Library residency program expands

The University of Chicago Library’s residency program has expanded in its second year to include two new librarians with expertise in user experience assessment and geographic information systems. The residency program builds Library staff expertise in new and rapidly developing areas of librarianship by bringing top recent graduates to Chicago for two-year residencies. These two new positions were made possible in part by special supporters Howard Zar and Library Visiting Committee members, as well as donors to the Library Annual Fund.

Emma Boettcher

Emma Boettcher, User Experience Library Resident

Emma Boettcher has joined the Library as User Experience Library Resident. Boettcher will be coordinating user research to support the improvement of the Library’s public website, intranet, and discovery tools. She joins us from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where she earned her MS in Information Science. During her graduate studies, Boettcher completed an Assessment and User Experience Internship at Duke University and brings experience with usability testing methods and web analytics to the Library.

Taylor Hixson

Taylor Hixson, GIS Library Resident

Taylor Hixson is the new GIS Library Resident.  Hixson will assess the GIS needs of UChicago faculty, students, and staff, develop geospatial technology training, assist users with information discovery and data curation, and provide related research support. She recently completed her MS in Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, where she specialized in geographic information.  As a graduate student, Taylor worked as a Virtual Foreign Service Intern on a humanitarian aid mapping project and completed a practicum for the Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information assisting with data curation projects.

Meet new Geographic Information Systems Librarian Taylor Hixson

taylor-hixson2Taylor Hixson has joined the University of Chicago Library as the new Resident Librarian for Geographic Information Systems.

Taylor has an M.S. degree in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee and B.S. in Mass Communications from Middle Tennessee State University.

Barbara Kern interviewed Taylor about her experiences and plans for her work at UChicago.

Q: Taylor, what originally got you interested in GIS?

When I was an undergraduate studying journalism I took a data journalism class, and I remember a class assignment where I had to use Google Fusion tables to map addresses. I was really impressed with how creating a simple, interactive map could add another level to the news and storytelling.

Q:  How have you worked with researchers at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville or elsewhere with GIS?

When I was at UT I was always trying to incorporate more GIS or spatial information into projects I worked on. For example, when I worked on an ecology database project there I ensured all records I worked on were accurately georeferenced in the metadata, and when I was doing a practicum with Department of Energy contractors, I spent a lot of time compiling variations on place names for better database searching.

Additionally, when I was at UT, the university became a partner with the Department of State’s new Diplomacy Lab initiative. Through that I worked on a team with several other students and a faculty member to create a report and an interactive map for State and humanitarian agencies to use.

 Q: You worked for the Department of State as a Virtual Foreign Service Intern on a humanitarian aid mapping project.  Tell us about that.

Working as a VSFS intern was a great experience. I volunteered for a year with other students from across the country on different humanitarian mapping projects for the Officer of the Geographer’s MapGive program. I learned a lot about working collaboratively on geographic information projects and how to help others learn about gateways into GIS through simple citizen mapping projects such as editing OpenStreetMap.

VSFS helped me gain more practical experience and connections without having to spend time abroad or in D.C. I highly recommend that UChicago students in the College or graduate and professional programs consider  participating in VSFS–especially in one of the many mapping and GIS internships.

 Q: How will you work with faculty and students in your role?

I intend to collaborate with students and faculty across the divisions at UChicago. It is my goal to host workshops for faculty and students or to provide classroom instruction to introduce concepts of GIS and resources UChicago has available, whether that is access to online tools, databases, or research centers.

Overall, I want to be a central resource for anyone on campus needing a launch pad for GIS, from those getting started with GIS, who want to find books or learn some introductory tools, to more advanced researchers, who want to create geospatial metadata or have questions about publishing scholarly literature in the top GIS journals.

Q: What are the key challenges or trends in GIS for researchers and librarians?

For librarians, I think a key challenge is always the findability of data. Findability has gotten better with the federal government’s efforts through and metadata standards, but the novice GIS user who starts at Google may be overwhelmed with how to search for data, what data formats to find, and where to find them.

For both researchers and librarians, usability and accessibility of interactive maps on the web is a big challenge. For example, not everyone is making their maps compliant for users with screen readers and other adaptive technology even if the option to incorporate web accessibility is readily available through the mapping application.

I also think that understanding the value and reliability of data collected is another challenge for researchers and librarians to continue to consider.

GIS in the digital humanities is another trend, and one that I do not see going away. It is enabling researchers in the humanities to carve their niche by performing a type of analysis that may have never been done before and changing, challenging, or reinforcing previous research findings.

Q: Are you ready to face a Chicago winter?

I already bought a parka and snow boots, so in some ways, yes, but mentally, I’ll probably never be ready.

Judith Wright wins AALL’s highest award

Judith rectangular

Judith Wright, former Associate Dean of Library and Information Services at the D’Angelo Law Library, received the Marion Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in Chicago this week. The award recognizes extended and sustained service to law librarianship and exemplary service to the Association. During her 40-year career, Judith worked tirelessly to advance collaborative work and leadership in the law librarian community, while directing the D’Angelo Law Library with grace and formidable administrative skills. D’Angelo Law Library’s status as one of the premier law research libraries in the United States is a testament to her dedicated stewardship.

HeinOnline blog spotlights Law Library Director Sheri Lewis

A recent HeinOnline blog post features D’Angelo Law Library Director, Sheri H. Lewis. She was selected to be interviewed as part of Hein’s “An Oral History of Law Librarianship” series. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Sheri H. Lewis is currently the Director of the D’Angelo Law Library at the University of Chicago in Chicago, IL. She received her B.A. from Northwestern University and is a graduate of New York University School of Law. After graduating from Law School, Lewis served as a clerk to the Hon. Robert L. Miller Jr., Northern District of Indiana, and then practiced with the firm of Lord, Bissell and Brook in Chicago. She became the director of the D’Angelo Law Library in 2013. Previously she served for 12 years as an Associate Law Librarian for Public Services. Lewis is also a member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL). Check out her full video below!

Milton Watkins, Regenstein Entry Attendant, 1925–2016

A dedicated member of the University of Chicago Library staff for nearly two decades, Milton Watkins warmly greeted students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors at the Regenstein entry desk between 1992 and 2012. He died of multiple myeloma on April 13 at the age of 90.

Milton Watkins

Milton Watkins in front of Regenstein Library (Photo by Kiku Hibino)

Often referred to as the “Face of the Place,” Milton was the first person most people saw when entering the Joseph Regenstein Library.  He was able to make everyone who entered the Library feel welcome—students, faculty, and staff (some of whom came at exactly the same time each day), alumni, prospective students and their families, visiting scholars, and the occasional tourist who wanted to see Regenstein or Mansueto. He provided expert assistance when requested to both first-time visitors and long-time library users.

Milton began working at the University after a very full life.  He grew up at 38th and Federal on the South Side, attending Edward Hardigan Grammar School and Wendell Phillips High School.  Following graduation, he served in the U.S. Army as a radar technician and troop instructor between 1944 and 1952. After returning to Chicago, Milton wed his fiancée Mary, who survives him.  Milton worked for the American Maize Products Company for 30 years; he also worked for the United States Post Office for 27 years as a postal clerk.  It was only after these retirements that he came to the Library.

Outside of the Library, much of Milton’s time was spent sharing in the ministries of St. John Church-Baptist at 48th and Michigan, where he served for many years as a deacon.  Milton’s dedication to the service of others as a church deacon carried over to his work at the Library.  He was a wonderful listener and helpful counselor whose smile and laugh could cheer up almost anyone.

For those entering Regenstein who Milton saw every day, his cheery “How are you doing?” made the day special.  For Library staff, his big smile and his reminder that “there’s a lot to do in a big place like this” also helped to make the work day special.  His friendly presence created a welcoming environment throughout the entire Library.

In addition to his wife, Mary, Milton is survived by his son-in-law Daniel Adams, his grandchildren (Danny Adams, Sheena Adams, Quintin Adams), and his great grandchildren (Devon Adams, Jordan Davis, Danyel Adams).  Milton’s daughter and Daniel’s wife, Anita Watkins-Adams, died in 2012.

A memorial visitation will be held on Saturday, April 23 at St. John Church-Baptist, 4821 S. Michigan beginning at 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. funeral service.

William Alspaugh, area studies librarian, 1942-2016

William Josiah AlspaughWilliam Josiah Alspaugh, known to his Library colleagues as Bill, died on January 24, 2016 at the age of 73 after a lengthy and varied career at the University of Chicago Library.

Bill worked in the Southern Asia Department from 1978 to 1997. One of Bill’s notable academic accomplishments was his collaboration from 1978 to 1981 with Maureen L. P. Patterson in compilation of the much-lauded South Asian Civilizations: A Bibliographic Synthesis, published in 1981 by the University of Chicago Press. From 1981 to 1997 he served as Assistant to the Bibliographer for Southern Asia. He also served as Associate Editor of South Asia Library Notes and Queries. His engagement during the 1980s and early 1990s in the preparation of the Indological Books in Series database was of pivotal importance, as was his contribution to the subsequent preservation of books described in that resource. Many of our graduate students benefited from his intelligence and generosity as a South Asia reference librarian.

Bill started working at the East Asian Collection in 1997, initially part-time, and soon assumed the duty of Chinese Bibliographer full-time. Later, he became Chinese Bibliographer/Cataloger, splitting his time between collection development, public services, and cataloging. For more than 10 years, he built the Chinese studies collection in western languages while also selecting many titles in Chinese language. Bill’s knowledge of the research resources for Chinese studies, especially those in western languages, was of great benefit to many graduate and undergrad students through the reference and consultation services he provided.

Bill retired from his Chinese Bibliographer/Cataloger position in 2008, but remained as a part-time Chinese cataloger until May 2011, and then again from March 2013 to 2015. Throughout his years with the East Asian Collection, Bill made great contributions, making a large number of newly acquired Chinese books accessible to patrons through his efforts in original cataloging.

After retirement in 2011, he volunteered at Cheena Bhavan, the Institute of Chinese Language and Culture, in Santiniketan near Calcutta, cataloging their Chinese collection.

Bill was fluent in Mandarin, Hindi, and French. He also studied Tamil language. He was a merit scholar during his secondary education in Oklahoma City. Bill received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and attended Stanford University where the Air Force sent him to the Defense Language Institute. There he studied Mandarin and subsequently monitored mainland China radio broadcasts from Taiwan and Okinawa. After discharge, he worked for Aetna for several years before returning to the University of Chicago for graduate study in the Department of East Asian Studies and, while a graduate student, to work in the Library. He earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School while working in the Library’s Southern Asia Department.

Bill was an intellectual shaped by his studies in the University of Chicago’s College and his years of close collaboration with colleagues in the Library, faculty, and our students. He said that he read articles in scholarly journals with a relish and zeal comparable to that exhibited by others in their reading of mysteries.

Bill is survived by a sister, Elizabeth Beasley, and two nephews, Robert Barrett Beasley and Charles Emory Alspaugh II.

Library launches new residency program

Kaitlin Springmier joins UChicago as Resident Librarian for Online Learning

The University of Chicago Library launched a new residency program this fall that will expand staff expertise in new and rapidly developing areas of librarianship. The program is designed to bring top recent graduates of library and information science programs and relevant graduate programs to Chicago for two-year residencies focused on particular areas of expertise.

“This new residency program provides up-and-coming librarians and information specialists with an exciting opportunity to share new skill sets while collaborating with experienced colleagues to advance the development of twenty-first century library services,” said Brenda Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian.

Kaitlin Springmier

Kaitlin Springmier, Resident Librarian for Online Learning

The first resident in this new program, Kaitlin Springmier, joined the Library in September as Resident Librarian for Online Learning. She came to Chicago from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she completed a Master of Library Science and worked as an Instruction Assistant at the UW -Madison Memorial Library. She has experience creating interactive e-learning tutorials and using new instructional designs, including embedded librarianship in online courses.

“We’re delighted that Kaitlin has joined the Library,” said E-Learning Librarian Julie Piacentine. “She is familiar with key research on developing online learning and has experience designing modules that achieve specific learning outcomes.”

Springmier will work with reference librarians and subject specialists to develop, implement, and assess multi-media e-learning tools, resources, and services that support research, teaching, and learning at the University. High priority projects include development of a mini-course on tracking citations and creating bibliographies, as well as more specialized tutorials designed to meet the needs of students working in specific disciplines.

“This residency will help us increase the amount of self-service help that’s available whenever students need it,” Piacentine explained.

This first residency was made possible by generous gifts from Library Visiting Committee members Preston Torbert and Diana Hunt King, who saw the value of educating students in how to navigate complex and rapidly evolving online research environments.

Visit to see the latest online tutorials offered by the Library.

Growing the Residency Program

The Library has developed a set of possible residencies that could allow it to offer additional services in a wide variety of areas, as funding becomes available. Among the proposed positions are a Bioinformatics Resident Librarian who would support students and faculty who collect and analyze complex biological data such as genetic codes. A Data Services Resident Librarian would help students and faculty to use statistical databases, geographic information systems, data visualization, and other tools for field research, such as software for processing interviews and ethnographic field notes. A Digital Archivist Resident Librarian in the Special Collections Research Center would work with the University Archivist and the Archives staff to plan and implement a strategy for systematic transfers of electronic records to the Library Digital Repository. A Clinical Law Programs Resident Librarian would help to provide law students with legal research skills training that supports their work in experiential clinical programs in areas such as environmental law, international human rights, corporate law, civil rights, employment discrimination, and juvenile justice.

The residency program is expected to change over time as funding for new positions is obtained and the needs of the Library evolve.


PhD student interns gain new perspectives at the Library

When the call went out for summer internship ideas for the University of Chicago’s Graduate Global Impact program, librarians on campus recognized a dual opportunity. PhD students could develop new perspectives on scholarship by working with librarians on important projects, while the work they accomplished could enhance the Library’s offerings for its many users.

Special Collections Intern Ellen Ambrosone with blueprints

Special Collections Intern Ellen Ambrosone with blueprints (Photo by John Zich)

Four interns—Rafadi Hakim, Ellen Ambrosone, Marco Torres, and Eric Phillips—were hired for summer 2015. Through their internships, they gained new insights into the local and global impact of librarianship and scholarship.

The skills these interns developed in the Library can help them in a wide range of environments in the future. “The primary objective of the internship program is to provide graduate students with flexible training that can help them prepare for careers in academia, nonprofits, government, and industry,” said A-J Aronstein, Associate Director of Graduate Career Development and Employer Relations. “The kind of skills that one develops in the Library—including digital skills, coding, and archival research—are just as vital for jobs on the tenure track as they are for jobs in other fields.”

Digital South Asia Library Intern Rafadi Hakim

A PhD student in Anthropology, Rafadi Hakim, was hired to help expand and enhance the presentation of data and texts in the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL). His projects ranged from writing a grant application with librarians to adding digital facsimiles to the DSAL website.

Hakim jumped at the chance to be involved in the digital humanities. “Sometimes as a student, I feel I’m spending so much time fine tuning small parts of my own paper for just a few people,” he said. But, when working on the DSAL, he explained, “It’s not just about this exclusive circle. It’s massively helpful to people in different countries.” His work this summer required thinking about how to best serve students, scholars, and others with varying degrees of fluency in South Asian languages and varying amounts of Internet bandwidth.

Hakim also appreciates the new perspectives on scholarship that he gained from working with James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia, and Laura Ring, Cataloger and Assistant South Asia Librarian.   “It’s nice to get some mentoring from people in addition to the faculty in your own department,” he said.

Rafadi Hakim

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


Special Collections Intern Ellen Ambrosone

Over the last several years in particular, Special Collections has received an enormous influx of architectural drawings. “They’re hanging on racks; they’re in drawers; they’re in archival boxes,” said Kathleen Feeney, Head of Archives Processing and Digital Access. “Our best estimate is that there are 117,000 of them. We know we have them from the entire history of the University, from landscape drawings to electrical plans, but when we hired Ellen, we didn’t have a strong inventory.”

Ambrosone, a PhD candidate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, welcomed the opportunity to participate in the first phase of a multi-year project to preserve and make these drawings accessible. She began the compilation of an inventory of the drawings, so that researchers can more readily understand what is available.

Processing Archivist Ashley Locke Gosselar, who helped to direct Ambrosone’s work on the project, emphasized its importance. “Our campus—and the city at large—is renowned for its architecture. What Ellen is doing is helping to preserve that legacy.”

Ambrosone expects to use the skills she developed in her own work, and to share her knowledge with others. “Having a working knowledge of archiving and processing the collection makes me a more well-rounded scholar,” she said. “I’m thinking about how I can incorporate this experience into my teaching to show students how the work scholars do is often built on work done by library professionals.”

Citation Analysis Intern Marco Torres

History PhD candidate Marco Torres joined the Library this summer to analyze citations used in recent UChicago Latin American studies dissertations. “One of the goals of the project is to help us make decisions about what resources should be purchased in the future based on the type of materials PhD students are using,” explained Ellen Bryan, Reference Librarian and Head of the Dissertation Office.

Torres’s own dissertation proposal was approved shortly before his internship began. He plans to go to Mexico City to do research on the labor movement in the late 1930s and its role in Mexican politics. He particularly valued the opportunity to discover the kinds of sources recent graduates used in studying Mexico.

“A lot of what we do as scholars is to look at bibliographies and see patterns in them,” Torres said. “Getting that recent bibliography is not so easy, sometimes.” One unexpected trend he observed was that recent political science bibliographies cite trade publications outside the social sciences, in fields such as medicine.

ACASA Intern Eric Phillips

History PhD student Eric Phillips first met June Farris, the Library’s Bibliographer for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies, when consulting the Library’s Archives of Czechs & Slovaks Abroad (ACASA) for a seminar paper on the transformation of Pressburg into Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak half of newly independent Czechoslovakia in post-World War I Europe. He is studying the Czech language and preparing to write his dissertation on the economic history of interwar Czechoslovakia and Austria.

Eric Phillips

ACASA Intern Eric Phillips (Photo by John Zich)

Farris mentioned to Phillips some time ago that ACASA needed to be reorganized. New materials were waiting to be integrated into the original schema devised by early collector Zdenek Hruban, and old materials needed to be rehoused to make room for them. During his internship, Phillips immersed himself in this project. He was delighted to be the first to go through Professor Hruban’s papers and fascinated to see a copy of the Nuremberg testimony of Petr Zenkl, a mayor of Prague, who was sent by the Nazis to Buchenwald concentration camp.

“For the last two summers, I’ve been going to the archives in Prague and trying to navigate them. It’s been a challenging experience,” Phillips said in August. “Now I’m on the other side, learning how archives are organized.”

“Being a historian, archival research is the ultimate goal, so the more you do of it, the more competent a researcher you are, and the more it can help you develop themes in your area,” said Farris.

Hakim, Torres and Phillips’s internships were sponsored by the Division of the Social Sciences Emerging Leaders Initiative. Ambrosone’s internship was sponsored by UChicago GRAD.

Recent awards mark latest in D’Angelo’s long history of service and accolades

Significant honors that recognized members of the D’Angelo Law Library staff this year were the latest in a string of accolades for the University of Chicago’s law librarians, whose dedication to their field has long been marked by service to local and national library groups.

Todd Ito

Todd Ito

This spring, Lorna Tang, who retired in June as the Associate Law Librarian for Technical Services after 38 years at the D’Angelo, was given the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL) Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Law Librarianship Award, and Foreign and International Law Librarian Lyonette Louis-Jacques was given the Global Legal Skills Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Legal Skills Education, as well as a top marketing award from the American Association of Law Libraries, the profession’s national association. Todd Ito, the D’Angelo’s Coordinator of Instruction and Outreach, was also elected Vice President/President-elect of Chicago Association of Law Libraries, becoming the most recent D’Angelo librarian to hold a top leadership position with the organization.

“The D’Angelo librarians have always had a strong commitment to service in professional law library associations,” said Sheri Lewis, Director of the D’Angelo Law Library. “This commitment is reflected not only in the awards bestowed on University of Chicago law librarians but in the ongoing respect from colleagues who actively seek and rely upon D’Angelo leadership in the professional community.”

Tang—who managed her staff through two major renovations of the library building, each time reorganizing work spaces and revising workflows—was the third librarian associated with the D’Angelo to win CALL’s lifetime achievement award.  The award, also given in 2013 to retired D’Angelo Law Library Director Judith M. Wright and in 2012 to former D’Angelo librarian Judith Gaskell, recognizes an “outstanding contribution to the Chicago law library community” and “consistently high levels of noteworthy professional contribution.” Tang became a member of CALL in 1977 and served on numerous committees.

Louis-Jacques received her award at the Global Legal Skills Conference, which is a leading international gathering for global skills education. She was honored for her 2013 book, International Law Legal Research, which was designed to show how to research sources of international law and help schools create stand-alone courses in international law legal research. She also won the 2015 Excellence in Marketing Award, Best Newsletter from AALL. It recognized the Chicago Association of Law Libraries’ CALL Bulletin, which Louis-Jacques co-edited.

Ito, who has been involved with CALL since he moved to Chicago in 2006 to work at the D’Angelo, also became the organization’s incoming Vice President and President-elect this spring.

“CALL has enabled me to connect with so many colleagues at other law school libraries, as well as at law firm, court, government, and public law libraries in the area,” Ito said. “Other AALL chapters are very spread out geographically, and the close proximity is a real benefit. We see each other at business meetings and other programs throughout the year, so we get more of a chance to get to know each other. That has made it easy for me to be able to reach out to another academic law librarians in the city to discuss what they’re doing with legal research instruction, or to talk to a law firm colleague about what legal research databases they’re using.”

The D’Angelo Law Library has a long history of high-profile accolades and appointments, for example:

  • AALL’s Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award—one of the highest awards a law librarian can receive—has been given four times to a law librarian who has worked at the D’Angelo. Former D’Angelo librarians Nancy Johnson (2012), Adolf Sprudzs (2000), Elizabeth Benyon (1992), and Leon M. Liddell (1989) all received this honor.
  • Five members of the AALL Hall of Fame at one time worked for the D’Angelo: Wright, Johnson, Benyon, Liddell, and Sprudzs.
  • Librarians associated with the D’Angelo have won nine major awards from the CALL, including three for lifetime achievement. Lewis also won the Agnes and Harry Reid Award for Outstanding Contribution to Law Librarianship in 2011.
  • Two D’Angelo law librarians have served as president of CALL. Margaret Schilt, the Associate Law Librarian for User Services, in 2014 – 2015, and Lewis in 2008 – 2009.
  • All of the D’Angelo librarians have held leadership positions in CALL at some point. Head of Cataloging Patricia Sayre-McCoy served on the Executive Board and has chaired several CALL committees and is now on the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2016 AALL Annual Meeting. Common Law Bibliographer Bill Schwesig led the CALL’s Internet Committee for several years. Catalog Librarian Michael D. Brown and Faculty Services Librarian Thomas Drueke have participated in CALL committees.
  • At the national level, Louis-Jacques also has been on the AALL Executive Board and she, along with Lewis, Ito, and Sayre-McCoy, have chaired AALL special interest sections and/or committees. Interim Head of Technical Services Julie Stauffer is a co-editor of the Technical Services section bulletin.
  • Reference and Virtual Access Librarian Connie Fleischer currently is serving on the Illinois Government Depository Council, an advisory group to the Illinois State Library on government information issues.
  • Sprudzs, a former D’Angelo Foreign and International Law Librarian who was instrumental in building and expanding the D’Angelo’s foreign law collection, was a founding member and former president of International Association of Law Librarians in 1959.

“Librarians are born collaborators and rely on their professional networks both to keep current on new developments in legal information but also to enhance library services. We all have many stories about impressing a faculty member or student by getting a hidden gem for them,” Lewis said. “Law library associations are part of the secret to our success—it is not only what you know but who you know.”

A University of Chicago Law School news release

Alumni honor Ray Gadke with named student internship

The longtime keeper of the Library’s microforms—and longtime wearer of Hawaiian shirts—becomes the namesake for a new student internship

Ray Gadke

Ray Gadke. (Photo by Hannah Gitlin)

On a Thursday in late June, Raymond Gadke, AM’66, walked into a restaurant filled with a sea of Hawaiian shirts, and those shirts were filled with University students and alumni of different ages. When Gadke, himself dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, sat down amid this sea, John Boyer, AM’69, PhD’79, the dean of the College, presented him with a giant check for $75,000.

This was the culmination of a fundraising effort to establish an internship honoring Gadke, a longtime University of Chicago Library staff member. More than 50 alumni—many of whom were in the room, wearing those Hawaiian shirts—raised $75,000 to create the Ray Gadke Internship Fund Established by Friends of Ray to Endow Undergraduate Internships (as it says on Gadke’s plaque commemorating the occasion). The fund will be part of UChicago’s larger Metcalf Internship Program, which offers undergraduate students paid experience in their chosen field. The Metcalf program was established in 1997 by University trustee (and Gadke internship donor) Byron Trott, AB’81, MBA’82.  

Brooks Dexter, AB’79, MBA’84, led the fundraising effort for the internship honoring Gadke. Now managing director at corporate finance advising firm Duff and Phelps, Dexter was, once upon a time—like nearly all those who gave money to the internship fund—a College student working for Gadke in the Reg’s microforms library. “For more than 40 years, Ray has been helping undergraduates make the journey from College to the next step in their lives,” Dexter says. He calls Gadke a friend and a mentor. “Those of us in Ray’s employ were known as ‘Ray’s Rangers.’” For the past 15 years, Gadke has sent a daily email of “fun facts” to his network of friends and former employees, “including a happy birthday wish to any Rangers with a birthday that day,” Dexter says. (The August 3 email, which stretches to 15 pages, notes that on that day in 1492, “Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos [Spain, not Illinois] with his three ships, seeking a westward route to India and China” and that in 1946, “what some historians consider the first ‘theme park’ in the world, Santa Claus Land, opened in Santa Claus, Indiana.”)

And why the Hawaiian shirts? Because Gadke wears them just about every day, and has ever since he saw Elvis Presley in the film Blue Hawaii. “I had worn button down shirts and stuff like that, but I thought, these are nice, and I got in the habit of wearing them,” he says.

Gadke’s job title is reading room manager, but he has worn many hats during his time at the University. He arrived in the 1960s as a history graduate student, studying the role of religion in American immigrants’ assimilation, an interest that he has maintained and that inspired his sizable collection of religious figurines from shuttered Chicago-area churches. During Gadke’s academic research, he’d met a number of local priests, and when the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to close some of its churches, “one of the pastors called me and told me, ‘I’ve got a church full of statues, what can I do with them?’ And so I said, Hey, that’s kind of a neat idea,’ and so I started acquiring them.” Gadke keeps a few of these statues in his office on the third floor of the Regenstein Library, but says that walking into his apartment, which has about 45 of these statues, kind of feels like walking into a church.

In 1971 Gadke was hired to supervise the microfilms collection, which is headquartered on the third floor of the library. Later his jurisdiction grew to encompass current periodicals as well, and now his job includes care of all of the library’s reading rooms: the periodical reading room on the second floor, the reference collections throughout the library, and and, of course, the microfilms.

Microfilms have been an important method of document preservation from the early 20th century through the end of the 20th century. After that, digitization took over, but microfilms remain important because of the volume of material they still store: newspapers, magazines, photographs, and countless other documents. Creating microfilms involved sliding individual documents under a projector and taking photographs of these documents using a film camera. This process, as Gadke explains, was equivalent to today’s digitization.

The University was one of the very first institutions to have an academic microfilm collection. Herman Fussler, AM’41, PhD’48, the former director of the UChicago Library system, started the University’s Department of Photoduplication, which produced massive amounts of microfilm in the basement of Cobb Hall (where the coffee shop is today) until its closing in 1995. Fussler created some of the very first academic microfilm when he sailed to Paris on an ocean liner full of microfilm equipment in order to catalog French Revolutionary newspapers from 1788 to 1791—film that UChicago still has. Though the University no longer maintains the Department of Photoduplication, microfilm still contains an amazing amount of knowledge about an incredible range of topics.

And Gadke himself has an amazing amount of knowledge about an incredible range of topics. At the library he helps patrons—students, scholars, visitors—find the research they need. “Everyone’s looking for something different,” he says. “People come from all over the world to use our collection. A lot of the things that we have, we are the only place in the country that has them.” That includes original copies of Revolutionary French newspapers, old Irish newspapers obtained for a professor studying Ireland, Armenian newspapers—as well as the good old Chicago Maroon. “We have people that want to look from the glory days of Big Ten football, want to come and read about Amos Alonzo Stagg and University of Chicago football. Right where we are”—he was standing in the Regenstein Library—”were football stands that held 40,000 people, and got up to 60,000.”

Gadke is approaching his 45th year working as a full-time staff member, which means that he’s worked at the Library for longer than any other man on the staff. When I asked him how it came to pass that he ended up working at the library, he told me, “It just kinda happened. You know, I got a job that I enjoyed, and it’s where I’ve been since.”

The article originally appeared on the University of Chicago Magazine website.