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Discovering Chicago’s rare books with Elizabeth Frengel

Elizabeth Frengel holds a rare book

Elizabeth Frengel, curator of rare books (Photo by Eddie Quinones)

In her first year as curator of rare books in the Special Collections Research Center, Elizabeth Frengel has begun discovering the Library’s diverse treasures and identifying opportunities to enhance its holdings. Frengel came to the University of Chicago Library from her position as Head of Research Services at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. At Chicago, she is responsible for building and caring for the collections, as well as engaging faculty, students, and donors with the Special Collections Research Center’s materials, services, and programs.

With 340,000 rare books in Special Collections, Frengel has examined gems of historical importance and surpassing beauty. While delicately turning the pages of one of her favorites, an 1894 Kelmscott edition of The Tale of King Coustans the Emperor, Frengel notes the elegance of its inner design in contrast to the slightly worn condition of its exterior. Acquired with support from the Joseph and Helen Regenstein Rare Book Fund, this particular volume likely functioned as a press room or proof copy, or a remainder held by the press. “Such extra-textual components of the book can inform scholars’ understanding of the production processes of the press,” Frengel explains. Additionally, the work contains a handwritten note by Charles W. Howell on the front free endpaper stating that this copy survived the infamous fire at the Ballantyne Press in 1899. Such a notation further reveals this volume’s history and role as a complex cultural object rather than simply a textual conduit.

A hand points at an Arctic expedition map

A 16th-century Arctic expedition map bequeathed by Eleonora C. Gordon, M.D. (Photo by Eddie Quinones)

From handwritten notes to book illustrations, Frengel observes that extra-textual elements in the rare books collections often infuse works with layers of meaning and rich research value. For instance, Frengel was thrilled to see the Library become the new home of two exquisitely illustrated items documenting 16th century polar explorations, bequeathed by Eleonora C. Gordon, M.D.: a map and an Arctic expedition log supplemented with stunningly clean and detailed engravings depicting the crew’s adventures with a sweeping sense of dynamism.

Since arriving at Chicago, Frengel has also had the opportunity to work with Graham School student Robert S. Connors, who generously donated to the Library nearly 400 rare volumes from the 15th to the 20th centuries. According to Frengel, “Acquisitions such as this are important to scholars studying the transmission of classical texts through time and across cultures.” She is especially grateful to have received eleven incunable titles from the earliest period of European printing, including a 1475 edition of Augustine’s Confessions.

Frengel plans to continue learning as much as possible about the immense collections of rare books at Chicago. She envisions helping to build collections through acquisitions in areas such as classical texts in the early modern period, including Homer in print; Judaica; 19th-century literature; African Americana; and works that illustrate the history of the material text.

The Library looks forward to more energetic years of intellectual curiosity and thoughtful curation of rare books in the future.

Hands hold open a book with text in red and black

This 1894 Kelmscott edition of “The Tale of King Coustans the Emperor” was saved from the fire at Ballantyne Press in 1899. (Photo by Eddie Quinones)

UChicago librarian halts ‘Jeopardy!’ champ’s historic run

Emma Boettcher on "Joepardy!" with $46,801 on display

Emma Boettcher, UChicago Library’s user experience resident librarian, on “Jeopardy!” Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Emma Boettcher, who wrote her thesis about the show, beats 32-time winner James Holzhauer

Three years ago, Emma Boettcher finished writing a master’s thesis about “Jeopardy!” Now the University of Chicago librarian has become a trivia answer herself—as the person who stopped James Holzhauer’s historic run on the TV game show.

In a drama-filled episode that aired June 3, Boettcher knocked off Holzhauer, whose high-risk style made him a celebrity during his streak of 32 consecutive wins. Holzhauer entered the contest having won $2,462,216—$58,484 shy of Ken Jennings’ record for regular-season “Jeopardy!” winnings.

“It was surreal, for sure,” Boettcher said Monday afternoon of defeating Holzhauer. “I taped back in March, so I had not heard of him before showing up that day. I didn’t know there was this 32-time champion out there. I thought it was a joke.”

Boettcher trailed Holzhauer by $2,600 after the first round, but pulled ahead in the Double Jeopardy! round by unveiling and correctly answering both Daily Doubles. She clinched her victory in Final Jeopardy!, correctly wagering $20,201 on this clue: “The line ‘A great reckoning in a little room’ in ‘As You Like It’ is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death.” (The answer: “Who is Marlowe?”)

That brought her to $46,801—comfortably ahead of Holzhauer’s $24,799.

When Boettcher’s total flashed up, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebeck exclaimed: “What a payday!” Holzhauer, meanwhile, rushed over and gave her a high-five. In an interview with The New York Times, he said Boettcher had played “a perfect game.” And once clips from the show began surfacing, requests from local and national media flooded in.

“It’s been quite a day,” Boettcher said.

The quest for knowledge’

A native of suburban Philadelphia, the 27-year-old became a “Jeopardy!” fan around middle school, when she began participating in similar academic competitions. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, she wrote an award-winning master’s thesis titled, “Predicting the Difficulty of Trivia Questions Using Text Features.”

The paper was inspired by a class she took on text mining. Because “Jeopardy!” already assigns value to bits of text, Boettcher thought it was perfect for a series of experiments to assess “if the computer can make the same assessments that a user does” based on factors like word length and syntax.

That task, as she told Trebek, turned out to be “very hard to do.”

Boettcher’s work at UNC was one of the things that prompted the University of Chicago Library to hire her as a user experience resident librarian—part of a residency program which brings in top recent graduates to expand staff expertise in new and rapidly developing areas of librarianship. In that role, which she has held since 2016, Boettcher coordinates user research to support the improvement of the Library’s public website, intranet and discovery tools.

She is currently involved in a national and international open source project to develop a next-generation library management system.

“One of the things I love about being a librarian is I’m surrounded by people who value and support the quest for knowledge,” Boettcher said. “That’s true in many environments, but it’s especially true of librarians, and at the University of Chicago in particular.”

She also has shared her enthusiasm for trivia on campus before, writing pub quiz-style trivia questions for the University of Chicago Library Staff Day.

After two-and-a-half months of secrecy, Boettcher is also happy that she can finally talk to her friends and colleagues about her win. However, she doesn’t take any extra pride in having cut short Holzhauer’s historic run.

“It’s nice to be a little part of ‘Jeopardy!’ history,” Boettcher said. “Regardless of who I was playing, I just wanted to play a good game.”

Get to know Sheri Lewis, D’Angelo Law Library Director

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

I have been a librarian at D’Angelo since September 2001. I was the Associate Law Librarian for Public Services for nearly 12 years and then moved into my current position in the summer of 2013.  I do have a prior history working here in the 1990s.  I was a student in the masters in library science (what we call MLS) degree program at Rosary College at the time. The D’Angelo librarians first gave me an opportunity to volunteer as a student intern in 1993 and then to work on a temporary project in 1994 after I completed my MLS. I had always hoped to have a permanent position at D’Angelo and was thrilled when that opportunity arose years later. It’s a special place.

What is something that you wish more students knew about our law library?

Well, ideally I wish that they knew about every library service or resource that we offer. But mostly, I hope that they know that we are here to help them and always open to ways to be better at doing so.

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

Two events stand out for me. The Law School celebrated its centennial in 2002 and Professor David Currie gave an entertaining talk in the auditorium commemorating the event. (Ask one of our librarians to help you find his recitation of an original Law School cheer during these remarks!) The second event was President Barack Obama’s interview with David Strauss in the Green Lounge in April 2016. Our D’Angelo Wilson Reading Room was set up for overflow, ticketed viewing of the event. Imagine having to ask Secret Service personnel to enter your own office!

What activities consume most of your time as a law library director?

Meetings! But more generally, I spend much of my time working and collaborating with colleagues at the Law School and in the University libraries. We are a unique law school library that is integrated into the campus library system. One of my responsibilities is to engage in effective relationships that ensure the smooth and successful operation of our law library.

What are some of your interests outside of law libraries?

My primary interest is spending time with my husband and two daughters, one now in college and another graduating from high school this year. I also enjoy theater, travel, cooking/baking, watching a variety of sports, and long walks along the lake.

What’s the best thing you watched, listened to, and/or read recently?

I have been watching the series, The Americans, and I am now finishing the final (sixth) season (don’t tell me how it ends). It resonates with me as I studied Russian in college in the 1980s and graduated from law school just a few months before the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

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.

Apply now for 7 new graduate student fellowships at UChicago Library

The University of Chicago Library is offering seven fellowships as part of a new program for UChicago graduate students. The fellowships are designed to give graduate students opportunities to explore alternative scholarly careers and to build skills and knowledge in new areas of scholarship.

Interested graduate students are encouraged to apply by January 15, 2019, for currently posted fellowships. Additional fellowships will be posted as they become available.

Graduate student points to image on screen

A graduate student examines an image that will be added to the Digital South Asia Library. (Photo by John Zich)

Winter Quarter 2019 fellowships include:

  • Digital Scholarship Fellowship (Digital Archival Collections): The fellow will conduct background and biographical research, evaluate and select specific items for scholarly importance, write descriptions and contextual material for items in the collections, and create a digital scholarship project around one or more of the existing digital archival collections.
  • Digital Scholarship Fellowship (Digital Humanities): The fellow will collaborate with Library staff and faculty in the Humanities to develop resources and workshops, and to identify other strategies to support the new MA program and undergraduate concentration in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History. The fellow will learn about and use textual and visual corpora, digital humanities platforms and research methods, and analytic techniques.
  • GIS Fellowship for Historical Chicago Data: The fellow will conduct an environmental scan to identify existing geospatial data of Chicago in the 19th and 20th centuries. Based on the scan, the fellow will georeference important sheet map collections before digitizing data layers and creating metadata. These data layers will be made available via the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal and locally at the university. The fellow will develop content that contextualizes the digitized data within existing resources.
  • Library Research Support Services Fellowship: This fellowship will provide graduate students with hands-on experience supporting researchers in an academic library through in-person and virtual reference services.
  • Metadata Fellowship for the Digital Media Archive (DMA): This fellow will be responsible for enhancing the metadata for the Mesoamerican holdings within the University of Chicago’s Digital Media Archive (DMA).
  • University Archives Fellow: Archives today are a rapidly expanding field with increasingly broad responsibility for preserving and making accessible unique materials in all formats—traditional paper documents, photographs, and analog recordings, as well as a growing array of digital content: email, databases, digital images, audio and video media, and web sites. This fellow will develop skills and expertise in all these areas while contributing to the programs and services of the University of Chicago Archives.
  • Web Exhibits Fellowship: This fellow will use existing digital resources from the Library Digital Repository to develop web exhibits, highlighting significant items from large digitized collections, and providing contextual information about the items and their collections and creators. The fellow will develop skills in conducting original archival research, and in presenting the results of their research to a broad audience in clear, concise, visually-engaging ways.

Winter 2019 fellowships come with a stipend of $3300 per academic quarter.  Fellowships typically involve approximately 15 hours of work per week.

For more information about individual opportunities and how to apply, visit the Library website or contact Andrea Twiss-Brooks at atbrooks@uchicago.edu.

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.

Digitizing the ‘New World’

An intern discovers and shares the works of early modern mapmakers

Jose Estrada head shot

Jose Estrada, Ph.D. candidate, Romance Languages and Literatures

The encounter in 1492 between Europeans and Amerindians initiated a centuries-long inquisitive and nautical quest by Europeans to know more about the American continent and its inhabitants. How did Europe make sense of these lands and their people? How did it fit within their cosmos?

Although there are many ways to approach these questions, I have come to realize that maps, as representations of space, can provide an understanding of the cartographers’ perspective. Therefore, when Andrea Twiss-Brooks, the Library’s Interim Co-Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning, offered me the opportunity to work with early modern maps over the summer, I knew the experience would provide insight about the depiction of the “New World” in this period. As a Graduate Global Impact Pitch Intern, I collaborated with University of Chicago Library staff members to digitize early modern maps of the Americas and make them accessible to the academic community.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Americae nova Tabula” (1635). In Atlantis Appendix.

The project entailed investigating maps in both the Map Collections and Special Collections, researching online databases, scanning selected maps that had not yet been digitized, enhancing the Library Catalog records for the maps, and uploading them to a repository or image server for public access. The different layers of the project require close collaboration with the Library’s experts in preservation, scanning, metadata and GIS mapping technology among others.

My research as a doctoral candidate has provided me with some background in the relationship between Spain and the Americas, but my previous experience was limited to literature and theater. Cartographic research in the Map Collection and Special Collections has allowed me to work with specialists in different areas within the Library and widen my perspective regarding maps. Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s Americae nova Tabula (1635) serves as an example. In addition to considering the political, anthropological, and topographical uses of this map of North and South America, I have come to learn that the careful light color washing not only pleases the beholder’s eye but also highlights the fine detail in the Dutch engraving technique.

While this project provides a new angle for studying the influence of the Americas in European cosmology, scanning and uploading these maps is also a refreshing way to combine the humanities and technology. Once the images are available online they can be displayed and layered in multiple ways, enabling new research endeavors. Acquainting myself with these tools is a skill that will have long-lasting value in my career as a scholar of early modern studies.

A map of the world

Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula” (1635). In Atlantis Appendix.

Featured Library technologist: Emma Boettcher

Emma Boettcher is the University of Chicago Library’s User Experience Resident Librarian. She has a Master of Science in Information Science from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and joined the Library in 2016 as part of a residency program that brings top recent graduates to Chicago.  Denizens of Regenstein may recognize Boettcher as the librarian who frequently conducts user testing in the lobby. Elisabeth Long talked with Boettcher about how her work enables faculty and students’ research in a changing environment.

Q: Tell us about a project you’ve worked on that has affected a website or tool that faculty and students are using today.  What was your role?  How did you contribute to the final product?

Emma Boettcher

Emma Boettcher (Photo by John Zich)

A: This past spring we launched a new streamlined process for requesting a book through Interlibrary Loan. We knew that this new service would address many of the frustrations our patrons experienced when requesting books through our legacy Interlibrary Loan services, but we also knew that it would represent a major change in patrons’ workflow.  My role was to do testing that would inform the design of the service so that these changes would be easy for patrons to understand. This included everything from labeling to page organization to visual cues that guide the patron toward the best option.

Our designer put together a set of prototype options, and I developed several research scenarios that linked the prototypes with live data so that I could watch testers try to accomplish some common tasks and see where they ran into problems, took circuitous routes, or performed actions that we weren’t expecting. The findings were used by the development team to make the service easier to navigate.

Q: What is one of your favorite projects, and what did you like about it?

A: I am currently working on a wayfinding project to study the maps and signage in Regenstein.  We are concentrating not just on how a patron finds a book in the Library Catalog but also on how they then go about finding the book itself, whether it lives in the bookstacks, a reading room, or in a reference collection.  What I like about this study is that it shows that user experience testing is not just about online experiences. It covers the much wider context of all the things people might be doing in our library.

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: Although a lot of my work focuses on faculty and students’ experiences of our library services, librarians themselves are also major users of our library systems. I am currently involved in a national and international open source project to develop a next generation library management system.  I use my user experience skills to study how different librarians across the project want the system to function.  It is fascinating to see where librarians from UChicago, Duke, and Germany, among others, have different ideas about workflows they need to support and where their needs converge.  I work with librarians from across the partnership to define specific interactions, such as what actions need to happen when a book is checked out to a patron, and then my job is to act as the translator between them and the developers who are building this open source system.

This interview is the first in a series on Library technologists.  Watch the Library News site for more such interviews.

Apply for the Library Student Advisory Group

Mansueto and Regenstein

Mansueto and Regenstein libraries (photo by Tom Rossiter)

The Library Student Advisory Group serves as a formal channel of communication between students and the Library administration. The group discusses matters related to all six campus libraries, including collections, spaces, and services, along with issues relating to the present and future needs of the student community.

The Library Student Advisory Group meets once a quarter and representatives serve for two-year terms with an option to renew.

We are looking for student representatives from the following schools and divisions:

  • College (Class of 2022)
  • Biological Sciences Division
  • Booth School of Business
  • Harris School of Public Policy Studies
  • Physical Sciences Division
  • Pritzker School of Medicine
  • Social Sciences Division
  • School of Social Service Administration.

Please complete our online application by October 26, 2018.

For more information about the Library Student Advisory Group, or the application process, please contact:

Rebecca Starkey
Librarian for College Instruction & Outreach
773-702-4484
rstarkey@uchicago.edu

Get to know Margaret Schilt, Associate Law Librarian for User Services

As a continuation of the D’Angelo Interview Series that we began last year, Scott Vanderlin took a moment to pick the brain of Margaret Schilt, Associate Law Librarian for User Services.  Margaret gives us a glimpse at her career 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 started as an intern in January 2000. In August of that year, I was lucky enough to become the Faculty Services Librarian.

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

There have been so many memorable events. President Obama’s appearance here in 2017; Geof Stone, doing a Chicago Best Ideas talk about the history of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement in this country; and many Thursday faculty Work in Progress lunches.

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

One of the best parts of my job is that it is so varied. One day I might be working on library statistics; another day advising faculty on learning management software issues; handling reference and research requests; coordinating the work of the departments I’m responsible for, teaching legal research in the Bigelow program and in the writing and research course for the L.L.M. students. Each day has its own priorities.

What are some of your interests outside of law libraries?

I am a quilter/fabric artist. The quilts I make range from small wall hangings to bed-size quilts, using traditional and modern techniques. I am also a singer – have sung in the DePaul Community Chorus for many years – and a hockey fan. I’m grateful that it’s hockey season again and hope the Hawks do better this year!

What’s the best thing you watched, listened to, and/or read recently?

The best things are two podcasts I have been listening to: The History of English, and the History of England. It’s the only way to cope with Lake Shore Drive construction! Both are obsessively detailed (I’m barely up to Chaucer after 113 episodes in History of English) and David Crowther in the History of England has a rollicking sense of humor. Making the Plantagenets very entertaining…