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BiblioBwog: A Few of Karen the Librarian’s Favorite Things

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!

Favorite Resources:

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. A strange and lamentable accident

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:

To my Worshipful Husband William Paston, be this Letter taken.

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

           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??

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  • I concur: says:

    @I concur: LibX is the best thing to happen to research since coffee.

  • Speaking of the Blue and White... says:

    @Speaking of the Blue and White... Did the November/December (whatever month you were previewing) ever come out? I really wanted an issue and was waiting and waiting…but I never saw one!

    1. Anish says:

      @Anish It was distributed last week. You can read the majority of the magazine on Bwog.

    2. and December says:

      @and December is available on plenty of tables in the Lerner Ramps.

  • Aww.... says:

    @Aww.... Why, thank you, Bwog (and Carolyn)! I didn’t realize this entry was going to be dominated by me–we have so many interesting and knowledgeable librarians on campus.

    Thanks again–and best of luck to all our patrons on their exams: may you all pass with flying colors and have safe and happy holidays. We in the libraries will hope to see you after the intersession!

    Karen (the Librarian)

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous karen the librarian rhymes

  • OMG says:

    @OMG I am in love with Karen the Librarian.

  • Karen says:

    @Karen is awesome!! I need to check out more of the graphic novel collection here :)

    1. Please do! says:

      @Please do! And let me know if there’s anything we should have that we’re missing!

      1. That was me, Karen... says:

        @That was me, Karen... failing on the non-anonymous posting….

  • Light Blue Blood'12 says:

    @Light Blue Blood'12 I love the mural. There is so much going on and so many conflicting motifs. e.g. you have the obvious angels and demons fighting alma who is a pagan based figure. Alma of course looks glorious and sexy per usual. The light of the sun which carries connotations of knowledge is helping keep the demons at bay and illuminating Low in the background.

    But my favorite part is the communist symbolism of the hammer and sickle in the hands of the working class in the lower left corner which of course clashes with the fasces the angel is holding in the top left. Is it a coincidence that the angel is holding the fasces? I think not…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Oh, the Butler lobby mural. I really try to appreciate this mural as a novelty piece, but it really just offends my aesthetic sensibilities in every way possible.

      Sometimes I look at it and think, “wow, someone at Columbia had a really great sense of humor in commissioning this”, but then I think about it some more, and it occurs to me that was not likely the case.

      Great post/feature.

  • wow says:

    @wow not a single thumbs down on anything in this thread! a bwog first?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Come now, you asked for it.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Funny what a little non-anonymous commenting can do– since people know for a fact that she’s reading this, they may be thinking a little harder about what they write.

  • PLEASE BWOG says:


  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Glad that our great library and our librarians are being well recognized. Thanks to Bwog!!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I never noticed the Empire State Building/NY skyline on that mural!

  • a little clueless says:

    @a little clueless so cute :)

  • ... says:

    @... sadly, while brief glimpses of the ceiling in 202 do conjure up a rabbit hole of sorts for me, there are no bright flowers nor cool fountains peering back at the other end. instead i see a mirror, reflecting back upon me my own lack of self control.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Karen the Librarian is THE coolest lady. Love her.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous uh. hey there, Bwog. quick question for ya.
    So, I just found out that Butler is closing tonight at 8pm…and so I was just wondering if you had any insight as to WHY COLUMBIA INSISTS ON TORTURING ME. I’m not done with finals for another 40 hours and yet the library closes in 12. why, Bwog?! WHY?! Make it stop. Make the ravaging stop.

    1. I'm pretty says:

      @I'm pretty sure that you are mistaken. Butler is not closing at eight. the circ desk will be open until 11pm tonight.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous oh, thank goodness. thanks for the clarification :)

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I just want to say this is a very cool feature. Karen and ( Carolyn and Bwog ) are all very COOL.

  • a reader says:

    @a reader karen the librarian is awesome and i love her

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