My most recent publicly available project was an exhibit titled Flora Virginica that was on display in our reading room from February 5, through March 16 - and then extended to April 5. I enjoy putting together exhibits, so I was happy to take this on even though it was something I knew nothing about. This blog post includes a description of the exhibit, the reasons for its existence, and the interesting history I discovered while putting it together (only not in that order). Enjoy!
AN EXHIBIT, IN PARTNERSHIP
In 2012, the Flora of Virginia Project published Flora of Virginia (QK191 .W43 2012), a 1,572 page comprehensive compendium of Virginia plants. It’s a thick botanical tome of little interest to most people outside the botanical sciences. We acquired multiple copies in the library when it was first published and it isn’t one of our particular collecting focuses. It wasn’t something we were particularly focused on highlighting.
Skip ahead to fall of 2017 and an email from the Massey Herbarium to the Director of Special Collections mentioning an exhibit about Flora of Virginia that the Massey was going to be hosting. Special Collections was being involved because there was an opportunity to display an original Flora Virginica in support of the Massey exhibit. This is where I entered the process.
Over the course of a couple of months, I worked with Jordan Metzgar at the Massey Herbarium and Bland Crowder, editor of the 2012 Flora of Virginia, from the Flora of Virginia Project to arrange a loan of an original 18th century Flora Virginica. During the process of arranging this part of the exhibit, it was suggested that I might also wish to exhibit some 18th century Mark Catesby prints alongside the book. Still not knowing much about the project or the books, I opened discussions with Lynn McCashin, the Executive Director of the Garden Club of Virginia, to arrange a loan of some of their Catesby prints. The next few months consisted of multiple emails negotiating the logistics of the loans. As the date for the exhibit approached, I began to research these items so that I could create some didactic labels for the exhibit (those short little descriptions that go next to items in museum-type displays).
In order to adequately describe the 1762 edition of Flora Virginica and the 1771 Catesby prints – and explain what they had to do with one another and Virginia history, I had to learn that history myself. Where did I start? A general web search, of course. Wikipedia offers great superficial overviews on just about any topic. That was enough to get me oriented before moving on to better sources including the Encyclopedia Virginia, JSTOR Global Plants, the Catesby Commemorative Trust, The Royal Society, and the University of North Carolina Libraries. During the course of this research, I learned some interesting details about the people who created these items and their places in botanical and zoological history.
FLORA VIRGINICA, 1762
Flora Virginica (QK191 .G86 1739a) is a precursor to Flora of Virginia. They are actually named the same – just in different languages. The original Flora Virginica was published in two parts, the first in 1739 and the second in 1743. Then, a combined edition was published in 1762. All three editions were published in Latin by Lugduni Bavatorum publishers in Leiden, Zuid Holland, Nederland. They all list Johannes Fredericus Gronovius as the person who classified the specimens and wrote the book. They also list John Clayton as the observer and collector of the plants. This attribution has led to much debate over the correct citation of authorship. Many, using modern standards, have claimed that Gronovius plagiarized Clayton’s work. Scholarship as recent as 2004 has addressed the authorship issue directly and concluded that Clayton likely did not have much chance of being published without the help of someone like Gronovius and the actions of the latter would not have been deemed plagiarism using the standards of the 1700’s. Proper credit for authorship, then, is probably to list them both.
Amidst the issues of authorship, I discovered some interesting things about the men who created what was the only comprehensive listing of Virginia plants for over 200 years. John Clayton was born in England in 1694/5 and came to America sometime before 1720. His move to the Virginia Colony was likely due to his father’s position as Attorney General of Virginia. Clayton was an amateur botanist. He was a plantation owner, a slave owner, and Clerk of Gloucester County, VA for more than 50 years. He liked to travel around the state and collect specimens of flora and fauna.
Gronovius was a Dutch naturalist and friend of Carl Linnaeus. He built up a reputation in the Netherlands as a botanist and had his own herbarium. He was considered a professional and had standing within the scientific world to publish. As part of Clayton’s amateur botanical work, he compiled for Gronovius a catalog of various plants using Linnaean classification. This catalog is what Gronovius eventually turned into Flora Virginica.
SO WHAT ABOUT MARK CATESBY?
Mark Catesby was born in 1683 and was an English naturalist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He first traveled to Virginia in 1712, accompanying his sister and her children. Over the next seven years (1712-1719), he collected and sent to England a variety of botanical specimens from Virginia and Jamaica before returning to England himself. During this time, at least one ornithological specimen and several plants were provided to Catesby by John Clayton. That one connection is why the Catesby prints are often displayed with Flora Virginica … that one connection and the fact that the Catesby prints include gorgeous illustrations of many of the plants mentioned in Flora Virginica.
After a few years in England, where he became a member of The Royal Society, Catesby returned to America to begin work on his grand project. He spent the next 20 years compiling specimens, teaching himself to illustrate them, and writing his Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (QH41 .C28 1754).
He wrote and illustrated the book(s) entirely himself, publishing them in eleven sections totaling more than 220 hand-colored etchings. In order to finance all this work, Catesby sold subscriptions, offering the book in sections of 20 plates every four months. The first section was published in 1729 and he presented Her Majesty Queen Caroline with her copy in person. Following Catesby’s death in 1749, his work was republished twice, in 1754 and 1771. Catesby’s work was done before Linnaean classification was developed but the 1771 reprint includes a catalog of the Linnaean names for the flora and fauna depicted in the book.
While Flora Virginica is recognized as the most comprehensive listing of Virginia plants from 1739 to 2012, Catesby’s History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands is known as the earliest published work illustrating and describing North American flora and Fauna. It was published almost 100 years before Audubon’s The Birds of America (QL674 .A9 1827a).
Through the generous courtesy of the Flora of Virginia Project and the Garden Club of Virginia, we had an exhibit containing a 1762 original Flora Virginica, a 1946 reproduction Flora Virginica, and two Catesby prints from the 1771 reprinting: The Summer Red-Bird, The Western Plane Tree and The Red Start, The Black Walnut. This exhibit gave viewers a chance to appreciate the wonderful history of all of the items with an abbreviated version of the information presented here.
While people visited us to see this exhibit, we also offered them the opportunity to look at a copy of Flora Virginica in person: Special Collections has one copy of the 1946 reproduction on site and two in remote storage (QK191 .G86 1739a). They could also see the amazing Catesby illustrations in person: Special Collections has a copy of the 1754 reprinting of Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (QH41 .C28 1754).
As for the 2012 Flora of Virginia, Newman Library has two copies and Special Collections has one (QK191 .W43 2012).
And, if you’re curious about Audubon’s The Birds of America (QL674 .A9 1827a), Special Collections has a 1985 issue of the double elephant folio in our reading room – it’s our only item with its own piece of furniture.
In total, we tallied 176 visitors to our exhibit (which is likely an undercount). Overall, I'd say that we had excellent turnout. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to work with this community of botany enthusiasts again in the future.
In my last post, An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor, I wrote about organizing and planning for a visit from the internationally acclaimed, amazing, Dr. Nnedi Okorafor. That visit happened on November 9 - three weeks ago! How time flies when you're on vacation! 🙂
If you've read about my previous events (see in particular my blog post here), it will come as no surprise that things did not go perfectly smooth. Honestly, I would be scared if everything did go smoothly - wondering what was going wrong that I didn't know about to fix. This was, compared to my event in May, filled with only minor inconsequential problems.
November 9 arrived and was miraculously NOT filled with pouring rain. The weather was actually pretty good! Our library event planner had my event as her number one priority and our marketing efforts were running smooth. We had arranged for some students from the Black Cultural Center to pass out flyers. We had even secured permission to pass them out (a necessity on this campus). The first problem of the day was that our approved time slot for passing out flyers was an hour before the students were available to pass them out. Well, what can one do? We staffed the need ourselves until the students could show up.
Dr. Okorafor arrived on her flight and was safely delivered to her accommodations here in town. Food was delivered. The main space for the event was set up. Event signage was up to help people locate the event. Then, snags 2 and 3 happened. Snag 2 was something I could do nothing about. Despite the early advertisement and sending out "Save the Date" notices, the Black Student Alliance had scheduled an event featuring spoken word artist Too Black and starting at exactly the same time as our event. Since we were partnered with the Black Cultural Center, the members of the Black Student Alliance were part of our main target audience. Having competing events was certainly not idea. Still, shikata ga nai (仕方が無い). I let it go.
Snag 3 had to do with audio/visual capabilities and our overflow space. This one was frustrating and intractable. Luckily, I had enlisted my wonderful (and significantly overworked) coworker Kira to wrangle A/V for me on this event (because IT Services, who are ostensibly responsible for this support insisted on responding to my support requests by saying that A/V is "self-service" and they would be happy to show me how the systems work - I could rant for pages on the condescension and inadequacy of this response but I'll leave it there). Anyway, two representatives of IT Services showed up for the mandatory "training" on the A/V systems for our event. They were going to walk Kira through how to use systems she already knew how to use. 🙄 The systems decided not to work. The IT Services people (who were just doing their job - not responsible for the policy of non-support) valiantly stayed and troubleshot the systems right up until we had to abandon them in favor of a backup (last minute) solution ... that also ultimately failed. It seems that there was some server side update overnight that IT Services was not aware of which prevented all webinar communication from our event space to other spaces in the building. Had our overflow space been across town or on the moon, everything would be fine. Since it was in the next room, no dice.
Ultimately, Snag 2 helped make Snag 3 a non-issue for the actual event. It pulled enough people away from attending our event to make it so that we didn't need to use our overflow space. Huzzah!!
Our first event was a "Meet the Author" event. We opened up 30 slots for students from the MFA in Creative Writing program, Africana Studies, and Glossolalia, the literary magazine. We had fancier food than normal for our events (these people wouldn't have time for dinner). Our event planner even found a story about Dr. Okorafor's inspiration for her novel Binti. Well, our event planner is amazing and had special cookies made to celebrate that inspiration. They were offered only to attendees at the "Meet the Author" event. About 20 students showed up (mostly from the MFA in Creative Writing program) and had the chance to ask Dr. Okorafor about the process of writing and about her thoughts on the industry and on being a black female author with an African name in the extremely white world of speculative fiction.
After the "Meet the Author" event, we converted the room for the main author talk. In total, we had 101 people attend the talk. Many were from Virginia Tech, but there were attendees from the general public and from neighboring universities as well. Dr. Okorafor spoke for a while about speculative fiction, her connection of that genre to Africa, her experiences as a writer, and other topics. There was then a short Q&A session. Following the talk, we had a short break and then we had a book signing with refreshments. The University Bookstore was on hand to sell books for the signing and they reported selling more for this event than the usually do for similar events. Dr. Okorafor was gracious enough to sign books for everyone in line and even had short conversations with everyone while doing so.
Overall, this was a magnificent event and I'd love to see more like it - just maybe with more assistance in making it happen. 😅
My latest big project is An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor. Back in June, I read Dr. Okorafor's book Who Fears Death and immediately became a huge fan. I had already been thinking about bringing authors to campus as a way to support the Virginia Tech Cultural and Community Centers and the communities they serve. Dr. Okorafor seemed like a perfect fit. I started following her on Twitter (@nnedi) and quickly saw how right I was. She routinely talks about topics related to social justice, racial justice, creative writing, and African culture. It was easy to see how having her speak would serve the academic interests of Virginia Tech and the cultural interests of our Black Cultural Center.
I reached out to the director of our Black Cultural Center and asked if she thought bringing Dr. Okorafor to campus would be a good idea. She was as excited as I. I began exploring how to bring an author to campus for a talk. Dr. Okorafor's website (http://nnedi.com) included contact information for speaking engagements and I reached out to inquire about availability and speaker's fees. Things snowballed from there. We agreed on a fee and I set a total budget for the project. I had thousands of dollars to raise and no budget to work with for this event.
I started contacting all the potential partners I could think of: the Black Cultural Center, Africana Studies program, English department, Women's and Gender Studies program, the new Center for the Humanities, Office of Inclusion and Diversity, the Moss Arts Center, nearby universities, the public library, and more. I managed to bring on a number of partners interested in helping make this author visit a reality and reached my set funding goal. I then worked out contract details with Dr. Okorafor's agents.
Once the contract was signed, the real event planning began. I made sure space was reserved and worked out a schedule of events for the day of the visit. I arranged for the University Bookstore to be on site to sell Dr. Okorafor's novels during a book signing event. I arranged audio/video support in the main event space and an overflow space. I worked with the library's marketing team to define a marketing strategy and a schedule for when advertising messages would go out.
As the event approached, I approved graphics and copy for advertisements and finalized transportation and lodging details for Dr. Okorafor. I emailed everyone I could think of that might be interested. My goal with this event was community engagement. I wanted people from beyond Virginia Tech to attend.
In total, there are three events happening for this author visit: a reception for 30 students from Creative Writing, Africana Studies, and the Glossolalia literary festival staff; the main author talk, and a book signing. I've done outreach to the public library system and three other local universities. I've arranged to put flyers up in local businesses and have table cards in the university dining hall. There's a digital advertising campaign with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts.
The event is still a week away and I'm anxious to see how many people will attend. This is the largest event I've done at Virginia Tech to date and I have been the one in charge of every aspect. If it goes well, I'll be exhausted but elated. I'll update in a week with the results. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for the success of my event.
It was the best of events; it was the worst of events.
Cogito Ergo Chuckles came about because of my interest in theatre. Our Director of Special Collections had been working with an alumna from the theatre department on a donation of her personal papers. In October 2016, those papers were finally donated to us and I was tasked with processing them. I started work amid everything else I had going on. As with many of the archival processing projects here, it moved slowly because of the many, many other things I had to get done. Then, in late February 2017, I was asked to plan an event around this collection.
Melinda E. Pittman graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in 1975. While here, she was in the theatre department acting and directing. As part of an alumni event honoring Tony Distler - The Voice of Virginia Tech - Melinda wanted to have an event on May 5 focused on the collection of her papers.
I set to work planning the event. I spoke with Melinda via phone and email multiple times to plan the event. The plan included maximizing the capabilities of the library's multipurpose room. I would have materials from the collection on display with accompanying digitized video and audio. Melinda would have time for a short presentation. I arranged for live performances of some original satirical songs from her repertoire. Refreshments would be served.
A Comedy of Errors
The first hint of a problem with the event was the date. May 5 was a requirement because Melinda was traveling from the West coast. It was also when people would be around for the alumni reunion event. Still, this event was meant to reach more than just the alumni. It was open to everyone and advertised to the public and the university community at large. The problem: May 5 was Reading Day. For those not familiar (as I wasn't before coming here): Reading Day is the final study day before exams begin. It is HUGE. It is not a day to plan an event. Still, it was prescribed.
The next hurdle: digitizing video. The collection included many VHS tapes of performances from Melinda's career. The plan was to digitize these so that a different video could be shown on each of the eight screens in the multipurpose room. At the time, we did not have the equipment to digitize VHS videos ourselves. I took a box of tapes to another office on campus that offered digitization services. They requested copyright releases for each production company represented. I let Melinda know of the problems. She agreed to get the releases (all the production companies were her own) but also sent me digital copies of some videos that she had. We also took action to acquire digitization equipment of our own. Ultimately, the video was digitized and ready for pickup one hour before the event on May 5 - much too late for me to be able to use it. I didn't even get the email that it was ready until after the event was over. Our own digitization equipment arrived a month after the event. I ended up only having the digital video Melinda had supplied for the even.
I reached out to our library event planner to request help with refreshments, etc. I was told that her services were not available that day. There were too many other things going on in support of Reading Day. After some negotiation, she agreed to do the grocery shopping for my event while doing the shopping for another event on May 3. I agreed to help her carry the groceries from her vehicle into the library. May 3 arrived and she went shopping - and completely forgot about buying things for my event. When I inquired about it on the 4th, she had no idea what I was talking about. She went to the store and got my groceries (because she truly IS awesome).
The day of the event arrived. There was a meeting in the room a few hours before my event - so I couldn't begin setup until after the meeting was done. During the meeting, people came to take tables from the room to use for other events - mistakenly believing that the only tables I needed were the refreshment tables. After some hard negotiation, I was able to keep 15 of the 18 tables I had planned on having.
Event setup began in earnest at 3:30 PM. The event was set to begin at 6:00 PM. Another archivist and one of our student workers were selecting items from the collection and placing them on tables for display. I had didactic cards saying what was on each table, so they just had to pick appropriate items they found interesting.
I was focused on getting the videos and audio up and running. Each table was to have a corresponding video playing above it. About halfway through video setup, the A/V system in the room crashed. The control boards were fried. We had been plugging individual laptops into ports designed to channel video to a corresponding television screen. Since that was no longer an option, we switched to plugging the laptops directly into the televisions which necessitated moving the laptops and completely resetting the archival materials on the tables (so we could move the laptops to different locations on the tables).
While the problems with video display were being addressed by library IT, Melinda arrived. She was going to give a presentation, so I needed to get her set up with a lavalier microphone and display capabilities for her slide deck. I also needed to get the electric piano and hand microphone set up for the live singing that would happen. We managed to cobble together the ability to run the microphones and audio through the room's speakers without the control boards. The piano, sadly, could not be connected to the room speakers.
Around 4:30, people began arriving . . . for a 6:00 event. We were NOT ready. I quickly asked my fellow archivist to get the refreshments set up so that the guests would have SOMETHING to do while we finished getting ready. She set to work. As more guests arrived, we came to discover that Melinda had sent out a note to the alumni saying the event started at 4:00 with a reception. until 6:00 followed by the main event presentation, etc. until 8:00. We also discovered that this was the FIRST event of the alumni reunion weekend and they were expecting name tags. We found some stick-on name tags and a Sharpie.
Once things started coming together (videos were up and running, archival materials were on display, refreshments were out and being consumed, name tags were available, microphones were working) we prepared for Melinda's presentation. She had requested that we record the event and we had scheduled it as an exception through the library's event capture service (it was after 5:00, so not normally supported). No one from event capture ever showed up. I sent a coworker upstairs to the circulation desk to get a camera.
With everything set, we got Melinda going on her presentation. Her laptop was connected to a screen (rather than the two screens we had planned) and her lavalier microphone was working. She had a guitar (supplied by our Agriculture Librarian) and a place to sit while presenting. My fellow archivist (amazing woman!) was filming with the handheld camera we acquired from circulation and Melinda's nieces were filming on their phones.
Melinda commanded the room . . . for 20 . . . 30 . . . 40 minutes. When we planned the event, she asked for 20 minutes to present. I had arranged for the pianist and told him he would be done by 7:00. It was approaching 7:15 when he let me know he had another engagement to get to. I interrupted Melinda and suggested we let her take a break while the "Singing Librarians" performed for her. The pianist took his place and we had three wonderful performances by some of my librarian colleagues - each singing an original work of satire by Melinda. Once the singing was done, the pianist was out the door before I could even say "Thank You".
Melinda then resumed her presentation. The camera from circulation died. The video card was corrupted. The batteries were not charged. The camera could not operate while plugged in. We captured everything on three cell phones (Melinda's two nieces had already been filming on theirs and my archivist coworker joined them).
After two hours, Melinda finished her presentation and the crowd of (mainly) alumni headed off to the downtown hot spots of 35 years ago. Melinda was effusive in her thanks and even gave me flowers.
We packed everything up and brought it back to my office. We gave away the extra refreshments to the studying students. I drove my archivist coworker home and then headed home myself (through the pouring rain - hitting every light red). I got home emotionally exhausted from the series of unfortunate events that happened behind the scenes of this event. I turned on Critical Role and let myself focus on that rather than relive my night.
With all the craziness that happened behind the scenes - from the audience arriving early, to the technical failures, to the guest of honor preparing a 2 hour presentation instead of a 20 minute presentation - the event was a success. The guests were engaged and happy. The guest of honor had a great time. Everything "on stage" was perfect even with the theatre burning down around the performance.
As much as I hate the stress involved in event planning, it was thrilling to have an event go so perfectly while every single thing went wrong.
Well, it has been EIGHT MONTHS since my last blog post. Clearly, I'm not too good at keeping up on this blog. Since that is the case, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to post about projects I've done instead of trying to give a monthly update.
For this post, I'll just give a rundown of some things I did over the past 8 months. It was a very busy year. Here's a quick list of some of the things I did:
Well, that's a quick rundown of what I've been up to. I'll be posting shortly about one other event that happened recently: Cogito Ergo Chuckles: "I Think, Therefore I Cackle".
Where HAS the time gone? Somehow, amidst events and conferences I lost the end of September and all of October! There were epic spider battles (🕷👢) at home and some epic goblin drider (glider?) battles with my friends as we played D&D on the weekends.
At work, I settled into Special Collections and tried to keep up with all the things!
Virginia Library Association Conference
As the Native Voices exhibit was being packed up to send off to its next destination, I headed off to beautiful Hot Springs, Virginia for the VLA Conference. My main reason for attending this year was the Diversity & Inclusion Forum's Graphic Novel Diversity Award - for which, I was a judge. Check out the brochure (below) for the full list of winners and honor books. It was a fun time judging and it was nice to be at the conference to honor the winners.
Charleston Conference: Issues in Book and Serial Acquisitions
Following VLA, I got one weekend at home and the headed south to sunny (sweltering - for November) Charleston, South Carolina. I spent the first week of November attending the Charleston Conference. This conference is HUGE and somewhat unique. The vendors exhibit for one day and then become regular conference attendees. They go to (or present) sessions and take full part in the discussions about the industry. I was there to present about the database (Albatross) that I designed last fall. The database is meant to help determine return on investment (ROI) for electronic journals (and someday other formats). Basically, we want to know how much we spend for every time the journal gets used. My work was figuring out the relationships between data points and creating the entity relationship diagram. It was wonderful presenting to interested people who asked questions and wanted copies of my diagram. Annette, Tracy, and Leslie took on other parts of the presentation such as automation scripting, data cleaning, background, and future plans. Check out our presentation slides if you're interested.
Now that fall semester is rapidly coming to an end, I have to delve back into my other projects: processing collections, designing and implementing a survey of all existing collections, advising the LGBTQ Center on book purchases, helping the Black Cultural Center plan their Black History Month exhibit, helping plan MLK Day events, working on a digital forensics pilot project, creating a Media Literacy Safe Zone course, and planning a major week-long institute for residents from other institutions. So far, I'm loving my job. Even more since I settled permanently in Special Collections.
Fall semester has started and it has been a whirlwind for me. My year of rotating through departments is over. I had a chance to experience what it's like to work in Collections and Technical Services, Data Services, and Special Collections. Over the last year, I gained valuable experience working in an academic setting and got a chance to figure out exactly what I want to be when I grow up. 😉
As of September 1, I will be devoting all of my remaining residency to developing myself as an archivist in Special Collections. The last few weeks, I've had meetings with the director of the department and we've come up with a job title, description, and goals for my new functional role in Special Collections. I will now be functioning as the Community Collections Archivist - which probably means little to most of you. For me, it's ideally suited. My undergraduate degree is in Community Studies, so this is a natural fit. In this role, I'll be helping to identify and highlight existing collections that have material relevant to historically marginalized communities. I'll also be working with those communities to help ensure they are represented in the archives. So, a lot of community outreach and time searching through the archives. It should be interesting.
In addition to my new functional role, I've also been working hard preparing for the Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness exhibit. We have our opening reception today, a panel discussion on Tuesday, and a garden tour and talk on Indigenous Peoples' Day. I'm excited to see what people think of the exhibit! Check out the photos of the exhibit that I took when we were getting everything set up yesterday:
My first summer working in higher education is both flying by and dragging. I've been working on a lot of proposals for things like conference presentations, book chapters, and projects. I've also been finishing off some ongoing projects. At the same time, deadlines are coming due for registration for fall conferences. Those caught me by surprise!
Over the past month, I finished leading internal training sessions about Gmail and Google Calendar for the library faculty and staff; helped write a large grant proposal for a digital forensics program in the library; submitted a presentation proposal to the Charleston Library Conference; had a group of 20 high school students in the library for presentations from Special Collections and our 3D Printing Lab for the 4-H Great Summer Showcase; and submitted (and had accepted) a book chapter proposal. Those are just some of the things I finished! There's a lot more ongoing.
This was my second month with the Data Services team. I've been doing a lot of process definition. I'm documenting workflows and writing procedures. Those are coming along but aren't terribly exciting. I have had a chance to help with preliminary reviews on two datasets for curation. Looking through the current state of the data and determining what needs to be done to ensure persistent access to the data is really interesting. I'm hoping to do some more of that over the next two months. I've also started looking at job postings in this area to get a better idea of the type of skills people are looking for and what type of work people are hiring for. I want to see if this is where I want my career to go.
This month, I also took my first vacation since I started about a year ago. I took a week off and drove up to Maine. It was gorgeous! 59 degrees in July, lobster, and blueberries. The trip wasn't long enough and I'm definitely planning to go back!
Earlier this week, I had a chance to visit the Government Publishing Office and the Library of Congress. This was arranged by West Virginia University. Their residents Ashleigh & Chanelle, their coordinator Lori, and Quetzalli the resident from American University went as well. We had a great day learning about the GPO and the Federal Depository Library Program and then seeing highlights of the Library of Congress collections and services.
The past month has been a bit different for me. Instead of juggling multiple departments, I've settled down in just one: Data Services. I did finish out most of my project in Special Collections. The finding aid for the John Barnes Performing Arts Collection is public online but it's not listed on Virginia Heritage yet. I enjoyed working on it and it will be a factor in determining which department I choose later this summer.
So far, I'm still learning about what data services is doing. I'm mainly working on documenting workflows and updating the research solicitation form letter. It sounds boring because most people don't like working on workflows or form letters. I'll admit I don't really like documenting workflows and I'll be glad when that's done. I do enjoy working on form letters. The one I'm working on introduces our service to people who have expressed an interest. Included with it will be a one-page document describing the service. I'm currently working on creating that document. After that's done, I'll be working on creating our Intranet and Internet presences so that people can learn about us without our direct solicitation. When I have some stuff live and online, I'll share it here.
Data Services as a field is interesting. I'm working mostly with the data curation group that works on the data repository. We ingest data sets, convert them to archival formats as needed, and make sure they're accessible via our research data repository. I'm interested in the development and operation of the repository and with helping to ensure that the data deposited is usable. I'm less involved in work from other areas of Data Services such as helping to write data management plans.
I've been doing a lot of work on presentations and other projects.
As always, there's plenty more I could say but I have tons of other things to do. So, I'm going to say goodbye for this month. Check out the finding aid for the John Barnes Performing Arts Collection if you're at all interested. It was a lot of fun putting this together I'm proud of it. 😊
It's mid-June. Tomorrow is Flag Day 🇺🇸 where we commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States. June is also Pride month 🌈 where LGBTQ+ communities commemorate the ongoing struggle for equality within our society. One of the reasons that Pride month happens in June is that this is the month when the Stonewall riots occurred in New York City in 1969. In those riots, the police were the problem. They attacked a gay nightclub and sparked days of rioting.
This year, the police came to the rescue and managed to save many people. I want to acknowledge their efforts. I also want to acknowledge the lives of the 49 victims killed and the 53 injured in the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando yesterday. I only know a couple of people who live in Orlando (my first boyfriend and my best 'man from my wedding). Neither was at the club and neither was injured. Still, the attack felt very personal. In my life, I've heard too often about LGBTQ+ people who were physically harmed for living their lives. Most of the time, these attacks happen to people who are doing nothing to harm anyone. They are simply living their lives with an integrity and authenticity that should be admired, not reviled.
It has been 23 years since I first told someone that I am a gay man. In that time, I've grown more comfortable with myself and more open about letting people know who I am. I was never a club-goer. I also never really frequented bars. It's just not in my personality. Still, I've lived for decades with a sense of "looking over my shoulder". I've never comfortably held my husband's hand in public. I won't even contemplate kissing my husband in public (I've done so once that I'm aware of: my wedding). These acts feel too dangerous. There is no way to know when someone will witness a simple gesture of love between me and my husband and decide to physically attack us.
Things have undoubtedly gotten better since 1998 when Matthew Shepard was attacked but it is clear that living "out loud" as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is still a courageous act. I have chosen to live my life in the open by telling people about my husband when they ask about my family and by supporting the LGBTQ+ community within the LIS field and at Virginia Tech. Working on diversity and inclusion issues and LGBTQ+ issues in particular makes me a target. I've always known this was the case. Still, I choose to do so because the only way to make the world safer is to address these issues. I know I won't solve the problem of bias motivated violence. I simply have to do my best to educate those around me about the realities of living as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in this society.
Even with the right to marry each other, LGBTQ+ people are not equal in this country. We are the targets of bias related incidents of both verbal and physical abuse. Members of the community are more likely to attempt or commit suicide (I did and I am far from alone in that) and are more likely to be murdered for being themselves. The important thing to realize is that an LGBTQ+ person can be minding their own business and still provoke violence against themselves simply by existing as an authentic version of themselves. That is what happened in Orlando. The people at the club were living their own lives and were attacked from the outside. They were not targeting their attacker. They were not trying to force their views on him. They did not even know he existed. Yet, their simple existence was so offensive to him that he chose to attack one of the safest places our society offers to members of the LGBTQ+ community. When even our safe places are targets of violence, it is hard to feel fully equal in society.
Following this event, I wish I was attending ALA Annual in Orlando in a couple of weeks. I hope that my fellow librarians take time away from the conference to support the local LGBTQ+ community in their time of grief and pride. Thank you.
I'm the Community Collections Archivist, Community and Cultural Centers Librarian & Resident Librarian at Virginia Tech.