April 12, 2024
by library

9th Annual International Edible Book Festival

The solar eclipse wasn’t the only monumental event to happen on Monday, April 8th! The library once again teamed up with Chatham’s food studies program to bring back our much loved and much missed International Edible Book Festival for its ninth installment.

Prior to COVID-19, this internationally recognized event was celebrated by Chatham annually, and we were delighted to finally resume the celebrations after a four-year hiatus.

Started in 2000, the International Edible Book Festival celebrates the loves of food and reading. It brings communities together to share creative literature-inspired food or beverage items (the ‘edible books’ in question). Contestants sign up to submit an ‘edible book’, and on the day of the event they present their book to judges and attendees. The judges taste and evaluate each entry and award prizes, and the attendees vote on their favorites for the People’s Choice prize.

Our esteemed judges! L-R: Heather McNaugher, Barbara Ann McMonigal, Marc Nieson

In 2024 we had four teams and individuals enter ‘edible books’ to the festival’s contest, and our amazing team of faculty judges (Heather McNaugher, Mrc Nieson, and Barbara Ann McMonigal) did their sworn (voluntary) duty! We also had about 30 to 35 attendees filter through the festival, tasting ‘edible books’ and voting for their favorites for the People’s Choice awards.

A huge thank you to Director of the Food Studies Program Alice Julier (and the food studies program as a whole) for the financial support, Falk School Program Assistant and Apiary Manager Rebecca Nathan for all of the logistical and creative support, and FSSE graduate student Grayson Skupin for helping brainstorm creative details. This event would not have been possible without you!

Best Tasting went to Aidan Bobik and Evelyn Fay for Harry the Dirty Dog (“dirt” )

Most Creative Literary Interpretation went to Kate Emory for Madeline (madeleines)

Most Likely to Impress Rachel Carson went to Jocelyn Codner for A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (half-moon cookies / eclipse cookies)

People’s Choice (popular vote) went to Aidan Bobik and Evelyn Fay for Harry the Dirty Dog (“dirt”)

Grand Prize went to Dan and Sean Nolting for Cat’s Cradle (kitty litter cake)

Winners in the 9th Annual International Edible Book Festival in 2024 were as follows: Best Tasting went to Aidan Bobik and Evelyn Fay for Harry the Dirty Dog (“dirt” ). Most Creative Literary Interpretation went to Kate Emory for Madeline (madeleines). Most Likely to Impress Rachel Carson went to Jocelyn Codner for A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (half-moon cookies / eclipse cookies). People’s Choice (popular vote) went to Aidan Bobik and Evelyn Fay for Harry the Dirty Dog (“dirt”) who absolutely knocked this category out of the park! And the Grand Prize went to Dan and Sean Nolting for Cat’s Cradle (kitty litter cake). Their inventive submission managed to both disgust and delight attendees.


Alice Julier and Rebecca Nathan had a wonderful time acquiring fun and creative prizes for our winners. Many of the prizes were bee, honey, or pollinator themed, as Rebecca was also hosting a week of pollinator events up at Chatham’s Eden Hall campus via the Eden Hall Apiary. Many people were lucky enough to get a jar of delicious local honey from the EHA!

Prize cart!

Thank you to the entire Chatham community for helping us keep this tradition alive. We hope you all join us for our big 10-year celebration in 2025. We’re cooking up ways to make it absolutely fantastic. Until then, we hope you all enjoy your creative moments in the kitchen and are blessed with many incredible books.

March 19, 2024
by library

Edible Books are BACK!!

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ The People’s Choice winner, 2019

Do you like The Great British Bake Off? How about puns? Do books delight you? If the answer is yes to one or all of these questions, the International Edible Book Festival is for you!

We are delighted to announce that the International Edible Book Festival is making its return to Chatham after a four-year hiatus (COVID). This tradition, sponsored by the JKM Library and Chatham’s food studies program, will be back for its 9th installment on Monday, April 8th from 4-6pm on the first floor of the JKM Library.

We know many of you have never had the pleasure of experiencing the International Edible Book Festival, so this post is here to answer all (or hopefully most) of your questions. Have more? Contact Reference and Outreach Librarian Jocelyn Codner!

What is the International Edible Book Festival? Started in 2000, this celebration of food and reading brings communities together to share creative literature-inspired food or beverage items (the ‘edible books’ in question). Contestants sign up to bring an ‘edible book’, and on the day of the event they present their book to judges and attendees. The judges taste and evaluate each entry and award prizes, and the attendees vote on their favorites for the People’s Choice prize. A wonderful time is had by all!

What does the event look like? We set up a bunch of tables in the JKM Library’s first floor lobby. Contestants set up their ‘edible books’ for display, and the judges begin their tastings and deliberations. Once the judges have had a chance to taste all entries, the tasting is opened up to all attendees. Attendees enjoy the ‘edible books’ and vote for their favorite (the People’s Choice Award). After everyone has had a chance to taste, vote, and socialize, we then announce our winners and distribute our prizes!

Crowd shots from our 2019 event:

Who is allowed to participate? Everyone! This event is open to all Chatham students, staff, and faculty. It’s also open to the public at large! Anyone can enter an ‘edible book’ into the festival’s contest.

How can I participate? You can attend as just a spectator and vote for your favorite ‘edible book’, or you can participate as a contestant in the festival’s contest! Either way, we ask that you register. It’s important to know how many folks are planning to show up so we can plan for how many people to feed.

What do I need to know if I’m submitting an ‘edible book’ to the contest? Register for the event on Happenings and be sure to mark that you will be submitting an ‘edible book’. You will then receive informational emails from Jocelyn. Your ‘edible book’ can be as simple or complicated as you’d like. It can be a food or beverage item, but it has to have some tie to literature, libraries, or reading. Check out our posts from past International Edible Book Festivals to get inspiration! Deliver your ‘edible book’ to the JKM Library by 3:30pm on Monday, April 8th. You should include with your ‘edible book’ a list of ingredients (for both judging and dietary restriction purposes) and a copy of the book that inspired you! You are expected to stand with your ‘edible book’ during the judging process to answer any questions, but then are are free to go sample other contestant’s ‘edible books’ and vote for your favorite.

Examples of ‘edible books’ submitted to our 2019 event:


What are the prize categories? Each ‘edible book’ entry is eligible to win prizes. Prizes usually include little donated gift items like water bottles, cookbooks, gift baskets, gift certificates, and more. Our categories this year are:

  • Best Tasting: This one is fairly straight forward. It’s not how good your ‘edible book’ looks, but how good it tastes.
  • Most Creative Literary Interpretation: Taste is not as important in this category. Instead, it’s your creativity the judges are looking at. The most creative ‘edible book’ wins!
  • People’s Choice: This is the popular vote! All attendees get to taste the ‘edible books’ and vote for their favorite.
  • Grand Prize: Awarded by the judges, this prize is best in show. It is awarded to the ‘edible book’ that really knocked it out of the park in both taste, creativity, and presentation.

We hope this piques your interest and that you’ll enter an ‘edible book’ creation of your own in our 9th annual International Edible Book Festival. Let’s have some literary fun together!

February 12, 2024
by library

Congratulating Dana Mastroianni, Library Manager & Head of Public Services

Dana Mastroianni smiling with library bookshelves behind her

Dana Mastroianni, Library Manager and Head of Public Services

The library is delighted and proud to see our long-time colleague Dana Mastroianni promoted to the position of Library Manager & Head of Public Services. Dana has done a wonderful job guiding the library through massive changes over the past few months.

Dana joined the JKM Library team in 2003, back when the library was managed by Library Systems & Services (LSSI). Her first position at Chatham was Reference Librarian, which later became Reference & Electronic Resources Librarian. In ’22 she was promoted to Head of Public Services.

With the elimination of the Library Director position in August, a new position was create to fill the leadership gap in the library. In August of ’23 Dana was promoted to Library Manager & Head of Public Services.

Dana received her undergraduate degree in English from West Virginia Wesleyan College and her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Before joining the JKM Library she worked as the Social Work Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library. Prior to that, Dana worked as a student worker in Wesleyan’s library during her entire undergraduate career.

At Chatham, she has led the way on such initiatives as electronic resources, instruction, and Open Educational Resources (OERs).

“Advancing and advocating for OERs for student affordability is something I’m proud of,” Dana commented. “While the workshops Becky Borello and I have done over the past three years have been received well by faculty, working towards a wider institutional effort and acknowledgement of course text affordability for students would be useful.”
Dana has also long served on UPC and was an adjunct instructor for IND175 Introduction to Library Resources for the nursing program for several years.

Navigating the library through tumultuous times is nothing new for Dana. When she joined the JKM Library, Chatham was in a restructuring process that meant huge shifts for the library. Part of that was the immense task of rebuilding the library’s reputation among the greater campus as a place that could serve faculty and student’s information needs again. This demanded a huge amount of outreach and communication with faculty and other departments across the university.

“From that work and those discussions, I was able to understand what faculty and students needed, was able to advocate for resources that met those needs, and also develop and refine library services that best leverage librarians’ skills while serving the Chatham community,” Dana commented. “I’m very proud of being a part of that rebuilding process and having a role in what the JKM [Library] is today.”

Dana has been a constant source of thoughtful and pragmatic support for the library and the Chatham community at large. We are delighted to see her lead our team into this new phase.

“Looking ahead, I believe there are other collaborative opportunities across campus where the librarians can bring value and insight. Becoming more intentional about those opportunities (which is already in progress) is important. Promoting an understanding of the library as a multifaceted space, the building, our collections, and our services is more important than ever as Chatham looks to move forward with furthering academic excellence and student success.”

Please join us in congratulating Dana in her new leadership role here at Chatham!

January 25, 2024
by library

What is the Curriculum Collection?

Sign set at an angle, reads "Curriculum Collection" with an arrow pointing down to the right and a bookshelf.

Our Curriculum Collection has a new home! Enjoy the jaunty sign while it lasts.

It’s not uncommon for folks to come into the library and ask where our Young Adult books are. Up until this month, our answer was always, “the Curriculum Collection!” But what is the Curriculum Collection? And how has it changed this semester?

Many academic libraries have something they call the Curriculum Collection, which is a collection of items (mostly physical books) that support the education department. It’s designed to help education students develop curriculum plans for literacy, usually for pre-K through 12th grade students. A typical Curriculum Collection will include popular fiction and nonfiction books for those age ranges, as well as reference texts for college students studying to become teachers. This is a highly specialized collection built for a specific purpose.

A Curriculum Collection will include everything from popular picture books for toddlers to YA books for teens and older, all in the same space. This causes some confusion for folks looking for a book to enjoy over the weekend but have to sift through a bunch of picture books to get to the books they actually want to read.

The JKM Library’s Curriculum Collection has moved a few times over the last several years. Before the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was housed where the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh’s current exhibit space lives now on the first floor of the library. In order to make room for that exhibit space, the librarians moved the Curriculum Collection to a new room built in Lab 101 specifically for these books. This new room also included (along with the books) furniture and toys for children, a study table, and comfortable seating. It doubled as a space where students who were also parents or guardians could bring their kids while they studied. Librarians understand that childcare is expensive and hard to coordinate, and we were happy to provide a more convenient space for parents to bring their kids while trying to get their own schoolwork done.

Over winter break, IT Support Services (which includes the help desk) moved over to the first floor of the JKM Library. This move will be beneficial to students getting work done in the library, but it did mean some changes to the building. The 24/7 space has been decreased but still offers access to plenty of group study space, computers, and printers. The main computer lab has been moved from Lab 101 to room 103, the Teaching and Learning Commons has moved across the first floor to room 111 (and is still closed and undergoing renovations), and the Curriculum Collection has moved again.

If you are looking for picture books, children’s nonfiction, specialized literacy reference materials for students studying to be teachers, and some middle grade fiction titles, you can find all of those down on our ground floor on shelving units up against the wall near the study tables. You’ll also find children’s toys and children’s furniture down there, and we encourage you to bring your children with you to the library if needed.

Wide shot of Curriculum Collection's new home in basement surrounded by study tables.

Curriculum Collection’s new home on the ground floor near the study tables. Children’s toys are in the plastic bin next to the bookshelves.

In order to make this move work (and to fit the Curriculum Collection on those shelves on the ground floor), we made the decision to separate the collection. Traditionally, YA and middle grade titles are included in the Curriculum Collection to help serve the purpose of the collection itself. The JKM Library has separated out our YA and most middle grade titles from the Curriculum Collection and integrated those books with our general circulating collection. They will now be shelved up on the second and third floors with adult nonfiction and fiction.

Separating the books does make it more difficult for education students to use the Curriculum Collection for its intended purpose, but we’re working to help preserve the magic of that specialized collection with a browse-able online list. This can also help anyone interested in seeing what YA books we have in our collection. When that list is available, we will share it with the Chatham community.

If you are interested in a specific book title or want to know how you can browse our physical book collection in the library building, stop by the main library service desk on the first floor and talk to a librarian.

November 6, 2023
by library

Quick and Easy Reading for Busy Schedules

Quick and Easy Reading display on first floor of JKM Library

Quick & Easy Reading display on first floor of JKM Library.

The library supports faculty and students’ academic pursuits during their time at Chatham by providing access to academic databases, journals, and specialized research services. But the library also supports rest and recreation! Ensuring time for adequate relaxation and creativity supports better physical and mental health and allows for individuals to accomplish more in the long term.

To this end, the library has always acquired recreational reading and viewing materials. We purchase bestsellers, comic books, cookbooks, buzzy nonfiction, and popular book club picks alongside our academic titles. And while we’ve always maintained a Popular Reading display, this year we’ve put a spin on it.

The library’s new Quick & Easy Reading Display has taken the space of the Popular Reading Display after a request from English as a Second Language faculty inspired ideas around how the library presents its collections.

We know that the Chatham community is busy, especially students. We also know that learning English is challenging. It’s not an easy language. But reading engaging books written in English at a more attainable level is a great way to extend proficiency in the language. Thus, the Quick & Easy Reading Display was born.

Chatham community members can browse a selection of Young Adult, Middle Grade, and less challenging Adult titles written in English, as well as poetry collections, graphic novels, and comic books. The goal is not to patronize students, but to give them something they can quickly enjoy and easily digest.

Stop into the JKM Library today to browse this display, which lives on the built-in bookshelves to the right of the main entrance when you walk in (against the windows).

Questions about this or any other displays in the library? Contact Reference & Outreach Librarian Jocelyn Codner.


September 28, 2023
by library

ILLiad Service Now Single Sign-On!

ILLiad is one of the two interlibrary loan services that the JKM Library provides access to. Through it, Chatham students, faculty, and staff can request items (both digital and physical) from our partner libraries. It is most often used to acquire digital journal articles not readily available in our databases, or to request textbooks and course materials from partner libraries.

ILLiad logo

Up until recently, the sign-on process for ILLiad was slightly cumbersome and required users to maintain a separate account with different login information. But recently, Head of Access Services Kate Wenger was able to switch Chatham’s ILLiad access over to a single sign-on (SSO) model, thus making it much easier and faster to log into your account.

The SSO uses your Chatham email and password (like everything else on campus does). It should work seamlessly as long as you do not edit your preferred email. ILLiad will only work with an active Chatham email address. You may encounter the familiar Chatham login screen, prompting you to go through the multi-factor authentication process in order to access Chatham materials and websites. But if you’ve already done that, you should automatically be signed in to your ILLiad account.

You can access your ILLiad account through the “Borrow from Other Libraries: EZBorrow & ILLiad” button on our homepage (below the main search bar), and on that page you will be able to access an FAQ list to help you troubleshoot any issues. If you have issues with your ILLiad account or questions about a request that the FAQ page cannot answer, email ill@chatham.edu.

September 1, 2023
by library

How to Find Free Textbooks at the Library

Textbooks are expensive, but it’s possible that you may be able to request some of those textbooks through the JKM Library or interlibrary loan for free! Whether it’s sitting on our shelves, waiting in our eBook collection, or calling your name from one of our partner libraries, your textbook might be available for free! What’s even better? You won’t be risking a computer virus that those shady websites (like Z-Library and LibGen) often have attached to their “textbook” offerings.

Below are your options for finding free textbooks and course materials through the JKM Library in order of how we, your librarians, recommend you attempt them in.

Option 1. Search the JKM Library Catalog to see if we have the book you need. If you find it, place a hold, and we’ll email you when it’s ready for you to pickup! Or come to the library and ask a librarian to help you find it on the shelves.

Option 2. We have over 1 million eBooks! You can search them for the titles you need by using the eBooks tab on our homepage. Most eBooks will require you read them in the browser window, so if you would prefer to have a physical book, try…

Option 3. Search EZBorrow to find books from other libraries. The books usually arrive in 2-5 business days, and you have 14 days to pick them up at the JKM Library. You can keep these books for the entire semester. EZBorrow works great for textbooks and fun reading!

Option 4. E-ZBorrow doesn’t have the book? Try ILLiad. ILLiad takes longer (9 days on average), and the library that sends the book decides how long you can keep it and whether it can be renewed. Loan times can be as short as two weeks, although a month or two is more common. If you are unfamiliar with

BONUS: Do you have your Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh library card yet? The CLP system us large and has many options available to its users. Students are eligible for library cards with their student ID. The closest CLP branches to Chatham University’s Shadyside and Eastside locations are Squirrel Hill (5801 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15217) and East Liberty (130 S. Whitfield Street Pittsburgh PA 15206). Learn more about CLP locations here.

For student up at Eden Hall, the Northern Tier Library (4015 Dickey Rd. Gibsonia PA 15044) is a wonderful public library close to campus that offers many services to Chatham students.

We hope these options are helpful in your search for free or affordable textbooks during your time here at Chatham. If you ever have a question about how to use interlibrary loan services or locating books in our collection, please ask a librarian! You can ask in person at the library, or email the librarians at reference@chatham.edu.

October 27, 2022
by library

Your Guide to the Perfect Halloween with the JKM’s Movie Collection

A chill has finally settled over Chatham University beckoning in sweaters and pumpkins. Some people revolve their entire year around this season, some will mourn the end of 70-degree days and green trees. No matter which category you fall into, JKM carries DVDs for all attitudes during the Halloween season. Thinking DVDs might be a little retro to compete with all of the streaming platforms out there? These are guaranteed to always be available, while movies come and go off of Netflix and HBO. Didn’t bring a DVD player because…why would you? We have you covered there too, with DVD players that plug into your laptop and TV that can be checked out with your Chatham ID. Now on with the horror! (And not-so-horrific)

horror films at the jkm library

For the Classic Jump Scare Modern Horror Fans
The Conjuring (2013)- If you’re a horror fan then I’m sure you’ve ticked this one off of your list a long time ago. This 2013 film is classic secluded house horror, where the living just won’t leave the paranormal alone. If you like this one, you’re in luck because there is a whole universe that follows the characters introduced. Movies like Annabelle and Insidious can be linked back to the plot of The Conjuring.

The Theater Major
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)- If you’re a fan of Halloween then there is no point in even suggesting this one. A timeless cult classic, this is the only time I would recommend looking beyond the library and seeing if you can catch a live show somewhere around the city. From the catchy songs to Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter, there is something about the original movie that will capture you every Halloween.

Bite-size Horror
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episodes (Various seasons)- Let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t have the time or attention span to watch over an hour of gripping horror. And while you might not think of turning to The Simpsons for a scare, Treehouse of Horror has become a Halloween staple in my home. Filled with classic creepy cliché and tons of pop culture references these are sure to get the Halloween vibes going for any level of horror fan.

The Anti-Halloween Academic
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)- Maybe you aren’t a fan of ghosts, killers, or witches and prefer to spend your time watching classic films and reading novels. While To Kill a Mockingbird might seem a little random on this list, the costumed climax of the film along with the southern gothic feel is why I would recommend it to someone who isn’t a fan of the typical horror genre.

The Horror Expert
Get Out (2017)- This movie caused quite a stir when it was released and for good reason. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is horrifying for its cinematography and social commentary on race relations in America. Psychologically, this movie will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time and might have the best twist in a movie that will come in our generation.

HTV Mom Vibes
Practical Magic (1998)- Dreaming of spending a Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts? Practical Magic will help you achieve that in your living room. A little bit of rom-com, a little bit witchy, and a lot of crazy, it’s required to have a midnight margarita or mocktail to sip on while this plays.

These are far from the only options you can find for a Halloween Movie Marathon, so make sure you stop by the JKM to browse the rest of our media collection. Make sure you have a safe and spooky Halloween season, Cougars!

McKenna DiRienzo is a senior communications student at Chatham. When she’s not working at the library, she likes walking through Schenley, finding the best bagels in Pittsburgh, or catching up on classic horror movies.

October 5, 2022
by library

How to Find Books in the JKM Library

two new books behind held up in one hand

Summer Reading 2022 picks, “Crying in H Mart” and “Project Hail Mary”

October is National Book Month! The JKM Library has thousands of best sellers and fun reading for you to enjoy along side our academic and research focused resources. You can check out any book using your Chatham ID as a library card, and you can keep them for the entire semester. For more borrowing policies, check our “Borrowing Policies” page on our website.

There are multiple ways you can go about finding the perfect book in the JKM Library:

  1. Ask the Reference Librarian. The Reference Librarian can be found at the main desk to the left when you walk into the library building, or you can email them at jkmref@chatham.edu. If you aren’t sure where a particular book is, or if you’d like a book recommendation, the Reference Librarian is always happy to help!
  2. Browse our in-library book displays. The first floor of the library building has multiple themed displays that feature books and films that you are welcome to check out at any time! These displays are to the right when you enter the building, around the comfortable seating.
  3. Browse the bookshelves in the library. Use this handy reference sheet to locate specific genres in our collection, and enjoy browsing until a title grabs your attention.
  4. Watch our how-to videos on how to search for books in our catalog. We have a few quick videos that may be helpful to you as you try locating books in our collection through our catalog on our website:
    1. Browsing JKM Library Catalog Online
    2. Finding Books in the Library Catalog (discusses keywords and how to locate the book in the building)
    3. Placing Holds on Library Items
  5. We have over one million ebooks! For those of you who can’t visit us in person, you can still browse and checkout ebooks through our website. We have everything from biographies to poetry, academic titles to best sellers. Select the “ebooks” tab in our main search box on the homepage and search away.

We hope you can find a book that delights you in our collection, but if we don’t have what you’re looking for, ask us about EZBorrow! Happy reading!

September 30, 2022
by library

National Archives Month and A Very Archival Playlist

October is National Archives Month and the Chatham University Archives is celebrating with a playlist!  A Very Archival Playlist! Click HERE to listen to it free on Spotify.  With contributions from notable archivists in the US and Canada along with details of what makes these songs so very archival, we invite you to enjoy the music, consider the connections to archives, and tune in on October 12, 2022 for #AskAnArchivist where we’ll be soliciting more archives-themed songs to add to the list! Here goes…

Update: We’ve had a great response from colleagues through the Archivist Think Tank FB group and are adding new selections, listed below the annotations, to the playlist.  Got more ideas for songs?  Let us know!  We’ll add them!

Dirty Work by Steely Dan

Colorful images of people alongside stylized name of album and band.

Cover art for Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill

How many times have you heard the phrase “dusty archives” or other illusions to archive being dark, dank, and grimy? Perhaps you’ve heard of archives as being forgotten, secret, or unwelcoming?  Here is our tip… say any of these things to an archivist and prepare yourself, first for a death stare, and then for a lecture on how depictions of archives as being ANYTHING OTHER THAN WELCOMING AND OPEN are ill-informed, outdated, and just completely untrue.  Depending on which archivist you’re talking to, they may then break into a rendition of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” and then start showing you their repository’s Instagram feed and online collections and exhibitions and asking about your research interests and recommending relevant collections.

It is also worth noting here that the narator completes their work despite feeling devalued.

I’m a fool to do your dirty work
Oh yeah

Many archivists are passionate about their work and continue in their careers with an abject recognition that their work is undervalued and our collections under-resourced.  Whether that valuation results from gender-based income disparities persistent in professions historically dominated by women-identifying individuals or because a lot of people don’t understand what archivists do, the unfortunate reality is that most archivists face a disproportionately low income ceiling relative to other professions requiring a master’s level education.

Like the castle in its corner
In a medieval game
I foresee terrible trouble
And I stay here just the same

This devaluation extends to all resources relating to the care of archival collections.  Dependent upon grant funds to enact preservation measures or reliant upon consultants to voice concern about needed infrastructure like climate control, archivists seek to overcome avoidable losses with whatever tools can be mustered.

I Turn My Camera On by Spoon
Selections by Patrick Gavin, Teaching and Learning Librarian, Huron University College, London, Ontario, Canada

Cover art for Spoon’s Gimme Fiction

Spoon has a lot of very archivally-titled songs.  Playlist options from Spoon include: All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed, Plastic Mylar, The Delicate Place, Before Destruction, and The Book I Write.  Ultimately, I picked I Turn my Camera On because of how it reflects the idea of “archival objectivity.” It’s also pretty rockin.

I turn my camera on
I cut my fingers on the way, on the way
The way I’m slippin’ away

In an interview with NPR, Spoon’s Britt Daniel shares that the song is about emotional distance.  Daniel states, “The idea of instead of engaging with the world you’re holding a camera up which, a) puts a camera in front of your face, and b) puts some distance between you and the outside world. And you’re sort of documenting the world.”

I turn my feelings off
You made me untouchable for life
And you wasn’t polite

To me, this verse relates to a controversial notion about “archival objectivity” as a basis of archival authority.  Contemporary archivists increasingly recognize the impossibility of their own impartiality as well as the need to preserve materials reflecting a more inclusive and diverse range of records creators. Gaps in the historical record relating to minoritized communities are a reflection of earlier “impolite” views and efforts to engage and empower more voices reflect an increased focus on equity in the archival profession.

I’m On Standby by Grandaddy

Cover art for Grandaddy’s I’m On Standby/Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake 7 inch

Hardware and software obsolescence are major challenges to the preservation of born digital and digitized records with long-term historical, fiduciary, or cultural value.  With this song, we can imagine the speaker as an obsolete software, like WordPerfect, dodging requests for cloud integration or the ability to transform documents into a web page that now come standard with word processing tools.  The speaker says:

I got good at saying “I gotta go”
Number one at saying “I don’t know”
But from the stories that I heard
You humans require more words

Sympathetically personifying software like this may be a little saccharine, but it does reflect the challenge that comes with preserving digital items that were built to work on software, operating systems, and hardware that have reached end-of-life.

I’m on standby
Out of order or sort of unaligned
Powered down for redesign

The Chatham Yearbooks from 2003 to 2006, distributed on discs and based on software that requires Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 4.1., are a good example of the need for active digital preservation in the modern archival landscape.  These digital records are currently “on standby” in their native file format and copied from the original optical disc carrier.  They can be rendered to patrons, but it’s a little complicated and would require a few additional “work orders.”

Miserere mei, Deus, Amplius Lava Me composed by Gregorio Allegri and performed by The Tallis Scholars

Cover art for The Essential Tallis Scholars Album

Control.  The Vatican controlled all access to Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei Deus, only allowing its performance in the Sistine Chapel on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday of Holy Week.  Additionally, the Vatican promised to punish anyone attempting to copy or publish it with excommunication.  Mozart, however, couldn’t be stopped.  Only 14 years old but already a renowned composer, Mozart attended the 1770 Ash Wednesday performance in the Sistine Chapel and then rushed back to his lodgings to write the entire work from memory.  According to the story, he made minor corrections after hearing the Friday performance.

Is it true?  Could Mozart have jotted down—from memory—the two chorus parts (sometimes divided to create four groups of simultaneous parts) as well as an additional four singers?  Plus, it lasts about twelve minutes (this playlist includes the movement with the high C, Amplius lava me) and is all a cappella, so only voices and no other instruments.  We are talking about Wolfgang Amodeus Mozart, sooo…. maybe?

Whether or not this actually happened, Miserere is a shockingly beautiful piece and I’ll never forget the first time I heard it.

Moreover, the Mozart story brings up issues relating to access and thievery in archives.  Modern high-profile thefts of records function to destroy public access to historical materials through illicit sale to private owners, a practice in stark contrast to Mozart’s pirating of Miserere (the Vatican probably has a different perspective on this).  And while some stolen cultural property is accessible to anyone with an entrance ticket to the British Museum, theft of cultural heritage remains a major preservation concern in archives across the world.

Box of Letters by Wilco
Song selection by Matthew Strauss, Director of the Detre Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Cover art for Wilco’s A.M.

This one is pretty straightforward.  A lot of archives contain boxes of letters.  The letters could be postcards, personal letters, business correspondence, memos, and notes.  Some even consider diaries to be a type of correspondence, written to a future self or to future readers.

An extra archival bit for this entry can be found in the second verse, in which the speaker says:

I wish I had a lotta answers
‘Cause that’s the way it should be
For all these questions
Being directed at me

Loosely interpreted as relating to the process of researching with primary sources, this verse touches upon how the research process invariably generates new questions and prompting re-examination of initial theories.

This verse seems to relate to the reference process, whereby patrons talk to librarians and archivists about their research questions.  While librarians and archivists might happen to have an answer to a specific question right on the top of their head, it is more likely that they will propose research avenues where a patron will look for answers.  This can be unsatisfying for patrons—whose time for combing through records is limited–and for archivists—whose primary aim is to make records accessible.  However, the process of researching with primary sources invariably leads to new discoveries and new considerations.   Research is dialogue, after all.

My Back Pages by Bob Dylan
Song selection and annotation provided by Michael P. Martin, Records Advisory Officer, Towns, New York State Archives

Cover art for Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages single

To me, the song captures many archivists’ struggles.

Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow

Life is far from black and white and only a fuller understanding provided by records stored in archives can provide.

Romantic ideas can be accepted as facts but again a more complete knowledge can be found in archives. Sometimes those deep well known “facts”, about someone or a place that are the foundation of many beliefs are simply not true.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now

The abstract threats can be anything from fires, mold, water damage, human destruction or ransomware.

And, of course, good and bad I define these terms is part of the appraisal process.  What archivists decide to keep or not.

As far as the refrain,

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

I see it as the importance archives and records have in any organization.  Typically, they are seen as the forgotten, older papers that no one ever needs or uses. But we all know the moment when something is needed for legal, financial, or just general interest reasons that suddenly the Archives and the records become not only important but seen is a new gem and resource.

Time by Pink Floyd

Cover art for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

How many times have you looked at old pictures and considered them to be of an era so far removed that you can barely relate?  Or marveled over that something that happened last month seems like it took place a year ago?  Our experience of time is variable, even though the passage of it is a regular as a metronome.

You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

Archives and the records they contain present researchers with documentation of earlier times, whether the recent past or 200 years ago.  Moreover, they deliver the past into the present and invite reflection.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Do the records of successful businesses show a few failures?  Do the papers of authors include only those story ideas that came together for publication?  Have all architectural drawings been built?  Of course not!  Sometimes, those unresolved exercises and project failures can become the most informative resources.

Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel

Cover art for Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends

Gosh, this is such a pretty song.  And, such an archival one!

Clocking in at just under 4 minutes and with just 36 lyrics, Bookends is a spare, acoustic exploration of the forward progression of time and physical embodiments that remain of one’s experiences.  Reflecting on the past, the speaker classifies with phrases that define, characterize, and summarize a seemingly vast bulk of experience.

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

In describing collections of materials that span across thousands of boxes or terabytes of data, archivists pragmatically summarize a collection’s scope to make an intelligible entry point for research.  Do summary descriptions fully convey the impact made by a person, family, or institution?  No.  But they provide a framework from which deeper research can be guided. Was there more that happened in the past besides “confidences?” Of course, but the speaker notes only the most salient elements of the past.

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

Here, the speaker touches upon the remnants of the past that move forward in time, like photographs, and implores others to create remembrances for future reflection.  That records of hugely impactful times aren’t always actively preserved is evidenced by the dearth of records of the 1918 pandemic, for example.

This speaker, like many archivists today, would likely encourage folks to take the time to reflect on their present and to consider how a record of their experience could move forward in time.  The Chatham Archives provides opportunities for community members to contribute documentation of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic at: https://covid19.chathamarchivesdigital.org/

Cover art for Provincial by John K. Samson

When I Write My Master’s Thesis by John K. Samson
Song selection by Emily Ahlin, MLIS, Director of Archives at the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered someone writing a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation? Right, a common experience for many archivists, especially those with humanities or social science collections (*cough* 95% of us *cough*). This ode to procrastination mentions Archives directly in the song – “Oh the hours I spent in the Archives wearing cotton gloves…” Personally, I’ve never made a researcher wear cotton gloves and I rarely wear them myself but I appreciate the symbolism. Of the percentage of the population that understands what an Archive is, many of them associate some kind of gloves or rules of other kinds with the Archives. Plus, we’ve all met procrastinator researchers. Well, actually, let’s be real – the rest of us, working on our master’s degrees, also procrastinated the research. Maybe not by playing Grand Theft Auto, but we still did it. That fact doesn’t make us any less upset when someone calls us the day before a paper is due and needs help finding a minute detail in box 37 of a collection in order for their whole argument to stay afloat. Maybe that’s why we all have large backlogs… “It’s all gonna change. [When I finally finish processing the backlog.]”

Cover art for Kenny Rogers The Gambler

The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Song selection by Emily Ahlin, MLIS, Director of Archives at the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

On the surface, there is not much similar between gambling and archiving, although I would argue that both are addictive (anyone else ever get into a processing groove?). But then the incredibly catchy chorus to this song goes:

“You gotta know when to hold ‘em…” (retention schedule anyone?),

“Know when to fold ‘em…” (generally speaking we don’t really fold things but you have to know what materials to use and when, or when to destroy documents under retention schedule rules),

“Know when to walk away,” (when a collection doesn’t fit your collecting scope)

“And know when to run,” (good luck hiding so that crazy researcher can’t find you)

“You never count your money When you’re sittin’ at the table…” (The poker face you put on so that the donor can’t hear you screaming internally when they hand you a box of moldy papers bound together by rubber bands)

“There’ll be time enough for countin’ When the dealin’s done.” (Have fun removing all those damaging fasteners and doing mold mitigation!)

Additionally, the mentoring the old gambler provides in this song to the young gambler speaks to the collegiality of our profession, and dedication to raising up the next generation of archivists to come after us. And finally, this verse, if you replace “gambler” with “archivist,” and “hand” with “collection,” is simply perfect:

Every [archivist] knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And known’ what to keep…
‘Cause every [collection’s] a winner
And every [collection’s] a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep.

That’s all for now, folks!  We’ll be joining in on #AskAnArchivist Day on October 12, 2022 to share the list and asking for some additional archival tunes to add to the playlist.  What songs do you think carry a secondary, archivally-relevant theme?

Song selections added to the playlist through contributions on Archivist Think Tank:

Hey Ya by Outkast
Camera by Young the Giant
Photograph by Weezer
Take a Picture by Filter
Headline News by Weird Al
Good Riddance by Green Day
Maximum Radiation Level by Man or Astro-Man
Photograph by Ringo Star
Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story from Hamilton OG cast
Kodachrome by Paul Simon
We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel
Objects in Space by La Dispute
Sunday Papers by Joe Jackson
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley
Memory from Cats
Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce
What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers
Be True to Your School by The Beach Boys
Conrl+Del by MegaGoneFree
Love Letters by Pat Boone
Traces by Classics IV
When I Write my Masters Thesis by John K Sampson
Librarian by My Morning Jacket
Burn all the Letters by The Indigo Girls

Skip to toolbar