Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring, 1997)
Column Editor: Richard Hacken
Just last issue it was announced that Kurt De Belder (erstwhile of New York University) was heading up the Bobst Library’s Electronic Text Center. And that he was — for a while. When I spake with him last May — as we sat just a stone’s throw from the stone statue of Garibaldi in Washington Square Park, eating stone-ground bread — he said that “eventually” he would be moving on. That eventuality has eventuated. First came word he had accepted a position at the Belgian National Library in Brussels. As of this writing, however, dear readers, the latest word is that the Flemish have been outbid. Kurt won’t be sprouting in Brussels after all. As of April 1 (April Fools’ Day in some parts of the world) Kurt became Senior Project Manager for Electronic Services at the University Library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Though he was born Belgian, Kurt has certainly never been a waffler, and we wish him well on the Dams of the Amstel. A De Belder quote follows: “I definitely hope to see my WESS colleagues when they travel in these parts.” Now those of us wishing to visit will be just one short KLM commuter flight away from Schipol. We have been fortunate to have Jennifer Vinopal (likewise of NYU) take over some of Kurt’s WESS duties, particularly in tending to gears and sprockets of the French Studies webpage of the WESSWeb.
Diana Chlebek is the current Chair of WESS. Therefore, it is only fitting and proper we should learn more about her professional duties. Diana, as Associate Professor of Bibliography in Fine Arts, Languages and Literature, works in the Collection Management Department at the University of Akron. Her areas of subject responsibility cover: English and American literature, linguistics, foreign languages and literatures (essentially French, German, Italian, and Spanish, which are the only languages taught at U. of Akron), art, Canadian studies, children’s literature and communicative disorders (what we have here is a failure to communicate). Aside from print materials in these areas, she does a great deal of collecting in film as well, particularly in the area of foreign cinema. Diana also teaches at “CanStudUniAk,” i.e., in the Canadian Studies program at the University of Akron: French-Canadian and Quebecois literature and film. This is an “overload”, i.e., she doesn’t get extra pay for it, even though it falls outside her duties as a librarian — it’s all done out of love for her “home and native land.”
Lawrence Crumb, subject specialist for Romance Languages at the Knight Library, University of Oregon, will retire on June 30. Lawrence has served on several WESS committees, beginning in 1987, and chaired the Romance Languages Discussion Group from 1994 to 1996. He also attended the WESS conference in Florence, Italy in 1988 (a happening that those of us who attended shall never forget). After retirement from the university, Lawrence hopes to do interim ministry as a priest of the Episcopal Church; continue work toward an eventual second edition of his book-length bibliography, The Oxford Movement and Its Leaders; and (of course) travel in Western Europe. Maybe we should all retire and go have a banquet in the hills of Tuscany together.
On May 16, according to Mike Olson of Harvard’s Widener Library, there will be a symposium held at that institution concomitant with a double commemoration: the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Otto Harrassowitz firm and the 125th anniversary of the hiring of the first professor of German Language and Literature at Harvard. Among those speaking will be Margrit Krewson of the Library of Congress and Jim Spohrer of U.C. Berkeley. It is rumored that Mike just received a letter from Harrassowitz saying: “Your German professor ordered the title Die Zukunft der Pariser Commune from us in 1876, but it was of print. Are you still interested?”
Speaking of Jim Spohrer, he is now serving time as Associate University Librarian for Humanities and Area Studies at Berkeley, but he is continuing to perform (ja, right) his duties as Germanic Librarian as well. His term as AUL of HAAS at UCB ends on June 30 of this year but may be extended for up to two additional years beyond that date (presumably for violation of parole…). May he wade meritoriously through the morass of administrative duties, yea, through the quicksands and quagmires of committee meetings.
And speaking of the Library of Congress, plans are underway to mount a Freud Exhibit in 1998 featuring intriguing items held at L.C. that document the life and career of Sigmund (though logistics prevent the display of all 80,000 items). Among the holdings to be displayed are Freud’s own birth certificate and the marriage certificate of his parents (ed. note: perhaps to quiet the voices of those who call Freud a b-d?) One singing group, the Carpenters — according to one rather unreliable source — plagiarized a Freudian tune that Sigmund used to whistle while strolling up Berggasse toward the university: “We’ve only just begun… to psychoanalyze….”
And now for an institutional note with interminable prologue from the column editor’s own institution. Though the premier Icelandic collection in North America is located at Cornell, other libraries collect from that isle to varying degrees. While Greenland, when peered down at from a transatlantic jet at 35,000 feet, is anything but “green,” being white from compacted ice fields, Iceland — despite its name — is actually an inhabitable enough country for much of the year. A gaze at your gazetteer will show it doesn’t even extend above the Arctic Circle. At Iceland’s Keflavík airport, even deep into the month of October, the hardy traveler can traverse 75 yards through authentic Icelandic outdoors from a parked Icelandic Air 747 to a duty-free transit shop specializing in fur hats and woolen sweaters, and back again, with only residual traces of frostbite. Iceland is also noted for its volcanoes and its 100 percent literacy rate. Icelanders are inveterate readers (as opposed to “veterate” readers), which may be somewhat encouraged by the climate. Brigham Young University librarians have a special love for Iceland, not least because more than one boatload of Icelanders settled in the nearby geographically incorrect town of Spanish Fork, Utah. Americanized descendants now whoop it up in a Nordic sort of way for “Iceland Days” each summer. The Harold B. Lee Library has also been the recipient of the Spanish Fork Icelandic Reading Collection, which documents the reading habits of those immigrants. Another collection was recently added to the Icelandic holdings, thanks to the life of Loftur Bjarnason. Loftur was born in Utah but spent many of his formative years on his ancestral isle, after which he returned to the states to teach Icelandic and other languages and cultures in various military institutions. Loftur willed his collection of over 2,000 Icelandic books to the library. When he passed away in the summer of 1995, his wishes were enacted. I, your column editor, in my alternate role as European Studies Bibliographer, was privileged — along with my wife — to visit the home of Loftur’s personable widow in Monterey, California, and to package up the prize collection for transport to Provo. Imagine our surprise when Mrs. Bjarnason, in her enthusiasm, began loading, taping and hefting boxes of books herself! Perhaps the most valuable piece of the entire collection was a rare book printed in Copenhagen in 1775 which featured a dual-language (Icelandic and Latin) illustrated version of one of the culturally rich Icelandic sagas. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers who, after a while, are strangers no more.