By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
As it is the end of my postdoctoral fellowship, I’ve accepted an offer to become a Special Collections Librarian in charge of the instruction program at the University of Iowa, my alma mater, beginning in June 2015. I’ve very much appreciated my time at the University of Alabama Division of Special Collections. I could not be more thankful for my time with my colleagues in the W.S. Hoole Library and the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, the faculty and students I’ve worked with during my time at UA, and the community members I’ve met while living in Tuscaloosa.
Cool@Hoole was a tradition at the Capstone before I came to UA. The first iteration of Cool@Hoole came under the editorship of its founder, Jessica Lacher-Feldman, currently the head of the Department of Special Collections at Louisiana State University. Lacher-Feldman ran the blog between October 2007 and March 2013.
Serving as the second editor of Cool@Hoole has been an honor. During the time I’ve run Cool@Hoole, between October 2013 and May 2014, the blog posted 140 entries by 49 contributors, including 11 undergraduate and 11 graduate students, 15 librarians, 6 faculty members, and 6 community members from both within and outside of the Tuscaloosa area. Ellie Campbell and Ashley Bond, my graduate assistants from the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), assisted with this output.
Among the topics Cool@Hoole discussed was the pedagogy inspired by the Division’s holdings. During the past two years, we’ve chatted with professors Jessica Kidd, Lauren Cardon, Stacy Morgan, and Brooke Champagne. Rachel Deale, Melissa Young, and Lindsay Smith, three doctoral students from the history department, shared what it was like to be the first graduate student curators on the Division of Special Collection’s newly-launched public history initiative that provides curation experiences for burgeoning subject specialists.
As exhibitions are a venue to promote UA’s unique and rare materials, Cool@Hoole also covered the shows mounted during this period. Topics for our exhibitions included of strengths in Southern photography, World War I, and Confederate print culture and sheet music.
While exhibitions cover significant subject areas found in our Special Collections, Cool@Hoole also provided overviews of particularly significant items and collections. We posted descriptions of Enoch Arden‘s fore-edge painting, a map of Tuscaloosa when the city was still called Newtown, and even what we found in between the pages of the South’s first anthology dedicated to women’s writing and our early modern manuscript! Plus, we gave an inside scoop to the items our staff members count among their favorites.
But what makes special collections great is not just our materials; our Division is made up of the people who bring their expertise to Williams and Hoole every day to help students and researchers. We’ve interviewed six SLIS graduate students who worked at either Williams or Hoole — Alex Goolsby, Ashley Bond, Ellie Campbell, Haley Aaron, Katie Howard, Mary Haney — and provided features by many of the permanent staff who work in the Division, including Associate Dean Mary Bess Paluzzi, rare book cataloger Allyson Holliday, archivist Martha Bace, archivist April Burnett, postdoctoral fellows Chris Sawula and Christa Vogelius, archival coordinator Donnelly Walton, institutional records analyst and reference librarian Kevin Ray, Williams curator Nancy DuPree, archival technician Patrick Adcock, and former institutional records analyst Tom Land. We also remembered Joyce Lamont, our founding mother. Together, we have you covered, whether you want to book a class, trace your ancestry, create a digital humanities project, or learn how to curate an exhibition.
I leave my best wishes to my successor, who will continue the tradition set by Jessica Lacher-Feldman. Please keep reading to learn more about the courses, exhibitions, holdings, and people of the University of Alabama’s Division of Special Collections. I know I’ll be sure to keep visiting too to hear what’s coming up next!
Amy Hildreth Chen