Friday, June 29, 2012

Bisexuality Week! (With an aside on my growing Librarian Instincts)

As I mentioned last week, this week I began work on my Bisexuality LibGuide. Actually, I finished work on it too. Now that I’m more familiar with how to build a LibGuide and now that I have a template for how I want my pages to work, it didn’t take very long to get the bones of the page laid out. I just needed to find the items in various categories with which to fill in the page.
My initial searches through the catalog didn’t turn up very much information on bisexuality, however. There are a good number of books on the subject in our library, but only two documentaries, and few feature films. For the latter, I found more titles by looking up movies on the Wikipedia page on Bisexuality (also linked on the LibGuide page), then searching Muscat to see if we had them. If they were in our collection, onto the list of feature films they went!
I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of material in the library on the subject of bisexuality. At the same time, what we do have in the library is fascinating to me. For those of you who may not know, I am (very openly) bisexual.  Reading about my own sexual orientation from an academic point of view, which I had to do to pick my Top Ten books on the subject, was quite interesting for me, and also very frustrating when I reached the passages about why biphobia and erasure of bisexuality are so prevalent. (Most of the books agree: it’s because we don’t fit neatly in either hetero- or homosexuality, and people don’t really like phenomena that they can’t effectively categorize.) Anyway, the point is that, as much as I tried to be objective when I picked the top ten books, I may have been a little biased in this category. Be that as it may, the books I’ve put on the top ten list are quite informative and thorough.
Cataloging, like the LibGuide, went much faster on this topic, too. Part of it was that I had fewer books with records that needed updating (due to having fewer books overall and, of those, more that already had complete records). The other part was that I’ve gotten used to cataloging, and so each book takes me a shorter time to complete. I’ve even gotten faster at typing in long tables of contents!
Librarian moment of the week: One of the books on my list had a cartoon drawn on the title page in blue ink, and excessive underlining in the table of contents and in some sections of the book, also in ink. My immediate reaction? “Awww, poor book!” (Amy, one of my supervisors, had me look up the latest edition of that book, and hopefully we will acquire a replacement copy.) Dear patrons: please DO NOT write in library books. Especially in ink. You make the librarians cry.
Up next: I’m deciding between making the general LGBTQQAI etc. page, which will include books, documentaries, and other resources that do not focus exclusively on one part of the acronym, or researching one of my special topics (most likely LGBTQ and Religion, which I find fascinating. I already know where in the stacks to look!) It would be more practical to focus on the former, but the academic/librarian geek in me says to go for the latter. Tune in next week to see which topic won! J

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cartoons, Campaigns, and Bottle Caps

I can’t help but wonder what my AP U.S. History teacher, Robert C. Lemire, Jr., would say if he knew I was designing an exhibit on the Election of 1860. I get chills every time I crack open a book from the research stack on my desk; suddenly I can hear his college-style lectures all over again, drilling me about the differences between popular sovereignty and free soil. Who knew that after two years of being out of high school, the old curriculum would find its way back to me? I’ll have to shoot Mr. Lemire an email.

^My secret stash of books for research.

Although I wasn’t initially too excited about having to research Lincoln, Douglas, Fremont, and the like again, I’m actually finding myself more intrigued as I move forward on my project. What interests me most, though, are the artifacts and documents I’m beginning to gather from Special Collections. It’s helping my research so much more to have an idea of what I’ll be displaying. To give you an idea of some of the items I’m considering, here’s a rough list:
  •  Political cartoons (3) (“The Original Squatter Sovereign,” “Shaky,” “Keeping Queer Company”; All of these are from 1860 issues of Vanity Fair)
  • Pamphlets  - Addresses/Speeches (2-3) (“Abraham Lincoln, His Personal History and Public Record,” “How Ought Workingmen to Vote in the Coming Election,” etc.)
  • Letter (1) - Written by George W. Beidelman, 10/18/1860 - Comments specifically on the election!
  • Assorted artifacts/memorabilia:
  • Replica of Lincoln campaign badge (1)
  • Campaign ribbons (3)
  • Bottle caps (“Lincoln Root Beer,” “Lincoln Orange Soda”) (2) **These were my personal favorite.**
  • Buttons (2)
  • Small oval portrait (1)
  • Figurine, small busts, etc.
My work with these objects strongly reminds me of my “Art and Public Policy” class from last fall. The course culminated in a Schmucker Art Gallery exhibit called “Art + Politics,” which called us to research nonconventional art objects and place them in the context of culture, public policy, and politics. Likewise, the political cartoons I found from 1860 especially demonstrate how art can be a mechanism to influence public opinion, and at the same time serve as an indicator of sociopolitical trends. These cartoons, published in popular magazines such as Harper’s Weekly and Vanity Fair, were surely propaganda tools used to both amuse and coerce the public. It's so interesting.

It was brought up in an Exhibits email recently that the library needed something to replace the Election exhibit in the spring semester. Since I noticed that our Civil War Era Digital Collections has an extensive collection of political cartoons, I suggested to Meggan that the replacement exhibit focus on these political drawings and comics. What better way to transition from a Civil War Election exhibit than to feature another politically oriented display? She seemed to like the idea- I hope I get to work on planning this one, too!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adventures with Künstler and Gallon

My second week here at the library has gone by just as quickly as the first. With so many interesting projects to work on, I’m keeping busy and learning an array of new things, especially about exhibit curating. This week I’ve also made sure to take note of new connections between the research I’m doing at the library and my studies in Art History.

On Tuesday I was originally scheduled to help install the Mort Künstler and Dale Gallon exhibit in the apse, but since Carolyn is out this week the installation process was postponed for next week instead. Eventually I will be drafting the text for the exhibit and also creating the corresponding webpage, so I decided to get a head start on my research.

Through some digging I learned that the collection to be displayed consists of twenty prints, fourteen of Dale Gallon paintings and six of Mort Künstler paintings. Both artists have been highly praised within the genre of Civil War art, and have reputations for historical accuracy in addition to extreme detail. Personally, I had never thought of Civil War art as an artistic “genre” before; I considered the galleries in town to be tourist attractions with a very limited audience of Civil War buffs and military collectors. Now, though, I find it fascinating to look at a genre of contemporary art that focuses on historical events as key subject matter. It reminds me of the Italian Renaissance fascination with classical subjects.

One thing I found especially interesting about Gallon was the role that research and historical understanding play in his artistic method. As described on his website, he actually employs a staff historian to assist in complex research for his paintings. This person is responsible for researching every detail of a subject and for writing a comprehensive historical essay, which accompanies every print made. Furthermore, Gallon himself identifies important people and/or landmarks in the upper and lower borders, so that the collector can better understand the history that inspired the work. As a result, his paintings serve as illustrative accounts of the Civil War, memorializing this pivotal point in American history and educating the public.

Almost like a Gettysburg monument, don’t you think? I want to look into Künstler’s work some more. I'd like to see how his approach compares with Gallon’s studio and research methods.

To read more about these artists, check out the following sites!

Mort Künstler:

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Snag, One LibGuide Done!, and Why Cataloging Helps Patrons

Tuesday:  Working on my transgender LibGuide started off smoothly, but I ran into a problem when I went back later and tried to follow the links to the online reference collection. None of the links worked! Trying not to panic, I went into the Gale Virtual Reference Library and looked for any hint of a permanent link to the reference sources. No such luck. Jess was out of her office in a meeting and I didn’t know who else was in the reference office, so I decided to try to solve the problem on my own. Then, inspiration struck: I searched Muscat for the titles of the online encyclopedias. Success! Each of them had a permanent link in the catalog, just like the physical books I’d linked to on a different part of the LibGuide page. Now I’m curious as to why Muscat can have a permanent link to the GVRL and I can’t, but I’ll try not to be bitter about it. Problem solved, and I can go back to playing with my LibGuide page!

Friday: I finished updating the records for all of the transgender-related books we have in our collection! There are about 65 titles on my list; I meant to incorporate all of the titles into the LibGuide page, but decided that it would be too clunky. Instead, I have the call number ranges, keywords, and subject headings that I used to find the books on the list. This way, my list will never be out of date; I just have the top ten books on the LibGuide, and the rest can be found by using one or more of my Muscat search tools.

I tried to make the process of finding these books even easier when I was updating their catalog records. First, I added a subject heading to all of the books included on my list: Transgender. Some of the books had variations on that word (Transgender youth, Transgenderism, etc.) or used a different word (Transsexualism, Transvestism, etc). With the addition of that one standardized tag, any material in the library that is on my list of transgender resources can be found by searching “Transgender” in the subject line. Additionally, I wrote a summary of the book and transcribed the table of contents into the catalog record. This gives more places for the system to find information when a patron does a keyword search, as well as giving more information when a patron is deciding whether or not the item would be useful. See, we’re all about helping the patrons here at Musselman Library!

My Transgender LibGuide is pretty much done. I need to put a few more pages together before anything can be published, though, so it isn’t yet available to the public. Hopefully, that will change soon.

Next up: Bisexuality LibGuide and cataloging!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hello! Or, How I Got Here

If you frequent the library, chances are you’ve seen me at the circulation desk. I’ve been a circulation desk assistant since my freshman orientation almost two years ago. I’ve loved libraries, books, and reading since before I started kindergarten, so the library seemed like a natural place for me to find my on-campus job. I soon fell in love with working at the desk; I particularly liked when I got to go into the stacks to look for an item that a patron couldn’t find or that had been requested for Inter-Library Loan.

Also during my freshman year, I became an active member of ALLies, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Intersex, Straight Ally, etc. group on campus. ALLies began looking to make reforms to campus policies to better protect the LGBTQ population, with the enthusiastic support of many members of the administration, including Dean Ramsey. To that end, I took an internship with Dean Ramsey last summer where my job was to look into the policies of Gettysburg’s peer institutions regarding their LGBTQ students.

During that internship, I found a website for another school’s ALLies club that included a link to a resource guide for the LGBTQ-related materials in the library. Unfortunately, the links were broken so I was unable to access the guide, but it got me thinking: maybe Gettysburg could have a similar resource guide. Upon my return to school, I made inquiries and ended up talking to Amy Ward, the head cataloging librarian, and Jessica Howard, the liaison librarian for the WGS department. They, and other members of the library’s administration, reacted positively and eagerly to my proposal.

Last spring, I started working in both the reference and technical services departments. In the reference department, I began surveying the collection to determine what books we already had on LGBTQ-related topics, and reading reviews of books so I could recommend titles we should purchase. In technical services, I learned the basics of cataloging and read articles on tagging and Library of Congress subject headings so that when it came time to organize the information I had amassed in reference, I would know how to organize it.

This summer, I have finished cataloging what we have in the collection and am preparing to organize it by topic. Last week, I began organizing information on my first topic: Transgender. I found titles in our collections of books, films, documentaries, and online resources. I started the process of updating the Muscat records for older books so that they will be easier to find in a keyword search. (The other reason is that I love working in the catalog and editing records. It’s just so much fun for a geek like me!) Later today, Jess will start teaching me how to use LibGuides, the program I will use to make my online resource guide. Hopefully, the Transgender LibGuide will soon be available on a computer screen near you!

Working in the various departments of the Musselman Library has taught me many things, but chief among them is this: I am 95% sure that I want to be a librarian for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


When I walked into Musselman library for my first official day as Exhibits Intern, I have to admit that it felt like the strangest thing in the world. First of all, I’ve only been to the library once or twice since finals ended; it still feels eerie to see the place so empty. Second of all, it felt weird to be walking in as an employee instead of just some sophomore running to print out a paper before class.

Let me just say that I am thrilled to be Musselman Library’s Exhibits Intern this summer! How I was offered this post was a bit of a chance happening, actually. Last spring I was lucky enough to be one of three students from Professor Shannon Egan’s Art and Public Policy class who were asked to speak at a special programming event for the Friends of the Library. It was in our preparations for this talk that I met Robin Wagner, the Director of Musselman Library. After chatting casually about my interest in museum work, Robin asked if I worked anywhere on campus. I told her about my job in Schmucker Art Gallery. Soon enough we began talking about my summer plans— I had recently accepted a job at the Gettysburg Review as the Summer Conference/Office Assistant. If I was going to be in Gettysburg, Robin said, maybe I could do some work at the library as well.

As it turns out, Robin and several of the other librarians had frequently discussed the possibility of having and Exhibits Intern on staff— a student who would be able to research, plan, and work on many of the exhibits to be displayed the following academic year. It was an internship that was always discussed, but never formally organized or tried out to date. As a recently declared Art History major (doubled with my English with a Writing Concentration major), and as someone interested in museum planning and management, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for me. I followed up with Robin in an email that evening, confirming my interest in the potential internship. She immediately put my in contact with Meggan Smith, who is a Reference/Instruction Librarian and key member of the Exhibits and Programs Committee; the rest is history.

I began my first day with a lot of reading. Meggan left me a binder with a whole assortment of articles, covering exhibits design in libraries in addition to Musselman Library’s Strategic Plan and its Exhibits and Programs Committee Charge. Not long after getting through the Strategic Plan I was visited by Lisa McNamee, who whisked me away to take photos of the current installations.

As we snapped away at display case after display case, I was ashamed to realize how little I knew about the exhibits in the library. There was Thaddeus Stevens up in Special Collections, the Photo of the Day in the Browsing Room, Brienz woodcarvings in a case on the main floor, and the Warning photographs, not to mention the Nicaragua and Studying Abroad in the Middle East displays. I’ve made a mental note to go exploring later this week, so that I can read up on all the panels before I have to help de-install them.

I’m definitely looking forward to discovering what new adventures the library and its exhibits have in store for me. Stay tuned!