Tower Talk Editor Matt Cook presents his annual must-read list
Author: Matthew Cook
Five gold stars in a row with a person's finger on the fifth in line, as if they're giving a rating

What a year. We were barely into 2020 when the University’s River Campus closed, and when it reopened, it was under uncomfortable, challenging, and mentally exhausting conditions. Off-campus, almost every experience in our daily personal lives has been altered, if not entirely hijacked by the pandemic.

During this time, we know how important various forms of self-care have been to managing stress and anxiety. We also know reading the stories in Tower Talk may not have been your restorative balm of choice, and so, you might have missed some news that you might have found interesting.

We’ve got you covered.

Tower Talk Editor Matt Cook has endured the trauma of going backward into 2020 to bring you 10 stories you might want to read.

‘No-Sleepover’ at Gleason, Part II

You might remember the River Campus Libraries was supposed to begin construction on the Gleason Library Refresh Project in May. Like almost everything else at that time, it was postponed. Well, add this project to your list of things to look forward to in 2021. The refreshing is scheduled to be completed for the fall semester.

In December 2019, I spent a night and very early morning observing how the space was being used. Given all the physical distancing being practiced these days, it’s a wild look back. It paints a picture of a much different—and missed—time. Part II picks up at midnight. Join me. (Recommendation: Read Part I first.)

‘Here we are now, can you train us?’

Hearing Kurt Cobain in your head? If you are, it’s because you picked up on the pseudo-reference to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Ada Wightman ʼ21 paid homage to the song in her exhibit on being a teen in the Middle Ages. You could have seen it in Rossell Hope Robbins Library at the beginning of the year, when physical exhibitions were still a thing. I walked away feeling very silly about every second of my teenage angst.

Since the exhibit is no longer on view, you will have to settle for this story on how the exhibit aligns with lyrics of Cobain’s unofficial teen anthem. Read it.

Tinker, Solder, Program, Code

Did you know Rochester has a mobile makerspace program? It’s called TinkerSpace, and it gives students and faculty the opportunity to learn new skills in a hands-on setting. No special aptitude or previous experience is required; participants only need a willingness to learn (and not be an expert right away.)

Pre-pandemic, the program was giving in-person introduction to Arduino, Microsoft Excel, Raspberry Pi, and more. I learned how to solder. See how it went.

Can I see your pandemic pass, please?

Right now, New York State has various protocols in place to help prevent out-of-state travelers (including New Yorkers leaving and coming back) from contributing to the spread of COVID-19 within the state. Among the requirements is the completion of a Traveler Health Form. You could say it’s the oldest move in the [pandemic] book.

Thanks to the Edward G. Miner Library, we were able to see a “bill of health” used during plague-times. Take a look.

A construction area behind Rush Rhees Library that has been heavily excavated
The area behind Rush Rhees Library being excavated around 1967
in preparation of a $6.5 million addition
Happy Additionday, Rush Rhees

In April, we held a physically distant 50th birthday celebration for the addition to Rush Rhees Library. The Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP) marked the occasion with a digital exhibit.

Mary Ann Mavrinac, provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University Libraries, said, “Having the opportunity to ‘wander’ within Rush Rhees Library through the ages has been a tonic for my spirits.” I encourage you to indulge. Step inside.

The Outreach Bunch

There has been no shortage of heroism throughout the pandemic. Look anywhere long enough and you will find someone whose work is making physically distanced life easier and more bearable. Our librarians have been and continue to be among those people. I didn’t have to look very hard to find someone ready to offer gratitude for help they had received.

This story highlights two faculty members whose lives transition to online education in the spring was eased by their librarians. Learn how.

Meliora through symbiosis

You might be thinking, “No thanks. Science isn’t my thing.” Well, this isn’t that kind of story. This story is about the Carol ’74, Pʼ11 and Sarah ’11 Karp Library Fellows Program. It’s a new River Campus Libraries program that creates a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship between students and the libraries.

The inaugural Karp Library Fellows cohort are split between the Barbara J. Burger iZone and Studio X. Meet the Fellows.

‘Dear COVID diary’

Do you remember what you were doing on March 13 of this year? And if you do, will you remember years from now? You may not want to, but posterity does. That’s why the RBSCP initiated the Archiving Our COVID-19 Stories.

Again, you may be more interested in getting through the pandemic than re-living it. But if you’re curious how the early days looked and felt from someone else’s perspective, I’ve got some journal entries for you. Read them.

COVID-19 Challenge accepted

For the most part, this year has been one giant lemon, and we’ve all been doing our best to make lemonade. Over the summer, the University made this reality a competition for students.

Working in teams, students had 10 days to address real problems that real community partners were facing. The winners received $1500 for their work with 540WMain, Inc. See how they did it.

‘We want more, and we will have it’

Before we knew how thoroughly of a killjoy 2020 would be, the University conceived of “Celebration 2020” to celebrate Susan B. Anthony’s 200th birthday (February 15) and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment (August 18). Part of that celebration was the new RBSCP exhibit Want More and We Will Have It: Women Running Rochester.  

The exhibit was meant to be seen in person, but… You know the rest. A digital version was launched a little more than a month ago. It’s worth a look, but if you need some convincing, there’s a story on it. Check it out. 

Have questions about these stories or Tower Talk? Contact Matt Cook. And if you haven't already, subscribeHappy holidays!