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How Jewish refugees found a wartime home in Shanghai

Brother and sister

Karin Zacharias (right) and her brother Hans Peter Zacharias, pictured in 1941 on the day of his bar mitzvah in Shanghai. (Courtesy of Jacqueline Pardo)

Scholar’s novel, exhibit explore lives of those who fled World War II Europe

Asst. Prof. Rachel DeWoskin has visited Shanghai every summer for nearly a decade, walking along streets that more than 18,000 Jewish refugees once called home. Spanning roughly a square mile, those blocks were where they established schools and businesses, rebuilding their lives in one of the few cities that accepted World War II refugees without visas.

food ration coupons

These food ration coupons entitled refugees in Shanghai to basic necessities such as flour, sugar and coal briquettes. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

DeWoskin’s years of research culminated in the January publication of Someday We Will Fly, her fictionalized account of a young Jewish girl fleeing war-torn Poland. Described as “a beautifully nuanced exploration of culture and people,” the book is the fifth from DeWoskin—an award-winning novelist and assistant professor of practice in the arts who has taught at the University of Chicago since 2014.

In writing her novel, DeWoskin also relied in part on the family possessions of UChicago staff psychiatrist Jacqueline Pardo, whose German mother Karin Pardo (née Zacharias) lived in Shanghai as a child. A selection of those objects and photographs are displayed on the third floor of Regenstein Library.

That exhibit is sponsored by the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, which is also supporting two events: a March 13 conversation between DeWoskin and former Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal followed by a concert of wartime music by Civitas Ensemble, and a May 14 symposium on the legacy of the Shanghai Jews.

DeWoskin spoke recently about her writing process, and what people can learn from this overlooked aspect of World War II history.

A display you saw in 2011 at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum planted the seeds for Someday We Will Fly. What was it that stuck with you?

There were two photographs in particular, of children who had escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and were living out World War II in Shanghai. The first was of a group of teenage boys, holding table tennis paddles and wearing matching polo shirts monogrammed with school insignias. The boys have the hollowed-out look of kids growing up in the context of war, but they also look like teenagers anywhere, mischievous and sweet.

Two paper dolls and an envelope

These German paper dolls, which would have been a rare toy and thrilling to receive, were mailed to Karin Zacharias from Berlin by her grandmother, Helene Zacharias. Helene later died in Theresienstadt. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

I tried to imagine the lives of their parents, who had fled murder and persecution and brought their children to Shanghai, which had to be unimaginably unfamiliar and difficult for them. From there, they had built a school, created a table tennis team, and then gone to the trouble to make shirts. Those tiny insignias seemed to me iconic of the way human beings save each other and our children—not to mention the resilience refugees demonstrate, in ways both too small to be seen and too vast to be measured.

Next to that image was one of two toddlers holding rag dolls. The girls were in rags themselves, but someone who loved them—their parents, maybe, or friends or neighbors—had sewn dolls for them, and painted on those dolls lovely, expressive faces. The records of these children’s lives, and the objects that revealed their community’s devotion to them, inspired Lillia Kazka, the 16-year-old refugee at the center of Someday We Will Fly.

Lillia let me ask, in as many complicated ways as possible, the horrifying question of how human beings survive the chaos of war. Who loves us enough to keep us safe in the face of staggering danger and violence, and how can children come of age in circumstances as un-nurturing as those of occupied cities? How do we figure out how to live, to use languages both familiar and unfamiliar to tell stories that make our lives endurable? How do we hold on to the possibility of hope, even when we feel the constant pulse of dread?

Jacqueline Pardo and W. Michael Blumenthal were among the many people whose stories, books and lives helped shape your research and writing. How did the two of them inform your work?

I met Jacqueline Pardo by almost miraculous coincidence on campus. I went to her house in 2014 and was stunned to discover that she has a world-class archive of objects, documents and photographs that belonged to her mother in Shanghai during World War II.The objects, documents, and photos of Karin’s girlhood gave me the sweep and scope of a lived girlhood in Shanghai during the war: her school bag; notebooks and diaries; a thank you note she and her fellow Girl Guides wrote to American soldiers who had given them chocolate; and her exemplary report card, tarnished only by her music teacher’s hilarious note, “Can’t sing.”

Cigar box with letters

This cigar box was owned by Karin’s father, Leo Zacharias. Like many other Jewish refugees, Leo—a lawyer in Germany—found unfamiliar work in Shanghai. He established a cigar shop, a lending library, and, with two other families, a short-lived restaurant called the Wayside Diele. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

I also talked with and read the books of the supremely generous Michael Blumenthal, a former Treasury secretary under President Jimmy Carter. Michael is a Shanghai Jew who grew up in the neighborhood of Hongkou, which in 1943 became a ghetto—all Jewish refugees were forced to move there. He gave me a view of China and humanity both profound and intricately detailed. He remembered the boys walking in circles around Hongkou, like teenage boys anywhere, hoping for the notice of their crushes.

He also described what it felt like to come to understand as a child that some adults rally in the face of hardship, while others disintegrate. While working in the White House, he asked himself of each powerful person he met: “How would he or she do in 1940s Shanghai, dressed in flour sacks?” His wonder and empathy informed and continue to inform mine.

Why did you also want to build an exhibit out of Jacqueline Pardo’s family possessions?

Whenever I find something astonishing or profound in the world, I want to show it to my students. This is why the Program in Creative Writing works so hard to bring our favorite writers and their brilliant work to campus, and why I was determined to have Blumenthal come and talk with us. When I saw Jacqueline’s mother’s belongings, and percolated how instrumental they had been to me in writing Someday We Will Fly, I wanted to show them to my students. I also assigned my writers to bring in objects, documents, and photographs that were parts of or necessary to their novels-in-progress.

Ring shaped like a snake

This ring was made for Karin by her brother, who, after he finished school in Shanghai, held an apprenticeship with a silversmith. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

Writers are doing research all the time. It’s not always formal, but all of our looking, asking, and listening—it counts. I wanted to say to my students how much their work in the world matters, that they’re creating a record so they can convey meaning or ask questions. We gain emotional and intellectual knowledge by looking at picture or object and asking: “How did this picture come to be?” Or looking at somebody’s mother’s book bag, report card, or paper dolls, and being transported by those objects into 1940s Shanghai.

Seeing one family’s record of wartime daily life gives us a way to wonder about how to help people who are now at risk, who are now separated, who are now fleeing violence and danger. I hope our exhibit elicits both empathy and activism.

Was there any part of the research process that surprised you?

What was surprising to me was the combination of the unbelievable difficulty families faced, and at the same time the normalcy a lot of them worked to achieve. As I’ve worked on the book, I’ve felt more and more that the world of 1940s Shanghai is maybe not that different from the contemporary world that we’re inhabiting right now. There are children facing the same sorts of risks as the kid at the center of my book. There are parents facing the same astronomical obstacles. There are people behaving heroically, and there are those behaving unforgivably.

Passport

This passport, stamped with a red J for “Jewish,” belonged to Leo Zacharias. The Nazis required all Jewish men to take the middle name Israel. (Courtesy of Jacqueline Pardo)

If we look at history and imagine ourselves into it in ways both empathetic and literary, we can create ways to move toward a more socially just world.

Former Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal spoke with DeWoskin on March 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Fulton Hall, a conversation followed by a performance of wartime classical music from the Civitas Ensemble. On March 14, the Franke Institute hosted a daylong symposium exploring the legacy of the Shanghai Jews through historical scholarship, literature and music.

DeWoskin will discuss Someday We Will Fly on May 1 at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

A University of Chicago news story

Robert G. Schloerb Honorary Exhibit

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois
Dates: March 5–31, 2019

“I recently had that feeling of power in a man who was working for peace. He has been maligned many times. He has been called a dreamer. His methods of striving for peace may not be right, but he works with a faith that God is working for peace. He believes that selfishness and national greed and hatred are ultimately self-defeating. The universe is against such policies. So, although he suffers and is rejected, he retains power and poise.”

Rolland W. Schloerb, God in Our Lives (New York; London: Harper & Brothers, 1938), 114.

Ten books have been added to the Religion Collection at the University of Chicago Library in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb (JD, ’51) on the occasion of his 95th birthday (March 5, 2019). An exhibit to commemorate Mr. Schloerb is on display in the Fourth Floor Reading Room of the Regenstein Library during March. Patrons will be able to peruse or check out the books added in Mr. Schloerb’s honor. Anne K. Knafl, Bibliographer for Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies, selected these titles to reflect Mr. Schloerb’s exceptional support of the Divinity School, especially its Ministry Program. The books reflect the broad interdenominational and global breadth of the Ministry Program and its commitment to integrating academic rigor and public discourse.

Bookplate in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb

Bookplate in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb

Robert Schloerb and Mary Schloerb have a longstanding partnership with the University and the Divinity School, including decades of generosity and service. Through a generous gift, they created the Rolland Walter Schloerb Ministry Fellowship, in honor of Robert’s father, to support ministry students at the Divinity School. Rolland W. Schloerb (quoted above) served as pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church, now Hyde Park Union Church, from 1928 until his death in 1958. Sara Lytle, the current recipient of the Schloerb Ministry Fellowship, studies Buddhist studies and pastoral care, with particular interests in gender/sexuality, mental health, and death/dying. In addition, Robert and Mary Schloerb contribute to the Divinity School’s Annual Fund and the Baptist Theological Union International Ministry Fellowship. This fellowship supports travel for two Divinity Students, annually. Recent recipient Jair Pinedo traveled to Mexico, where he examined issues of immigration and migration, specifically as relates to children in migrant families. Co-winner Yitzhak Bronstein, studied intentional communities in Israel and how these communities transform the societies they inhabit.

Robert and Mary Schloerb have supported initiatives in the Biological Sciences, the Hospitals, the Law School, the Library, and the Oriental Institute. Robert Schloerb served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1994, and currently is a trustee emeritus. He is a current member of the Baptist Theological Union Board. His and Mary’s youngest son John serves as the current Vice President of the BTU Board. Robert Schloerb is also a life member of the Library Council, Oriental Institute Council, Divinity School Council and Medical Center Council. Mary Schloerb is a current member of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Chicago Lying-In Board. She has served on the Women’s Board and Oriental Institute Council.

We thank Mr. Schloerb and his family for their continued commitment to the University of Chicago community. These books represent that ongoing commitment as they too will support current and future Divinity School students.

Knowledge@UChicago featured research: The Secret Faces of Inscrutable Poets in Nelson Algren’s Chicago

February’s featured research is a master’s thesis completed as part of the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).  Graduating students and alumni interested in raising the visibility of and increasing access to their PhD dissertation, master’s thesis, or BA/BS thesis are invited to share their work in Knowledge@UChicago.

Knowledge@UChicago has served as the open access home for University of Chicago PhD dissertations since 2015 and visitors to the repository will find more than 700 open access dissertations by University of Chicago researchers available. While University of Chicago PhD dissertations are also available in the subscription-based ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, University of Chicago theses can be more difficult to find and, thereby, to use and reference in other research projects.

We’ve been glad to see recent examples of University of Chicago researchers sharing their master’s theses in Knowledge@UChicago. This month, Jeffrey McMahon, a University of Chicago alumnus, lecturer, and MAPH writing advisor shared the thesis he completed in 2002. In “The Secret Faces of Inscrutable Poets in Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make,” McMahon examines the “symbolic and structural elements” of Algren’s essay and demonstrates the influence that other literary works, particularly Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago,” had on Algren’s text. You can download and read McMahon’s thesis by visiting Knowledge@UChicago.

Figure 5. The Cardiac System: References to the city's heart in "Chicago: City on the Make"

Figure by Jeffrey McMahon, “The Secret Faces of Inscrutable Poets in Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make,” 2002.

If you are a University of Chicago graduate or current student interested in making your master’s thesis available to the world, visit our site to find more information about Knowledge@UChicago or contact Library staff at knowledge@lib.uchicago.edu. We look forward to reading your work!


Each month, we’re highlighting an example of research shared in Knowledge@UChicago, the University’s open access digital repository. By spotlighting an item shared each month, we hope to illustrate the variety of research that you can find and that UChicago researchers can make available in the repository. University researchers are invited to log in to Knowledge@UChicago and share articles, book chapters, conference materials, datasets, and other scholarly work.  See more digital scholarship news from the Library, including previous featured research on our news site.     

New center fuses media arts, data, and design

A rendering of people workign together in the MADD Center

A rendering of the Media Arts, Data and Design Center, a new collaborative space in the John Crerar Library at the University of Chicago. (Illustration courtesy of Payette Architects )

Partnership across UChicago explores intersection of technology, creativity, and research

The boundaries between art, design, science, and technology are disappearing in a digital world. Today, artists use algorithms, scientists rely on visualization and designers are often focused on helping people navigate new technologies.

At the University of Chicago, the disciplines come together at the Media Arts, Data, and Design (MADD) Center, creating a new collaborative space for experimentation, discovery and impact. The MADD Center will support work by faculty, other academic appointees, students, staff, and community partners through cutting-edge technologies. The 20,000-square-foot center in the John Crerar Library opens February 25.

“Design, as a field, now encompasses the sum of human interactions with the devices, environments, and communities that shape daily life,” said David J. Levin, Senior Advisor to the Provost for Arts. “The MADD Center gives the University of Chicago a space to address these radical changes, assess their wide-ranging consequences, and comprehend the ways that perception, sensation, and experience are being transformed.”

At the MADD Center, there are opportunities to create, study, and learn about critical technologies driving both culture and science, including video games, virtual and augmented reality, data visualization, and digital fabrication. The MADD Center brings together the College, Division of Humanities, Division of Physical Sciences, UChicago Arts and the UChicago Library.

The MADD Center will host five resource labs:

  • An expanded Computer Science Instructional Labs, providing hardware and software for training and education;
  • The Hack Arts Lab, an open-access digital fabrication, prototyping, and visualization facility;
  • The new Weston Game Lab, offering expanded resources for the study, play, and development of analog, electronic, virtual and online games;
  • The Research Computing Center Visualization Lab in the Crerar Library’s Kathleen A. Zar Room, providing new data visualization technology; and,
  • The UChicago Library’s new GIS Hub, enabling geospatial research and learning activities by providing access to geographical information systems software and hardware and an expert GIS and maps librarian who offers consultations and training.

At the MADD Center, classroom and studio spaces support the teaching of Media Arts and Design and Media Aesthetics in the College, electronic music in partnership with CHIME Studios in the Department of Music, and virtual reality and other media courses as part of the new Media Arts and Design minor in Cinema and Media Studies.  In addition, the MADD Center will provide new opportunities for further collaboration with the Logan Center for the Arts, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and many others.

“I am excited about the new opportunities students and faculty in the College and the Humanities will have to work with colleagues in computer science and other areas as we continue to develop new courses in Media Arts and Design and support the many interests of our students and faculty in this area,” said Christopher Wild, Deputy Dean of the College and Humanities Division.

Collaboration Across Creative Forms

The open floorplan and close proximity of MADD Center labs is designed to create opportunities for crossovers and collaboration. Students designing a new board game can create prototypes on the 3D printers at the Hack Arts Lab, while researchers working with the GIS Hub might reveal new insights by visualizing their data on Research Computing Center resources. The MADD Center is located near the new Department of Computer Science offices and laboratories, a science librarians’ research and teaching suite, and the Library’s collections and study spaces at a renovated Crerar Library, creating new, interdisciplinary opportunities across divisions.

“As our world becomes increasingly digital, designers and artists need to become more engaged with technology and technologists need to become more fluent with design, media and the arts,” said Michael J. Franklin, Liew Family Chair of Computer Science. “By co-locating a critical mass of tech-savvy students and faculty with diverse skills and interests across these varied domains, we will facilitate robust dialogue and collaboration as our disciplines continue to co-evolve.”

People working in the Weston Game Lab

The Weston Game Lab will provide a vibrant new space at UChicago for the research and design of games. (Illustration courtesy of Payette Architects)

Gaming, UChicago-Style

The MADD Center is envisioned as a place for a group of students dissecting the structure of a classic Nintendo game, or sketching out the visual design for a new card game that teaches high school students about teen pregnancy. A cornerstone of the new center, the Weston Game Lab will provide a vibrant new space at UChicago for the research and design of the world’s fastest growing cultural and aesthetic form: games.

The Weston Game Lab is supported by a gift from Dr. Shellwyn Weston and Bradford Weston, JD’77. Within the Lab, students, faculty, and staff will collaborate on the research and development of games that produce social impact or experiment with form. Participants will also be able to research the history of games from technical and theoretical perspectives with the Library’s collection of video games and the Logan Center’s collection of consoles, attend workshops that afford new development skills, and organize collaborative groups for game-based experiments.

“Video games in recent years have become an immensely popular medium and multi-billion dollar industry,” said Patrick Jagoda, Associate Professor of English and Cinema & Media Studies and director of the Weston Game Lab. “For cultural, psychological, and sociopolitical reasons, we need rigorous academic study, across both humanistic and social scientific disciplines. I’m interested in growing a culture of thoughtful, ethical, and experimental game design for ends other than entertainment that includes interdisciplinary teams of faculty, staff, and students. I think the University of Chicago can really shine in this space.”

Get to know Connie Fleischer, Research Services Librarian

As a continuation of the D’Angelo Interview Series that we began last year, Scott Vanderlin took a moment to catch up with our Research Services Librarian, Connie Fleischer. Connie shares highlights of her career to this point at the University of Chicago, her day-to-day life, and her interests outside of law librarianship.

How long have you been at the D’Angelo Law Library? 

I began working at the D’Angelo Law Library in 1992 as the Reference/Government Documents Librarian. My title now is Research Services Librarian. Obviously, the information landscape has changed dramatically. The work I do (helping our patrons) is basically the same, just using different tools. It is an extremely exciting and interesting time to be a law librarian. While keeping up with technology is a huge challenge, I have found it fascinating to see how legal research platforms continue to evolve.

In the time you’ve worked in the law library, what is the most memorable event you’ve attended?

In general, working with our amazing students and faculty over the years has been a privilege. They go on to do remarkable things! One example is the time I was pregnant with my oldest son at the same time Michelle Obama was pregnant with Malia. I would run into Barack Obama, then a Senior Lecturer at the Law School, in the Law School Café. We would exchange pleasantries about the excitement of expecting a new baby. Now those babies are in college! I was sorry to miss his most recent visit to the Law School but am looking forward to the opening of the new Obama Presidential Library.

What activities consume most of your time as a law librarian?

In addition to staffing the reference desk, I spend considerable time working with law students (as well as students in other divisions/departments on campus) on their research (for an SRP, faculty RA, or clinic work, etc.). I serve as member of the HathiTrust User Support team, which has been an amazing opportunity to learn about digital libraries.

What new services or changes to the D’Angelo Law Library are you most excited about?

The new scanner that the Library just acquired is straight out of The Jetsons! Located in the Reserve Room, it is free to UChicago patrons. Also, I couldn’t be more excited about all of the outreach (ie. Café D’Angelo/ this newsletter) that my colleague, Scott Vanderlin,  is doing to promote the vast services/people resources that the D’Angelo Law Library has to offer.

[editor’s note: duh.]

What is your favorite aspect of working with students?

Our students are so incredibly bright and intellectually curious. I love introducing them to new resources or tools that help them do their work more efficiently

What are some of your interests outside of law libraries?

I enjoy spending time with my family, playing tennis with friends, and attending estate sales.

Cert Denied Cases Now on ProQuest Supreme Court Insight

ProQuest Supreme Court Insight now includes petitions for writ of certiorari for cert denied cases, as well as for argued cases. Dockets and petition-stage briefs are also included for these cases. Coverage is from 1975 to the2017-18 term. Petitions for cert denied cases filed in forma pauperis are not present.

Cert petitions from the Supreme Court’s current term are available from the Supreme Court web site, through their Docket Search.

New developments for Knowledge@UChicago, the University’s institutional repository

The University of Chicago Library is enhancing Knowledge@UChicagothe University’s institutional repository for faculty and student research, in order to better meet growing needs and interests around data sharing and preservation, open access, and reproducible research results. In mid-December, visitors to Knowledge@UChicago will encounter a new, user-friendly interface for sharing and accessing research. Improved capabilities for data and software preservation will follow over the winter quarter.

Launched in 2016, Knowledge@UChicago is an open access repository for sharing and preserving scholarly work created by faculty, students, and staff. It currently serves as a home for UChicago faculty and students’ digital research publications such as articles, book chapters, conference materials, and a small number of datasets, and for dissertations and theses by students who choose to make them open to the public. UChicago faculty and students in divisions and departments that range from the Physical Sciences Division to the School of Social Service Administration to the Humanities Division have already contributed publications and datasets to Knowledge@UChicago.

With the support of capital funding, the Library is migrating the repository to the TIND digital platform. TIND is based on the open source software Invenio, originally developed at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to manage its own digital outputs.

This new system will offer more features for handling research data in addition to traditional research publications, and will provide greater flexibility for future customization and integration with researchers’ workflows. The first phase of the project will migrate existing content to the new system by the end of December 2018. The second phase, beginning in January, will add new features that better support research data and software preservation, including richer metadata for data deposits and integration with GitHub.

This move will improve the infrastructure available to our University community to make their data available for reuse, new discoveries, and replication. It will also support researchers as they meet requirements for data sharing from funders and publishers, The new developments to the institutional repository are accompanied by additional library data services, including assistance with data acquisition and transformation, data analysis, and data management. We encourage UChicago faculty, students, and staff to contact the Library at knowledge@lib.uchicago.edu to discuss your data management and sharing requirements and to begin depositing scholarly works. Librarians are available for consultations and instructional sessions on the repository for departments and groups on campus.

Knowledge@UChicago is managed and supported by the Library, in collaboration with IT Services at the University of Chicago.

New database trials: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports and 20th Century Global Perspectives collections

This University of Chicago Library trial is available from November 21, 2018January 12, 2019. It consists of ten different databases:

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports

The FBIS Daily Reports are U.S. government publications that include translations of news from around the world (Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Caribbean, Europe, Middle East/Near East, North America, South America). The FBIS Daily Reports also include translations of foreign law in English translation if included in the news sources covered.

The Readex FBIS database covers 1941-1996.

From the Readex description of the database:

“As the United States’ principal historical record of political open source intelligence for more than half a century, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Report is an indispensable source for insights into decades of turbulent world history. The original mission of the FBIS was to monitor, record, transcribe and translate intercepted radio broadcasts from foreign governments, official news services, and clandestine broadcasts from occupied territories. Accordingly, it provides a wealth of information from all countries outside of the U.S.—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe….

…FBIS Daily Reports, 1941-1996 constitutes a one-of-a-kind archive of transcripts of foreign broadcasts and news that provides fascinating insight into the second half of the 20th century. Many of these materials are firsthand reports of events as they occurred. Digitized from original paper copy and high-quality microfilm, this definitive online collection features full-text transcripts from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, China, Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the Soviet Union. Fully searchable for the first time, this unique digital collection features individual bibliographic records for each report and highlighted events to assist researchers.

Continue reading x

Meet new Social Sciences Data Librarian and Sociology Librarian Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster joined the Library as the Social Sciences Data Librarian and Sociology Librarian.  Elizabeth comes to Chicago from Georgetown University Library where she was the Public Policy and Social Sciences Librarian, providing reference, research and outreach services, workshops and orientations, as well as developing collections in several subject areas.  Elizabeth has a Masters of Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Sociology from Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.

Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster (Photo by John Zich)

Barbara Kern interviewed Elizabeth to find out how she plans to work with faculty and students.

Elizabeth can be reached at ehfoster@uchicago.edu, 773-702-8699, and Regenstein Library Room 261.

Q: How did you become interested in social sciences data?

A: I’ve always been someone who wants to know the details. Data allows you to see information at a really granular level. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with a lot of library users who want to research contemporary social problems. Data lets them take a look behind the scenes and develop their own conclusions.

Q: What are the greatest opportunities and challenges in working with research data?

A: Research data is available in a variety of formats—print, online, and disks—and none of it is consolidated in one place; it is easy to miss something valuable if you don’t know where to look. There’s an opportunity to make data discovery more seamless. In addition, the process of organizing, preserving, and sharing data and research workflows can be complicated. There are a lot of great tools that can help researchers open up their data, methods, and findings to new audiences.

Q:  What are some of the highlights of your work with the sociology faculty and students at Georgetown University?

A: I worked closely with two sociology faculty members to provide instruction to their students. In their sophomore year, they would come to the library and get an introduction to social sciences literature. In their senior year, they would return to learn more about research skills and subsequently apply them to their thesis projects. It was a great chance to work with students throughout multiple courses and help them produce original research.

Q: How will you work with social sciences faculty and students at University of Chicago in your new role?

A: I will help social sciences faculty and students discover, evaluate, and use datasets and other information resources. I will also help researchers manage and share their original data using various tools and technologies, such as the DMPTool and Knowledge@UChicago. I plan to offer consultations and workshops on data topics and social sciences resources.

Q: What was a particularly interesting project you have worked on with social sciences data?

A: I helped a student find information in Factiva to update a World Bank dataset on food price riots. We followed the authors’ methodology and found sources so she could tag them with prescribed codes and add them to the dataset.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the city of Chicago so far?

A: I love the lakefront. I grew up near Lake Erie and it is great to have access to a lakefront again. I also enjoy the museums, the food scene, and the architecture.

Expanding services for faculty in a changing environment

Brenda L. Johnson

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)

Today’s scholarly environment presents an increasing array of challenges and opportunities for faculty and graduate students. New funding agency requirements call on researchers to present advance plans for openly sharing and preserving their data.  Researchers are seeking ways to obtain data in new formats, to visualize information in new ways, and to rescue and share data for new purposes.  Across disciplines, researchers are constantly challenged to find and adopt new tools and techniques. The Library is meeting this challenge by launching new initiatives, developing cutting-edge skills among our librarians, and bringing on new staff members who can assist researchers in this changing scholarly environment.

Stacie Williams

Stacie Williams, Center for Digital Scholarship Director

The Library’s new Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) will be an umbrella for many of these services, facilitating the analysis of complex data, the visualization of theoretical relationships, the preservation of core research, and the sharing of research results. Stacie Williams, who joined the Library in August as the inaugural CDS Director, brings experience working with researchers in her previous position managing the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship at Case Western Reserve University. Williams is working with subject librarians and faculty to identify priorities for establishing new spaces, technical infrastructure, and services that meet research and teaching needs.  Following are some of the key areas in which initiatives are already underway.

Data preservation and sharing

Nora Mattern

Nora Mattern, Scholarly Communications Librarian

The Library is expanding Knowledge@UChicago, the University’s digital institutional research repository, to better support the needs of data preservation. Led by new Scholarly Communications Librarian Nora Mattern, the Library is migrating Knowledge@UChicago to a new platform that was initially developed at CERN to support high energy physics. The new Knowledge@UChicago will launch in January and will provide funder-compliant solutions for researchers to share and preserve their code, data, and research results.  Mattern also provides consultations on good data management practices, writing data management plans, and copyright.

The Library is also partnering with the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) to host a Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow in Energy Economics Data Curation, Ana Trisovic. Trisovic is focusing on the particular challenges EPIC faculty face in collecting and preserving energy data, which is often available only from private industry or difficult-to-use government websites. She will be building a clearinghouse for EPIC’s data to facilitate discovery and reuse, as well as developing solutions for preserving and sharing the code that researchers use to analyze their data. Trisovic will use the skills she gained earning a PhD in Computer Science and her experience developing similar preservation solutions at CERN, applying them to the field of energy economics.

Data acquisition and use

Kristin Martin

Kristin Martin, Director of Technical Services

The challenge of acquiring data for research is shared by many disciplines. For example, the Library subscribes to thousands of electronic books and journals, but researchers interested in data mining these texts cannot easily do so using the vendor’s PDFs, which are intended for individual reading. Kristin Martin, the Library’s Director of Technical Services, excels at working with publishers to provide alternative access that is optimized for data mining.  The Library’s subject specialists can work with faculty across the disciplines and with Martin to seek such alternative access.

Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster, Social Sciences Data Librarian

Elizabeth Foster, the Library’s new Social Sciences Data Librarian, can take this one step further, not only helping researchers find and acquire relevant data, but also helping them transform that data, for example, by formatting it to match the requirements of a particular tool.  Foster will offer workshops and will be developing data analysis consultation services, with a focus on using R and Stata.

Geospatial analysis

Cecilia Smith

Cecilia Smith, GIS and Maps Librarian

Faculty in many disciplines are exploring the ways spatial and temporal analysis and visualization can be used to gain new insights into their data. Cecilia Smith, the Library’s new GIS and Maps Librarian, can consult on the use of GIS information and geospatial tools to analyze and visualize trends in data from mapping the shifts in the border of the Roman Empire over time, to plotting the incidence of traffic accidents in relation to red light cameras, to mapping the impact of environmental factors on health outcomes, and more.  Read “Opening a GIS Hub at Crerar Library” for more information.

At-risk data and data rescue

Sarah G. Wenzel

Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for the Literatures of Europe and the Americas

Researchers interested in documenting historical trends are often stymied when early data are in analog formats not conducive to data analysis.  Heritage data–such as weather data and astronomical observations–are often the only evidence remaining of ephemeral or disappearing phenomena.  The Library is currently partnering with the Humanities Division to ensure that the UChicago Digital Media Archive’s linguistic and ethnomusicology recordings made by former faculty are converted from fragile magnetic tape to a digital form that can be used by researchers today. We are also working with the Ivy Plus Libraries on a web archiving project. Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for the Literatures of Europe and the Americas, co-developed a proposal with a colleague at Columbia University to create a digital archive of comics and artists’ websites.  Currently, more than 150 websites are being actively archived by this project and can be found at archive-it.org/collections/10181.

The expert and talented staff members of the Library are committed to expanding services that meet faculty needs in this changing environment. We look forward to working with you and encourage you to visit our Center for Digital Scholarship web page and to contact your subject specialist, Stacie Williams, or Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology and Digital Scholarship, to discuss your research needs.