April Burnett becomes a Certified Archivist

By: Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator

This fall, two Special Collections staff members received honors and promotions. Kevin Ray was promoted to Institutional Records Analyst and April Burnett became the Division of Special Collections’ only certified archivist


April Burnett joined the University Libraries in 2007 when she interned with Doug Boyd, the former head of digital collections. She already had obtained a Master’s degree in public administration from UA, and in late 2007 she graduated from the School of Library and Information Studies with an MLIS. In January 2008, she accepted the position of archival technician in the Hoole Library, a position she has held since then. As an archival technician, April first learned how to arrange and describe manuscript collections so that she would understand the larger picture of archives. Through the years she increased her knowledge base and skillset by taking additional courses on preservation and archival practice.


Example of metadata entered for Keene family biography by James Anderson

Her position is responsible for creating item-level metadata of Special Collections materials that are included in the Libraries’ Digital Collections. After other staff in Special Collections select a collection for inclusion in the digital program, April examines every item that will be digitized, and at the bare minimum, assigns a title to that item. She inputs that title, along with a number of other pieces of data about the item, in a spreadsheet developed by Cataloging and Metadata Services. Searching for that item in Acumen is then pretty easy!

Yesterday a patron asked me if I was familiar with an unpublished biography of the Keene family in Tuscaloosa. The patron had seen it at some point on her many visits to the Hoole Library, but she couldn’t recall how she stumbled upon it. With more than 8000 linear feet of manuscript materials at the Hoole Library, it’s impossible to remember every item. A search of our finding aids and our in-house database found nothing—archivists don’t typically describe materials at the item-level and instead describe materials at the collection, series, box, or folder level. When I keyed “Keene family” in the search bar of Acumen, the University Libraries’ portal for digital collections, the first hit was for “Biography, Sketch of Keene Family and Keene’s Mill, by James A. Anderson, circa 1940” in the James A. Anderson papers. Bingo!


Keene Family biography displayed through the Acumen interface

Thanks to April’s work, we and our patrons are able to locate items, along with their digital images, that earlier would have required the patron to spend an inordinate amount of time searching our materials. April must read letters, diaries, receipts, deeds, and various legal and financial documents to decipher names and dates, as well as the general content of a document. Since we primarily digitize materials that are in the public domain, a great number of these items are written in nineteenth-century script and often very difficult to read. She amazingly has provided the item descriptions for over 71,000 items—an item might be a postcard, or it could be a ten-page letter. Her work often requires her to conduct research to discover the identity of the writer and to inform the creation of names for our database. April is, of course, only one person in the digital program—numerous people in several Libraries departments work to make it easy for patrons to find their materials.  Her portion is the first and very visible step in the larger process.

After receiving training from Cataloging & Metadata Services a few years ago, April is now able to add very important subjects and names to our finding aids to add another level of discovery and standardization to our finding aids and collection records in Special Collections. So far, she has added over 1000 names and subjects for us.

This summer she applied to sit for the Academy of Certified Archivists’ examination, which just happened to be in Tuscaloosa. The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) was established in 1989 to “develop and administer a program of certification and certification maintenance for archivists in the United States and internationally; increase knowledge of archival certification and its benefits within and outside the archival profession; and promote among archivists the attainment of a high level of professional knowledge.” Anyone interested in becoming a certified archivist must apply and gain approval from the ACA to take the test, and upon approval, sit for the exam in one of several designated sites each year. Only archivists with the requisite amount of experience and qualifying educational background may take the exam. The rigorous exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of archival history, theory, practice, and management.

April took the exam in August and recently received confirmation that she passed the examination and is now a certified archivist! She is the only certified archivist in the Division of Special Collections. We are all so proud of her and this accomplishment!

Kevin Ray promoted to Institutional Records Analyst

By: Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator


Kevin Ray, Institutional Records Analyst, and Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator

This fall, two Special Collections staff members received honors and promotions.

Kevin Ray first started working at the Hoole Library in 1993 and stayed until 1998, when he received his MLIS and left UA to work as a media specialist at a public school. Kevin returned to the Hoole Library in 2002 to work as a project archivist for the Bevill Foundation. As the project archivist, he arranged and described the papers of Tom Bevill, a long-time member of Congress from Jasper, Alabama. When the grant project ended in 2004, Kevin began working as the institutional records assistant, a position he held for about nine years. He worked with Tom Land, who was the institutional records analyst. As institutional records assistant, Kevin was responsible for the daily running of our large records management program. Departments on campus send us their non-current records which state law mandates we keep until a certain amount of time (ex: 10 years after creation) until we can destroy them. Occasionally, however, these offices might need to view the record again. A representative from the office then contacts us and requests delivery of the record. We deliver the record to them and retrieve it when they are finished, recording its chain of custody along the way. In addition to non-current records that may be destroyed eventually, we also hold student transcripts as well as many other permanent records that record the business of the University. Requests for these vital records come from the Records Office; we deliver and retrieve these records as well.

In 2013, Kevin became an archival technician, a role that is responsible for arranging and describing manuscripts. Around the same time, Jessica Lacher-Feldman, our faculty member who was responsible for managing our reference activities, resigned and moved to another institution. Kevin very successfully took on the added responsibilities of managing our reference activities—he answered all incoming questions via email and phone calls, and he supervised our reading room activities. Always an essential member of the Hoole Library staff, Kevin’s role and the importance of his contributions skyrocketed in March 2014 when Tom Land retired after twenty-seven years. For several months, Kevin, still an archival technician, took over management of the University archives and the records management program (with the help of Gates Winters, who joined Special Collections in Spring 2013 as institutional archives assistant), while continuing to oversee all reference activities in Special Collections.

As of October 1, Kevin Ray is now officially the institutional records analyst. He has made an impact on our services by developing new records management guidelines that will soon be shared with offices on campus; working with Gates Winters and various offices on campus to very quickly identify large amounts of records (6000+ linear feet) that can be destroyed according to state law and work with University Recycling to accomplish this feat; and updating our reference practices. Special Collections has undergone several changes in the last few years as staff have retired and resigned; Kevin’s selflessness and dedication have made these changes painless for other staff and our patrons. A past recipient of the Library Leadership Award, Kevin continues his long-standing commitment to providing excellent service to our patrons, whether that patron is an undergraduate, a faculty member from UC-Berkeley, or a representative from President Bonner’s office. Special Collections and the University Libraries are very fortunate to have Kevin Ray.

Introducing the blog of Digital Services & The End of the Corolla

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow


Corollas from the late 1940s and early 1950s

The Division of Special Collections and Digital Services work closely together. One of the mandates of Digital Services is to digitize materials from Special Collections to place into the University of Alabama’s online repository, Acumen.

While Acumen contains only a small percentage of the overall materials found in the W.S. Hoole Library and the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, Digital Services works continuously to increase the amount of items that can be viewable online. Just this summer, Acumen released its new interface. Now, users can contribute to the repository themselves by adding their own tags and transcriptions to what they find.

Digital Services has its own blog, which features longer articles on topics related to the materials they are digitizing, fun features on interesting items they come across, as well as guides and discussions of the technical aspects of their division. And, if you want to keep up with the most recent happenings in Digital Services, check out their Facebook and Twitter feeds (@UALibDS).


The Corollas are all available in a cabinet in the Hoole reading room.

Most recently, Digital Services’ blog did a profile on the Corolla — the University of Alabama yearbook that began in 1893 and, it was announced recently, will conclude publication after the 2013-2014 edition due to low sales numbers. Those of us in Special Collections and Digital Services were sad to hear this announcement, as the Corollas are some of the most fun items to pull out to show students and patrons. The Corollas are all available in a special cabinet in the reading room of the W.S. Hoole Library as “ready reference,” which means you can select and browse these volumes independently, unlike the majority of materials in Special Collections that can only be pulled by staff.

In response to the announcement that the Corolla would cease publication this school year, Kate Matheny, the Digitization Outreach Coordinator from Digital Services, generated a series of blog posts documenting aspects of the Corolla as seen in issues from the 1890s-1900s1920s-1930s, 1950s-1960s, and the 1980s-1990s. As Digital Services has an initiative to digitize all the Corollas, many more issues than can be featured on the blog are also available through Acumen. So far, issues from 1893-1909, 1938, and selected volumes from the 1950s-1960s can be found.

We encourage readers of Cool@Hoole to check out Digital Services. Our content is different: Digital Services focuses on longer-form articles and in-depth features written by their staff, while Cool@Hoole strives to recruit short pieces from a diverse set of authors. However, we both feature items and content of general interest to the University of Alabama community, such as information pertaining to the traditions and content found in the Corolla.

Banned: To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved

By: Page Novak, UA undergraduate

This fall, step into the lobby of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall to see Page Novak’s display of banned books celebrating Banned Book Week, which was September 21-27. Novak’s exhibition will be up for the remainder of the semester.

In case you can’t manage to stop by, you can read more about the books she selected to feature here. On Monday, she discussed Ulysses and 1984; today, she shares information about Beloved and To Kill a Mockingbird


Beloved Hoole Library Wade Hall Collection PS3563.O8749 B4 1987


The novel Beloved (1978) by Toni Morrison follows a slave named Sethe who escapes to Ohio from a plantation in Kentucky owned by Mr. Garner to find her family and free herself. Throughout the novel, flashbacks portray what Sethe’s life was like in Kentucky as well as when she first came to Cincinnati.  Sethe was free when she first arrived, but a school teacher from the plantation came to find her and her children.  Before the school teacher could get to Sethe’s children, she took them to a shed to kill them, but only succeeded in killing her youngest daughter who became the ghost that haunts Sethe’s house on 124 Bluestone Road.

Many school districts throughout the United States challenged the inclusion of the novel Beloved on their curriculum.  In 2011, parents of AP English students brought up the racial slurs and sexuality present throughout the novel.  These charges made Beloved one of the most challenged books in the United States since it was published.

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Banned: Ulysses and 1984

By: Page Novak, UA undergraduate


Banned, curated by Page Novak

This fall, step into the lobby of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall to see Page Novak’s display of banned books celebrating Banned Book Week, which was September 21-27.

Novak’s exhibition will be up for the remainder of the semester, but in case you can’t manage to stop by, you can read more about the books she selected to feature here. Today, she shares information about Ulysses and 1984; Wednesday she will discuss To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved



Ulysses Hoole Library Rare Books PR6019.O9 U44 1929


Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce is set in Dublin, Ireland during the day of June 16, 1904. The novel begins at eight o’clock when one of the main characters, Stephen Dedalus, wakes up for work.  Stephen teaches history at Garrett Deasy’s boys’ school. Dedalus meets Deasy, who wants Stephen to take an editorial to his friends at the newspaper company.  That same morning, Leopold Bloom brings his wife Molly her mail and breakfast in bed. At each following hour of the day, Stephen and Leopold’s actions are noted.  Bloom and Dedalus finally meet at the end of the novel.

The novel Ulysses is one of the most challenged and controversial books in history; it was banned in the United States until 1934.  U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey presided over the court case United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses in 1933. He ruled the novel was not pornographic and, a decade after it was published in Ireland, Ulysses would legally debut in the United States. However, it was quickly banned in communities in both the US and the United Kingdom to the novel’s strong sexual themes.  Some groups, such as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, even took legal action to not allow this book to be sold in the United States.  Ulysses still resides on the top 100 most challenged books in the United States and Apple, the company that sells iPhones and iPads, even declined to sell the novel when it was turned into a digital comic because of the presence of nudity.

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When research changes a proposed topic idea

By: Evan Ward, UA MA student in History

This post is an update from Evan Ward’s initial research proposal, seen in his first blog post on April 21, 2014. Since then, his work shifted. As many students fear the moment when they realize the need to change the direction of their research, he agreed to discuss both how and why his research changed in an interview and through the summary presented below. 

We hope his example will not only enlighten others about the significant work he is doing, but also help demystify the process of refining your topic in response to what sources become available. 

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The Iron Age

My project began with a question that occurred to me while studying constitutional change in Alabama during the era of Democratic Redemption. When redeemers retook the state house in the fall of 1874, they associated industrial development with the profligacy and fiscal irresponsibility of Alabama’s Reconstruction governments, which had left the state deeply in debt. The Redeemers of 1874-1875 forbade state aid to corporations, improvements to infrastructure, and sought to repudiate the state debt to the railroad companies, which would have discouraged future investment in the state.

A quarter-century later, when Alabama’s leading figures gathered to again rewrite the state’s constitution, a marked change had occurred in the thinking of the state’s political elite. The 1901 constitutional convention was composed not just of planters and the sons of planters, but of industrialists and corporate attorneys from the state’s mineral belt as well. On the eve of the convention, one of Alabama’s most prominent statesmen, former Confederate general and eight-term Democratic Congressman Joseph Wheeler, lauded the “great hand-maids of civilization, steel iron and coal,” and further marveled at industry’s capacity as a force “exercised in the support of and in extending the influence of American spirit, determined courage and high civilization.”[1]

Why the change? My project initially sought to understand how Alabama’s industrialists pursued their interests in the political arena during this time. But as I read newspapers and industry pamphlets, I was struck by the fervent language that was employed by industrial boosters. I detected a change in attitudes held regarding the dignity associated with industrial labor, and the fitness of industrial managers and wage-workers alike for participation in public life. Some grew to resent the old economic system, under which the gentlemen planter was seen as the epitome of success. “When we cease to entertain extravagant and erroneous ideas of the social dignity of idleness,” The Birmingham Iron Age opined, “and not till then, will we begin to build up our waste places, as the trite phrase runs.”[2]

Whereas talk of manly honor had once been the province of independent landowners, industrial labor began to accrue a kind of dignity and honor that was its own. Some Alabamians began to see miners and mill workers as playing a special role in the Redemption of the state. Though the South had failed to secure political independence, economic self-sufficiency could prove to be the next best thing. The quicker states like Alabama could industrialize, the quicker they could free themselves from dependence on northern-made products and raw materials. The Birmingham Iron Age again describes the mood of industrial boosters, heaping praise on those working in settings once thought of as degrading:

All honor, we say, to the noble mechanic of our Southern land – the bone and sinew of our country – the stalwart men who run our machine shops, foundries, forges and railroads…One such man is worth a thousand of our well-dressed idlers, even though his pockets be lined with gold and his face brazen with brass. The hope of our country is the industrious mechanic. Without them, our country would be a desert waste.[3]

[1] Montgomery Advertiser, April 28, 1901.

[2] Birmingham Iron Age, February 19, 1874.

[3] Birmingham Iron Age, February 26, 1874.

Interview with Evan Ward, UA MA student in History

By: Evan Ward, University of Alabama M.A. student in History


Evan Ward

Hello! Thank you for agreeing to share with Cool@Hoole readers how your research experience in the Division of Special Collections at UA has progressed since we last featured your project back on April 21, 2014.

First off, since your first post just featured an abstract of your project, would you mind introducing yourself?

Sure. My name is Evan Ward, and I am a graduate student in the History Department. I am starting the second year of my Masters degree. I grew up in Prattville, AL, which sits a few miles north of Montgomery. I came to the University in the fall of 2008 to start my undergraduate degree, and eventually settled on history as my major. I originally chose history because of the wide variety of courses that were offered – I was able to simultaneously dabble in the history of ancient Egypt and modern United States. But what I came to enjoy most about my major, perhaps ironically, was its local significance. As I completed an independent research project during my junior and senior year, I was reminded of the rich and immediately accessible history of my own community, state, and region.

 What led you to do research in the Division of Special Collections?

In the second semester of the history graduate program, students enroll in HY 657, a research seminar. The goal of the course is to build students’ experience doing archival research, and it concludes with the completion of an article-length work of original historical scholarship. The first few weeks of the seminar actually meet in various libraries across campus, with the goal of becoming more aware of the vast array of source material that is held with UA’s libraries. While meeting at the Hoole library, the archival staff mentioned the arrival of some new documents relating to southern industry and labor, which happened to be where my research interests were. Thus, Hoole became a kind of base camp as I started my research.

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Cool@Hoole’s One year anniversary!

aam_cToday we celebrate Cool@Hoole’s one year anniversary since it relaunched under its new editor, Amy Chen, in time for Archives Month, as celebrated by the Society of American Archivists (SAA).

Since October 1, 2013, Cool@Hoole published 31 authors drawn from the students, faculty, staff, and community surrounding the Division of Special Collections across 80 posts, including one post every Monday. Posts were in one of five different subjects (listed in order of frequency): holdings, exhibitions, people, teaching, and services.

In the past year, Cool@Hoole particularly is proud of launching its first pedagogy series; remembering the founding mother of UA’s special collections, Joyce Lamont; interviewing the people who work, often behind the scenes, to ensure Alabama’s collections are preserved and made available to all; and showcasing the diverse assortment unique and rare materials that we hold.

Now it’s time to ask our audience what they’d like to see more of in the upcoming year. If you have a moment, please take our survey to let us know what you’d like us to accomplish by October 2015. Please click the link provided above (“our survey”) to access the questionnaire.


Dr. Roth-Burnette’s class discovery

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow


Shannon Driscoll discovers an early modern bug

We have some professors who return to the Division of Special Collections every semester to show their students favorite items from our holdings.

Dr. Jennifer Roth-Burnette, of the UA Early College, often brings her honors Music and Political Movements course (UH 155) to see books pertaining to political and music reform in early modern Europe. We are delighted to host her students while they examine some of the oldest books in our collections.


Here’s the bug up close

Today, they not only got a lesson, but gave one — in the art of observation. Shannon Driscoll found a little insect lurking near the binding of our Spanish early modern codex.

As this codex dates to the 1500s, we would love to ask him about his trip from Spain to the missions of either Central or South America, how he came to live at the University of Alabama after residing with a collector in Louisiana, and why did those who created this volume choose such an idiosyncratic set of music? After all, the codex is quite odd for including music from all different types of services together; usually, each ceremony’s music would be bound separately. We think the monks who created this volume chose a wide range of songs to compile a “best hits” anthology to send to the colonies to help them start a new religious community, but we are not entirely sure. It could be that they simply selected the songs that would have been most difficult to memorize, as most people learned music by ear rather than by following notations during this era. For these reasons, this little insect holds many stories we wish he could tell.


Grammar-Land: Learning to Write in America (1700-1930)

By: Russ McConnell, Instructor in the Department of English


Grammar-land: Learning to Write in America (1700-1930)

From September through November 2014, Grammar-land: Learning to Write in America (1700-1930) is on display in the lobby of the W.S. Hoole Library on the second floor of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall. Curated by Russ McConnell and designed by Amy Chen, this exhibition explores the history of grammar instruction in the United States. 

“The language of our country is certainly more interesting to us than any other. To be able to speak and write it correctly is of great utility in every station of life; especially in a free government, where men of every class ought to be capable of executing those public offices in which their fellow citizens may have occasion to place them. The grammar of this language, therefore, is an object which claims our first attention.” – Alexander Miller, A Concise Grammar of the English Language (1795)

For Alexander Miller, writing his textbook in the aftermath of the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States Constitution, enthusiasm for the subject of grammar coincides with an enthusiasm for democracy. But the American interest in grammar began even earlier than this, as the early settlers inherited a rich tradition of Latin grammatical instruction from England—primarily from the texts of William Lily.  Although he died in 1522, Lily’s writings continued to dominate the teaching of Latin and grammar in England for two-and-a-half centuries afterwards. His approach to the subject found a strong foothold in early America via educators like Ezekiel Cheever.

Although Latin remained a major academic subject in schools and universities, English grammar became an increasingly prominent topic of study. In New York in the late 18th century, Pennsylvania native Lindley Murray produced his authoritative English Grammar which became the most popular and influential grammar and writing textbook in 19th-century America, and was also widely influential in other English-speaking countries.

In the 19th century, instruction in grammar gradually came to include more explicit instruction in the art of effective and persuasive writing. In 1872, Harvard University introduced a compulsory composition course for all undergraduates, a policy that was soon taken up by colleges and universities all over the United States, including the University of Alabama. This period also saw a greater effort than ever before to make the principles of English grammar and composition appealing and interesting to children, and some grammar books began to incorporate entertaining stories, amusing illustrations, and various activities designed to engage the imagination of young readers.

Unfortunately for those who share the views of Alexander Miller, the teaching of grammar suffered a major decline in the 20th century. Yet in recent years, the subject seems to be enjoying renewed attention, with many popular books and websites devoted to English grammar and writing.  We may be heading for a time in which public opinion affirms that grammar “is an object which claims our first attention.”