Meet Holiday Vega, new Health and Social Services Librarian

Holiday Vega joined the University of Chicago on August 19th as the Health and Social Services Librarian and she works both at the Crerar Library and the Social Services Administration Library. Holiday has both a Master of Social Work from Tulane University and Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is part of the national Progressive Librarians Guild and manages their book club, and in her time at UH created a student chapter of the PLG and hosted roundtable discussions on open access, diversity and inclusion, homelessness in libraries, and other social justice topics related to librarianship.

Deb Werner, the Director of Library Research in Medical Education, interviewed Holiday about her role here at the University of Chicago and her past experience in libraries.

What were you doing before this position at the University of Chicago?

Holiday Vega, Health and Social Services Librarian

Holiday Vega, Health and Social Services Librarian

I graduated in May 2019 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with my second Master’s degree, in Library and Information Science. My first Master’s is in Social Work, and my thesis research for my library degree was on the intersection of public libraries, homelessness, and social services. I helped facilitate the creation of a social work internship program at a public library in Honolulu by building a partnership between public library leadership and the Social Work school at UH. I also completed an internship with the Science and Technology reference department at the Hamilton Library at UH, where I created a new Web of Science subject guide and provided instruction support to nursing students and public health students, as well as interdisciplinary science students on information literacy, EndNote, Zotero, PubMed, and on open access resources.

How will you support students, faculty, and instructors in your role here?

My hope is to collaborate with faculty and students at every level, including collection development decisions. I will provide instruction for social work and psychology students, as well as nurses, on finding evidence based research for best practice, and I will also provide consultations for more in depth research assistance on citation management as well as data management. I’m excited about the opportunities to build partnerships between the University of Chicago and public libraries in the community, which my new supervisor, Deb Werner started through writing a grant for the All of Us program through the National Network of Librarians of Medicine. I’m also passionate about social justice, diversity and inclusion, and open access, and I aspire to contribute to the continuing transformation of the University to be more inclusive and social justice oriented by building more partnerships within the community, and encouraging faculty and students to include their published research in our institutional repository Knowledge@UChicago.

What’s your favorite thing about being a health and social services librarian?

Having graduated from a social work program myself, I love that I am going to have the opportunity to support future social workers with their professional practice and research goals. I look forward to supporting the psychology students and faculty with their innovative research that will change the lives of people around the world. Social work and nursing are also health fields, though social work focuses on mental health, I believe these fields of study cultivate and even require compassion. The research conducted by these professionals will contribute to a growing collection of knowledge which, if openly accessible, can support best practice in the entire field. Research in these areas can help benefit the people served by these professions and lead to better health outcomes and greater quality of life. I’m excited to help support that by educating and empowering current and future professionals to conduct and publish research.

What are you interested in outside of libraries?

I write fiction and have been part of various writing groups for some time. I love cats (I have two!), book clubs, and video games.

What have you been reading, listening to, or watching lately?

Read (nonfiction) Read (fiction)

Listen I loved this episode, but really I enjoy most episodes of this podcast (Call Your Girlfriend).


New location for Science Librarians at Crerar

crerar officesCrerar reference librarians are now in their permanent office area in Crerar Library.  They are still on the first floor but on the north side of the building behind the Zar Room and accessible from the door to the right.  Feel free to come by if you have a question with which you need help.  You can also contact us by phone or email with questions or to set up an appointment.   We are always happy to help!



The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellowships

The University of Chicago Library is pleased to announce that its graduate student fellowships are now named the Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellowships in honor of University of Chicago President Emeritus Gray’s generous support of the fellowship program since its inception. The Gray Fellowships are designed to build graduate students’ skills and knowledge in new areas of scholarship and to give them opportunities to explore alternative scholarly careers.

A Gray Fellow stands in front of a monitor display a photo from her project

Aneesah Ettress, The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellow in Digital Scholarship (Digital Humanities)

“We are delighted that President Emeritus Gray has enabled us to provide new opportunities for graduate students and are deeply honored that she has recognized the important role that the Library can play in expanding students’ academic horizons,” said Library Director and University Librarian Brenda Johnson.  The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellowships awarded during Winter/Spring 2019 and Summer 2019 included opportunities such as working with historical Chicago maps and GIS data, creating metadata for Mesoamerican language materials, archival collection exploration and discovery, and exploring digital scholarship methods.

Applying for Fall Gray Fellowships

Graduate fellow points at map on screen

Cristina Yumi Sakamoto, The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellow in GIS for Historical Chicago Data

Interested University of Chicago graduate students are encouraged to apply by September 15, 2019, for currently posted fellowships. Additional fellowships will be posted as they become available.  Renewal of fellowships for one or more additional quarters is considered on a case by case basis.

There are currently two opportunities available for Fall 2019:

  • The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellowship for GIS Instruction: This fellowship will provide instructional programming focusing on the introduction of spatial literacy and geospatial concepts.  The Fellow will update existing instruction material and create resources in a variety of formats, including demonstrations, workshops, tutorials, and web content.
  • The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellowship in Subject Librarianship: This fellowship matches graduate students with the subject specialist in their area of study to introduce the student to the work of a subject liaison. The graduate student would partner with the subject specialist to design a project that combines the student’s subject expertise with the librarian’s expertise in collection development and liaison services. For Fall 2019, we are seeking a University of Chicago Divinity School graduate student to work with the bibliographer for religion, philosophy, and Jewish studies.

Fall 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

A Gray Fellow with archival photos in front of her and a related website behind her

Ariadne Argyros, The Hanna Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellow in Web Exhibits


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

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, 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.