Bwog has hopped and camped in libraries, but we’ve never actually explored their contents. The Columbia libraries are a treasure trove of exciting history, so with the help of our lovely librarian friends, we’re going to highlight some hidden jewels. In this installment of BiblioBwog, Karen Green, Ancient & Medieval History and Graphic Novels Librarian (what a combo!), tells us about a few of her favorite things. Green was recently selected as a judge for the 2011 Eisner Comic Awards, “the Oscars of of the comics industry.” She’ll also be featured in the upcoming issue of the Blue & White!
Favorite room to camp in:
KG: I would never camp in a room (she said piously) because that is SO INCONSIDERATE. But I think my favorite room is actually 202, because the ceiling is so so so beautiful. When I was a grad student, that room was used for book processing, and no one could see into it except for brief glimpses of the ceiling. It was like Alice, down the rabbit hole, looking longingly into the door of the garden of bright flowers and cool fountains. And now I can see the whole ceiling whenever I like. NICE.
Favorite physical part of the library, apart from the books:
KG: I love the lobby mural. I like a picture one can unpack. I love the Empire State Building and the Hayden Planetarium in the landscape, and that fact that the “masses” are carrying a hammer and a sickle. And that “Columbia” looks like Cher. But the lobby mural is probably tied with the ceiling relief under the chandelier that’s in the Butler Circulation lobby: the Columbia seal flanked by the NYC skyline. Nobody even knew that was there before the renovation, it was hidden beneath so much soot and smoke and dirt. I love looking up at it. I also wrote this little piece for the Butler Blog about the inscription inside the Reference Room, so I’m fond of that, too. I do love decorative flourishes!
KG: The best friend that no one knows enough about yet is LibX, a Firefox plug-in that allows you to search CLIO from anywhere with just the click of a mouse. This can make life so much more effortless, and it makes using resources like Google Scholar more effective, as it can take you more quickly to full text.
Then there’s that Serial Set. So much historical government information to be mined from that, and you have no idea how hard it used to be to use, when you had to learn the right indexes to use in the Reference Room and then figure out how to find the right volume in the stacks. Now, it’s as easy to search as Google.
But I mostly love databases that offer a lot of searchable texts combined with images of the original artifact. So, something like EEBO, where you can look up “Curiosities and wonders” as a subject term and find things like this. I have that image (right) hanging on the wall of my office. EEBO stands for Early English Books Online, and includes searchable full text of every book published in English before the year 1700. It’s just got RICHES.
Another, similar resource is Medieval Family Life, which has scanned, full color images of letters from 5 medieval English families, along with full transcriptions, annotations, and historical notes. So, for example, this 1440 letter from Agnes Paston to her husband, William:
DEAR Husband, I recommend me to you, &c. Blessed be God I send you good tidings of the coming, and the bringing home, of the Gentlewoman, that ye weeten (know) of from Reedham, this same night according to appointment, that ye made there for yourself. And as for the first acquaintance between John Paston and the said Gentlewoman, she made him Gentle cheer in Gentle wise, and said, he was verily your son; and so I hope there shall need no great Treaty between them. The Parson of Stockton told me, if ye would buy her a Gown, her mother would give thereto a goodly Fur; the Gown needeth for to be had; and of colour it would be a goodly blew, or else a bright sanguine. I pray you to buy for me two pipes of gold. Your stews do well. The Holy Trinity have you in governance. Written at Paston in haste the Wednesday next after “Deus qui errantibus;” for default of a good secretary, &c. Paston, Wednesday
Yours AGNES PASTON. about 1440. 18 H. VI.
We are in this letter acquainted with the first introduction of a young Lady to the Gen- tleman, intended for her husband, and are informed that she “made hym gentil cher in gyntyl wise:” but it appears somewhat extraordinary, that being the Heiress of a family of rank and fortune, any intimation should be given to the father of the Lover of pre- senting her with a Gown, and especially as “the Goune nedyth for to be had.”
How awesome is that??