News & Notes

By: friedevt on: July 20, 2018 7:43 am | friedevt @ohiyote

By Vince Frieden, strategic communications coordinator, Miami University Libraries
Originally appeared in the February 2018 Illuminant & Annual Update

Within a yellowed manila folder, filed among the endless rows of vertical files and tidy blue boxes containing Miami University’s history, waited a heart-wrenching story in need of a voice.

It spoke of a time 25 years before the eloquently stated dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and it contained a now unthinkable wrong – long overdue for correction.

A story finds its storyteller

When Zeb Baker first visited Miami University’s campus in 2013 to interview for a job in the University Honors Program, he had a research project going on the side.

The son of a former Georgia Southern University athletic director, Baker was fascinated by the history of segregation in college football and was in the early stages of researching his upcoming book, “Playing the Game of Segregation: Race and College Football in the Postwar Midwest.”

As part of his visit, Baker stopped by the university archives. During the visit, then-university archivist Robert Schmidt offered a folder of materials about African-American students at Miami, hinting that Baker might find something of interest.

 

The folder included a pair of 1939 letters regarding an African-American student named Jerry Williams.

The exchange between Miami’s then-president Alfred H. Upham and an assistant superintendent of schools from Cleveland came at a time when Miami’s enrollment of 2,700 included only 15 African-Americans. In those days, African-American students did not receive housing in the residence halls, except for student-athletes who resided in the basement of Swing Hall.

It was also a time when student teaching in Oxford schools was not an option for an African-American.

The letter discussed Williams’ qualifications for certification as a teacher. President Upham spoke glowingly of the respect Williams had earned from his classmates and faculty while noting he had completed all required coursework. However, the university could not confer a degree because Williams had not completed his practice teaching – an opportunity unavailable to him because of his race.

By today’s standards, some of the language and inferences in the letter are offensive.

In his response, the clearly frustrated assistant superintendent openly questioned why a university would admit a student into a school of education without being obligated to provide practice teaching. He conceded, however; that without the required degree and teaching certificate, he could not permit Williams to teach.

“I was flabbergasted,” Baker said. “Having researched in some 190 different archives, I can authoritatively attest that I had never seen anything like the exchange between these two men.”


Uncovering a lost Miami legend

Baker, now senior associate director of Miami’s University Honors program, got the job and soon thereafter began pulling at the threads."

“I came to find that Jerry Williams was probably the most famous student at Miami during that period,” Baker said. “He was incredibly well admired by other students.”

Williams, considered Miami’s first African-American football standout, was a two-sport student-athlete, earning three letters each in football and track & field. A two-time All-Buckeye Conference back, he also was the place kicker for the 1936 Buckeye Conference football champions. On the track, he helped lead Miami to three conference titles.

Jacqueline Johnson, the current university archivist who succeeded Schmidt, became an ally in the effort to uncover Williams’ story.


From the original letter, they knew Williams had attempted to gain practice teaching by assisting in the instruction of an automobile course at Miami. Through another uncovered letter, they learned that Williams received National Youth Administration aid and worked in the Withrow Court athletics equipment room.

They already knew he had to be an excellent student to earn acceptance into college as an African-American during that time. Along the way, they discovered that Williams ran a leg of a state championship relay at Cleveland’s East Technical High School with the legendary Jesse Owens. The search also turned up Williams’ 1999 obituary.

“Historical research can be deeply personal work,” Johnson said. “It’s powerful and sometimes life-changing.”


“A great day”

There was never any hesitation about what needed to happen.

After verifying and re-verifying with the registrar that Williams had indeed completed all his required coursework, the conversation elevated to the president’s office, the provost’s office and to Michael Dantley, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Society.

In April 2017, Dantley placed a phone call to Janis Williams ’68, daughter of Jerry Williams. He explained the situation and informed her that her father would receive his Miami University degree, posthumously.

“I burst into tears right away,” Janis recalled.

Dantley presented the degree to the family during commencement activities on May 14, 2017. He introduced Williams’ story by announcing it was time to right a wrong.

“Jerry Williams’ story is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to making our world a more just and equal place,” Dantley said.

Conversations with Williams’ family and a treasure trove of documents discovered in the family’s attic, since donated to Miami’s archival collections, revealed the story of a deeply humble man who never backed down.

After another attempt at gaining professional teaching experience failed, World War II arrived, and Williams enlisted. He served as a master sergeant mechanic with the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Until an old Army buddy visited the house one day, his family never knew.

He left the military in 1947 and balanced two jobs for much of his life.

“He’d leave at 6:30 in the morning, teach all day, then work the 3-11 p.m. shift with the police department, Janis said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he always had time for us.”

While records and family recollections fail to tell the story of how Williams finally earned his teaching license, he eventually did and worked as a teacher at Central High School and Robert H. Jamison, Nathan Hale and Audubon junior high schools until his 1979 retirement. He also spent 25 years as an investigator with the Cleveland Police Department, working for a groundbreaking juvenile division.

“He was a dignified man, a good husband and a great father,” Janis said. “He was a man who never boasted about his accomplishments.”


A remarkable Miami man
In fall 2017, Williams received another honor when he took his place as a true pioneer in Miami University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Despite the wrong that Miami did not correct in his lifetime, Williams never voiced animosity toward Miami. Until Dean Dantley’s call, Williams’ children, Janis and Jerry Jr., never knew why their father did not graduate.



Now on display in the room where Williams used to sleep are a Miami University degree and a Miami flag, presented to the family by President Greg and University Ambassador Renate Crawford, which flew over Miami’s campus in Williams’ honor.

“I know how much Miami meant to dad. He loved this school, and he imparted that to us,” Janis said. “That’s why I was so emotional when Dean Dantley called. I thought, ‘You finally got it. And you deserved it.’ It was a great day.”

That is the story of Jerry Williams ’39 – a tale of redemption that might never have been if not for a nearly 80-year old letter that, in revealing a dark side of Miami’s past, opened the door to the shining example of a remarkable Miami man.
 

 

By: kneerna on: July 16, 2018 10:25 am | kneerna

Morgan announced as social sciences librarian

by Nick Kneer, communications specialist

 

The Miami University Libraries are pleased to welcome Abi Morgan to the Advise & Instruct Department, where she began as social sciences librarian on July 2.

Morgan provides library services including consultation, instruction and collection development for faculty and students in social sciences departments across the College of Education, Health, and Society; the Farmer School of Business; and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We’re excited to be able to position the library to provide additional subject specialist capacity for the Farmer School of Business as well as the Department of Teacher Education,” said Kevin Messner, head of Advise & Instruct.

Morgan holds a bachelor’s in history and anthropology from Ohio University, a master’s in library and information science from the University of Maryland, College Park and a master’s in adolescent and young adult education from Ohio University. She most recently served as senior library technician at Miami’s Wertz Art & Architecture Library since July 2017.

Prior to joining Miami, Morgan worked as librarian and project manager with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and served as interim Upper School library assistant at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. She also taught World Studies and U.S. History as a long-term substitute at Miller High School.

“Abi has a terrific breadth of experience in the applied social sciences between her classroom experience in middle and high school teaching and her prior role as a federal government librarian. It is a bonus that she starts her new role already acquainted with Miami and the library system,” said Messner.

“This role is a wonderful opportunity to utilize all my previous work experiences and enhance my connections with the great library team at Miami. I’m excited to spend more time on instruction and to collaborate with students, faculty and staff on their research,” said Morgan.

Morgan works out of B.E.S.T. Library in 219E Laws Hall and can be reached at morgan55@miamioh.edu or 529-2789.

By: kneerna on: June 29, 2018 1:52 pm | kneerna

We Were There

Miami in the Cold War

From the threat of nuclear war to Korea and Vietnam to unrest on campus, the Cold War years marked a notable and turbulent time in Miami University history.

A new exhibit in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives, located in King Library 321, explores the various chapters and sides of this era through photos, letters, memorabilia and even a children’s game.

In this three-minute video, Elizabeth Maurer, library technician in the Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives, introduces “We Were There: Miami in the Cold War” and talks about a few notable items and their place in Miami history.

“We Were There: Miami in the Cold War” is available for viewing – free of charge – in King Library room 321. The Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives are open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

By: kneerna on: June 04, 2018 1:33 pm | kneerna

Libraries announce addition of two student success librarians

By Vince Frieden, strategic communications coordinator

With a renewed focus on connecting with new students and bolstering support of other key student constituencies, the Miami University Libraries are excited to announce the hiring of two new student success librarians within the Advise & Instruct Department.

Laura Birkenhauer, a 2010 Miami alumna who began with the University Libraries in 2011, assumes the role of student success librarian for campus engagement. Nate Floyd, an academic resident librarian at Miami since 2017 continues his Miami Libraries’ tenure as student success librarian for foundational learning. Both began their new roles on June 1.

“The emphasis on student success and engagement is not new to the University Libraries,” said Lindsay Miller, assistant head of Advise & Instruct. “These new positions increase our capacity to create meaningful, welcoming and supportive experiences for students engaging with Miami’s library services and resources. Their voices also will represent the Libraries in campus-wide discussions about student success.”

As student success librarian for campus engagement, Birkenhauer supports students via classroom instruction, workshops, events and other initiatives. She will collaborate closely with campus partners to enhance student engagement, success and academic well-being. The role seeks to enhance outreach to key campus constituencies, including first-generation students, international students, veterans and others.

Birkenhauer holds a bachelor’s from Miami and an M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. She joined the University Libraries as a senior library technician in 2011 and has served as academic resident librarian since October 2016. Much of her residency was dedicated to providing instruction, developing innovative programming and fostering campus partnerships to better serve first-year and at-risk student populations.

“Laura has already demonstrated her ability to thrive in this role,” Miller said. “She brings high levels of professionalism and enthusiasm to the position, and we are excited both by the ideas she brings to the table and her demonstrated ability to turn great ideas into realities.”

Birkenhauer works out of 214 King Library and can be reached at crosbylm@MiamiOH.edu or 529-4148.

As student success librarian for foundational learning, Floyd supports the student transition from high school to college with a focus on integrating research skills and information literacy into the first-year student curriculum. He will also build upon programming and services that orient students to the University Libraries and engage them as active users of library resources.

Floyd holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Marshall University, an M.L.S. from Indiana University, and is nearing completion of a doctorate in mass communication from IU. For the past year, he has served the Miami Libraries by developing instructional sessions in information and media literacy.

“Nate’s interest, experience and enthusiasm make him a great addition,” Miller said. “His background in information literacy and journalism allow him to introduce and instill these skills to students in interactive and engaging ways. He has been impressive in the ways he has been able to keep up with and adapt to how changes in technology are reshaping this landscape.”

Floyd works out of 215 King Library and can be reached at floydns@MiamiOH.edu or 529-4187.

“We are excited about these hires and the directions in which they will lead the futures of the Miami University Libraries and the Advise & Instruct department,” said Kevin Messner, head, Advise & Instruct. “Nate and Laura both offer insightful perspectives and direct experience in relation to student needs in and outside the classroom. Their roles and their abilities will actively build and contribute to Libraries’ and university programming.”

 

By: kneerna on: June 06, 2018 9:45 am | kneerna

B.E.S.T., Amos Music, and Wertz Art & Architecture Libraries will close for the day on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

On Tuesday, June 5, B.E.S.T. Library, Amos Music Library, and Wertz Art and Architecture Library will close for the day while staff attend training. King Library will remain open from 7:15 a.m. - 9 p.m., and online chat will be unavailable.

 

Tuesday, June 5
B.E.S.T., Amos, & Wertz Libraries are closed for the day
King Library open 7:15 a.m. - 9 p.m.

By: kneerna on: June 11, 2018 9:15 am | kneerna

Alumni Weekend 2018: June 7-10

Welcome, Alumni!

As part of Alumni Weekend, Miami University Libraries are hosting a series of events and activities including Then & Now Tours, special collections and university archives, children's activities and a Libraries' alumni reception.

Schedule of events

King Library Then & Now Tours
King Library Lobby
Thursday - Saturday, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Special Collections & University Archives
King 321
Thursday & Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. 
Saturday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

King Library Kids Stuff
Instructional Materials Center, King Ground Floor
Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Kids Creative Corner
King 134 (AIS)
Saturday, 1 - 4 p.m.

Libraries Alumni Weekend Reception
King First Floor
Saturday, 2 - 4 p.m. - free and open to all
Whether you are a retired Libraries employee, former student worker or an alum who once called the Libraries a second home, you are welcome to drop in during this fun, informal and free reception to connect with friends both old and new.

Have you registered as a former Libraries student worker?

Full descriptions can be found in the Alumni Weekend guidebook and app.

Libraries Alumni Weekend Hours

King Library
Thursday & Friday, 7:15 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. (open during MiamiFest)
Sunday, 1 - 9 p.m.

Amos Music Library (CPA), B.E.S.T. Library (Laws), Wertz Art & Architecture Library (Alumni)
Thursday & Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

By: kneerna on: May 23, 2018 9:08 am | kneerna

Staff spotlight: Rachel Makarowski, special collections librarian

Rachel Makarowski joined the University Libraries in May as special collections librarian.

 

Where are you originally from? What's your educational background?

I am and always will be a Virginian. I grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia and then did my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, majoring in Classics and Medieval Studies. I then went straight into my MLS at Indiana University with a specialization in rare books and manuscripts. I've also supplemented my education with a few classes at Rare Book School, on topics ranging from medieval manuscripts to the Book in China. 

 

What's your title? How would you describe your position at the Miami Libraries?

I am the Special Collections Librarian in the department of Steward and Sustain, which is essentially the special collections and archives. I would describe myself as a "Jill of all trades" for special collections. I do a bit of everything, ranging from cataloging to reference to instruction, all of which help to make special collections more visible and accessible to everyone. I'll also be working with donors to help develop the collections and to promote the libraries.

 

What drew you to work in a library environment? Why did you choose the Miami Libraries?

I have wanted to work in libraries since I was a young girl, though I didn't decide that I was going to do so until I was an undergrad and was doing research with rare books. At that point I knew that I wanted to do something that would allow me to continue working with special collections because they're absolutely fantastic. Then someone close to me pointed out that if I became a rare book librarian, I could work with them every day, and it was a eureka moment. Libraries, especially in special collections, tend to foster this environment of continuous learning, which is the main draw for me. Miami University Libraries really exemplified this environment to me, and the people were so friendly that I knew I had to work here if given the chance. 

 

What's the best part of working in a library?

The best part? Definitely the constant intellectual stimulation and the wealth of knowledge. There is always something new to learn each day, and with coworkers who are so incredibly knowledgeable, it's easy to continue learning. Even normal conversations at the water fountain can lead to a new, fascinating fact, a touching story, or exciting new discoveries. 

 

What's one thing you wish college students knew about using a library? 

I wish that students knew the extent to which they could use the library. A library can be used for more than just a place to study; it can be a place to create and innovate, and even, in the case of the special collections department, a bit of a time machine (though we sadly lack a TARDIS). And that might sound weird, or even a little crazy, but it's true. There are few places outside of a library where you can read the letters of Civil War soldiers, the diary of a girl describing her everyday life in the early 20th century, or see the marginal doodles in a manuscript from the Middle Ages, and do so from the actual object itself. They can pick it up, touch it, even smell it (unfortunately so, in some cases; some really smell awful). The collections in the library's special collections and archives can really help to transport you to another time and place. 

 

What are you most excited about tackling in your new role?

I am so excited to teach classes! Ridiculously excited. I think that there is a great potential to expose people to special collections in ways that they never thought possible. Most students when they sign up to come to college don't think about the fact that they might get to touch something that is 500 years old, or that they can see the book that helped to save eighteen of Shakespeare's plays from being lost forever. I have the chance when teaching, though, to bring out these objects and to teach them different ways to interact with them and examine them, and if I can make even one student's day by allowing them this chance in class, then I'll have been successful. 

 

What's your favorite book? What book character would you most like to be?

Like most librarians, I can't pick a single book. Some of my favorites include North and SouthPride and Prejudice, and Till We Have Faces. The most influential series for me when growing up though was Harry Potter and those books will always have a special place in my heart. As for who I would want to be, that's trickier. I think it's a tie between Margaret Hale of North and South, Lizzie Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. They're just such intelligent and spunky characters that I can't help but love them.

 

Any hobbies?

Reading (always, always, always), cooking/baking, and watching movies. 

 

What's something people don't know about you that might surprise them?

I think a lot of people that I have met over the past four years would be surprised that I originally intended to major in physics and computer science when I entered college. Science has always been fascinating to me, and I loved math and science in high school, so I was pretty set on working fields related to those when I first went to college. That all changed when I fell in love with Latin/the Classics and then with medieval manuscripts. The background and love of science has been helpful though, since there are a lot of texts related to science in special collections libraries.

By: friedevt on: May 18, 2018 11:15 am | friedevt @ohiyote

Alia Levar WegnerWith a rich background in information science, exhibit curation and collection digitization, Alia Levar Wegner joined the Miami University Libraries as digital collections librarian on May 14.

In her role, Wegner will work as part of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives team to manage the processing, digitization, organization and access of special collections and university archives materials. Her role is an integral piece of a larger University Libraries’ effort to digitally preserve the culture and history of the university and the Libraries’ collections.

Wegner holds a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University, a master’s in book history and material culture from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s of science in information from Florida State University. She also has completed coursework in digital humanities from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Professionally, Wegner spent nearly three years as a rare book collection assistant in UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. More recently, she was a full-time collections specialist in the University of South Florida’s special collections and metadata departments. Other experiences include time working in a law library, the Florida Holocaust Museum, and the American Dance Festival Archives.  

Wegner’s work in the digital sphere includes two years as an editorial assistant with the William Blake Archive, where she assisted with the textual transcription, illustration markup and color correction of digital copies of Blake’s illuminated books. She is currently exploring data mining applications of digitized special collections and continues to develop the longstanding project, Augmenting Special Collections, which applies augmented reality technology to special collections materials.

“I enjoy looking at historical materials in new ways, and digitization offers new avenues to make those materials accessible, learn more from them, and increase student engagement,” Wegner said. “The Miami University Libraries have great collections, and I’m excited to help expand our digital collections so that more faculty, students and community members can interact with our materials.”

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections are located on King Library’s third floor. Wegner can be reached at 513-529- 0462 or wegnera3@miamioh.edu.

By: kneerna on: May 18, 2018 11:31 am | kneerna

Finals Week Library Hours

To support students preparing for final exams, the Libraries will extend their operating hours Saturday, May 12 through Friday, May 18.

 

  Saturday, May 12 Sunday, May 13 Monday, May 14 - Thursday, May 17 Friday, May 18
King 24 hours 24 hours 24 hours Closes at 5 p.m.
B.E.S.T. 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. 9 a.m. - 2 a.m. 7:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wertz Noon - 6 p.m. Noon - 11 p.m. 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Amos 1 - 5 p.m. 1 - 11 p.m. 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

 

By: kneerna on: May 07, 2018 3:02 pm | kneerna

Staff spotlight: Nick Kneer, communications specialist

Nick Kneer joined the University Libraries in March as communications specialist.

 

Where are you originally from? What's your educational background?

I am thoroughly Ohioan: I was born in Sharonville, grew up north of Dayton, graduated from the University of Toledo with a bachelor's in psychology, worked a summer in the Akron area, and finally moved back to the Cincinnati area around 2013. I'm living in Liberty Township now.

 

What's your title? How would you describe your position at the Miami Libraries?

I am the Libraries' Communication Specialist, and it's my job to showcase the resources, programs, and people that make Miami University Libraries the academic heart of campus. One of the ways I'll do that is through visual storytelling, drawing on my background as a photographer and videographer. I'm also responsible for managing the Libraries' social media accounts, so give us a follow on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to join the conversation.

 

What drew you to work in a library environment? Why did you choose the Miami Libraries?

In all honesty, I wasn't specifically looking to work in a library. I was initially intrigued by the role itself and the opportunities I'd have to tell stories, but the more I learned about what the Miami Libraries offered students and faculty, the ways it's innovating and meeting the needs of an increasingly digital and mobile student, and the truly fascinating programs it's developing, the more excited I became about being a part of that environment. Ultimately, after meeting the staff and touring the facility, I knew this was the place for me.

 

What's the best part of working in a library?

I love being surrounded by people who are insatiably curious, eager to share their knowledge and skills, and truly passionate about the work they do. It's not every workplace where you'll learn about the history of American cheese from a water cooler conversation with a web developer.

 

What's one thing you wish college students knew about using a library? 

If you have an idea, but need a certain piece of equipment or expertise to make it a reality, chances are you can find what you need -- and someone to enthusiastically teach you how to use it -- at the library, free of charge. 

 

What are you most excited about tackling in your new role?

The Libraries offer so many truly exciting programs and resources, and I'm looking forward to not only learning more about them, but finding creative and engaging ways to share them with the campus community.

 

What's your favorite book? What book character would you most like to be?

Yeesh, that's a tough one. One of the most interesting fiction books I've read in the past year is Blindsight by Peter Watts. My favorite comfort series is Harry Potter, though.

 

Any hobbies?

Too many. I love music and theater, cooking and baking, computer gaming and programming, board games, and terrifying my wife with various home improvement projects.

 

What's something people don't know about you that might surprise them?

One of my earliest assignments as a first-year staff photographer for the student newspaper at the University of Toledo was to cover a rally downtown for a little-known senator who was campaigning in the Democratic presidential primary, and that's how I got to photograph Barack Obama.