Library Gazette

During May 2013...

Preserving the Jonathan W. Cameron Civil War letters

Friday, May 17, 2013 2:25 pm

Maj. John. W. Cameron Civil War letters

For the past few months, I’ve been preserving a collection of letters written during the American Civil War. These letters are all written by Major John W. Cameron, and were written during April and May of 1862. All the letters were sent from Goldsboro, NC by Major Cameron. These letters are what I believe to be copies of actual letters Major Cameron sent (otherwise, we wouldn’t have these letters at all because he would have sent them to the far reaches of the Confederacy). The letters are not very exciting….on the contrary, the letters are all basically asking people to send fodder for the animals, tents for the men or harnesses for the mules. There is also the vernacular of the time (the word “instance” is often used to indicate the word “day” as in “I received your letter of the 6th instance”). Regardless of the 19th century language, when you handle so many of these personal, hand-written letters, it is hard not to become engaged in the back story of this person. I have done a little searching for Major Cameron (he always signed his name as Maj. Jno. W. Cameron, QM CSA) but haven’t been able to find anything about him. Even though Major Cameron was stationed in North Carolina, I do not think he was a North Carolina soldier. I think he was one of the ‘national troops’ who served wherever they were assigned. I looked through every index in our collection of North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 but did not find John W. Cameron.

To underscore the mundane essence of Major Cameron’s letters, I’m including this transcription of one of Major Camerons’ letters:

Letter 487
Goldsboro, No. Ca.
May 9, 1862
Peter P. Johnson, Esq.
Hereafter you will not buy any more horses, but turn your attention entirely to mules. I have today sent Mr. Broadfoot $10,000 to be disbursed in the usual way.
Very respectfully
Your obt Servt
Jno W. Cameron
Major & QM CSA

Confirm the purchase of wagons & barrels, but I wish nothing in the way of animals, but mules.

The letters are, as I’ve said, copies written with iron gall ink on onion skin paper. Each letter has a printed number in the upper right corner. This is another reason I believe the letters are copies. I think the copies were made in a pre-numbered ledger of some sort that Major Cameron used. The paper is very thin and fragile. Many of these letters are torn and discolored. The entire group was exposed to water at some point because they were stuck together and had a large water stain on them which dissolved parts of many of these letters. Almost every letter has one or two folds and creases that covered the entire surface. Early on, I placed a call to Tahe Zalal, a Paper Conservator at Etherington Conservation Center. Tahe urged me to be careful and try to avoid using any moisture on the onion skin paper. As a result of this conversation, I flattened these letters with heat and placed them on an acid free paper liner and then into a polyester sleeve. These letters can now be read and handled easily without damaging them. I am hopeful a researcher can help us find this man and place him in historical context.
Preservation -finished letter

Open Access Theses and Dissertations

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 1:15 pm

Last month, I was happy to announce the availability of Open Access Theses and Dissertations (OATD), otherwise known as the 1.6-million record bibliographic database I’ve been building on my laptop, and that we’re hosting at

It won’t be news to anyone that libraries and grad schools have worked hard over the last decade or more to begin publishing electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). At many schools – including Wake – this includes putting an open access copy of the ETD in an institutional repository. The problem that has bothered me for a long time is that we’ve had to focus so much on the policy, advocacy, and workflow issues that no one has time to really work on the problem of discovery for this unique and valuable content. The available search services either focus on commercially available, closed-access content (Proquest Dissertations and Theses); toss ETDs in with an overwhelming number of other records (Google Scholar); have oddly incomplete records and/or idiosyncratic search interfaces that many users find difficult to use well (Elsevier’s Scirus and a VTLS Visualizer, two “semi-official” ETD services); or mix together open- and closed-access ETDs with no way to tell them apart (Elsevier and VTLS again).

OATD’s aim is to be the best possible resource for finding open access graduate theses and dissertations published around the world. It currently includes metadata for 1.6 million records from over 800 universities around the world.

OATD’s main components are:

  • A harvester, which pulls metadata from about 350 repositories around the world using a standard from the Open Archives Initiative called the Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). This is a way for repositories to share their metadata openly.
  • A Solr index. This is the same open source indexing program that VuFind uses.
  • A web search interface.
  • A feature I think of as “full text turbo boost”: I run a lightweight web crawler to grab an ETD’s full text, pull screen shots of the first few pages, pull sample images, and index the first thirty pages in order to show search hits in context. This isn’t really an attempt to make a fulltext index, but a way to add features to the search hits you get through a good citation + abstract record

Here’s what I’ve learned:

A lot of repositories have really lousy metadata. Not WakeSpace, of course, but-you know-other schools. Name something you’d expect in a record for a thesis, and I’ve seen examples where it’s missing or stuffed into the wrong field. The name of the school (chronicallly missing: you get a lot of “publishers” named eScholar-tastic DigiSpace @ Tech!); any URL for the record; the degree and department; advisor names; even the author’s name have all come up missing. At least the no-authors school responded with a rueful “Oops” when I let them know. OATD has a lot of ad hoc code to make specific schools’ records look as good as they can, but there are still a lot of sites that could easily communicate more aboutcontent.

A lot of schools honestly never thought about their metadata actually being used by anyone or anything outside their own system.

When Googlebot and Bingbot aren’t hitting OATD hard enough to crash it (we keep tweaking the settings to let them index the site without killing it), people are actually using it. Google Analytics has an addictive real-time display: at the moment, 17 people are using the site, not just in the U.S. but also in Spain, Canada, Lithuania, Madagascar (really!), and a handful of other countries.

When I ask people what they’d like to see in OATD, librarians almost always say browsing by author, but no one else does. I don’t (yet?) have a good way to implement browsing, but I’m not sure it’s a real-world need.


New Popular Magazines In Mandlebaum Room

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 10:51 am

Over the course of the last few years, several publications that had lived in the Mandlebaum Room on the popular magazine shelves either ceased publication or were cancelled. That left us ten slots to fill with new titles. The Research and Instruction team looked at usage data for our current popular titles and print periodicals that were not in Mandlebaum as well as considering gaps in subject coverage. This let us pretty easily identify ten titles to move out into the popular periodicals shelves. Thanks to Bradley Podair in Resource Services, the locations were changed in the catalog. Thanks to a great RIS student, Rachel Glascock, new tags were made for the shelves and the titles were brought out and added. The titles we moved are below – come visit!

  • Advocate
  • Art in America
  • Cheng Ming
  • Christian century
  • Film Comment
  • Golf Digest
  • Gramophone
  • Harvard Business Review
  • National Geographic Traveler
  • Publishers Weekly

ZSRx Mini-MOOC is a Great Success!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:37 am

In March and April, the Z. Smith Reynolds Library conducted a successful mini-MOOC (massive, open, online course) for 700 Wake Forest University parents and alumni. ZSRx: The Cure for the Common Web was designed as a free, open, online course for the external Wake Forest University community. The course engaged participants in a fun, collaborative, learning environment by exploring tools and techniques for using the web to increase personal productivity, strengthen search habits and sharpen evaluation skills. Four weekly modules included these topics: basic search strategies, advanced searching, privacy and filters, and tools for information management.

Kyle Denlinger, eLearning Librarian at ZSR, designed the course as a low-barrier entry into the world of online education, knowing that participants would have many other commitments. He invited classmates to consider it less as a traditional class with deadlines and boundaries and more as a starting point for exploring and connecting to a larger community of learners. ZSRx used Google Sites as the course platform, while Google Groups and Google+ served the community as discussion spaces. Interaction was rich and deep, with participants commenting freely on each other’s posts.

Participants ranged from members of the class of 1954 to the class of 2012 and according to post-course evaluations, they enjoyed it immensely. One participant said, “Kudos to you and Wake for doing this, and I hope you will offer other courses in the future.”

Read Kyle Denlinger’s article for more details. Contact Kyle to suggest topics for other classes.

Meet the New Director of Special Collections & Archives

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:36 am

Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director, Special Collections & University Archivist

Tanya Zanish-Belcher in her own words…

I am so pleased and proud to join the ZSR Library as Director of Special Collections & University Archivist! My professional career path has led me to Winston-Salem after 17 years as Head of Special Collections at Iowa State University. I look forward to sharing my experiences from there with Special Collections here – and to focus on sharing library collections with members of the Wake Forest campus community and broader public. Special Collections collects the rare and unique, and it is crucial to recognize their importance and value, and to guarantee their permanent preservation. At the same time, however, administering a department like this requires a delicate balancing act between preservation and access. Access can mean many things, and can include a visit to see the original, or going online to see a digital version of the original. Our audiences should realize that Special Collections has resources, not only collections but also expert staff, waiting and willing to assist with a myriad of projects! Special Collections means Sharing, in my rare book.

As an undergraduate History major, I struggled with what career to pursue, until a professor recommended the Public History program at Wright State University. At the time, WSU was the only university in Ohio offering any kind of programming in this area, and I followed a dual archives/museum track. From the moment I took my first class, I knew I had found my calling in life. Archives offers a unique opportunity to combine a number of elements – the study and comprehension of the complexity of history, the sharing of these unique resources with the public, and, lastly, it requires the management of people, time, and other resources. The management component has allowed me to face the challenge of evaluating these available resources and match them with the needs to both preserve and access rare and unique materials. In addition, working with archives provides a physical challenge as well – there are always boxes to move, books to re-shelve and items to shift. My 20 years of experience as an archivist have also helped me to view my professional career as part of a continuum, in what I can contribute to my institution – I am one of many, and my role is to ensure that collections are safe and secure for the next generation.

However, and this is the critical issue for special collections and archives, there is no point in preserving material if you do not make it available for someone to use.

For additional information regarding my previous publications and vita, please see my website.

Relax this Summer in the Outdoor Reading Room

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:35 am

This spring, two outdoor reading “rooms” opened on campus. One is just outside the east (Starbucks) entrance to the library. The other is located on the patio near the south side of Reynolda Hall. ZSR Library sponsors the collections in both locations. Each reading room features a selection of books (mostly fiction) as well as current magazines and newspapers.

These rooms are part of a larger initiative whereby WFU commissioned the Biederman Group to enliven outdoor spaces on the Reynolda Campus. Biederman’s most famous project is Bryant Park in New York City. In addition to the reading room, the Reynolda Campus quads now feature an outdoor piano, board games and other fun enhancements. Take a break this summer and relax in the sunshine with a good book or magazine.

Highlights from the Fourth Annual Senior Showcase

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:34 am

At the most fundamental level, how are humans defined? What stories are being told within the musical compositions of great composers? How are unions and businesses reacting to legislation addressing collective bargaining? How do fish locomote on land to capture prey? Representing a rich array of research across disciplines, four Wake Forest students addressed these questions during the fourth annual Senior Showcase, held in the library auditorium on April 23.

Nominated by their faculty advisers, the honorees were selected to present their research before an audience comprised of fellow students, faculty and staff, and family members. The Senior Showcase was founded in 2010 upon the suggestion of a former student who desired a campus-wide forum to highlight student research achievements. Each year, the Showcase has grown in both the number of nominees and the distinct departments they represent. Building upon sustained growth, the Showcase expanded this year to include a $1,000 award for each honoree, in additional recognition of their efforts and merit.

The 2013 Senior Showcase honorees were:

  • Jonathan Barker, Philosophy, for “Animating Animalism by Eliminating Eliminativism,” nominated by Patrick Toner;
  • Liu “Nick” Cheng, Music, for Piano Performance of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Prokofiev Masterworks, nominated by Peter Kairoff;
  • Lani Domagalski, Politics & International Affairs, for “Wisconsin and Michigan Collective Bargaining and Breaking the Unions,” nominated by Charles “Hank” Kennedy; and,
  • Alexander Pronko, Biology, for “The Novel Kinematics of a Water-Land Transition in Mangrove Rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus),” nominated by Miriam Ashley-Ross.

Following the presentations, and a lively question and answer session with the audience, honorees and attendees enjoyed a reception sponsored by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Center.

L to R: Nick Cheng, Alex Pronko, Lani Domagalski, Jonathan Barker

Database News

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:33 am

Please consider how you and your students might use these new databases to benefit your work.

  • ARTstor – Database containing over 1.5 million searchable, high-resolution images in the arts, architecture, humanities and sciences. ARTstor images may be used for educational or scholarly purposes, including presentations and printed handouts, but may not be otherwise distributed or publicly displayed.
  • Database of Recorded American Music (DRAM) – Streaming audio from independent record labels and sound archives. Includes essays and original liner notes.
  • Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database – Information about children’s books and other children-focused media, with critical reviews, information about awards, reading measurements, etc.
  • Cabell’s Education Directory – Also known as Cabell’s Directory of Publishing Opportunities in Education, provides publishing information to assist in preparing manuscripts for publication.
  • Roper Center Public Opinion Archive – A leading archive of social science data, specializing in data from surveys of public opinion. Covers a broad range of topics including social issues, politics, pop culture, international affairs, etc.

Databases on the move

Statistical Abstract of the United States, the statistical summary of the social, political and economic conditions of the United States, was discontinued by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 as a cost-reduction measure. Two commercial publishers have since combined forces to resurrect the publication.

L’AnnĂ©e Philologique has moved to the familiar EBSCOhost platform. Please update your bookmarks.

ZSRx: The MOOC that wasn’t a MOOC

Friday, May 10, 2013 1:37 pm

Remember that time ZSR offered an online information literacy course? No, not that one. This one. The one we designed to be MOOC-like, free and open to anyone, focused on general web literacy skills, in the hopes that *maybe* 100 people would want to sign up. No? Well, let me tell you about it.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was a little more than two years ago that Lauren Pressley designed and taught her online version of LIB100, the first online course of any kind at Wake Forest. She worked hard to create a “Wake Forest” feel to the course: lots of reflection, video responses, close contact. And it worked. She was asked to go before the College Board of Visitors to show them what she’d done, and they were impressed. I’m told that many came up to Lauren after her presentation to ask how they could take her class. This was all before I came to ZSR, of course, but I know enough about this place to understand that when the College Board of Visitors wants to take your class, you find a way to let them take your class.

So we found a way. We gave LIB100 the MOOC treatment: we generalized the content and learning outcomes, focusing on web literacies that are relevant to everyone. We curated third-party content from around the web, finding readings, videos, and websites that anyone could access and easily fit into their busy schedules. We set up a discussion forum and a community blog. We organized everything into thematic modules and built a simple website with free tools to hold it all together. We called it ZSRx: The Cure for the Common Web, and then we told people about it, focusing our marketing efforts on parents and alumni, hoping 100 or so would be interested enough to sign up. Then 700 people signed up.

Let me tell you, dear reader: there’s nothing more real in the life of an eLearning Librarian than when 700 people show up to your party. It was terrifying. I was ecstatic.

As people started introducing themselves on the discussion board, we learned that we had participants from 23 states and 10 countries. There were parents of current and former students, alumni from the class of 2012 all the way back to the class of 1954 (old campus!), and folks here on campus who were just interested in what we were doing. We had folks who had very little computer or web literacy and folks who had taught online for the University of Phoenix. I met an alum living in Florida who is close personal friends with the minister who married me and my wife. People started connecting to old friends, swapping stories of their time at Wake, reminiscing over favorite professors. Although introductions were coming fast and furious, it all felt very… small.

Each of the four modules focused on a different aspect of web literacy. Module One focused on being a more strategic web searcher, Module Two on advanced search tools and techniques, Module Three on privacy, filtering, and SEO, and Module Four on using free web apps to make life easier. For each module, there was more content and more opportunities to participate than I expected anyone to actually get to in a week. The idea, as I shared with participants, was not to try to learn everything the course had to offer, but to treat the course as one would a candy dish–to pull out the one or two things that look most appetizing, and be OK with leaving the rest. If they learned one new thing each week, I emphasized, the course was a success.

It’s strange, actually, calling ZSRx a course. It felt vaguely “course-like,” in that it had a beginning and an end, students and instructors, content that was organized to address learning objectives, and interactions between participants and facilitators. And learning was happening: that much was obvious from the discussions. There wasn’t any traditional assessment of learning, though: no quizzes or assignments. And I think that was a strength, as it forced participants to rethink what a course is and what a course can be online. Although ZSRx was modeled after MOOCs, it was certainly not massive, and it was definitely not impersonal. ZSRx wasn’t a MOOC: this was Wake Forest gathering around a collection of online content and using it as a tool to learn new things as a community. This was a community and a platform for informal learning, and it was awesome. If you’re interested in participation numbers and feedback, I’m working on making it look pretty, but you can see what I’m working with here.

I see offering courses like ZSRx–lightweight, informal, communities wrapped around a collection of content–to be a huge opportunity for libraries of all kinds. We have so much more to offer to the MOOC discussion than locating public domain images or providing copyright assistance for “traditional” MOOCs (if there is such a thing). Libraries have always been hubs of their physical communities–let’s start being hubs of our digital communities. I’ll be helping that process along in the coming months by creating a more robust template of the course with lots of documentation for getting a course like this running for your own community. For now, here’s a quick-and-dirty version of the template. Use it if you’d like!

Finally, a special thanks to Lynn Sutton, for trusting me enough to do this crazy thing, and to Roz Tedford and Hu Womack for being right there alongside me during the planning and running of the course. This isn’t the last of these we’ll be doing. Stay tuned!

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