Tag Archives: University of Minnesota Libraries

Celebrating Archives and Archivist – A Minnesota perspective

Today – Wednesday October 5, 2016 – is Ask An Archivist Day!!! https://archivesaware.archivists.org/2016/09/06/ask-an-archivist-day/

In fact, the month of October 2016 is designated as National Archives Month. http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/american-archives-month-the-power-of-collaboration

Recently, after a video interview with friend and retired University of Minnesota archivist, Richard Kelly, I posted these thoughts of appreciation: https://marytreacy.wordprehttps://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/association-of-american-archives/ss.com/tag/association-of-american-archives/ Recognition of National Archives Month prompts me to learn and share more about the range of archival resources in our community.

What follows opens the doors, though not the resources, of the state’s archives, repositories of written materials, photographs, memorabilia and a range of resources that inform and enrich our lives.

Minnesota Historical Society 

Though many of us have visited the Minnesota History Center we may not realize that the citadel on the hill is but one of the many sites operated by MHS. In fact, there are 26 sites, http://www.mnhs.org/visit. Each of these sites maintains archival resources related to the area and the focus of the individual site; each supports its own website, clickable from the MHS site.

A major program of the Minnesota Historical Society is the Minnesota State Archives: http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/records/ State Archives offer a wide range of resources including www.newspapers.com, a database the provides online access to 3000 historical newspapers dating from the early 1700’s to the early 2000

The Archives Facebook postings provide current info about programming, workshops and other learning opportunities.

University of Minnesota Libraries

The University of Minnesota Libraries is home to a host of archival collections that range from the Archives of the University itself to the Jean-Nikolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, the Givens Collection of African American Literature and the Guthrie Theater Archives.   For a full list of repositories and finding aids click here https://www.lib.umn.edu/special — or you might want to click on this useful starting point:


The Twin Cities Archives Roundtable

One local network that will be celebrating National Archives Month is The Twin Cities Archives Roundtable (https://tcartmn.org) Founded in 1982 TCART (as the group is commonly known) includes archivists, curators, librarians, records managers and information specialists from government agencies, county and state historical societies, academic institutions, corporations and religious organizations. TCART will be holding its annual Minnesota Archives Symposium on Monday, November 14, at the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota.

Are you harboring a tough question that only an archivist would love? Save it for October 27 when the Smithsonian Institute Archives is hosting “Ask an Archivist Day” http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/tag/archives-month.

BULLETIN:  A bit of local history: Later this week, on October 7, the National Archives will present a public program featuring the story of the nation’s first gay marriage, that of Minnesotans Jack Baker and Mike McConnell. The presentation is based on the archival record of the couple’s lengthy legal battle as recounted in their book The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage. The program will be live streamed on the National Archives YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGVQfq8a6fY&feature=youtu.be


Hispanic Heritage Month – So much to learn – So many resources!

As many – one would hope most – Americans know by now, National Hispanic Heritage Month is in full swing…. The nation’s recognition of the heritage, culture, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans actually began September 15 and continues through October 15.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Energizing our national diversity!” For other basics of National Hispanic Heritage Month, including the text (in English and Spanish) of the President’s Proclamation as well as brief background and graphics, click here: http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.org/History.html

The events and resources sponsored and produced by federal agencies is overwhelming — a brief listing may even inspire local plans. Note that some of these events and resources are accessible online:

There’s also an idea-provoking calendar, with annotations, describing events happening throughout the nation – clearly it’s not inclusive, but it’s fun to skim — http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.org/Events.html

University of Minnesota librarians have prepared for Hispanic Heritage Month by creating an excellent guide to the Library’s unique resources. “The Diverse Heritage of United States Hispanics: Afro-Hispanics” is an indispensable introduction to the University’s immense resources including the Chicano Database and Informe as well historical and literary works, analysis and academic journals. (http://www.continuum.umn.edu/2016/09/celebrate-hispanic-heritage-month/#.V-KGd1e8xHh)

Organizations with fiscal resources may be interested in shopping options: http://shop.hispanicheritagemonth.org/main.sc

One resource that will touch the heart of everyone is a digital treasure offered by the Academy of American Poets. It’s a selection of Hispanic heritage related poems, essays, videos and multi-media presentations. These are beautiful expressions of ideas, images, and reflections of Hispanic and Latino writers — a lovely way for each of us to listen, view, recognize and appreciate this nation’s Hispanic heritage. Click and share this link – it’s a long link with an overflowing pot of poetic treasures at the end of the search rainbow: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/hispanic-heritagemonth?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Academy%20of%20American%20Poets%20Newsletter%20September%2020&utm_content=Academy%20of%20American%20Poets%20Newsletter%20September%2020+CID_2f63936680eeed6ca25e62fac497d396&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Hispanic%20Heritage%20Month%20page


Sherlockians celebrate misadventures of a fictional nature

As we struggle through this period of unparalleled misadventure it seems just right that some among us are probing a parallel universe in which clear thought and intense focus lead to logical conclusions.   Sure, it’s fiction, but then again it would be enlightening to join devoted readers as they probe “The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes.” The intrepid Sherlockians will gather June 17-19 at the University of Minnesota for their triennial conference.

The gathering is sponsored by the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota (https://www.lib.umn.edu/holmes) and the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota. (http://www.norwegianexplorers.org) To get some global grip on the impact of the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle, consider this global list of active Sherlockian societies! (http://www.sherlocktron.com/three.pdf)

Scholars and devotees gather at the U of M where the Sherlock Holmes Collections constitute the world’s largest libraries of material related to the books and their author. The U of M Libraries catacombs are home to some 60,000 books, journals, artifacts and unique materials of endless interest to true believers.

The triennial conference will feature presentations by Sherlock scholars, vendors, an exhibit of rare and unique materials from the Collections, a dramatic performance by the Red-Throated League of the Norwegian Explorers – even an auction of some rare treasures that will be the envy of avid collectors gathered to delve into the misadventures of Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Those of us who read, enjoy but have not drunk deep of the Sherlockian stream should be at the ready to welcome these learned scholars to our fair University. My thought is to avoid textual criticism or syntactical analysis at all cost, but maybe brush up on the light side with something like this probably-flawed backgrounder on Sherlockian culture http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160106-how-sherlock-holmes-changed-the-world


Lifelong Learning Thrives on Digital Digging

After a work life ruled by a cluttered desk calendar I’ve shed blind allegiance to a schedule. Evolving technology has only reinforced my disinclination to commit to the calendar or clock. This somehow justifies my reluctance to register for classes, concert series, monthly meetings, haircuts and most especially medical appointments.

The drive for independent, affordable learning is reinforced by the inability to pay for OLLI or college credits, health club membership or store-bought books. I find that learning thrives when sparked by the freedom to carpe diem and that an active life of the mind is best measured not by the learner’s ability to pay but by his or her thirst for knowledge

Thinking and writing about Older Americans Month which starts today (May 1) sparks thoughts about the freedom that seniors have to explore the borders of knowledge. I originally categorized this independent path as “random acts of learning” – till I compulsively googled the phrase and learned that there’s a blog thus named….A little learning can be a deflating thing….

Still, “Poking Around with Mary” fairly well describes my thrifty and rigor-free methodology. “Poking Around” is the term my friend would use to describe my learning style — how I would hop off the bus to check out a neighborhood or drop in at an outdoor concert or start up a conversation with a stranger while we stood in line for a common purpose, or pursue a person, place or idea on the web.   That, she said, was “poking around” and the blog could simply reflect the “pokes.”

Writing for the blog frequently inspires me to poke a little deeper. Now, when I hear of or see something of interest – a display, an event, a park, a coffee shop, a reading space, a specialty shop, a book – I want to learn more – and to share what I’ve learned. Blogs are great for ad hoc poking around, especially when fueled by a compulsion to share….

Since most of my learning is random it’s a challenge to list, much less categorize, the options. Some random thoughts:

  • My favorite poke is probably bookstores, especially used bookstores, where it’s all wonderfully random – authors, subjects, eras, format, language. I tell myself I can identify with all those writers, then internalize their ideas and literary style through osmosis. In fact, it’s the bibliophiles who tend these bookstores that truly inspire me to hang out and learn. Several blog posts reflect this love of bookstores – more to follow.
  • Similarly, many libraries are good, some are great. Librarians are often genetically disposed to share the quest for knowledge. Libraries of all types – public, college, even corporate, church, ethnic and other special libraries, are interconnected in functional networks that facilitate access through any portal – physical or digital. For most learners, the public library is the best port of entry and the most convenient way to explore the learning opportunities, ranging from public programs to home delivery. MNLink https://www.mnlinkgateway.org/zportal/zengine?VDXaction=ZSearchSimple offers a handy gateway to the endless possibilities. Still, especially with libraries, it’s often best to shop locally.
  • Those who work in great libraries are fortunate and indispensable fellow travelers on the path to learning, James K. Hosmer Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library (http://www.hclib.org/specialcollections\ is unchallenged as my favorite because of the incredible collection, stellar service, and the ambient environment that inspires serious research. Check the website – hours are severely limited.
  • The archives at the University of Minnesota are beyond wonderful. Exploring the Archives blog http://www.continuum.umn.edu/primary-sourcery/#.VyShhUtEB4M is both random and revealing of unimagined – yet essential – resources.   And if you’ve been wondering about what’s planned for the Bell Museum Library check https://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu
  • Libraries and librarians are inclined to listen to the needs of learners who have physical challenges to reading or to poking around the collections; seniors sometimes fail to realize how many learning options are accessible at or through their local library. In fact there are statewide and national networks set up to expand options beyond the local collection. One of several good starting points can be found here: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/Lib/MBTBL/AudioBks/index.html
  • For a thorough and timely guide to resources there is no more comprehensive resource than that prepared by staff of the Legislative Reference Library. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/LRL/LINKS/links?links=disabled
  • You’ve probably visited the Minnesota History Center, but have you checked out the library? (http://sites.mnhs.org/library/) Though it’s accessible virtually the setting inspires the will to know more. I am always in awe of the serious learning in progress as scholars, genealogists, History Day students, journalists and PhD hopefuls plumb the State’s historic record. [I find it’s best to refresh with coffee and a muffin at Café Minnesota and/or a stop at one of the irresistible museum shops.
  • Though I have made pit stops at most state agency libraries that collaborate through the Capitol Area Library Consortium I know for certain that all constantly evolve and grow, add resources and programs, and create a unique corporate culture. The great news is that searcher can take a virtual tour with just one click of the CALCO directory. http://mn.gov/library/directory.pdf) A quick tour underscores Governor Perpich’s vision of the “brainpower state”, built on a firm foundation of accessible information services and top-notch professionals who build and mine the power of the resources accessible through this network of libraries and librarians.
  • Over time Pokings have taken me and readers to unique library settings. One of my former Northeast neighborhood haunts, the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota (PACIM http://pacim.org) has found new digs and new life on the banks of the Mississippi.  The original blog post is woefully dated so check out the new profile and site to learn the latest – and check the online catalog to learn more about the library collection.
  • Though I haven’t visited yet I’m impressed with the collection, the programming and the mission of the East Side Freedom Library. The very special library fosters ideas and action in the former Arlington Hills branch of the St. Paul Public Library. Again, the library features a unique collection and a robust public programming agenda. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/

One goal of taking this approach on the first day of Older Americans Month is to ease the way into a longer range goal – to demonstrate in tangible and useful ways far exceed most newbies expectation – it just depends on the keeper of the keys to envisions worlds far beyond shopping, paying bills, FB and email.   Armchair learning is within ready reach of any keeper of the keys for whom the goal is to learn.

Life experience tells me that everyone wants to know more about something – it might be presidential politics or polo, violin making or veterans, Iron Range history or hieroglyphics, football or food safety, car repair or climate change, Russian literature or road construction, immigration or isotopes, antiquities or animal protection…

The pitch today is “there’s an app for that” – in my mind, “there’s an opp for that” – an opportunity to enrich the life of the mind. Though the app may unlock the digital door it remains to the seeker to carpe diem. Bear in mind that “on the Internet, nobody knows [much less cares] you’re an “’Older American.”(1)



World Usability Day – Engaging Users in the Design Process

The user is NOT a lower life form –  Ken Becker

This is not, but could be, the theme of World Usability Day celebrated this year on Thursday, November 13. It’s a day to gather communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen and government groups, all focused on a common mission to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. Theme of this year’s celebration is “engagement,” with emphasis on engaging users in design of usable products and services.

There are at least two Twin Cities are events on the calendar for World Usability Day.

* At the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus participants will participate in a full day program. Presenters will explore the concept of engagement, on the experience of students, library users, The Nerdery and more.

The day’s events are free and will take place at the Student Center Theater, 2017 Buford Avenue, on the St. Paul Campus. More information at http://worldusabilityday.org/events/2014/world-usability-day-university-minnesota

The St. Paul Campus program is sponsored by the IT@UMN User Experience team, UMN Libraries, and the CLA Department of Writing Studies, in collaboration with partners at The Nerdery, Macalester College, MnSCU and Thomson Reuters.

* Starting at 6:30 the same evening, UXPA-MN is sponsoring another celebration of World Usability Day at Rojo Mexican Grill, 1602 West End Boulevard, near the intersection of Highways 100 and 394. Representatives of three local organizations will discuss user-centered design principles that have contributed to their success. Free and open. For more information or to register go to http://www.upamn.org

For more background on World Usability Day check out the WUD website for a great short video intro featuring John Hockenberry. Though his explanation is not new it’s the best possible backgrounder on the idea that shapes the day.   The listing of WUD events around the world underscores the universality of the global theme.

The WUD story brings to mind the pioneer work of Minnesotans Clyde ‘Budd’ and Dolores Hagen of Henderson.   For the past three decades the Hagens have spearheaded the annual Closing the Gap conference on assistive technology. Though Budd died last September, plans for next year are already going full steam. The 33rd Annual Closing the Gap conference will be October 14-16 with pre-conference workshops October 12-13 2015. Again this year the conference will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington. More about Closing the Gap at http://www.closingthegap.com/conference/faqs.lasso


Celebrating African American Literature During Black History Month

In Minnesota and throughout the nation the name  Archie  Givens – Senior or Junior — is synonymous with the rich legacy of African American literature.

Archie Givens, Sr. was a noted Minnesota business leader with a passion for collecting the very best of African American literature of his era.   The Archie Givens Senior Collection of African American Literature is now housed at the University of Minnesota Libraries.  The collection includes over 8,000 volumes representative of a broad range of African American literary genre dating back to 1773..  Among the holdings are the archives of the Penumbra Theater, manuscripts, fiction, nonfiction, even letters of African American authors.

There is a beautiful documentary based on the Givens collection which was described in an earlier post on this blog.

In celebration of Black History Month, Minneapolis downtown workers and visitors will have a chance to catch a glimpse of the wonders of the collection.  Books from the Givens collection will be on display at the Hennepin Gallery at the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street through February 26.  Many of the books on exhibit are rare first editions, some of which have been out of print for decades.  Some of the books are actually signed by the author;  others include covers designed by well-known artists.

The Hennepin Gallery is free and open to the pubic Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m – 6:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, Archie Givens Jr. continues to support his father’s literary passion.  Time is short but it is not too late to attend a related African American literary event, this one sponsored in part by Archie Givens, Jr. as part of Black History Month.  Since 2004 The Givens Foundation for African American Literature and the Friends of the U of M Libraries have sponsored the NOMMO African American Authors Series.  (NOMMO is a Dogon word meaning “the magic power of the word”

This year the featured artist is poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller.  He will read from his work and discuss the state of the art of African American literature with U of M professor Alexs Pate.  The event is Wednesday, February 6, 7:00 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center, 301 19th Avenue South on the U of M West Bank.

Tickets are $15, no charge for U of M students, members of the Givens Foundation and Friends of the U of M Libraries.  612 624 2345.

Celebrating the Givens Collection of African American Literature

As previous posts suggest, I find myself reflecting evermore on my experience as a novice librarian at District of Columbia Teachers College, a public inner city institution that has long since bit the academic dust.  What remains for me are vibrant images of a profound late 60’s learning opportunity for which I am increasingly grateful.

One poignant memory is of Walter Williams, collection development librarian extraordinaire, and the only man I’ve ever known who could speak fluently with a pencil tucked under his upper lip.

When the demise of DCTC was imminent Mr. Williams fought back by protecting his treasured collection of African American literature.  Experience taught him that these dusty – and presumably irrelevant — tomes would not survive the intrusion of the impending bureaucrats, more interested in efficiency and modernity than in preservation of the literary works of a people.   Day after day Mr. Williams would quietly comb the shelves, then stash the books in a secluded back room where they were relatively safe from the invaders.  I have often wondered if those rare treasures still grace some library’s  shelves and give life to priceless wisdom.

The images, the sounds, even the smells of those late 60’s days have filled my mind these past days since video producer Dan Bergin of TPT thoughtfully emailed me a link to his 1998 documentary on the Archie Givens Collection, a jewel in the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Though I’ve known about the Givens Collection, my ongoing quest to learn more about the literary and film legacy of Oscar Micheaux Legacy has led me to more intensive research.   What I had failed to understand was the depth of the collection.   The documentary offers a beautiful depiction of the Givens Collection as an entry point to  our African American literary legacy as well as a context that places  Micheaux, the Givens Collection and Mr. Williams’ work in context.

Mesmerized by the hour-long documentary, my thought now is to share the experience with others who, like me, reach for a focus to reflect on the passion of African American writers, from Frederick Douglass to Walter Mosely who, incidentally, will  be spending time this month  in this community.

My hope is that readers will take time to engage in the documentary as background to enriching the array of opportunities that are exploding in this community.   Of special interest are the Givens Black Books series, Penumbra Theatre’s series on Reshaping the Black Image on the American Stage, the rich agenda of reading and book groups in libraries, more inclusive curricula in schools and colleges, the  Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center and the enduring strength of the Givens collection.

So much to learn, so much to celebrate.   Decades after his heroic efforts, Walter B. Williams is smiling, a feat which he alone could accomplish with a pencil securely clutched under his upper lip.  I deeply hope the treasures he secured are intact – if not physically in some digital form that would have blown his beautiful mind.