Editor’s Picks 2021

The editor of the libraries’ newsletter, Tower Talk, has a gift for you: a curated list of stories.
Author: Cook, Matthew
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Large letter blocks spelling out MELIORA in front of Rush Rhees Library on the Eastman Quad

Hello, reader of this story. I’m your writer, Matt Cook, senior communications officer of the libraries and collections. I’m also the editor of the newsletter for the University of Rochester Libraries, Tower Talk.

I made something for you.

Before you get all, “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” you should know that it’s kind of a re-gift. But it did take a year to make. That’s worth something, right?

I’m giving you a list of 10 stories about the libraries from the past year. Allow me to answer some questions preemptively.  

Are these “best” stories? No.

Are these the “most important” stories? No.

Are these stories I think you NEED to read? No.

Are these stories I think you might enjoy based on the content and the presumption that you’re interested in the University of Rochester Libraries? YES.

Are they ordered from oldest to newest to remove any hints of favoritism? YES.

So with that, here is my gift to you. Happy holidays. Thanks for reading.

“Party your assonance off”

The title’s pun might not seem that clever at first glance, but what if I told you it was for a story on poetry? [Assuming you’re nodding in appreciation.] At the end of March, we were coming off two killer recitations from National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, so we were primed to celebrate National Poetry Month. I’ll admit, this story isn’t for everyone. It’s pretty squarely aimed at the brains of those into poetry. But those who are into poetry will appreciate the close look at three collections held by the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Party on.

“RE: Living COVID-19”

We marked a full year of living under the virus-ridden fist of COVID-19 with a six-part oral history, in which library staff members reflect on what it was like to learn about, work through, and for some, contract COVID-19.

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Illustration of the Lady of Shalott
An illustration of the Lady of Shalott by Frances Brundage

And if you’re wondering whether the title is meant to be read “reliving” or “regarding living,” you’re right. Parts I–III.

“The ladies’ lady”

Camelot fans: This one’s for you. In April, Rossell Hope Robbins Library debuted the new digital exhibit Reclaiming the Death of a Beautiful Woman: Female Voices Adapting the Lady of Shalott, curated by Margaret Sheble, the Helen Ann Mins Robbins Dissertation Fellow.

It’s an extensive and layered exhibit that could be intimidating to non-scholars but well worth a look, which is why we broke it down. Your exploration guide.

 “Pride Month’s alright for fighting”

Pride Month’s alright, alright, alright. If you read that as Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, you missed the subtle reference to Sir Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright” in the story title. The song and Elton’s connection to the LGBTQIA+ community were apt tone-setters for a look into Pride Month’s roots in protest.

Lev Earle, special collections processing archivist, offered a personal and historical perspective on the history of Pride by looking at collections held by the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Alright, alright, whooOOOooo.

“Hard Hat Summer”

Gleason Library and Carlson Science and Engineering Library were closed for construction over the summer. Gleason was undergoing a top-to-tail refresh, and Carlson was getting a refreshed first-floor space plus a brand new space: Studio X.

Even though all of these projects are now complete, I’m recommending this story because it offers a good summary of what they entailed, which provides good background for another story in this list. Also, there’s a mini parody of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” that slaps as much as a song about library projects can. Projects of summer.

“The Collector”

It sounds like something from Marvel Cinematic Universe, doesn’t it? But it’s the unofficial alias of a hero from the Libraries Collection Universe. His actual name is Edward C. Atwater ʼ50 (1926–2019), and he spent almost 30 years amassing more than 8,000 HIV/AIDS education posters.

I shouldn’t have to say anything more. Your interest should be more than piqued. Get the origin story.

“Karp Library Fellows 2: The New Batch”

The Karp Library Fellows represent some of the best of Rochester’s students, and this story offers a glimpse into who they are and what makes them exceptional.

Here’s the thing. The story starts with a lot of Gremlins talk. Yeah—Gremlins, the 1984 comedic horror film. See, the title of the story is a play on the full title of Gremlins 2. And there’s this whole tortured explanation that the story isn’t making a connection between Gremlins 2 and the Karp Library Fellows. If you can get past all that, it’s a nice feature on a young, exciting library program. Don’t read this after midnight.

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Meet-up space in Gleason Library
The new "Meet-Up" space in Gleason Library

“Hot Library Fall”

First, we’ve asked, and Megan Thee Stallion is not interested in writing a song about the libraries. The rejecting was tough news for everyone, so please don’t send emails about this. But do get into this story that launched a “glow-up season” for the University of Rochester Libraries.

The story highlights Gleason Library’s amazing transformation. It’s truly shocking. See it to believe it. Before and after.

“Hot Library Fall: URMC edition”

There’s a bit of audio on Instagram that people use for videos of their pets that starts, “Look at this distinguished gentleman.” (If you’re really into this, there’s a five-minute compilation on YouTube.) Part of me wants to put this audio behind video of medical students in the refreshed Reading Room in the Edward G. Miner Library. 

The room looks statelier than ever, but it’s also doing a better job of meeting patrons’ comfort and study needs. Adjust monocle, then click.

“Bonfire of the pleasantries”

One of the most recent acquisitions made by the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation was a letter from renowned Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow to then-Secretary of State William Henry Seward. In the letter, Greenhow lambastes Seward for being placed under house arrest and the conditions of her imprisonment.

What’s so great about the letter—that you can read in its entirety—is the sincerity with which it was written, given she was not only 100 percent guilty of spying but also still spying. There was really only one way to cover this: turn “whining” into wine. Enter the Greenhow cellar

Have questions about these stories or Tower Talk? Contact Matt Cook. And if you haven't already, subscribe to the newsletter.