ALA recognizes Larsen with Distinguished Interlibrary Loan Librarian Award

The American Library Association’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has selected David Larsen as the winner of the 2014 Virginia Boucher-OCLC Distinguished ILL (Interlibrary Loan) Librarian Award. Larsen is Head of Access Services and Assessment at the University of Chicago Library.

David Larsen

David Larsen, Head of Access Services and Assessment at the University of Chicago Library

The Boucher-OCLC award honors professional achievement, leadership, and contributions to interlibrary loan and document delivery. “Larsen was selected for his innovative and practical approaches to resource sharing [and] willingness to learn and test new products and improved workflow efficiencies” according to the ALA’s announcement.

Larsen was nominated by Anne Beaubien, Director of MLibrary Document Delivery at the University of Michigan Library, and Mary Radnor, Document Delivery Services Librarian at the University of Chicago Library, who described Larsen’s leadership role in launching the Committee on Institutional Cooperation’s consortial borrowing service, UBorrow, as well as the Scan & Deliver service at University of Chicago, both in 2012.

“David’s extraordinary leadership in developing UBorrow resulted in an unmediated consortial borrowing system that made most of the 90 million volumes held in the CIC libraries and the Center for Research Libraries readily available to UChicago users through a single interface with a fast and predictable turnaround time and a 12 week loan period,” explained Jim Vaughan, Associate University Librarian for User Services at the University of Chicago Library.

“The exponential growth of published information and limited collection budgets call for more reliance on collection sharing among trusted peers,” said Judith Nadler, Director and University Librarian at University of Chicago. “I applaud David’s contributions to new approaches that will facilitate collection sharing in an increasingly complex service environment.”

Scan & Deliver allows UChicago faculty, students, and staff to request that articles and book chapters from the Library’s print collections be scanned and made available online.  It is widely praised by faculty and graduate students on campus as an aid to productivity and an invaluable service for those conducting research outside Chicago. 

The selection of Larsen and other RUSA award recipients was announced on March 4. “RUSA’s Achievement Awards are a chance to give praise to the most notable librarians, libraries, and library research in reference services,” said RUSA President Kathleen Kern. “These awards are of the highest honor and recognize invaluable contributions to the field that may go unnoticed otherwise.”

Larsen will receive the award at the RUSA Achievement Awards Ceremony and Reception to be held on June 29 at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Sponsored by OCLC, it consists of $2,000 and a citation.

Internships that preserve collections: A gift from Albert Somit

As the 2013 Mary and Samuel Somit Preservation Intern at the University of Chicago Library, William Schlaack spent six weeks this summer helping staff to prepare for a broad range of potential challenges. Deliberating with Preservation Librarian Sherry Byrne and Head of Conservation Ann Lindsey, Schlaack assisted in crafting a response and recovery plan to ensure that the Library’s physical collections are protected and properly treated in the event of an emergency.

William Schlaack exchanges ideas on best preservation practices with Head of Conservation Ann Lindsey.

William Schlaack exchanges ideas on best preservation practices with Head of Conservation Ann Lindsey.

Thanks to the generous gift of Dr. Albert Somit, AB’41, PhD’47, the Somit Preservation Internship provides a hands-on experience for students entering the fields of preservation, digitization, and conservation, complementing the classroom education they receive in academic programs. Throughout a long career as a professor, Executive Vice President of SUNY–Buffalo, and eventually President of Southern Illinois University, Dr. Somit has believed firmly in providing growth opportunities for students that have an immediate impact on the students as well as their host institutions.

By creating this endowed internship, Dr. Somit has helped the Library to sustain its collections into the future and has provided students like Schlaack with an excellent opportunity to launch their careers. “I have learned an extraordinary amount,” said Schlaack, “regarding not only preservation administration but also how to be an effective and collaborative librarian in a world-class institution.”

Circa interviews Anne Knafl, bibliographer for religion and philosophy

An Interview with Anne Knafl
Circa – Autumn 2012

Don R. Swanson, information science pioneer, 1924–2012

Don R. Swanson believed laboratories weren’t the only source of new scientific discoveries. Swanson, a specialist in the relationship between natural and computer languages, thought electronic databases also held the key to medical knowledge.

Don Swanson

Don Swanson

A trailblazing information scientist, Swanson died Nov. 18 at age 88.

Concerned that excessive specialization could inhibit scientific creativity, Swanson pioneered the field of literature-based discovery, which uses existing research to create new knowledge. The three-term dean of the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School and professor emeritus in the Humanities Division believed that unearthing unseen links between two distinct areas of study could yield new discoveries—what he called “undiscovered public knowledge.”

In 2000, Swanson received the ASIST Award of Merit, the highest honor from the American Society for Information Science & Technology, for his work.

Arrowsmith: ‘An intellectual adventure’

Swanson famously tested his theory of undiscovered public knowledge with a 1986 paper in which he made a provocative connection between dietary fish oil and Raynaud’s disease, a circulatory disorder.

In a search of the Medline database, which houses millions of scientific journal abstracts, Swanson found a common thread in research on Raynaud’s disease and dietary fish oil. His hunting turned up numerous articles that described high blood viscosity in patients with Raynaud’s disease; in a separate search, he found a body of research that showed dietary fish oil could reduce blood viscosity.

The implication of bringing these two literatures together was powerful:  could fish oil, Swanson wondered, be used to treat Raynaud’s disease?

A clinical trial three years later validated the use of fish oil for patients with Raynaud’s disease. Swanson later hypothesized a connection between migraine headaches and magnesium deficiency that was also subsequently supported by clinical research.

Spurred on by these findings, Swanson and Neil Smalheiser of the University of Illinois at Chicago developed Arrowsmith, a piece of software that assists investigators in identifying connections between two sets of Medline articles.

Arrowsmith (named after the 1925 Sinclair Lewis novel) was aimed at building a “systematic, computational” method to find possible links among articles, Smalheiser said. “The computer was not supposed to generate discoveries, but it was supposed to identify and put together these potential assertions.”

The Arrowsmith model proved influential, and the approach Swanson and Smalheiser developed has been adapted to study the correlations of genes with diseases and find possible new uses for medications.

Despite the impact of Swanson and Smalheiser’s work on Arrowsmith, “We never saw it as anything other than an intellectual adventure,” Smalheiser said.

‘Experiments with information’ not salamanders

“Don was doing science, without dissecting a salamander,” said Mark Olsen, assistant director of the American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL) project, a major digital humanities project that was influenced by Swanson’s work. “He was doing experiments with information.”

Swanson began his career studying physics as an undergraduate at the California Institute of Technology. He received his MA in physics from Rice University in 1947 and his PhD, also in physics, from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1952.

Even in their early days, computers were a source of fascination for Swanson. “I think he was always dazzled by the idea of the computer,” said his wife, Patricia Swanson.

Swanson worked as a computer systems analyst at Hughes Research & Development and research scientist at Ramo-Wooldridge Corp. & TRW, Inc., before he joined the UChicago faculty in 1963 as dean of the Graduate Library School (which closed in 1990). Swanson’s background as a physical scientist set him apart from the seven previous deans of the school, who represented a variety of other disciplines. 

At the GLS, Swanson initially focused on computer-aided information retrieval, an entirely new area of study at the time.

“At the time Don began working on it, people simply couldn’t imagine that you could retrieve information with a computer,” said his colleague Abe Bookstein, professor emeritus in the Humanities. “In a field that was very qualitative, Don was instrumental in introducing quantitative formal techniques.”

He was also a rigorous and encouraging teacher, according to his former GLS student Charles Blair, who remembered Swanson for his “very clean, organized and methodical approach to his subject.”

Swanson happily lent his expertise to colleagues around the University. In the early days of the ARTFL project, Prof. Robert Morrissey came to Swanson for advice on how to handle organization of the massive new database. “He told me, ‘What this project needs is a little sunshine and water,” remembered Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor of French Literature and director of ARTFL. “He was very generous with his time.”

That generosity was not unusual for Swanson, according to Smalheiser—Swanson went “out of his way to be nice and encouraging,” Smalheiser said.

Swanson’s quiet manner belied a mischievous sense of humor that led him to write satiric articles, for example, “New Horizons in Psychoanalysis:  Treatment of Necrosistic Personality Disorders,” in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1986).

Not only intellectually witty but also physically fit, Swanson was an avid runner who completed a half-marathon at the age of 80.

But his work was by far his greatest passion, according to Patricia Swanson. “He was always trying to do something better,” she said.

In addition to his wife, Swanson is survived by his son, Richard B. Swanson; and his daughter, Judith A. Swanson, PhD’87. Another son, Douglas A. Swanson, died in 2004.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Swanson’s honor may be made to the University of Chicago Library, the Nature Conservancy or the Heritage Foundation.

A University of Chicago news release

June Farris recognized by Association for Women in Slavic Studies

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies, an affiliate of the Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), has awarded its Outstanding Achievement Award for 2012 to June Pachuta Farris of the University of Chicago Library.

In the words of the AWSS:

Serving for more than twenty-five years as the Bibliographer for Slavic and East European Studies at the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago, June has developed a superb collection of Slavic, East European and Eurasian resources there, many of them found nowhere else in the world. As one of her colleagues at the University of Chicago has noted, in addition to developing a “world-class collection at a world-class research library,” June also “understands the importance of the kinds of ephemera not found in most library collections.”

Scholars and students at the University of Chicago are far from the only beneficiaries of her expertise, however. The entire profession has been enriched by June’s unassuming yet dedicated commitment to helping scholars wherever they work — whether formally, through her many published bibliographies on subjects as diverse as Dostoevsky and Czech and Slovak émigrés, or informally through her willingness to respond to countless queries from individuals.

June’s services to the field of women’s and gender studies make her an especially deserving recipient of this award. Members of AWSS have grown to depend on her quarterly and annual Current Bibliography on Women and Gender in Russia and Eastern Europe, which has appeared in the AWSS Newsletter since 1999. Collaborating with Irina Liveazanu, Christine Worobec, and Mary Zirin, June also produced an invaluable two-volume publication, Women and Gender in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia: A Comprehensive Bibliography (2007).

Last but far from least, June is known by her fellow Slavic librarians as a generous mentor. As one of them has written, “over the years she has taught me most of what I know about the field.” For her selfless, consistent, and dedicated service to scholars, students, and fellow bibliographers, AWSS is proud to honor June Pachuta Farris.


Joan Bentley Hoffman recognized for cross-team collaboration with Gates Award

Joan Bentley Hoffman (1st row, third from left) is one of eight winners of the 2012 Gates Award.

Joan Bentley Hoffman, the Library’s Associate Director of Development, recently won a Frederick T. Gates Award for Outstanding Performance from University Alumni Relations and Development. Named for one of the University’s founders and its first fundraiser, the Gates Award recognizes staff whose work goes above and beyond their daily duties and has significant impact across development teams.  Applications cannot come from the nominee’s direct manager, and employees are encouraged to nominate colleagues outside their own team. As a result, the winners are individuals who not only exemplify superior achievement within their unit but also effectively collaborate with other development teams around the University. 

At the awards ceremony at the July 18 all-development staff meeting, a quote was read from Bentley Hoffman’s nomination: “Since Joan moved on to the Library, she has become a key collaborator for so many people across campus—engaging alumni and donors, working on gifts, giving tours of Mansueto, and always making herself available to clarify the sometimes confusing animal that the Library can be. Joan is also an alumna of the University and it shows in the careful thought that goes into how she communicates with alumni and donors. She does this with grace and a humility which sometimes disguises what a tenacious development officer she is.”

Biomedical Reference Librarian and Informatics Specialist, Vedana Vaidhyanathan

Vedana Vaidhyanathan has joined the staff of the John Crerar Library as the new Biomedical Reference Librarian and Informatics Specialist.  Vedana comes to the University of Chicago from the University of Miami, where she was a Biomedical Research Librarian at the Miller School of Medicine’s Louis Calder Memorial Library in the department of Health Informatics.  Providing reference, instruction and outreach was a critical aspect of Vedana’s position at Miami.  In addition, she served on the University of Miami Medical School Sophomore and Freshman Promotions Committee, as well as the Medical School Basic Sciences Curriculum Advisory Committee.

 Vedana has a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her Master’s Paper was entitled Why Can’t It All Be On the Web? The Information Needs of Biomedical Informatics Scientists.  In addition, Vedana has completed a fellowship at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences and the UNC Health Sciences Library, and was a fellow at the Medical Informatics MBL/NLM course at Woods Hole.   These fellowships and her work experience at the University of Miami have provided her with critical skills in the field of biomedical research and informatics. 

 Vedana is also Secretary of the India-United States Transplant Foundation Inc. and was a volunteer leader with “Hands On Miami” before coming to Chicago.

 Barbara Kern, Co-Director of the Science Libraries, interviewed Vedana to find out how she plans to work with faculty and students, and what she sees as emerging trends in the field of biomedical librarianship and informatics.

 Vedana can be reached at and has an office in the John Crerar Library, room 131.

 Q: Vedana, what originally got you interested in Biomedical Librarianship and more specifically, Informatics?

 At my graduate school orientation, a professor stood up and announced he had several research positions open, and that students should go talk with him. I went to his office and he told me about bioinformatics. I was intrigued. I ended up completing a two-year fellowship in bioinformatics and genetics. In the first year, I learned how bioinformatics affected systems, and in the second year I spent more time going out to the public, seeking out users to aid them in their research. I finished the fellowship with my master’s paper on the information seeking behavior of bioinformatics researchers. 

 Q:  How have you worked with faculty at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine?

 At Miami I worked with faculty both inside and outside of the university curriculum. I was an instructor for evidence-based medicine, which meant I worked with faculty and taught first- and second-year medical students the basics of the evidence-based process. I also worked with them on their individual projects. I did everything from helping students with their research to teaching them how to use bibliographic tools like RefWorks.

 Q: You completed a fellowship at the Medical Informatics MBL/NLM course at Woods Hole.  What did you learn there and how do you apply it in your work?

 The fellowship consisted of modules on different topics in informatics, which gave me a taste of the different subfields within informatics. I learned about the latest ideas and techniques in the field and did an in-depth project dissecting an electronic health record to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. I have been contemplating how informatics is crossing into different disciplines since this occurred. Knowledge of ethics, law and geography are important when considering the future of informatics, since it has moved out of the laboratory and into the world.

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

 I hope to be able to offer tutorials on different databases for faculty and students, along with helping them with their research and showcasing how the library can play a role in informatics. I also hope to design some programming about the different kinds of informatics especially for the students to show them how informatics could be part of their careers.

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

The trends today include connecting the work done in the lab to the patient (translational informatics) and having more interdisciplinary research done in the field. My biggest challenge is getting exposure, both to the subject matter and to the people working in the subject so they can see how the library can help them with their projects.

Q: Miami is warm and Chicago is cold.  How are you adjusting?

Some days are easier than others. I did have days in Miami where I remember driving around with the windows open in 80 degrees in January, but I also remember the hurricanes, and that makes me happy to be here. I have several coats, and have been wearing them (sometimes more than one). So far I am searching for warmer socks, since even the wool socks I own are making my feet cold. I do love being able to walk to work and not having a car, compared to Miami where I had to drive everywhere. Living here has been a wonderful change. 


Library Reorganization Creates New Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special Collections Group

Alice Schreyer, Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special CollectionsJudith Nadler, Director and University Librarian at the University of Chicago Library, has announced an administrative reorganization to “strengthen the Library’s ability to provide traditional services,” while enabling it to “take on new roles at the University and provide new services to our community.” The new structure will establish a unified vision and voice for collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences to parallel that for Sciences and Law and facilitate a unified collection philosophy that encompasses special and general collections.

As part of this reorganization, Alice Schreyer has been appointed Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special Collections.  Alice Schreyer was previously Director of the Special Collections Research Center. Daniel Meyer, previously Associate Director, Special Collections Research Center and University Archivist, has been appointed Director, Special Collections Research Center, and University Archivist.

Further information on the University of Chicago Library reorganization is available in the University of Chicago Library news announcement:


New bibliographer for Middle East Studies, Marlis Saleh

Marlis Saleh

Marlis Saleh became the Library’s new bibliographer for Middle East Studies on March 1. In this role, she develops, manages, and promotes Library services and collections in all formats covering the Middle East from the rise of Islam (6th century C.E.) to the present.

Marlis will be working closely with Library and University departments and programs to support the teaching and research needs of faculty and students. Her work will include building collections, collaborating with faculty and staff to develop and manage digital projects, and producing grant proposals that support and enhance collection access.

Marlis succeeds Bruce Craig, who served in that position for more than 35 years before retiring in December 2010. Prior to accepting this new position, Marlis served as Bruce’s assistant, beginning in 1996. She holds a Ph.D. in Islamic History from the University of Chicago, an M.L.I.S. from Dominican University, an M.A. from Yale, and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Marlis is also Editor of the Mamlūk Studies Review, an annual refereed journal devoted to the study of the Mamlūk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria (648–922 A.H./1250–1517 C.E.). She will be continuing the Library’s work on the Mamlūk Bibliography.

Rachel Rosenberg interviewed Marlis to find out how she collects Middle Eastern resources, how she plans to work with faculty and students, and what she sees as the exciting challenges and trends in her field.

Q: Marlis, what originally got you interested in Middle East Studies, and what did you focus on in graduate school?

A: My grandmother got me interested in the archaeology of ancient Egypt. When I went to college I studied the ancient Near East but also began working on Arabic and Islamic studies. I completed my B.A. with a double major in both of these fields, but when I went on to graduate school I decided to focus on Islamic studies. My Ph.D. dissertation was “Government Relations with the Coptic Community in Egypt during the Fāṭimid Period (358–567 A.H./969–1171 C.E.).”

Q: I’ve been told that you’ve made a number of trips to the Middle East to collect materials for the Library in the past. Where have you been and which of your trips was most memorable?

The Old City of San'a, Yemen

The Old City of San'a, Yemen

A: I’ve traveled to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen to collect materials. All my trips have been memorable, but I would probably have to single out the trip to Yemen, a fascinating country off the usual Middle East beaten track. The “gingerbread” architecture in the capital and the cliff villages were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. While in Yemen I visited the Yemen Center for Studies and Research and was invited to fill two large boxes from their storeroom of various Yemeni publications and arranged to receive a listing of all the Center’s own publications, which are not widely distributed. I also attended the San’a International book Fair and established contact with a number of small local vendors of scholarly publications.

Q: And do you know what your first trip will be as the Library’s bibliographer for Middle East Studies?

A: For many years I have been hoping to travel to Iran, to meet our vendors and become familiar with the local publishing scene there, but circumstances have never been favorable. I hope at some point to be able to make this trip. More likely in the short term, I would like to attend the international book fair in Abu Dhabi, which is becoming a showcase for publishers from all over the Arab world.

Q: The Middle East collection at the University of Chicago Library is recognized by scholars throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East as one of the premier research collections in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. Can you tell us more about how your work will sustain and increase the presence of Middle East studies at University of Chicago?

A: I plan to continue to maintain and enhance this outstanding collection. I will also look beyond our collection and keep abreast of the increasing materials from many outside sources that are available online, which provide even more resources to support scholarship and teaching in Middle East studies here at the University. For instance, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers is collaborating to produce an online Local Archives and Libraries Directory, which will be invaluable to faculty and students planning onsite research in the Middle East, and many institutions, such as al-Azhar, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Princeton University, and King Saud University, have announced plans to make manuscripts and other primary sources in their collections available online.

Q: What are the key challenges or trends in Middle East Studies collecting that you face as you develop collection policy and acquire materials?

A: Publication in and about the Middle East has exploded in recent years and the challenge is to be aware of what is coming out and to sift through these masses of material to home in on publications of scholarly value. Likewise, as in other fields, the amount of information in the field available online is burgeoning and again, the challenge is to critically evaluate and select what is useful.

Q: How will you work with faculty and students in your new role and engage them in use of the collections?

A: I plan to meet in the coming months with all of the faculty members primarily focused on the Middle East collection to discuss how well the library is meeting their needs and how we might serve them better. I have begun discussions with one faculty member who would like to institute formal instruction tailored for students at different levels (for Ph.D. students, master’s students, and undergraduates) in the methodology of conducting research in Middle East studies, and we plan to include instruction in using the library. I have also met with the Middle Eastern Studies Students Association (MESSA) to raise the issue of introductory library use training as part of new student orientation and encourage them to think of me as a resource in helping them use the library effectively for their research.

I would also like to enhance our new Middle Eastern Studies Library Guide to make it even more useful to faculty and students. I plan soon to begin sending out an e-newsletter to faculty and students featuring department news, new acquisitions, notable new online resources, and so on.

Q: As editor of the Mamlūk Studies Review, are there any particular topics or approaches you’re looking for in submissions?

A: The exciting thing about Mamlūk Studies Review is that we cover all aspects of the Mamlūk period—history, literature, art, economics, archaeology and material culture, religion, politics, etc. This nurtures communication between experts in these widely varying fields and allows unexpected connections to be made.

Do you have a question or request related to the Middle East collections? Contact Marlis Saleh.

Photograph of Marlis Saleh by Rachel Rosenberg; photograph of Yemen by Marlis Saleh

Sem Sutter, Assistant Director for Collections, leaves Library after 32-year career

Sem Sutter, Assistant Director for Collections

Sem Sutter

Sem Sutter, Assistant Director for Collections for the University of Chicago Library, will be leaving us in late October. He has accepted a position as Head of Collection Development at Georgetown University Library beginning November 1.

Sem’s career at the University of Chicago Library spans 32 years and a wide range of positions. While a graduate student, he began working in the privileges office, followed by seven years in Special Collections. In 1987 he became Bibliographer for German and French literature. Over the years he added Scandinavian, Italian, English and American literatures to his portfolio and his title became Bibliographer for Modern Literatures. Since 2000 he has served as the Library’s collection development officer in a period of rapid change to a hybrid digital and print environment.

Sem is also well respected internationally for his scholarship over the last 15 years concerning the fate of libraries and archives in Europe during and after World War II— including their evacuation, confiscation or plunder, and (in some cases) their eventual restitution, having presented his research at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and in volumes such as The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, edited by Jonathan Rose (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

With a fine mind and collegial personality, Sem has brought his management style to bear on collection development with the unfailing commitment to keep Chicago’s collections strong. His leadership as a member of the Administrative Committee, as chair of the Public Services Steering Committee, and co-chair of the Digital Collections Steering Committee, and his work as hands-on builder of collections leave an invaluable legacy. Collection building and stewardship, and services to our users, areas of Chicago’s great strength, are closely connected with Sem’s tenure here. As we engage in the exciting work of updating collections and services for the library of the 21st century, Sem’s invaluable legacy will inform our thinking.

Photo by John Booz.