News, announcements, updates, and happenings in the UVA Library

Library offers free access to New York Times digital resource!

By Mitch Farish | Wed, 10/06/2021 - 15:53

The Library is now offering full online access to the New York Times to everyone in the University community!

Create a FREE account and you’ll get all the Times’ content, including world news, politics, opinion, business, the arts, book reviews, the New York Times Magazine, as well as Spanish and Chinese editions and hundreds of articles published in other languages. To create your account from off-Grounds locations, users need to have their VPN turned on. 

Once your account is created, the VPN is no longer needed.

This valuable resource, located in the Library’s A-Z Databases, offers not only current issues but a complete archive from when the paper started in 1851 to the present, a distinguished history (including 132 Pulitzer Prizes for journalism) which has established the Times as an authoritative news source, currently ranking 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the United States

You can access the recent Times archive (with full-text issues extending back to 2003) by typing “archive” in the website’s search box. Earlier material can be found by expanding the contents menu (three horizontal lines in the upper left-hand corner of the Times homepage). Click “More” to expand it further and select “Times Machine,” which will open access to every New York Times newspaper published before December 31, 2002.

A picture is worth a thousand words! Flu vaccines in 1918 were injections of “serum” (blood plasma taken from recovering patients). A similar blood plasma treatment has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The archive allows you to experience history as it happened, starting in 1851 — from calls for slavery’s abolition to the Civil War, from two world wars to the Civil Rights movement, from Vietnam to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the COVID-19 pandemic. You will see how journalistic styles and standards have evolved over time, and how the past can sometimes seem eerily similar to the present.

Accounts are available to active students, faculty, and staff with a email account.

Experience unique vibe of the Music Library in Old Cabell Hall!

By Mitch Farish | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:19

Guest post by UVA Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts Amy Hunsaker

The Music Library has been described as a fishbowl, with its Byzantine-inspired blue carpet squares and arched ceilings. It is very quiet there, except for music that occasionally wafts through from a rehearsal or music lecture. Quirky, hidden study spaces are tucked behind walls of books. It is perhaps the most unique library on Grounds and is worth a visit — if you can find it.

Armchairs around a small round table against a background of columns and curved walls containing shelved filled with books..
The main floor of the Music Library. The space was once a snack bar named the Cave in reference to its grotto-like appearance.

Located in the basement of Old Cabell Hall (look for the signs in the stairwell from the central lobby), the Music Library was carved out of a space that was never meant to be visited by the public. The area originally hosted a coal furnace rather than people, so the bricks in the vaulted ceiling remain bare in contrast to other nicely finished interior domes on Grounds. The ceiling has been painted white, but visitors can clearly see the perfectly stacked bricks, designed to be fireproof and last forever. The lower floor stacks area is mostly round, but the shelving is rectangular, creating curious nooks and crannies.

The Music Library currently provides access to more than 150,000 books, study scores, critical editions, and sound recordings. One of our primary services to the University is providing music scores, or sheet music. Any student, regardless of their major, can check out music written for piano, guitar, trumpet, marimba, etc. for practice or performance.

We have thousands of scores, including Broadway folios, operas, modern classical music, folk music, symphonies, chamber music, rock music, and more. If there is music you need or want and we don’t have it, we will either order a copy for the Music Library or help you borrow it from another library. We also provide access to streaming music and videos through Virgo, and there are thousands of CDs and LPs that you can check out. We sometimes host concerts and meetings, and everyone is welcome to come and study. To explore our music resources in more detail, visit the Music Subject Guide. For more information, you can Ask a librarian or phone us at (434) 924-7041.

The Music Library houses an impressive number of music resources shoehorned into a very old, unusual space. It has a unique vibe; come and see if it’s your vibe!

Need Journal access? We’ve got you covered.

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Wed, 09/08/2021 - 16:35

There have been a lot of news stories in the past few years about the “big deals,” academic publishing, and its relationship to journal access in higher education, including here at UVA. And it’s true: what’s happening now is, well, a big deal; one that will affect the way we publish and read for decades to come. This article focuses on three aspects: tools you can download and utilize to make for easier access, processes we’ve put in place on the back end to ensure your access is uninterrupted, and opportunities that have come from this unique moment. If you’re new to this effort, you could start with the Library’s information about Sustainable Scholarship, see recent news stories about the “big deals,” or if you’re familiar and ready for next steps you can jump straight into how you can help.

Our key point today, however, is that the UVA Library is ready and committed to provide continued access to a world of research materials, no matter what.

We’ve been preparing for these transitions for years, and we have infrastructure in place to help you access what you need, when you need it, regardless of contract status or publisher arrangements of any given moment.

Tools to ensure smooth access to academic journals at UVA

Millions of items are discoverable though Virgo, the Library’s catalog — but millions more are harder to uncover since they’re packaged with journals or databases. There are a few tools you can use to quickly gain or request access to academic material on the web, whether you uncover it in Virgo or beyond.

Libkey Nomad Browser Extension locates subscribed or open access full-text articles when you view an article webpage. If we don’t have access to the article, it prepares a detailed ILL request for you to submit. This is one of the quickest and most powerful tools for finding and accessing articles.

The Reload@UVA button is a quick way to see academic material through UVA’s proxy; letting you quickly download articles the Library subscribes to. It can be used in a laptop/desktop browser, or mobile device.

And what about Google Scholar? Adding UVA Library in your Google Scholar settings means faster and more accurate access. Read more about getting the most from Google Scholar.

Want more? The Accessing Electronic Resources Guide will take you through these options and more.

Libraries are building and fortifying reliable pipelines to academic content, so you can get what you need

Library professionals are well-versed in designing information pipelines that can adjust as providers, technologies, and user needs change. Librarians work hard to insulate patrons from the internal workings: from your perspective, access should ideally be pretty much seamless. On the back end, we’re hard at work exploring new possibilities, seeking efficiencies to existing processes, and building collaborative relationships to ensure access at the University of Virginia and across the state. Three examples of this work are Reprints Desk, Rapid ILL, and VIVA partnerships.

Reprints Desk is a clearinghouse that lets Library staff gain prompt access to material at the article and chapter level, directly from the providers. The power of Reprints Desk is that it empowers the Library to pay for exactly what is needed at any given time. Funds saved by avoiding larger package deals can thus go much farther, and be invested in high-priority collecting areas, whether those are demand-based or equity-based. The next section, about opportunities from this present moment, goes into more detail about what this can really mean for the future of Library collections.

RapidILL is another tool that provides prompt access to materials which may not be owned by UVA, but are owned by other institutions participating in this digital interlibrary loan program. At its heart, RapidILL is a database UVA pays to access, which allows Library interlibrary loan staff to identify sources for material we do not own, and to rapidly request and acquire the loan after a patron makes a request. Institutions participating in RapidILL agree to key expectations about sharing content and speed of delivery, making RapidILL a powerful force for quick access to content of all types.

Finally, the VIVA consortium, a state-wide partnership among academic libraries, has enabled a collective opportunity to utilize funding models for electronic access, such as through RapidILL. Building these connections in recent years has led to quicker collaboration and shared access strategies across the state of Virginia. Benefits from this growing consortium will benefit Library visitors for many years to come.

Opportunities, thanks to this unique moment

These major shifts in publishing and subscription practices have inspired a time of invention and opportunity.

The UVA Library has redoubled efforts with Open Educational Resources, and Library subject liaisons are well-versed in helping instructors utilize these materials in the classroom.

The Library is more able than ever to support publishing thanks to Aperio, UVA’s peer-reviewed open access scholarly press. Work with Aperio to openly publish your journals, monographs, textbooks, Open Educational Resources, and more.

Finally, the funds saved from re-thinking the Big Deals mean that libraries can afford additional investment in collections. The UVA Library has put particular emphasis on materials that increase the diversity of UVA’s collection, building on inclusion initiatives throughout the Library. Recent acquisitions include the SNCC Digital Gateway, “Diversity in the Modern World,” “Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings,” and many, many more.

Need something? We have you covered.

In the end, we at the Library do hope you’ll keep an eye on changes in publishing and watch for ways you can help transform the industry for the better. But the bottom line is, no matter the current or future status of big deals, contracts, and publishing in general, we have tools and expertise to get you what you need.

Ready to get started? Ask a Librarian or contact your subject liaison to learn more.

A half century of history and entertainment news available in the Rolling Stone Archive

By Mitch Farish | Sun, 01/03/2021 - 15:54
Top section of Rolling Stone magazine title banner superimposed over cover photo of John Lennon kissing his wife, Yoko Ono, his arm curled around her head.
Rolling Stone magazine cover, January 22, 1981.

The Library has the entire backfile of Rolling Stone magazine in the Rolling Stone Archive — now available in the Library’s A-Z Databases list from its beginning to the present: full-color scans, full-page content, cover-to-cover, including articles, editorials, and advertisements, with article-level indexing and searchable text.

Rolling Stone is a key resource and guide to understanding pop culture changes in music, film, television, and entertainment — from John Lennon to Billie Eilish, from Aretha Franklin to Beyonce, from the conceptual themes and cover art of vinyl albums to individual digital files and back to vinyl again.

Rolling Stone is also a window on history. At the time of the magazine’s launch in November of 1967, it sought to appeal to a generation that defied middle-class conventions and embraced the counterculture rising from the Vietnam-era peace movement. In later issues, you can trace changes in content as the magazine evolved to become more at ease with corporate boardrooms and mainstream politics. Researchers will find a wealth of primary source material illuminating 20th and 21st century history, politics, music, cultural studies, media studies, sociology, and more!

Stories from a half century ago still resonate, such as “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” about the killing of Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar in an LA County police “sweep of more than 7000 people in (Laguna) Park” after the peaceful National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War. Police accounts of Salazar being struck by random fire from street snipers fell apart after sworn testimony of witnesses revealed that Salazar was hit in the head by a shell fired into a bar “by a cop with a deadly tear gas bazooka.”

Other historic items include:

  • 27 installments of what would become Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities”.
  • Photographs by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz — Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub filled with milk, John Lennon curled naked, cuddling on a bed with his fully clothed wife Yoko Ono only five hours before he was shot dead by Mark David Chapman.
  • An early feature on the then-mysterious and deadly AIDS virus.

Find more iconic material in the Rolling Stone Archive today!

Unearthed: Examining the contents of a 111 year old time capsule

By Jeff Hill | Fri, 11/06/2020 - 14:46

- Guest post by UVA Library Special Collections Conservator Sue Donovan

On September 12, 2020, the time capsule underneath the “At Ready”/“Johnny Reb” statue in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse came out of the ground after crews had carefully removed the tons of granite and bronze sitting over it. The time capsule, a copper box containing papers, books, and other artifacts, had been placed into a hole in the concrete foundation. The foundation had expanded over time, pressing in on the sides of the thin copper box, and causing the box lid to pop off. This meant that the time capsule had been soaking in groundwater since slightly after it was buried in 1909. Silt from the groundwater colored the water brown, coated the exterior of the contents, and effectively acted as an adhesive between the surfaces of once-distinct books and rosters. As the water level rose, the contents of the time capsule became bathed in a malignant microcosm perpetuated by a mixture of the inherent acidity of the paper, the metal of the box itself, and nature’s ultimate solvent: water.

photo of open metal box holding confused mass of soggy contents
As received by the UVA Library’s Special Collections Conservator Sue Donovan and Preservation Projects Specialist Nicole Royal, the time capsule was in less-than-ideal condition. photo: Nicole Royal

Unlike paper made from rags prior to the 1850s, most paper made with wood pulp has very short fibers and is inherently acidic. The paper in the time capsule simply did not have the structural integrity to withstand over a century of immersion in dirty, acidic water. Using strips of non-woven polyester and the capillary action of the wet pages, however, some sections of the severely damaged paper could be peeled apart to reveal less-damaged text in the middle of the piles. In addition to this paper evidence, a small flag, a silk ribbon, and three metal commemorative badges were salvaged from the time capsule, while three bullets and two small marbles were recovered from on top of the lid of the copper box.

The bullets, copper box, and badges were analyzed by archaeological conservators at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Interestingly, while the bullets were collected from a local battlefield and placed under a monument to a Confederate soldier, they were determined to be Union bullets based on the date and location of manufacture.

Gloved hands holding tweezers carefully peel back a ribbon from the contents of the open time capsule
A silk ribbon is carefully removed from the time capsule by Special Collections Conservator Sue Donovan. Its luster has faded over the years, but the ribbon is one of the few items in the capsule to survive even remotely intact. photo: Eze Amos

While the time capsule and its contents await a permanent storage solution, they are being stored in a low humidity environment to prevent further deterioration. The few paper-based items able to be peeled apart were air dried flat, with the exception of two slightly thicker sections that were sent to the UVA Library Preservation freezer.

According to the dedication printed in The Daily Progress on March 15, 1909, the contents of the time capsule were not meant to be seen again “until the angel Gabriel shall put one foot on the land and one in the sea, and proclaim that ‘time shall be no more.’”  While this did not occur, the inhospitable environment underneath the monument, which submerged the time capsule for decades in acidic water and silt, has indeed erased some of the contents for eternity.

Progress on the time capsule continues, and much information continues to be discovered about the contents. Please stayed tuned for more updates on the progress of this project.

Library Resource “Caribbean Newspapers” chronicles History of the West Indies through most of the 18th and 19th Centuries

By Mitch Farish | Tue, 01/28/2020 - 15:19

The Library online resource "Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876" features publications from 22 islands, covering 150 years of Caribbean history (most of the 18th and 19th centuries) in more than 140 fully searchable titles. These documents provide valuable insights into the islands’ sugar cane plantocracies and the traffic in African lives that fueled the empires of colonizing countries England, Spain, France, and Denmark.

"Caribbean Newspapers" is an essential source for research in:

  • colonial history
  • international commerce
  • the international slave trade
  • the African diaspora

These momentous years saw the beginning of the end of European control, and saw enslaved people become the leaders of independent nations. The defeat of Napoleon’s forces by the enslaved population of Haiti in 1804 established the first independent nation of Latin America, the first country to abolish slavery, and the only state in history founded by a slave revolt. In Jamaica, Jack Sharpe’s Christmas 1831 rebellion and the international backlash against the brutal reprisals that took an estimated 500 Black lives paved the way to emancipation in 1838.

From the "Weekly Jamaica Courant," 30 July 1718:

On Saturday last arrived the Sloop Edward and Sarah … from the Coast of Affrica, with … 100 Gold Coast Negroe Slaves, Consign’d to Mr. John Major, late of Kingston, Merchant ...


From the "Jamaica Gazette," 3 Jan. 1765:

Run-away about four months ago, a Negro Man, named DREADNOUGHT … it’s supposed he has been carried away by some of the vessels going to the Main … as he is a good sailor Negro … I do promise a Reward of Thirty Pistoles to any white person upon conviction, or Four Pistoles Reward to any Person that will bring him … He speaks good French and English.


From the "Jamaica Watchman," 7 Jan. 1832:

Do they suppose they would be allowed to burn down the properties of their owners, and go unpunished? … No. The bullet or the bayonet will terminate their existence …

Library Resource has full Color, Archival Quality scans of Time and Life Magazines, including Ads

By Mitch Farish | Mon, 11/04/2019 - 14:41

New! The Library offers full issues of Time and Life magazine online, cover to cover with all pictures and ads intact. Click “Research” at the top of the Library homepage. Look in the A–Z list of online resources to find the Time Magazine Archive or Life Magazine Archive. At the EBSCO search page, type search terms. All results will be from that publication.

You’ll have access to Time and Life from their earliest issues through the year 2000, available in a variety of formats. Time has digital full text and archival quality PDF scans you can download, as well as audio for the visually impaired. Image-rich Life has PDF scans, allowing you to read articles and view images as they appeared when the magazines first hit newsstands—ads and photos will enrich research into pop culture and media studies.

These articles depict history in the making, when outcomes were far from certain. In Time, President Harry S. Truman rails against the tactics employed by opponents of his “Fair Deal”: “I am going to keep right on working for better houses, better schools … and I don’t intend to be scared away by anybody who calls that program socialism” (“The Hired Man.” Time, 22 May 1950). In another issue, the military dismisses warnings of the Atomic Energy Commission that atomic fallout could have deadly consequences as “based on the worst possible conditions, i.e., they assume that no one would take protective measures … old and simple steps are highly effective against the new and horrible peril …” (“The Fatal Fall-Out.” Time, 28 Feb.1955)

Images in Life capture police violence against marchers for civil rights in Selma, AL. The U.S. Attorney General urged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to cancel a second march but “he simply wouldn’t budge … ‘I had been agonizing and I made my choice,’ he said. ‘I decided it is better to die on the highway than to make a butchery of my conscience.'” (Douglas, Paul H. Life, 19 Mar. 1965, “Selma: Beatings start the Savage Season”)

Color photo from Life Magazine of police attack on peaceful protesters at the first Selma march, 1965
Peaceful protesters attacked by baton-wielding police at the first Selma march, 1965 (Douglas, Paul H. Life, 19 Mar. 1965, "Selma: Beatings start the Savage Season")
Black and White photo from Life Magazine of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. meeting with other leaders to decide whether to hold 2nd Selma march
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. meets with other leaders to decide whether to hold 2nd Selma march. (Douglas, Paul H. Life, 19 Mar. 1965, "Selma: Beatings start the Savage Season").
Cover photo from Life Magazine of a rally for voting rights across from the White House at the foot of a monument to slave-holding president Andrew Jackson
After Selma, a rally for voting rights across from the White House at the foot of a monument to slave-holding president Andrew Jackson. In 1813, Jackson fought Native Americans in Alabama to open the territory to slave-holding settlers (photo, "The Nation Surges to join the Negro on His March." Life, 26 Mar. 1965).


Documenting and Preserving the Graffiti in Alderman Library’s Study Carrels

By Jeff Hill | Fri, 08/02/2019 - 15:45

Guest post by: Kennedy Castillo (UVA Linguistics MA, 2019), Lise Dobrin (UVA Associate Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics Program Director), Liam Donohue (UVA Anthropology and Environmental Science BA, 2019), Grace East (UVA Anthropology PhD Candidate), Edith Kachia (Visiting Fulbright Swahili TA, 2018-19), Jenny Lee (UVA English and American Studies BA, 2019), Dakota Marsh (UVA English BA, 2020), Jacob Nelson (UVA Linguistics BA, 2020), Will Norton (UVA Linguistics BA, 2020)

Ahead of a comprehensive renovation of Alderman Library that will affect most of the building, the students in the spring 2019 seminar course Literacy and Orality, taught by UVA Anthropology professor and documentary linguist Lise Dobrin, took it upon themselves to preserve an overlooked piece of UVA’s cultural record before it disappears: the scribbles, scratches, text, and art that for years have graced and defaced the library’s hidden study carrels. From April to June, we photographed as many carrels as we could, compiled the results into a database, and sifted through countless forms of graffiti to get a sense of decades of UVA students’ hopes, fears, pet peeves, and unsolicited opinions. The graffiti reveals conversations playing out in slow motion between otherwise isolated crammers. It voices the anxieties and aspirations of contemporary college students striving to leave their mark on a large and sometimes impersonal institution.

A columned building with grassy lawn out front
The University of Virginia’s Alderman Library.

Defacing the Temple

Universities originated as religious institutions dedicated to training the clergy of Medieval Europe. For most of their early history, they were designed with chapels as their centerpieces, reminding students that all their activities were to be in service to the Church.

But at the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson sought to advance his vision of a secular republic by placing a library, not a chapel, at the center. That library was the building we now know as the Rotunda. Though the University has since outgrown its original library, it has never lost the reverence for the book that shaped its original design. In a sense, a University library is a kind of temple that enshrines the book as the most prestigious form of writing and knowledge. Yet for generations the University’s students have enthusiastically scrawled on the library’s surfaces in pen, pencil, and marker in a devalued form of writing: graffiti. The result of this rebellious impulse is a platform through which “high” and “low” texts commingle and University culture is explored privately in a public space. How can it be that graffiti flourishes in the same physical location where the most rarified texts are enshrined?

A wooden shelf thick with scribbled writing
Carrel 4-10. High and low forms of writing coexist

The Alderman New Stacks Graffiti Collection

There are 176 carrels in the Alderman New Stacks. We have photographed 79 of these so far. The photographs are stored in a database, organized by carrel, and then catalogued with annotations and transcriptions according to the various themes found in the multiple instances of graffiti documented in each photograph. The number of photos we have for each carrel ranges from 10 to 95, with the average about 40 per carrel. In total, we have collected over 3,500 photographs of graffiti and completed description and annotation of 28 carrels.

Beyond the unsurprising presence of indecent doodles in many carrels, the graffiti we have collected and analyzed ranges widely in topic, addressing anything from Greek and academic life at UVA to politics, poetry, film, and music. Phrases in Spanish, French, and even Tibetan have been recorded.

A pegboard with two different handwritings
Carrel 4-17. Two critiques of vastly unequal significance in close proximity: one addressing the animated film Toy Story 2 and another decrying the United States’ military involvement in Yemen.

In order to properly catalog the graffiti, we researched phrases or names that were unknown to us, such as the unattributed quote in Carrel 4-14 and the personal name depicted in Carrel 4-15, so that we could use what we learned to annotate the corresponding images in the database.

A rim of soft wood with faint writing
Carrel 4-14 Unattributed excerpt of Derek Walcott's poem, "Winding Up." It reads: “Now I require nothing from poetry but true feeling... We can sit watching grey water and in a life awash with mediocrity and trash. Live rock-like.”
Carrel 4-15. Quote attributed to American hiker, traveler, and itinerant Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp).

With the Library’s support, we continued to document and annotate the graffiti through the summer of 2019, after which time the organized and annotated images are being donated to Special Collections to be preserved for posterity. Through our careful documentation, future students will be able to catch a glimpse of what their forebears had in mind and recorded in their surroundings as they studied in the storied stacks of Alderman Library before the renovation.

Why Do Students Write Graffiti?

We had known since the start of this project that we were unlikely to find the graffiti’s authors and that this would limit our ability to contextualize their messages. Internet memes, song lyrics, and other pop culture references might be validated by an internet search, but that still leaves a large majority of graffiti unattributed. But eventually we understood that the very anonymity we found so frustrating was one of the motivations for students to write the graffiti in the first place.

Unless they get caught red-handed or decide to sign their work, graffiti authors can be confident that their ideas will not be traced back to them. This makes graffiti an ideal vehicle for sharing unseemly gossip or ideas that might not be sanctioned by the university or their peers.

Carrel 4-10 The graffiti in the center of this image is one of quite a few found in the carrels that questions the integrity of student adherence to the UVA Honor System. One student asks whether or not honor is “real”; another to the right offers a rather jaded and cynical response.

Typically viewed as a form of vandalism, graffiti is often found hidden away rather than in open public spaces. The graffiti we focused on is etched onto carrel after carrel of the Alderman New Stacks, which are located as deep inside the building as one can get from the main entrance. Sequestered in the maze-like, claustrophobic stacks, the study carrels surround students with barriers to discourage discussion and aid concentration. Theoretically each carrel is assigned to a specific graduate student, but unless the assigned student is present, anyone who wishes may use the carrel. The New Stacks are known for being a place where one goes to be immersed in silence and where any loud move will draw death stares from everyone around. In this atmosphere of isolation and silence, students feel free to express themselves.

A view down the corridor of book stacks, shelves on either side
Alderman stacks, where students go to enjoy quiet isolation.

On the carrel walls UVA students unburden themselves of secrets and taboo thoughts that they would not feel comfortable expressing in an open public space.

Handwriting reading: I currently have a dildo in my butt AND NOBODY KNOWS. Nice Try, Kobe fans
Carrel 4-20. An unseemly secret can be freely revealed if it is not connected to the revealer.

In this respect, the Alderman carrels are not unlike an anonymous internet forum, something we find especially intriguing given that one of the best known such forums,, was founded at Alderman Library.

Birthplace of Reddit: Alderman Library
A plaque commemorating the registration of the domain name for Reddit by Alexis Ohanian that is displayed in Alderman’s Memorial Hall.
Handwriting on a pegboard reads: Fuck the feds!
Carrel 4-10. Strong political views thrive under anonymity.

Sometimes the anonymity of carrel graffiti is subverted through direct name references. It is much less risky to insult people by name when the writer remains anonymous.

Handwriting reads: Yates pees his bed
Carrel 3-2, with apologies to Yates.

The Graffiti’s Conversational Form

The wood lining of Carrel 4-9 illustrates the way graffiti can unfold in a slow conversation over time. An initial provocation elicited responses from two different readers, the latter responder disagreeing with the first.

Handwriting reads: Are electrons even real? Yeah NO
Carrel 4-9. A simple example of conversation taking place in slow motion.

At times the carrel walls act as a public opinion forum where students conduct conversation about events of major significance at UVA. The image below, for instance, illustrates differing perspectives on the now infamous case of alleged sexual assault at UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity that was described in a 2014 Rolling Stone magazine article and subsequently retracted. The comment in the middle of the image expresses a view sympathetic to the members of the implicated fraternity by calling the case a “witch hunt.” This original comment is in turn surrounded by responses. One below the original statement expresses agreement, while another above dismisses it as a baseless complaint typical of entitled “whiny rich boys,” which itself is responded to with a crossing out. Two other writers engage in a grammatical debate, quibbling over whether the men of Phi Psi are being “persecuted” or “prosecuted.” This example illustrates how multiple students using the same carrel use graffiti to offer commentary both on campus issues and on the discourse surrounding those issues.

Handwriting reads: Phi Psi is being persecuted in a modern day witch hunt. Later edits changed it to prosecuted and crossed out witch hunt
Carrel 4-11. A conversation on the topic of the Phi Psi sexual assault scandal and the aftermath of a Rolling Stone article purporting to expose fraternity rape culture at UVA.

In carrel 4-15 the conversation taking place over time was even more complex. Here the graffiti authors even used arrows to help specify what exactly they were responding to. Along with the arrows, crossing out a piece of the initial message and writing something above it was used to show disagreement. A “+1” was written next to the first additional comment to indicate agreement. While the precise chronology of the comments cannot be determined with certainty, the arrows and other information help differentiate between conversational turns.

A tic-tac-toe game alongside words: White women are the devil/hot, pretty sure that's racist, racism requires structural imbalance so no, just bigoted
Carrel 4-15. A debate regarding reverse racism takes place beside a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Greek Life

Fraternities and sororities are a big part of student life at UVA, so the sequences of Greek letters that identify each such organization are ubiquitous elements of carrel graffiti. The edges of carrel bookshelves are particularly popular places to inscribe Greek-society insignia. Many of these inscriptions are scratched out or commented on, enacting on-going rivalries between Greek organizations. While the differences between these societies may be important from within the Greek system, to an outsider they can seem largely interchangeable. Just like the Greek-letter format itself, the pen or marker scrawlings on a study carrel allow members to declare allegiance to a specific group, but in a highly standardized way.

Various greek letters written on a ledge.
Carrel 4-20. Greek societies advertise and contrast themselves with one another.

Fraternities and sororities are deeply gendered institutions, and this is evident in much of the carrel graffiti. Sorority letters frequently draw responses cast in overtly sexist language.

Carrel 4-20. The Kappa Delta (ΚΔ) insignia, crossed out by one student and responded to by another with an arrow and comment describing the women of this sorority as “pretend nice, actually bitches,” with agreement by an additional student. Also, the insignia of Delta Delta Delta (ΔΔΔ) sorority, with a reply that invokes a stereotype of the women of “tri-delt” as sexually loose.

Students uninvolved in the Greek system may treat it with fascination and disdain. Some have even created their own pseudo-Greek insignia, GΔI, said to stand for “God Damn Independent” (replacing the D with the Greek letter Delta).

Carrel 4-20. The GΔI insignia in the wild.

Students play with the Greek-letter formula in other creative ways, incorporating it into unrelated words and jokes.

Faint handwriting reads: SAM I am
Carrel 3-2. The fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu is incorporated into a line from the famous children’s book by Dr. Seuss.

The Carrel as an Exhibit Space

Carrel 4-9. An origami horse (labelled), bat, frog, and many others not pictured adorn the lower shelf of the carrel.

Although in a sense each carrel is an exhibit space giving viewers something to behold and consider, carrel 4-9 stands out. While its walls, shelves, and desks are covered in graffiti much like the other study spaces, carrel 4-9 includes something that none of the other carrels do: origami figures made from study and lecture notes. Where did these figures come from? What inspired their creator(s) to make them? The only text accompanying the origami are a couple of hand-written sticky notes thanking the origami artist(s) for their creations. We learned from talking with library faculty that the origami had been there for at least two years. How many individuals have contributed to the collection? We will never know. Just like the graffiti, these figures were created anonymously.

Support from the Top

From the very beginning of this project, UVA’s Dean of Libraries John Unsworth took a keen interest in our documentation process, our motives, and our plans for displaying our findings. In May, three members of our group met with Dean Unsworth to find out what made the project meaningful to him.

Dean of Libraries John Unsworth with UVA undergraduate students Dakota Marsh, Will Norton, and Jacob Nelson

Although he was first interested in graffiti as a form of artistic expression, Unsworth told us, he began thinking more deeply about its documentary function after a former student of his published a book displaying the different subgenres of graffiti that she found in the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.[1] Since then, he has invested in other projects focused on graffiti, most notably the Pompeii Forum Project, directed by UVA Art History professor John Dobbins. Unsworth draws parallels between the graffiti that was found at Pompeii and the graffiti found within the carrels of Alderman Library insofar as both are endangered texts. Much of Pompeii’s graffiti was lost forever when Pompeii was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, just as the Alderman graffiti will be lost in the renovation.

Even after the renovation, Dean Unsworth has no plans to prevent students from writing graffiti in the stacks. “I’d rather have people writing on the walls than in the books,” he explained. When discussing what Alderman would be like after the renovation, Unsworth mentioned that the recreation of different kinds of study spaces within the library would be a priority. His plans include using artwork to create a wide array of atmospheres for students to study in. He even hinted at the possibility of commissioning professional graffiti artists to adorn some of Alderman’s wall space. The existing graffiti in Alderman will be lost in the coming semesters, but graffiti has been around long before Pompeii and will be around long after Alderman has been renovated.

Preserving the Past for the Future

Alderman Library was named after Edwin Alderman, who served as the first President of the University from 1904-1931. His goals were to transform the Southern university into a powerhouse for state service and intellectual curiosity, ultimately modernizing Virginia’s higher education system. During his time at the University, Alderman forged long-lasting, impactful, and meaningful strides in service, such as helping create the Curry School of Education and contributing significantly to the University Hospital. However, as with many other early major leaders at the University, President Alderman contributed to a complicated history that conflicts with the founder’s creed that “all Men are created equal.” In 1924 Alderman welcomed the statue of Robert E. Lee that nearly a century later would serve as the flashpoint for a national crisis that resulted in multiple injuries, personal traumas, and one untimely death. Reading through the Alderman graffiti contextualizes the cultural events taking place in and around the University at this time in its history. Our project documents all forms of graffiti, from contemplative musings and inspirational quotes to vitriolic and unsettling slogans. The students who wrote the graffiti were University of Virginia students and each of them contributed to its culture. We hope that surveying the array of art, scribbles, and other inscriptions we have documented will help those in the future understand more about what student life was like at UVA before the renovation. We hope it will inspire a new generation of Alderman users to think critically about our past and our future both inside and outside Jefferson’s temple of learning.

A variety of items with writing like: Save the Stacks! We love Alderman. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars - Emerson
collage of graffiti, featuring Carrels 4-11, 4-17, 3-2, 4-9, 4-15, 4-19, and 4-10.

Check out the graffiti gallery for more, and head over to Alderman Library. The class has put together a mini-graffiti hunt on the 4th floor—look for the “Alderman Graffiti Hunt” bookmarks at the circulation desk in Memorial Hall.

[1] Dombrowski, Quinn. Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur: Confessions of the University of Chicago. Chicago: Q. Dombrowski, 2009.

Cutaway View of Renovated Main Library Shows Vision for Future

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Wed, 11/14/2018 - 14:56

The renovated space includes flexible areas for individual and group study and research throughout the building, as well as new elevators, bathrooms, and stairwells, and all-new mechanical infrastructure.

Cutaway view of the renovated main library
Section perspective from west, looking east towards the Rotunda. HBRA Architects with Clark Nexsen, October 22, 2018. 


Mechanical rooms and building storage will be located on the basement level, as will compact shelving and processing areas for Rare Books School and Library and Flowerdew Hundred closed collections.

First Floor

The first floor will contain the book drop, receiving and sorting areas, and the heart of the collections management functions, including a staff-only connector to Clemons Library. It will also contain open stacks shelving for general collections, and house government documents and the Library’s Tibetan collection, along with a variety of flexible study spaces.

Second Floor

The Library’s preservation and conservation labs will be located on the second floor, as will the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia and Rare Book School. A pair of new north entrances off of exterior terrace space will lead into a large study lounge with a service desk. The café will be on this level, as will the ground floor of two study courtyards under a skylight. The McGregor Room, Lamsam Room, Weinstein Library, and Stettinius Gallery will remain here, and new exhibition space will be added outside of Rare Book School. The Stettinius Gallery will connect the library to Clemons with a new passageway for library users.

Third Floor

The Digital Humanities presence — the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), and the Scholars’ Lab (including their makerspace) — will be on this level, as will the Scholarly Communications, Assessment, and Project Management units. The Taylor and Mount Vernon conference rooms as well as the Garnett Room and the Graduate Student Lounge will also be here. The floor will also contain a large library instruction room as well as study and research space and compact shelving for general collections.

Fourth Floor

An expanded south entrance will lead into the main lobby, complete with service desk and seating areas. The Reference Room will remain as a reading room on this floor, and a large north reading room will be added. This level will contain the primary room for instruction, as well as general collections on static shelving interspersed with flexible study space. Also located on this floor will be the subject liaisons and Public Services staff.

Fifth Floor

The fifth floor will contain general collections on static shelving and flexible study space. Above the fifth floor, a clerestory will admit natural light into the building. The Office of the University Librarian, and the IT, Advancement, Finance, and Communications departments will also be on this level.

View floor plan documents (PDF) or read more about the renovation.