ACRL Member of the Week: Juli McLoone

Juli McLoone is a curator at the University of Michigan, Special Collections Research Center. Juli has been a member of ACRL for 16 years and is your ACRL Member of the Week for September 12, 2022.

Describe yourself in three words: Enthusiastic, conscientious, kind.

What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? Perhaps oddly for someone who works with rare books, I do most of my leisure reading via the public library and Overdrive. I just finished a delightfully fluffy Victorian mystery called A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder by Dianne Freeman, and I’m waiting on a hold for N.K. Jemison’s fantasy novel, The City We Became. I’m also slowly listening my way through the Bonnets at Dawn podcast with Lauren Burke and Hannah K. Chapman, which began in 2017 as a tongue-in-cheek battle between fans of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, but which ranges farther afield as the series goes on, exploring the lives of many different women writers.

Describe ACRL in three words: Academic library organization.

What do you value about ACRL? I’ve been an active member of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL since 2007 and I immensely value the opportunities this has offered to deepen my knowledge and build connections with colleagues across the profession. In the day-to-day rush to get things done and keep the doors open, it’s easy to lose track of current developments in the field, or to feel like one doesn’t have time to be reflective about the larger and long-term impact of decisions and policies. The annual RBMS Conference and the journal RBM, as well as casual or asynchronous connections through social media and the like, offer valuable ways to do exactly that. Over the past few years, I’ve especially appreciated opportunities to grapple with how the field of Special Collections, in particular, can reduce our contributions to climate change and prepare for how it will impact preservation of our collections; how we come to terms with a past that is inescapably intertwined with racism and colonialism; how we move forward in diversifying our collections responsibly and making our spaces welcoming to users; and finally, how (while holding all the issues I just mentioned and more in our minds) we can recognize personal and institutional capacity limits and build workplaces that are supportive, rather than exploitive, of workers.

What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? I often call myself a jack-of-all trades curator (with the acknowledged corollary, that I am the master of none). In my current position, I am responsible for our general and rare collection after 1700, the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, our Children’s Literature Collection, and the Hubbard Collection of Imaginary Voyages, as well as various literary and theatrical archival collections. In addition to building these collecting areas through purchase and by working with donors, I work with colleagues to ensure they become accessible to current and future researchers. I also curate exhibits, respond to reference queries, and collaborate with course instructors on both one-shot sessions and more extended curricular projects, such as student-curated exhibits. I love that every day and every week, I get to dive into such a variety of time periods and topics, as I support the research and teaching missions of the University.

In your own words: My favorite part of my job is working with the classes that come to special collections. This is ironic, because I’m actually quite a nervous public speaker! It took years for me to stop (literally) shaking during every class I taught. However, I absolutely love seeing the excitement generated by hands-on engagement with historical documents. And because I’m responsible for such a wide-ranging collection, there are endless opportunities for me to learn from the students, who bring knowledge from the class readings and their own backgrounds to bear on the materials. A few of my favorite classes from the last few years: A freshman composition class that used early 20th c. books on spiritualism from our Arthur Conan Doyle collection in order to explore concepts of evidence and authority; a recurring Art & Design class that studies 18th & 19th century natural history books (including Audubon’s Birds of America) as part of their preparation for making their own watercolor books of Michigan flora, and a graduate class that delved into selections from the records of two Black-owned Detroit publishers – Broadside Press and Lotus Press – to better understand the kinds and content of documentation created and preserved during the publishing process, and a class on issues surrounding obesity that examines 19th and 20th c. culinary materials each year to see how concepts of fatness and thinness (and what, if anything, should be done about them) change over time.


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