2007 Fall – Personal & Institutional News

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2007, Vol. 31, No. 1

Column Editor: Richard Hacken

In June of this year WESS members flocked – though certainly not like sheep – to a former malarial swamp that has degenerated into a pork propagation point, i.e., to our nation’s capital city, yea, Washington, the very District of Columbia. Why did WESSies flock thither? Just cause was the annual conference of ALA, the one at which WESS reins of leadership were passed from Bryan Skib to Sarah Wenzel in a slick coup d’état. Some went to the high altar of learning at the Library of Congress; personally, I chanced upon the LC entrance at a time of danger and alarm (I think the operative color must have been “orange”), and thus I was guided to a semi-organized queue, which I then abandoned after a couple of hours. Rather than participating in a Q&A, therefore, I participated in a queue and ALA. Still, WESS agendas, discussion groups, committee meetings, social events, river cruises, exhibit floor visits, back-office vendor deals, dinners in Georgetown, and strolls down the James-Smithson-endowed National Mall were sufficient to account for a full weekend and more of learning, serving, swerving, networking and attitude readjustment. Particularly redolent of the latter two categories was a boat-float upon the Potomac that took WESSheimers and their pals, well bred and well fed, past memories of splendor and shame – past the Lincoln Monument at a discreet distance and past Watergate up close. When some, a very few, began to dance (we still have much to learn from our SALALM compadres and commadres), a crescendo of levity and enlightenment ensued. Friends, one or two Romans and several countrymen were afloat together. Then came the approaching shallows past the bluff at Georgetown University, the turning about, the same scenes and social mingling in reverse, the night air, the city glowing, and the dull melancholy that comes when a ship docks, the crowds disembark (my neighbor has a dog that needs to be disembarked), and the lights go out: the party’s over. Next year’s ALA conference in Anaheim will probably lack the cruise element, since the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland – I scouted this out on a voluntary basis last summer – can’t fit us all into one U-Boat, nor feed us classy hors d’oeuvres, nor protect us from the Pixar shark.

Johnny Cash, may the music college musicologists have mercy on his soul, was likely misquoted in the last days of his life. His European-Studies-loving side came out when, in early September, 2003, he may have made this statement to attending physicians and metaphysicians in Nashville: “You know, WessWeb is the very prism that allows us to view the full spectrum of multidisciplinary light emanating from the European Occident, that continental appendage clinging to the northeast shoulder of Asia. WessWeb is very thorough, rewarding, fulsome. In that sense, WessWeb is a fulsome prism. But I must sing its blues, the Fulsome Prism Blues, because I have so little time left to delve into its wealth of online resources.” (Your column editor’s early years were lived close – some would say not close enough – to Folsom Prison; he can attest that very few inmates there are acquainted with either WESS or with its web presence. Ergo, the misquoted phrase “Folsom Prison Blues” makes no sense at all.) Now you, dear fellow WESS members, not only have the chance to continue to benefit from the resources lovingly gathered into the celebrity-endorsed WessWeb, but you also have the ability to contribute your own links, sights, insights, corrections, and additions to its wiki form.

I’m thinking we’ve been rethinking our book fair thinking. The year 2006 marked a high point in Frankfurt Book Fair attendance, with literally dozens of us WESSterners in attendance. This was in large part due to the relevance of a purposely coinciding GNARP symposium, shepherded by Jeff Garrett and the Uni Frankfurt folks, on “Prospects for Transatlantic Library Partnership in the Digital Age.” Yet the year 2007 may represent a contrapuntally historic WESS Frankfurt attendance low, at least for a period covering the past ten very inter-WESS-active years (from WESS active to less active). The e-mail silence this fall on Frankfurt, compared to last year, was stunning. As with the stock market, Frankfurt Book Fair attendance is perhaps for many of us a balance between psychological expectations and economic realities. With a Euro stoked on Barry-Bond-juice and little-to-no support funding (from any source, including local and institutional) for attendance, expectations might be scaling back. On one of the other hands, certainly the phrase “book fair” and the venue Frankfurt are not synonymous, and the organization will no doubt be casting its collective eye about to see what assist WESS can make to those with collection needs who wish to scope out the bibliographic scene from Lisbon to Helsinki, from the Shetlands to the Bosporus.

“Frankfurt is so last year. Barcelona is where it’s at.” Thus spake “Sarah Two-Straws.” “Sarah Two-Straws” is the Zoroastrian nom de foire for Sarah Wenzel, seen sipping a drink with two straws (“It’s like stereo for the taste buds,” she declared) at the Fira Barcelona this past October. She and other Ibero-friendly WESS members, including Patricia Figueroa, Pamela Graham, Adán Griego and Jeffry Larson, were in Gaudí-Town to attend LIBER, the prominent Spanish book fair that alternates venue-wise between Madrid and Barcelona. (To compete with Pamplona, some call it the “Running of the Books.”) A number of SALALMistas were in attendance as well. We would normally tell you more, but Jeffry insists that “what happens in Barcelona stays in Barcelona.” Thanks to the gioia of FOIA, though, you can get the lowdown on “LIBER 2007” in the WessWeb wiki.

The California Digital Library will be richer in digits by far for having hired one Emily Stambaugh as its Manager of Shared Print effective, very effective, this November. Emily was formerly at the University of California at Riverside, where she served as the Social Sciences Bibliographer and Collection Analyst since March of 2005. Before that, she was the Collection Development Librarian at Wake Forest University in North Carolina (it’s unclear to what extent Big Tobacco funded her), and prior to that she was Assistant to the Latin American and Iberian Resources Bibliographer at UNC Chapel Hill. Emily has moved to the Bay Area, a good choice, since she’ll be working in Oakland at the Office of the President of the UC system. She hopes to continue to go to WESS and SALALM meetings, especially if cooperative print collecting agreements are in the works.

At the end of September and beginning of October Jim Niessen combined pleasure and business for a vacation in Romania and Ukraine, then participation in a Rutgers exchange with Russia. Sibiu (Hermannstadt) is European Cultural Capital this year, and Jim visited the beautifully restored, über-German old town for a few days. The local joke is that if you hear German on the streets, it must be tourists – because the local Germans are all on the town council… not far off the mark because the (wildly popular) mayor leads a German majority of 16 out of 23 on the council. In Cluj (Klausenburg, Kolozsvár) Jim toured the university library that was one of the foci of his piece on the history of Transylvanian libraries in Libraries & the Cultural Record (2006) and in Chernivtsy tracked down the birthplace of Paul Celan and sampled the voluminous Czernowitzer Nostalgieliteratur in the bookstores. Then he was the last Rutgers participant in a three-year State Department grant financing collaboration with Kazan State University (this KSU is not Kansas State). During his week there he spoke with two classes and two groups of librarians and historians, toured the university library and the National Library of Tatarstan, devoured an amazing variety of pancakes with sour cream (Beef Tatar may be raw, but Pancakes Tatar are not), and somehow found time to peruse the German correspondence of local Orientalist and librarian Joseph Gottwald (1813-1897).

Brown University celebrated the 150th anniversary of the publication of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal with a colloquium that took place on campus October 18-20. A poetry reading, a concert and the exhibit “Baudelaire and the Arts” curated by Dominique Coulombe, WESS member and Subject Specialist in French Studies, were integral parts of the conference. The exhibition brought together literary pieces, translations, excerpts of art critique, and works of art that either inspired Baudelaire or played a significant role in his legacy. The exhibit ran October 9 through November 2 at the John Hay Library, but thanks to digital persistence, we can still virtually and visually visit part of the exhibit.

For those, like me, who upon hearing the name “Kipling” instantly scan the pun possibilities for a present participle of the verb “to kipple” (a pun documented to be at least 47 years old), the following announcement may not be of interest. The normal among you, however, will want to know that Debra D. Wynn, Rare Book Team Senior Catalog Librarian at the Library of Congress, gave a presentation and paper at the 2007 Kipling Conference at the University of Kent, Canterbury, September 7-8, 2007. Her presentation described LC’s project to catalog and partially re-catalog its four major Rudyard Kipling Collections in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division. Since cataloging often entails discovery, Debra also pointed to a few re-discovered rarities. The conference was co-sponsored by the University’s Department of English and the Kipling Society in celebration of the centenary of Rudyard Kipling receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907. (Ed. note: One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Christopher Hitchens, who has been even-handedly critical of such personalities as Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa, Michael Moore, and God – but not Rudyard K.)

Erika Banski, of the University of Alberta, is very pleased at the increased purchase power of the Canadian dollar. At the time of this writing, the loonie is roughly equivalent to the greenback, yet the hardy, frost-resistant northern currency could be worth a Euro or more by the time you read this. Some have wondered whether the U.S., Alaska excepted, should become assimilated as Baja Canada. Erika reports that now there’s no need for the university library to cancel periodicals every year. And she and her colleagues can afford holidays in California and Hawaii.

John B. Dillon, European Humanities Bibliographer, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent a week this past July in the pre-Appennine uplands of the Land of Bare Elbows, i.e. Italy’s Ancona Province – Regione Marche. (The imagery derives from Greek: the city of Ancona, after which the province is named, sits on a promontory at a bend in the Adriatic coast that came to be thought of as “the Elbow”.) While there, Dillon hiked in and near the Gorge of Frasassi (“fra sassi” means, literally, “betwixt the stones,” a gorge’s description), took part in the opening festivities for the Millennial Year of the abbey church of San Vittore alle Chiuse at San Vittore di Genga, and delivered an invited paper on the fifteenth-century Campanian humanist Elisio Calenzio at the XVIII Congresso Internazionale di Studi Umanistici sponsored by the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Piceni at Sassoferrato. An unexpected benefit of San Vittore’s semi-montane isolation was the virtual absence of ambient light by night a mere five minutes’ walk outside the village, proffering to view a very full field of stars framed by the tops of nearby ridges. The following week, having traveled from Ancona to Stansted via Ryanair (with a spectacular overhead view of Venice as the plane crossed the lagoon), Dillon attended the 14th International Medieval Congress (IMC) at the University of Leeds, where he took part in meetings of the Programming Committee and helped to conduct a workshop, “Tolle, lege: Reading Latin Aloud”. While there he also conferred with WESSies Tom Izbicki (then on the point of moving to Rutgers) and Paula Carns (who has now seen the UK’s National Collection of {cultivars of} Philadelphus, Hemerocallis, and Deutzia). With the conclusion of this congress Dillon changed portfolio on the Programming Committee and now is responsible for the IMC’s “Culture and Society” strand.

Heidi Hutchinson of the University of California, Riverside, announces that UCR Special Collections is opening an online exhibition on B. Traven. Traven is a writer of great mystery and fascination to scholars around the world. Heidi is herself the curator and webmaster of the exhibition. Using many pseudonyms and keeping his true identity a closely-guarded secret throughout his career, Traven lived in Mexico and wrote in German. His works were translated into many languages in the 1920’s and 1930’s. A number of Traven’s stories became so popular they were made into movies during the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s in the U.S., Germany, and Mexico. The most famous of the movies is the Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, Warner Brothers), which won three Academy Awards. A well-worn copy of the movie script is one of the many interesting memorabilia in the collection. UC Riverside’s Special Collections Library has one of the world’s finest collections of published and unpublished materials by and about B. Traven. The online version is adapted from a real-life analog exhibition of the same name – also created by Heidi – that was on display from March through August of 2006.

Peter Briscoe, now retired from the University of California, Riverside, is the author of The Best Read Man in France: A Cautionary Tale (Wildside Press, 2007), the story of an American antiquarian bookseller who hunts for rare books in Paris only to find that they are increasingly difficult to sell as libraries shift resources from print to electronics. Steeped in the Parisian book scene – a love story to boot – the novel ultimately explores the demise of the printed book, the decline of reading, and the conflict of print and digital culture. The “best read man” of the title refers to Gabriel Naudé, Cardinal Mazarin’s librarian, who built the greatest library in the world only to see it dismantled and dispersed to the winds in six weeks. In a recent review, Thomas Mann of the Library of Congress states: “Peter Briscoe deftly captures what may be a vanishing culture of associations surrounding the creation of great library collections… It is that ineffable element of artistic endeavor, of bringing about a ‘whole’ with parts integrated by human aspiration, expertise, perseverance, and choice, that Briscoe captures wonderfully, with a true insider’s eye for the details and customs of the international book trade.”

Sem Sutter of the University of Chicago presented a paper on “The Fate of Books Confiscated in the Möbel-Aktion” at a conference in Liberec, Czech Republic, at the end of October. The conference, organized by the Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of World War II Victims, was entitled “Restitution of Confiscated Works of Art: A Wish or a Reality?”

As a member of the WESS Recruitment to the Profession Committee, George Paganelis, California State University, Sacramento, presented a paper in mid-November on careers in academic librarianship at the Society of Biblical Literature’s Annual Meeting in San Diego. An article on library careers recently written by Jerry Heverly, another WESS recruiter to our profession, has been published by the self-same Society of Biblical Literature and is available online. Jerry welcomes questions and comments.

 Sarah Sussman’s child has arrived: Alec Maurice Saint-Arnaud was born on 26 August 2007, in San Francisco, and has been keeping her and her husband, Nicolas, quite busy since then. Sarah’s on leave from Stanford until the beginning of January. On the professional side, she is now bibliographer of recently published monographs and dissertations on French history for the journal French Historical Studies, which is the publication of the Society for French Historical Studies. The bibliographies will be published twice a year, in the spring and fall issues of the journal.

Cason Snow, of Northern Illinois, has set up a WESS group in Facebook. Hurry and join up, if only for the prestige and classiness and networking that come with being a member of this WESS group online.

Most believe that yogurt is a quasi-European invention, having been introduced to the continent inside Hunno-Bulgar goat skin bags in the third century AD. So it pre-dated Attila (and who would want to date Attila?). Dick Hacken reports that a BYU dairy science professor has now taken the essence of European yogurt and Americanized it by adding carbonation (for a product now marketed as Yoplait Fizzix). Reports that Lindsay Lohan has abused the substance? Unfounded.

Bryan Skib has taken on additional duties, onward through May 2008, as Acting Collection Development Officer for the University of Michigan Libraries. So far he has successfully resisted the urge to spend the entire library budget on materials relating to Western Europe… but how long can he hold out?

Charlene Kellsey, after a number of years as a Cataloger of Western European language monographs for the University of Colorado at Boulder and one year as interim head of Acquisitions, was appointed the Faculty Director for Acquisitions effective July 1, 2007. She is now working more closely with longtime WESS friends Casalini Libri and Harrassowitz and finds her command of Western European languages very useful. Now if only she could fluently deal with Hindi, Arabic and Farsi. (Just FYI: the phrase play “so Farsi so good,” according to extensive Google research, is far, Farsi, far, less than one percent as common as “I’ve never kippled.”)

Jeff Garrett, erstwhile German bibliographer at Northwestern and, less erst, AUL for Collection Management at that institution, has been kicked across the hall again and is now Northwestern’s AUL for Special Libraries. (You’ll have to ask Jeff what “Special” means.) On the recreational side of life’s ledger, he spoke at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris last spring on anthropological approaches to children’s book illustration as the sole non-French presenter at a three-day conference on translation of children’s literature. His paper was entitled “Screams & Smiles: On Human Universals, Transcultural Mutations & the Role of Kidness in Understanding Children’s Book Illustration.” (Ed. note: “kidness” is a neo-Garrettism that has nothing to do with “kindness” but does resemble a term used by goat-herders in Southern Albania.) In October, Jeff moderated the 7th Frankfurt Symposium, co-sponsored by the US Embassy, whose theme this year was cyberinfrastructure. In November he’s giving a paper at the Moritz Steinschneider Centenary Conference in Berlin entitled “Lessons of Funes: Bibliography in a Future of Random Access.” (Ed. note: “Funes” is the name of a savant-super-hero-memorious librarian in a Borges fantasy short story, but the word could just as easily refer to an Old Norse noun for types of runes used to narrate off-color Viking jokes.) Jeff had another bike accident this fall riding to work, but this time he just smashed his face rather than breaking his arm, like last year. Friends say he looks better after his accident than he did before.

Heleni Pedersoli, recently retired from University of Maryland, College Park, published “Sister Libraries Partners: Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico and University of Maryland-College Park” in conjunction with colleagues Lily Griner and Patricia Herron. This article appeared in the October issue of C&RL News.