librarians and specialists in the fields of Slavic and East European studies and is concerned with those aspects of library service which require knowledge of Slavic and East European languages." Thus its coverage includes Slavic and East European subjects in Slavic languages and any others spoken within a limited geographical area: Eastern Europe. One issue for WESS was whether SEES and WESS should be folded into a European Studies Section; however, as one person pointed out, just because the geographical barriers have come down doesn't mean that other barriers don't still exist, such as different languages and even different alphabets.
With all this in mind, I applied the same kind of distinctive feature analysis to other ACRL sections whose coverage overlaps with ours and discovered the African-American Studies Librarians (+geography, -language, +subject) and the Australian-Canadian Studies Discussion group (+geography, +subject, -language). When we think about seeking partners for future programs and other projects, we might consider these three axes as possible points of connection with other ACRL sections.
Kristine J. Anderson
Purdue University Libraries
New Literary Serials Published Since ca. 1996
The list below is a fairly idiosyncratic collection of journals that I thought would be of interest to librarians who work with literatures in English. Please regard it rather as representative than as comprehensive. Titles were gleaned from a variety of sources, including ABELL, MLAIB, and several individuals. Particularly useful were lists supplied by Jim Kelly, Rob Melton, and Bruce Sajdak, and I also thank Faye Christenberry, Bill Gargan, and Nancy Kushigian for responding to my petition. I included a few journals from Rob’s original 1996 list (posted on the section discussion list) if they began after 1995 and a few that began before 1996 which were not on his list. The information about each title was verified in Ulrich’s, WorldCat, and other sources. Some, such as Jouvert and Romanticism on the Net, are electronic journals. Only a couple of little magazines appear because there are so many of them; the "Small Magazine Review" section of Small Press Review lists about fifteen new titles in each issue. (Editor’s note: An earlier list compiled by Rob Melton appeared in issue #29, spring 1997.)
Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire.
Book History: Annual Journal of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading
and Publishing, Inc. (SHARP).
Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature.
Early Modern Literary Studies: A Journal of Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century
Early Theatre: A Journal Associated with the Records of Early English Drama.
(Formerly Records of Early English Drama Newsletter, 1976-1996.)
European Medieval Drama: Papers from the . . . International Conference on European
Green Mountains Review.
Hopscotch: A Cultural Review.
Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.
Journal of African Travel Writing.
Journal of Caribbean Literatures.
Journal of Material Culture.
Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing
Journal of Victorian Culture: JVC.
Journal X: A Biannual Journal in Culture and Criticism.
Jouvert: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies .
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies.
Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars and
MaComère: Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and
New Medieval Literatures.
Nua: Studies in Contemporary Irish Writing.
Prose Poem: An International Journal.
Romanticism on the Net: An International Refereed Electronic Journal Devoted to
Romantic Studies .
Shakespeare International Yearbook.
Tennessee Williams Annual Review.
Thumbscrew: An Independent Journal of Poetry, Articles, and Reviews.
Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies.
Woolf Studies Annual.
XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics.
(Formerly Cross-Cultural Poetics, 1989-1996.)
University of Notre Dame
A Favorite Reference Tool: Author Chronologies
A few months ago, a colleague came to me with a harried look. She had received a reference question about Virginia Woold and had tried a variety of ready reference tools, all in vain. The patron was looking for information about a prank that Virginia Woolf and her friends carried out in the early twentieth century. Apparently, Woolf and company had embarked on a British ship disguised in flamboyant clothing, and our patron wanted to know the details of this curious episode.
I asked my colleague if she had looked at A Virginia Woolf Chronology (Macmillan, 1989). When she told me that she had not heard of it, I explained the merits of the "Author Chronologies" series for ferreting out details of writers’ lives. A little later she came to my office with a smile on her face. The Woolf chronology entry for 10 February 1910 read as follows :
"Participates in ‘The Dreadnought Hoax’, organised by Horace Cole: VW, A. Stephen, DG, Guy Ridley and Anthony Buxton tour HMS Dreadnought disguised as the Emperor of Abyssinia and his entourage. The story is subsequently leaked by Cole to the press, and the issue raised in Parliament (see A. Stephen, The Dreadnought Hoax (Hogarth, Nov. 1936) and VW’s ‘A Society’, MT)."
It was quite gratifying to be able to answer the patron without having to plow through a series of biographies of Virginia Woolf. The fact that this reference work also gave sources for further consultation was a bonus for us.
The "Author Chronology" series (Macmillan / St. Martin’s) includes titles for such diverse writers as Browning, Milton, Poe, and Wells. There is another series called "Macmillan Author Chronologies," published solely by Macmillan, that includes Conrad, Lawrence, Tennyson, and Wordsworth. All are slim volumes, but they pack a wealth of information difficult to find elsewhere. For literature librarians, these titles are indispensable for minute biographical/literary information about a writer’s life. Daily details of a writer’s activity are provided: meetings with people, social/cultural events, personal issues, progress on writing, travels, etc.
Whether you keep these titles in your reference collection or in your general collection, it is a good idea to be familiar with their contents just in case an obscure question on a major author comes your way. I’d recommend these titles to any library that has an academic or research-oriented collection in the humanities with a focus on literature.
Morisset Library/Bibliotheque Morisset
University of Ottawa
Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Online: Product Review
Although enhanced with technological features unavailable in the 1994 print edition, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Online is basically a Web-based version of the excellent 775-page reference handbook. Ten years in the making, the print Guide provides 226 alphabetically arranged entries covering critics and theorists, schools and movements, and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods. Each encyclopedia entry consists of an extensive, signed essay, which includes a selected primary and secondary bibliography. In almost uniformly positive reviews, critics lauded the print Guide for presenting a readable, clear overview of major landmarks of criticism from classical antiquity to the present day. Reviewers also praised the authors, literary scholars from leading universities throughout Canada and the United States, for producing jargon-free evaluative essays on the frequently obtuse prose written by the theorists themselves.
All of the material in the print version is available in the online version, including the Foreword, Preface, and List of Contributors. The database's introductory screens ("About the Guide Online") explain the goals of the electronic edition: " The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism is designed to balance elegant, readable design with adherence to Web standards; to take advantage of the medium to provide new or easier methods of identifying the reference materials most suited to your needs; and to enhance the value of the reference work by enhancing its utility." Johns Hopkins University Press vendors consider the online version of the Guide a "significant improvement" over the print edition, and researchers can indeed swiftly perform a full-text search of all the entries. In addition, users may easily link to information from a number of special listings, including the Table of Contents, the Index of Names, the Index of Topics (identifying the entries containing significant discussions of particular topics), the Listing of Critic and Theorist Entries, and the Listing of Ideas, History, and Theory Entries. All cross-references are hypertextually linked, enabling quicker access to related materials. Natural-language searching, Fuzzy searching, Boolean, proximity, and field searching are all supported. The search capabilities are very similar to those available in Project Muse, a full-text database of scholarly journals also distributed by JHUP. Overall, the online Guide is easy to use, and its fast response time quickly provides researchers with information on theorists and theories. Users may print and download the HTML files, but there is no e-mail capability.
Individual subscriptions to the online Guide are $35 per year, with an option of $20 for six months (designed for semester-long use). Several options are available for institutional subscribers. Campuswide subscriptions are $250 per year, with an automatic 20 percent discount for current Project Muse subscribers; a single workstation is $50 per year; 3 to 24 machines, $125; and 25 to 49 Ips, $200. A free thirty-day trial of the database may be set up by using an online request form or by calling 410-516-6989. The Guide's homepage also provides a free Sample Entries section for demonstration purposes. These sample entries from the Guide online provide a quick idea of the file's contents and search possibilities. Because of the database's singular content and focus, it does not require a great deal of time and effort to master. It should also be noted that the print version of the Guide is still available for $68 (ISBN: 0801845602). Although the vendor claims that the digital version (first issued in 1997) "will have frequent modifications and updates" of new images, information, and user tools, additions to the database have not materialized. Links to related online material (free or for a fee) may be included in the second edition.
Intended for use by students and scholars, the online Guide is a valuable and efficient method of accessing historical and contemporary literary theory. The digital version enables a much broader use of the material. Students and faculty from subscribed institutions can use it simultaneously, and instructors can create their own list of links from the Guide. As a result of widespread interest in literary theory and criticism, research handbooks on this topic have proliferated: The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms, A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, etc. With the exception of some of the Gale publications, such as Contemporary Literary Criticism, available at Gale’s Literature Resource Center, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism is the only reference tool on the topic currently available on the Web. The strength of the database is its informative, international content and quick, efficient searching. Academic libraries with strong literary theory programs may want to consider purchase of this excellent introductory online overview of an important and complex topic.
California State University Fullerton Library
Personal and Institutional News
A bibliographical Browning database being developed under the auspices of Baylor University will be inaugurated on the World Wide Web during the Armstrong Browning Library’s Golden Jubilee in October 2001. The database will list, in traditional bibliographical formats, all known Browning-related material--some 70,000 items. It will draw on Browning collections from around the world.
Work on the database commenced at the first of October 2000. Scheduled for release at the Golden Jubilee are checklists of the Brownings’ correspondence, contemporary reviews of their works, and supporting documents. Later, bibliographical descriptions will be added of the poets’ library, their literary manuscripts, and presentation volumes. Also included will be listings of printed works of reference, biography, and criticism. All known likenesses of the poets will be described and their personal effects catalogued. At the end of three years, the database will be current, and thereafter new information will be appended periodically.
Baylor’s Information Technology Center will design and develop the Web site. Wedgestone Press, formed in 1978 to edit and publish the letters of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, has been engaged to compile the database entries, in consultation with Armstrong Browning Library staff. Fourteen volumes of Wedgestone’s The Brownings’ Correspondence, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, have appeared to date.
The bibliographical Browning database is designed as the first phase of a much larger projected database, The Brownings: A Research Guide. This major project, if fully funded, would be completed in three additional phases over fifteen years. It would be a fully-annotated and comprehensive research tool for Browning studies, including the complete text and/or relevant images of the items listed in the bibliographical database.
Cynthia A. Burgess
Armstrong Browning Library
Creating Web Accessible Databases: Case Studies for Libraries, Museums, and Other Nonprofits (184 pp., $39.50), edited by Julie Still of Rutgers University-Camden, has just been published by Information Today, Inc. Its twelve chapters include “Women Writers and Online Books,” about the Celebration of Women Writers site (digital.library.upenn.edu/women) and “Road to a Paper Moon,” about setting up an online bookstore (abebooks.com/home/BJJR/) using the Advanced Book Exchange model. The collection of essays also deals with the responses of librarians to new types of reference tools.
San Francisco Program
LES and ARTS are presenting a joint program, "Collaboration and Community in the Beat Generation," at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco dealing with how members of the Beat Generation collaborated in literary, artistic, musical, and cinematic endeavors as well as in their personal lives. The program will take place from 2 to 4 pm, Saturday, June 16, 2001, at a location to be announced and will be followed by a reception at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Avenue, from 4 to 6 pm.
The program’s speakers will be Ann Charters, editor of The Portable Beat Reader (1992) and author of several studies of the Beats, including The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America (1983); Professor Paul Karlstrom, director, West Coast Research Center, Archives of American Art, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; poet Michael McClure; Bill Morgan, editor of Allen Ginsberg’s Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays, 1952-1995 (2000); and Professor Janice Ross, Dance Division, Stanford University, an expert on dancer Anna Halprin.
Diane de Prima and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are expected to attend and to respond to the program. They will read in the Poets House "Live in the Library" series earlier on Saturday.
Additional information about the program, reception, and related Beat topics is available on the program Web site.
In the previous issue, I asked for contributions to new columns suggested by you: "My Life as a Reference Librarian," "My Favorite Reference Tools," and "Personal/Institution News." Thanks to the contributors who supplied the excellent examples of each here and apologies to those who must wait for the next issue because of limitations of space. I encourage others to continue the fine work of your predecessors by contacting me with your ideas.
Special thanks to Julie Still for going ever so boldly where no one had gone before with her autobiographical essay.
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