Friends have provided the libraries with support for almost 50 years
Author: Matthew Cook
Winners of the Research Initiative Award

The University of Rochester Libraries made its first official friends in 1972. They were a group of people who shared a keen interest in strengthening Rochester’s resources for research and learning through the libraries. Together they created Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries (FURL)

In FURL’s earliest days, the group had five goals: support library acquisitions, support the Library Bulletin (the University libraries’ newsletter), support student book prizes, conduct a membership drive, and establish a newsletter. They succeeded across the board. (The newsletter they created was called Bibliotalk.)

That was almost 50 years ago. What does it mean to be a Friend today? Mostly the same thing it did then.

Barbara Guhde, co-president of FURL with Sara Varhus ʼ73 (MA), ʼ80 (PhD), explains being a Friend, in general terms, means being an advocate for the library and its services, broadening the libraries circle of friends and potential donors, and at times, providing direct support to students. 

“Even though the work of libraries has evolved and expanded in the digital age, libraries remain the ‘lungs’ of any great university,” says Varhus, a member since 2015. “We support the libraries because we love books, we want to support research, and we want to help address the libraries’ current and future needs.”

Members’ support contributes to the libraries’ advancement in several ways that include expanding the libraries’ collection of books, supporting preservation and conversation efforts, and enhancing technologies and existing facilities. But these aren’t the only ways Friends demonstrate their friendliness.

Here’s a look at three FURL-sponsored annual awards.

Robert F. Metzdorf Award

Established in 1993, the Metzdorf Award is given to those who have distinguished themselves through contributions and meritorious service to the libraries. The award takes its name from revered librarian, curator, and archivist Robert F. Metzdorf ʼ33, ʼ35 (MA), ʼ39 (PhD). The award is presented every June at the annual Friends dinner.

Judith Kharbas is the current chair of the Metzdorf Committee, of which she’s been a member since 2011.

“This award is special in that it gives the Friends an opportunity to recognize and thank outstanding individuals for their contributions and service to the libraries,” says Kharbas.

Last year, the award was presented to Trustee Evans Lam ʼ83, ʼ84S (MBA).

Research Initiative Award (RIA) for Undergraduates

The RIA was created by FURL in 2014 to encourage students to get involved in research. Students who seek to earn this award must meet certain criteria, which includes using library collections and resources and working with faculty members and librarians to develop a strategy, scope, and direction for an independent research project.

Applicants are asked to submit a research proposal, rather than a finished project; their deadline is typically just before Thanksgiving.

While the award is open to all undergraduates, applicants are expected to be interested in working toward a senior thesis, capstone project, or an independent research project. 

“Over the years, we have had many intriguing proposals, which has made selecting winners a pleasant, but often difficult task,” says Udo Fehn, chair of the RIA Committee. “At the same time, it has provided an excellent impression of the wide variety of study areas and very impressive ideas and initiatives at Rochester.”

This year’s winners:

First place: 

Jisoo Woo ʼ20, 
Using LED Light to Enable Asymmetric Olefin Difunctionalization with CO2

Woo’s project explores potential transformations of CO2 that would make it more available to form synthetic compounds. If successful, these methods might also provide ways to remove CO2 from the environment.  

Second place: 

Mackenzie Steen ʼ21
A Systematic Review of Trauma-Informed Teaching in Medical Education

Trauma such as extreme poverty, parental drug abuse, homelessness, or abuse can have a life-altering impact on children’s health. While the effects that trauma can have on a child are widely recognized, little trauma-informed curricula exist in the setting of medical education. The purpose of Steen’s project is to evaluate to what extent this topic is present in the literature used for medical education.

Third place: 

Julian Maceren ʼ20
Investigating Metal-Free Azide-Alkyne “Click” Reactions for Conjugating Peptides to Nanoparticle Carriers

Maceren is involved in biomedical research to develop transport methods for medication to reach target areas to prevent or cure caries (tooth decay). Current methods in this field rely on the use of transport agents containing metals such as Cu, which can have negative consequences for patients. This project outlines new methods that use metal-free approaches to solving the problem.  

Student Book Collection Award

Book collecting is an activity the University has been recognizing for more than 40 years. The purpose of this competition is to further encourage book collecting among undergraduate and graduate students across the University.

Judges are not interested in the size of a collection or the rarity or value of the books. What they’re looking for is a cohesive theme and a logic that would dictate how the collection might grow. Entries must include a short essay that identifies these characteristics. The deadline for this year’s award entries is March 3. 

Award chair Harold Kanthor ʼ66M (MD) has been involved with the award for 30 years. In that time, he has seen a diverse array of winning collections that include Stars Wars, Belgian comic books, Japanese manga, medical oddities, and, most recently, poets of color. 

“Back in the day, book collecting was much more common among university students,” says Kanthor. “But more recently, it is an activity that is only seen among a very special group of students, who are interested in the physical nature of the book and the satisfaction that a collection may bring.”

A collector himself, Kanthor notes that his collection of Gilbert and Sullivan is destined for the University’s library. “I have already started to transfer some of the material to the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation,” he says. 

If you’re interested in learning more about these awards or becoming a member of the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries, contact Barbara Guhde. Enjoy reading about the University of Rochester Libraries? Subscribe to Tower Talk.