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

A closer look: Alumni explore Bolívar Collection during ‘Juntos’ weekend

By Molly Minturn | Thu, 04/27/2023 - 11:23

Earlier this month in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, a happy group of alumni, students, and staff posed in front of a portrait of Fernando Bolívar, who was likely the first Latin American student at the University of Virginia. The nephew and adopted son of the Venezuelan leader Simón Bolívar, Fernando enrolled at the University in 1827. He is the namesake for important hubs in UVA’s Latinx community today, including the student residence Casa Bolívar and the Bolívar Network, an alumni steering committee.

The group was gathered for the UVA Alumni Association’s inaugural Juntos weekend, a celebration for Latinx alumni. (The Spanish word “juntos” translates to “together” in English.) As part of that weekend, UVA Library sponsored two events on April 15, including a presentation of Simón and Fernando Bolívar’s artifacts held in Special Collections. For that event, called “A Closer Look: The Bolívar Collection,” UVA Library curators and archivists displayed Simón Bolívar’s silver and manuscripts, Fernando Bolívar’s papers, and portraits of both men that were donated to UVA in 1944 by the Venezuelan government. They also presented more modern items related to the Latinx experience at UVA and the Bolívar Network’s founding.

Members of UVA’s Latinx community pose in front of a portrait of Fernando Bolívar.
During the Library’s Juntos weekend events, members of UVA’s Latinx community posed in front of a portrait of Fernando Bolívar, who enrolled at the University in 1827. In the portrait, Bolívar wears a typical uniform of an early student at the University of Virginia.

“The team that interpreted the objects from the Library’s Bolívar family collection were so thoughtful in their explanations and care for the precious items and their stories,” said attendee Gina Flores, a 2000 UVA alumna and founding student member of the Bolívar Network. “I appreciated the 1827 Bolívar history paired with more current Latinx histories. Seeing some of the founding documents of the Bolívar Network from decades ago reminded me how important it is to collect and preserve UVA Latinx history, past, present, and future. Seeing our community’s history validated my connection to UVA and sense of belonging as an alumna.”

That same morning, the Library partnered with Microsoft’s HOLA Network (its internal Latinx employee resource group), to host a breakfast in Special Collections’ Harrison-Small Auditorium, where Latinx Microsoft employees shared video testimonials about the power of Latinx community. “A weekend like this one is an opportunity for units, schools, and groups across the University to reflect on the journey of Latinx students, faculty and staff since the University’s founding,” said Catalina Piatt-Esguerra, the Library’s Associate Dean of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, during the Microsoft event. “It’s a weekend that reminds us of the impact of community and the power of representation.”

Take a look below at images from that day, captured by photographer and Library employee Eze Amos.

A librarian shares original letters written by Simón and Fernando Bolivar with a group of people.
Jacob Hopkins, Instruction Librarian/Archivist, shares original letters written by Simón and Fernando Bolivar. “These manuscripts, generously donated by Luis Fernando Bolívar, a descendant of Fernando’s, give us more insight into the experiences of some of the first students to attend UVA and the experiences of an international student — particularly one from Latin America — attending the University in the 1800s,” he said.
People look at artifacts.
“It was so rewarding to present these collection materials to alumni who offered additional insight and context into how we can interpret and understand them — whether by helping us translate Spanish-language items or through relaying their own experiences participating in the Bolívar Network,” Hopkins said. “Our collections grow in meaning the more we share them.”
Photo of the dedication a portrait of Simón Bolívar at UVA in 1944.
In the 1940s, Professor James Bardin coordinated the delivery of a portrait of Simón Bolívar to UVA. The University invited a descendant of Fernando Bolívar, also named Fernando Bolívar, for its dedication in 1944, pictured here. The portrait (and the one above of Fernando Bolívar) were originally displayed in Pavilion VI, which served as the home for Romance languages, and have been widely exhibited at Casa Bolívar. Today they can be found in New Cabell Hall. They are a part of UVA’s Fine and Decorative Arts Collection, managed by the Library.
A librarian shows people papers from the founding of the Bolívar Network, an organization of Latinx and Hispanic alumni.
Meg Kennedy, Curator of Material Culture, introduces visiting alumni to items from the founding of the Bolívar Network, an organization of Latinx and Hispanic alumni.
A librarian and a woman flip through a miniature book.
Jacob Hopkins and Gina Flores flip through a miniature book, “Paginas Selectas” [Select Pages], which compiles excerpts from Simón Bolívar’s writings and correspondence.
Two men shake hands.
Juntos attendees shake hands during the “Closer Look” event. “Juntos was an initiative many years in the making,” said Liz Crowder, Senior Associate Director of Alumni Programs at the Alumni Association. “There was a palpable energy and excitement among students and alumni as Juntos came to life on Grounds.”
A collection of 19th-century silver flatware and tea service.
Luis Fernando Bolívar’s donation of Bolívar family materials includes a collection of 19th-century silver flatware and tea service.
A librarian speaks to a smiling woman.
“The event was attended by some of the creators of material in our University Archives collections, including several students who advocated for the rights of Hispanic/Latinx students in the 1990s,” Kennedy said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their efforts and to consider the ways our collections can and should reflect the full range of the University’s student experience.”

For more about the Bolívar Collection, check out these links in the Library catalog:

Introducing the Iselin Collection of Humor

By Jeff Hill | Wed, 04/26/2023 - 13:31

The University of Virginia Library is delighted to announce the donation of a major gift, the Iselin Collection of Humor. Built over many years by noted collector and retired attorney Josephine Lea Iselin, the Iselin Collection will be a tremendous asset for research and learning at the University across a wide range of disciplines.

Book spines
Bound French volumes from the Iselin Collection of Humor

The Iselin Collection, which will reside in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, consists of illustrated books, reference materials, periodicals, prints, manuscripts, and ephemera, principally of social and political satire. The Iselin Collection encompasses more than 800 items, including significant works of 19th-century English and French material, a 20th-century collection of illustrated humor books by well-known editorial cartoonists of the era, and an adjunct collection of 19th- and 20th-century American illustrated fiction, put together, as Iselin noted, “with an emphasis on the quality of the illustration and pure whimsy.”

Both the English and French materials include works by the most celebrated graphic humorists of the period. Giants of the genre of satire and caricature, such as George and Robert Cruikshank in England and Honoré Daumier, Gustave Doré, and J.J. Grandville in France, are the focus of the collections, but many other artists are included. Charles H. Bennett, Richard Doyle, Alfred Henry Forrester, Harold Knight Browne (Phiz), Thomas Rowlandson, John Tenniel, Charles Amédée de Noé (Cham), André Gill, Rodolphe Töpffer, and dozens of other well-known illustrators all appear. Portions of the collection have been the subjects of recent exhibitions at the Grolier Club (in New York City, where Iselin resides). In 2017, the club displayed “Vive les Satiristes! French Caricature during the Reign of Louis Philippe, 1830-1848,”, followed by The Great George: Cruikshank and London's Graphic Humorists, 1800-1850” in 2021. “Vive les Satiristes!” and “The Great George” were curated by Iselin, and catalogs were published for both exhibitions.

Boxes containing materials by the French painter, sculptor, and printmaker Honoré Daumier.
Boxes containing materials by the French painter, sculptor, and printmaker Honoré Daumier.

The Iselin Collection has far-ranging potential for research, instruction, exhibition, and outreach, as the items relate to many fields of study, including art, art history, literature, political science, history, and media studies. In addition to availability in the Small Special Collections Library, the collection will also be used in Rare Book School courses in illustration, printing, bibliography, book arts, and book history.

Brenda Gunn, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation, noted the importance of the collection. “Not only will it vastly improve our 19th-century French and English holdings, but it also serves as a complement and connection to our materials in American political cartooning and satire,” she said. The Library has significant holdings in that area, including manuscript collections, materials in the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, and the papers of acclaimed political cartoonist Patrick Oliphant, whose archive the University acquired in 2018.

Shelves of books, primarily from the English portion of the Iselin Collection.
Shelves of books, primarily from the English portion of the Iselin Collection.

Gunn remarked upon another distinction of the collection. “The Iselin Collection is notable not just for its exceptional content but also as one of the few gatherings of rare materials at the Library amassed by a female collector. The collection reflects Lea Iselin’s critical eye and her passion for the materials, and it shows her extraordinary skill in assembling them into a unified whole. Finally, the collection is in excellent overall condition. We are grateful to her for this singular gift and look forward to stewarding it and making it available for scholars and visitors.”

 The Iselin Collection of Humor is currently being cataloged. The UVA Library will continue to highlight this important collection as work proceeds.



Have a book in need of repair? Check out the Community Book Clinic!

By Molly Minturn | Tue, 04/18/2023 - 11:37

Sue Donovan was raised in Middle Tennessee, where her mother was a storyteller and worked at the county library. “We basically grew up in the library. I brought books to school to read behind the books that we were supposed to read in class,” she said. Now as Conservator for Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library, Donovan still spends her days surrounded by books, mending torn pages and repairing broken bindings. Later this month, she is offering her services to the local community, in partnership with the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (which was named the Virginia Library Association’s 2022 Library of the Year).

In honor of Preservation Week, UVA Library and JMRL will host a Community Book Clinic from April 30 to May 6. If you have a book in need of repair, drop it off at your local JMRL branch in Charlottesville or Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. Place your book in a reusable bag with a completed waiver (there is a one-book limit per family). Donovan, with a team of six additional UVA Library staff members, will mend rips and tears, sew in detached pages, and fix damaged bindings and spines, all for no cost. The repaired books will be ready for pickup in June. “Ever since I moved here [in 2016], I've wanted to do something like this,” Donovan said. “I love being able to help members of the community and local organizations who don’t have conservators on staff.”

Books with tears in pages, detached pages, broken bindings, and damaged spines.
Preservation staff members will fix, from left: tears in pages, detached pages, broken bindings, and damaged spines.

Donovan, who studied book conservation at the Sorbonne in Paris, mends tears using traditional Japanese methods. “We use paper made out of the mulberry plant … and we apply that with a wheat starch paste,” she said. “It’s kind of like tape, but inherently removable with the same solvent, which is water.” While this method of repair is time consuming (the mended pages must be dried under weights until the water evaporates), the mend holds firmly in place once dry, and can be removed with water at any time without further damaging the book.

Book conservators consider adhesive tape to be “evil,” Donovan said with a laugh, because tape can solubilize ink and pigments. “If you put a piece of Scotch tape down on top of a family letter that was written in ballpoint pen, the ink can go up into the adhesive. And even if you remove the tape, which is possible to do, you have damaged part of your heritage.” The Community Book Clinic cannot remove tape from books at this time, as the library that includes the Conservation Lab is under renovation. “We need a fume hood to extract the solvent vapors. So we just can't deal with tape removal for this particular book clinic,” Donovan said.

The clinic can accept up to 75 books total to repair this year. “We’re starting slow, but I’m hoping that the clinic will be a yearly event going forward,” Donovan said. Below, read a few of Donovan’s recommendations for preserving your favorite books at home:

  1. Rule number one is don’t tape your pages, unless, say, you have to carry your book on a journey, and you don’t have any other way to keep the pages intact.
  2. Keep things out of direct sunlight; ultraviolet light can really damage leather, damage cloth, damage paper.
  3. Don’t keep books in the basement or the attic or any other place that doesn’t have temperature control.
  4.  If there are loose pages, or parts of the book are falling off, there are websites out there where you can custom order an archival box and save the materials for your descendants.

The Community Book Clinic begins April 30 and runs through May 6. Visit our Preservation Services page for additional information about caring for your personal book collection.





Join us for a special event: “Keep the Music Playing!”

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Mon, 04/17/2023 - 16:22

The UVA Library welcomes members of the Charlottesville community to celebrate eighty years of Music Department history!

Join us at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, for celebration and performances reflecting on musical recordings dating as far back as the 1940s. The celebration marks completion of a digitization project, making these recordings available for years to come. The event will take place in the auditorium of Harrison/Small; doors open at 1:30.

The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. It is presented by the University of Virginia Library and sponsored by the UVA Arts Council.

Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts, elaborates on the project:

The UVA Music Department has been recording their performances for the better part of eighty years. UVA librarians have actively collected, cataloged, and preserved Music Department recordings as part of the circulating collection. Many Music Department and Library staff put their hearts into making sure these recordings would remain available to future listeners. However, it was made clear during the pandemic that we needed to create a new process to collect and archive the performances so they would be better protected. With this in mind, I worked with University Archivist Lauren Longwell to seek an Arts Council grant which we called, “Keep the Music Playing.” The funds were in part used to pay a project intern to process the existing collection into the University Archives and create a new workflow to collect existing and future recordings.

We will be celebrating the culmination of this project at the April 26 event, where attendees will be able to interact with the collection. Celebrated composer Judith Shatin will speak and we will be treated to a live performance by the Glee Club. The event is supported by the UVA Arts Council.

We wanted to provide a unique view of the collection, so we asked our project intern, UVA fourth-year student Emma Radcliff, to reflect on her experience as a student interacting with many decades of musical UVA history. Emma writes:

After nine months of work, the “Keep the Music Playing” archival project is finally nearing its completion. In total, we inventoried 3,401 items, and processed 522 more. We sorted 2,430 CDs, 466 DATs, 482 cassettes, and a plethora of digital files, reel-to-reels, and concert programs. This collection deserved every moment we spent on it. 

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this project. With materials hailing from as early as the 1940s, the collection represents a deeply significant slice of the University’s history, and as such serves as a lens through which to view enormous historical landmarks — not only has music itself developed over the past near-century with the adoption of digital creation, advanced recording technologies, and new performance styles, but the diversification of the University has profoundly enriched its musical culture. The sheer breadth of this collection — which features Afropop, pipa recitals, jazz, women’s groups, experimental noise, folk music, opera, and so very much more — is demonstrative of a community which expresses its heterogeneous identities in a way that joins people through artistic experience. It’s a trend that I hope will continue. 

Given its significance, the collection needed to be organized for preservation and public access. Accessibility is, of course, at the root of archival practice, and this one has been inventoried at the item level, which is often not possible for large collections. That means that every item with a record is searchable, and every item that lacked a record is still organized to enable discovery by researchers, curious students, or alumni who want to find their old performances.

Working on this collection has been fulfilling. It’s been a challenge, to be sure — working with eighty years’ worth of material means encountering different cataloging styles, parsing impossible handwriting from the 1970s, and wondering why a series of chronologically-ordered cassette tapes from 1996 were labeled “1,” “2,” and then… “B.” I owe thanks to Winston Barham, who put an incredible amount of personal effort into recording, labeling, and cataloging many of the records between 2004 and 2020 before this project was even a glimmer in an archivist’s eye. His hard work, along with that of student employees, contributed hundreds of performance recordings to the collection and enabled me to identify items quickly, which is why so many records could be inventoried at the item level.

I am grateful too for the support of the UVA Arts Council, who recognized the importance of this collection and offered us the resources to properly process it. Their contribution made this possible.


The “Keep the Music Playing” collection will be shelved at Ivy Stacks, and will be searchable through an ArchiveSpace finding aid later in 2023. We hope that you have the opportunity to explore it; it is a treasure of the University.



Access Wall Street Journal (new!) and New York Times through UVA Library

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Wed, 04/12/2023 - 13:23

The Library is now offering access to the Wall Street Journal, including daily news reporting and coverage from around the world.    

To access, visit You will be prompted to create an account, which you can then use on, the Wall Street Journal app, and the Wall Street Journal archives.

With the highest print circulation in the United States, the Wall Street Journal is available in English, Chinese, and Japanese, and users can view the online and print versions through The print edition of the Journal has been available continuously since its launch in 1889, and the paper has won 38 Pulitzer Prizes.

In addition to the Wall Street Journal, Library users can…

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

Digital rendering of print front page of Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2023. Top headline reads: China Rattles Taiwan With Fighter Jets in Military Drill
In addition to the digital version of the paper, digital proximation of the print edition is also available online. The screen shot here is from April 11, 2023.  


5 Books for Arab American Heritage Month

By Molly Minturn | Thu, 04/06/2023 - 14:32

Did you know that Virginia recognized April as Arab American Heritage Month long before it became a national designation in 2022? You can help celebrate the many cultures represented by Arab Americans by exploring the wealth of literature and poetry held by the University of Virginia Library. We’ve enlisted the efforts of UVA graduate students Gretchen Masse and Katelyn Eschmann and librarians Leigh Rockey and Amy Hunsaker. All are avid readers who are excited to share their reviews of old favorites and new discoveries.

A Woman is No Man coverA Woman is No Man,” a New York Times bestseller, is Palestinian-American author Etaf Rum’s first novel. It moves in and out of the past and present as it beautifully interweaves the story of Isra, a young Palestinian woman who moves to New York for an arranged marriage, and her daughter Dreya. Dreya is now a teenager seeking to recover the truth of the untimely death of her parents. As Dreya faces the prospect of an arranged marriage, she grapples with her own ambitions for an independent identity and the expectations and needs of her family — similar to her mother’s journey. Rum highlights the mother/daughter bond while also uncovering the traumatic danger of family secrets. “A Woman is No Man” is a moving, challenging read for all interested in a woman’s right to self-determination and freedom, and the specific nature that journey takes when a woman must navigate both a new, foreign culture and traditional, patriarchal customs. (Katelyn Eschmann)

The Arsonist's CityThe Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan is one family’s story written across Brooklyn, Damascus, Beirut, Austin, and a small California town called Blythe. Of course, these locations function as characters, but they never distract from the engaging and sometimes enraging ancestral drama. You get to know each member of the family well, going inside everyone’s story while they struggle with secrets and gather for what might be the last time at the family homestead in Lebanon. This novel is Alyan’s second, following the amazing “Salt Houses,” and it’s worth everyone’s time. (Leigh Rockey)

Esther's NotebooksIn “Esther’s Notebooks: Tales from My 10-Year-Old Life,” Riad Sattouf, author of the memoir “The Arab of the Future,” based his main character Esther on his daughter’s friend. Every week he would chat with her and from those conversations grew a comic series. Each of the 54 pages of this graphic novel is a self-contained story about a week in the life of its protagonist. This is the first book in a series that stretches four more years to a 14-year-old Esther in France. Esther is eminently relatable and Sattouf’s writing is a highlight of the Arab diaspora. (Gretchen Massey)

The Moor's AccountLaila Lalami is one of my favorite Arab American authors, but before this year, I had never read her brilliant fictional memoir, “The Moor’s Account,” which was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist in 2015. The story is based on true characters who were involved with the disastrous Narváez expedition that began in Florida in 1527. Our narrator and protagonist is the Moroccan slave Mustafa (called Estebanico by the Spanish), considered to be the first Black explorer of the Americas. Lalami’s use of language allows the reader to view the events from the perspective of a 16th-century Muslim man who is forced to participate in the Spanish invasion of indigenous American settlements and left to survive in a brutal wilderness after the expedition fails. The real events of the story took place over the span of a decade, but the narrative propels the reader forward so that it is nearly impossible to put the book down, even if it’s 1:30 a.m. and the reader needs to work in the morning. (Amy Hunsaker)

You Exists Too MuchYou can make jokes about 1980s pop hits, but the protagonist of Zaina Arafat’s “You Exist Too Much is, in fact, addicted to love. This addiction is very real, and it’s ruining her life. Why is it happening? What do her formative gender experiences in Palestine have to do with her current troubles? The interplay of her relationships and her obsessions degrades her lived experience until she seeks treatment and works to find healthy connections with her lovers. Meanwhile, the reader careens around life with her, hoping that meaningful bonds will form out one of her affairs, as long as it’s not that total loser Matias, please. (Leigh Rockey)

Want to explore more? Here are some great resources to learn more about Arab American issues, literature, and culture:





‘Literature in Context’ seeks to provide a digital alternative to print anthologies. A new NEH grant will help.

By Molly Minturn | Fri, 03/31/2023 - 16:23

Literature in Context logo

Six years ago, University of Virginia English professor John O’Brien and his colleague Tonya Howe, a professor of literature at Marymount University, were both wrestling with a problem in their classrooms. Students, up against rising textbook costs, were coming to class with free, but unvetted versions of assigned reading. “These digital versions of literary texts were poorly edited and annotated — if they were edited at all,” Howe said. 

The two professors joined forces with the University of Virginia Library to create “Literature in Context: An Open Anthology of Literature,” a rigorously edited, curated anthology of digital texts that also serves as an open educational resource — students and teachers can access it anywhere for free. Launched in 2017, the project currently offers a vast selection of texts from the 18th century, the period in which both professors specialize. Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded “Literature in Context” a grant totaling $303,104 to expand the project.  

“Our goal is to really scale up Literature in Context to create a full anthology’s worth of texts, from medieval to right up to the copyright line [1927 in the United States],” said Chris Ruotolo, Director of Research in the Arts and Humanities at UVA Library and co-principal investigator of the NEH grant (along with Howe and O’Brien). “Soon, Literature in Context will be usable in lieu of a print anthology that you would typically use for a literature class,” Ruotolo said. 

We spoke to Ruotolo, Howe, and O’Brien to learn a bit more about the history and future of Literature in Context.

Q. Can you talk about some of the challenges students are facing when it comes to textbook costs? 

Howe: Print anthologies are expensive and also wasteful: most classes use a fraction of these enormous books. Publishers make those anthologies obsolete every few years by coming out with new editions.  

O’Brien: And given the cost of textbooks in general, it is not surprising that students often turn to the web and use whatever text comes up first in a search. But they have no way of knowing how to choose a good text from a bad one.

Ruotolo: Students have become very resourceful about finding free versions of these texts. But the versions that they’re getting are not vetted. They’re from different editions, they have errors, they don’t have the same pagination. Teaching to a class where every student has a different version of the text that they’re scrolling through is challenging. Ideally, you want to be teaching with a version of a text that’s authoritative, but at the very least, you want to be teaching with the same version.  

Take Shakespeare: there are major, major differences between the earliest editions and later editions. We need to all be working, literally, from the same page, in order to be able to talk about the text in a meaningful way.  

Q. Tell me about the early days of Literature in Context and how the project is growing. 

O’Brien: The digital texts that students were discovering on their own were bad, but we knew that it was possible to make excellent digital texts, with fuller annotations than any print edition can have, along with images, links to other texts, the ability for students to highlight and interact with the text, and more.  

Howe: We began working with students and colleagues to create a digital “anthology” of reliable literary texts that teachers and students can turn to with confidence. We wanted to make it an open educational resource, freely available for classroom use.  

Ruotolo: In 2017, John, Tonya, and I received a grant from the NEH to develop a proof of concept, which became Literature in Context. [In full, the project has received three grants — two from the NEH and one from the Virtual Library of Virginia — totaling around $400,000.] Other UVA Library staff have made important contributions to the project. Kristin Jensen was named in the new grant as Project Manager. David Hennigan has supported the project since it first launched, assisting with grant administration and budgeting. Dave Goldstein in Library IT has established and maintained the web hosting environment.

As we were developing Literature in Context, John and Tonya were both using it to teach, so most of the texts in the project are from the 18th century. For many of today’s college students, there are a lot of unfamiliar names, references, and allusions to other literary works in these texts. So, the students were able to dive in, identify the things that are unfamiliar to them that are likely to be unfamiliar to their peers as well.  

Q. So, students participate in the making of Literature in Context? 

Ruotolo: Yes! Students provide annotations for the text and sometimes ancillary materials like images, and even video clips to help explain some of the details of texts that might be unfamiliar. They also do some of the back-end work of encoding those texts and putting them online. The idea is that every cohort of students who use these texts are creating some research that grows the project that is then used by future cohorts of students. 

We also wanted to develop a platform that’s expandable so that down the road, other instructors can add the texts that they use for their classes and continue to grow this body of materials that otherwise we’d be paying publishers for.  

O’Brien: We want students, together with faculty, to continue to create annotated editions for Literature in Context as a way into information literacy and the digital humanities. 

Q. What are some of your favorite elements of the project? Favorite titles? Favorite assignments? 

Ruotolo: The Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein entry is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s also one of the texts that shows off the best version of Literature in Context that’s up now. It has a lot of really rich annotations, and it can show you what the project is all about. 

Howe: In developing the project, we thought a lot about what would benefit faculty in the classroom. Instructors using Literature in Context can customize their own anthologies, selecting the texts they want for coursepacks that can, if they wish, be printed on demand.  

Ruotolo: Yes, instructors can customize it. They can include texts that are perhaps outside the canon of texts that are typically included in these anthologies — they can include more women authors, more authors of color, more works that were underrepresented or overlooked by previous anthology editors. Literature in Context is infinitely expandable; there’s no limit on page count. So the idea is to have enough text in the hopper that an instructor can go through and pick which texts they want to use in a coursepack.  

Q. Can you talk about the ways the project intersects with the open educational resource and digital humanities movements? 

Ruotolo: The earliest digital humanities work at UVA Library dates back to the 1990s. Much of this work involved taking digitized texts, indexing them, and making it possible to search across the body of text and look for different words and phrases and compare. Literature in Context really evolves out of that tradition. 

I think the inflated cost of print anthologies has been a known issue for a long time. But there is a fair amount of resistance among literature folks to reading on screens, which I think impeded the momentum to move forward with open educational resources in a lot of disciplines. 

The COVID pandemic shifted the thinking on that; people were really scrambling to find online texts they could use, and I think it opened up both faculty and student perspectives on how useful digital texts could be. I feel like the time has never been better to really try to get some wider adoption of open education resources for literature classes. 

The new NEH grant will allow us to greatly expand the project. And the other piece of the grant is to try to make the texts more easily accessible. This means fine-tuning the accessibility and mobile friendliness, and making texts easily embeddable in course management systems like Canvas, so that it’s that much easier for students to engage with the content. We are really positioning Literature in Context as not just supplementary to what people are teaching, but as a potential replacement for the core course materials.  

Protecting Library user data

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Wed, 03/22/2023 - 15:19

Data matters to the UVA Library. It helps identify what resources are heavily used and what groups of people use them. The Library uses data to assess trends and inform collection building, to make decisions about service desk staffing and service improvements, and to improve teaching and learning services. Data is critical to making smart financial decisions and justifying budget spending and requests.

But some data is sensitive, and the Library is guided by a stringent professional code of ethics, as well as by University policy and state law, to be good stewards of all data. Although all U.S. libraries are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests about how people use libraries, the Library is still subject to court orders and vulnerable to security breaches. Further, some companies allow the collection of user data that can be used for surveillance purposes, a practice that libraries strongly oppose. For instance, in 2021 a legal research and data brokerage firm, LexisNexis, signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to provide on-demand location tracking.

How does the UVA Library use data?

  • To inform collection building through usage trends.
  • For outreach to underserved user groups.
  • To identify areas that could be enhanced by Library instruction materials.
  • To verify Library usage by individual schools and units.
  • To locate lost items.
  • To validate survey results.
  • To corroborate staffing decisions by location and peak usage times.

A recent Library project led by Director of Strategic Technology Partnerships & Initiatives Robin Ruggaber focused on reducing risk to user privacy by eliminating or anonymizing more than a decade of circulation data. The project team first extracted data from the Library systems that run the online catalog, interlibrary services, and request services. The data was then either deleted or anonymized and stored in a new database that can be queried by librarians for business reasons.

Special Collections circulation and digitization requests must be stored for five years due to insurance requirements. However, most circulation data the Library collects is now only retained for 90 days, and the Library is working on policies that will formally codify new data collection procedures and timelines.

Data the Library keeps helps answer the questions of when, where, how long, and how much Library materials are used, and provides some demographic details about the people who use those materials. Sensitive personal information is removed, leaving valuable details about the circulating item
and the date, time, and location of transactions; subject, language, and item type (book, DVD, etc.); and borrower profiles including school and department.

Ruggaber noted that the project to eliminate or anonymize data — a collaboration with UVA’s Chief Information Security Officer, University Records Officer, Institutional Review Board for Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Institutional Research and Analytics — was a significant success. “We have achieved what many thought was impossible,” said Ruggaber, “to provide a way to search and mine anonymized library usage data critical for improving library services while also radically reducing risk to user data.”

This story originally appeared in the Library’s Annual Report for FY 2022-23. Download the full PDF to read more.

The roots of Women’s History Month (plus recommended books)

By Molly Minturn | Tue, 03/21/2023 - 14:25

Guest post coauthored by Cecelia Parks (Undergraduate Student Success Librarian), and Alison Booth, (Professor of English and Academic Director, Scholars’ Lab).

Young man sitting at a table in front of a bookshelf with brochure entitled: “Observe Negro History Week with a book...”
Image courtesy of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center (1967).

Every year in March, countless blog posts, think pieces, exhibits, and programs are created for Women’s History Month, but the origins of Women’s History Month are rarely explored in these pieces – particularly the entwined development of Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

The development of Women’s History Month was closely related to efforts to acknowledge African American history. Carter G. Woodson, who is honored in UVA’s own Carter G. Woodson Institute, founded Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson picked the second week of February for Negro History Week because it contained both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. Fifty years later, Negro History Week expanded to the whole month of February to become Black History Month.

Three women's faces are rendered in black and white color blocks, on a red background. One woman is holding a baby.
International Women’s Day poster, 1977. Image courtesy of UC Santa Barbara, Special Research Collections.

Women’s History Month followed a similar trajectory. The celebration originated with International Women’s Day in the early 20th century and was then associated with the women’s suffrage movement. In 1978, following the advent of Black History Month, Women’s History Week was first celebrated in California during the week that contained International Women’s Day (March 8). Congress authorized the national celebration of Women’s History Week in 1981, and March was officially designated as Women’s History Month in 1987.

Although Women’s History Month and Black History Month are both aligned with important dates for those communities, the celebrations deliberately take place during the school year (intentionally not in the unsettled time of the start of the year) and have always been aimed at influencing the curriculum. The officially designated months grew out of the same movement that led colleges and universities to develop courses, majors, and centers dedicated to Black and Women’s Studies, as they were then called. These changes came in large part from student demand – including at UVA.

Many public conversations about Black History Month and Women’s History Month focus on biographies of well-known members of those communities. The research areas that came out of the 1970s, however, were not solely focused on famous forebears. The UVA Library has many books related to topics that originated from the research and thought that came out of the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s; some recommendations of new and classic fiction and nonfiction books by or about women are below. You can see more recommended books in Virgo.


When we were sistersWhen We Were Sisters: A Novel (2022), by Fatimah Asghar

In her novel, Fatimah Asghar follows three sisters who are left to raise one another after their parents die. The girls’ experiences test what sisterhood means as they also navigate being Muslim women in America.

Girls coming to tech!Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women (2013), by Amy Sue Bix

In “Girls Coming to Tech,” Amy Sue Bix examines the history of women in engineering education, which has historically been perceived as fundamentally and exclusively masculine to a greater degree than other STEM or medical disciplines. She demonstrates that women persevered in studying engineering and diversifying the field even as they were accused of only studying engineering to find husbands (among other obstacles they encountered).

Women of the MidanWomen of the Midan: The Untold Stories of Egypt's Revolutionaries (2019), by Sherine Hafez

Hafez brings to light the crucial role women played in the Arab Spring, particularly in Egypt. She uses firsthand testimony to demonstrate that women protested in the street and used the revolutionary moment to renegotiate many of the structures that governed their lives. Hafez also uses these women’s experiences to discuss the role of the gendered body in revolutionary struggles.

Feminism is for EverybodyFeminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics (Second Edition) (2015), by bell hooks

In hooks’ short primer on feminism, she answers the question “what is feminism?” while critically evaluating contemporary feminist movements and discussing issues related to feminist ideology, such as reproductive justice, sexual violence, race, class, and sexuality.

Your Silence Will Not Protect YouYour Silence Will Not Protect You (2017), by Audre Lorde

“Your Silence Will Not Protect You” is the first major collection of Audre Lorde’s poetry and prose, which are as relevant today as they were when they were first published decades ago. Lorde was an intersectional feminist thinker and writer who described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and wrote about race, gender, sexuality, class, and more.

Care WorkCare Work: Dreaming Disability Justice (2018), by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha explores the disability justice movement, which centers the leadership and experiences of sick, disabled, trans, and Black and brown people, in this short collection of essays. Among the topics she explores, Piepzna-Samarasinha calls for “collective access”making access a joy and responsibility for everyone.

Transgender HistoryTransgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution (Second Edition)(2017), by Susan Stryker

Stryker’s foundational work covers major events, movements, and leaders in American transgender history from the mid-20th century to today, providing context for today’s fights for transgender rights and demonstrating that trans folks have always been here.

Knocking Myself UpKnocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My (in)fertility (2022), by Michelle Tea

Michelle Tea shares the story of her journey to pregnancy as a 40-year-old, uninsured queer woman in this intimate, funny memoir. She writes about her strong friendships, the world of fertility medicine

Working toward access and affordability in higher education

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Thu, 03/16/2023 - 15:22

Library resources have the capacity to enlighten and empower, but only for those who have the time, know-how, and ability to use them — making equitable access a complex concept. Financial challenges are another pressing issue for college students and can interfere with their education in myriad ways, such as through food insecurity or concerns over the cost of textbook materials.

In recent years the Library has implemented staff-wide practices to improve access, including the adoption of design principles that place accessibility at the center of user decision-making; taking care to emphasize that Library resources are available fully free of change — something not all incoming students are aware of; and providing broad accessibility training for staff. Other focus areas include:



The Mellon-funded Federated Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education project continues working to ensure that material remediated for accessibility is preserved, organized, and made discoverable for reuse, thus reducing the duplication of staff effort to improve service to people with disabilities. Recent work by UVA Library Software Engineer Ray Lubinsky has focused on improving the delivery of search results within an accessible interface, allowing users to easily find the right texts, while project partner Benetech, a software company, has concentrated on math and science materials, using artificial intelligence to automate the process of making complex symbols accessible for low- vision or blind readers.

Implementation of and advocacy for electronic course reserves has meant significantly increased ease of access for students who may face mobility or health challenges. Contrasted with print reserves, electronic reserves enable students to log in and access course materials from anywhere in the world.

Accessible and inclusive spaces

Inclusive design is built from the ground up in the new main library, which is undergoing a major renovation until 2024. New entrances, inclusive restrooms, and better elevators will make for more pleasant and safe experiences for all visitors. Plus, the new public connection linking to Clemons Library will ensure easy, weather-protected access between major Library locations.

After a renovation completed in 2021, the Fine Arts Library now includes spacious, private, gender-inclusive, wheelchair-accessible restrooms on the first and second floors.

The Special Collections Accessibility Working Group has undertaken a number of projects, such as improving exterior signage, staff accessibility training, and the procurement of new height-adjustable tables for the reading room thanks to support from the UVA Parents Fund.

Tools for education

Close partnerships with University accessibility services, such as the Student Disability Access Center, the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, and the University Captioning Coordinator, seek to make accessibility information easy to find through the Library website. This includes extensive guidance about captioning, assistive technology, and ways to get assistance for yourself or for others.

Additionally, all documents available on the Library website, including assessment reports, annual reports, and more, are now fully accessible PDFs.

The Library’s Access Services team works closely with the Student Disability Access Center to provide a consistent level of access to content for students requesting an accessibility accommodation. Both Access Services and SDAC scan print materials for students who use a screen reader or other assistive technology, and services are coordinated such that students receive accessible content in a consistent format and level of processing. Access Services also acquires or borrows physical copies of requested materials for students whose accommodation is best served by accessing content in a physical format. By coordinating these services, the Library and SDAC ensure a consistently high service level that remains flexible enough to meet the needs of an individual student.

Finally, the Library received funding from the Provost’s Office in spring 2022 to cover more than 30 hours of proactive captioning of audiovisual materials, including the entire William Elwood Civil Rights Lawyers Project Collection, as well as open educational resources, teaching and learning materials, and items from the Robertson Media Center.


Open educational resources are high-quality learning materials that can be used, edited, and shared free of charge. The Library offers extensive information about finding and creating OER; as well as regularly recurring information sessions; all with the goal of lessening expenses for students while maintaining high-quality educational materials. Additionally, the Library recently launched OER affordability and equity grants to offer assistance and incentives to instructors wishing to use or create OER materials.

Open educational resources programs are guided by Judith Thomas, Director of Faculty Programs, with a team that includes Teaching and Learning librarians Bethany Mickel and Haley Gillilan, as well as Open Access Librarian Winston Barham.

The open access movement is another way education is made more affordable, by encouraging the creation of published academic articles without paywall restrictions.

The School of Data Science has worked closely with the Library through subject liaison and Associate Director of Research Data Services + Social, Natural, and Engineering Sciences Jenn Huck to make open access practices part of the departmental culture. Additionally, the UVA Faculty Senate endorsed repository-based open access in their open access guidelines, underscoring the importance of Library work to help faculty understand options for open access publishers and licensing.

Finally, UVA is proud to have been accepted into Virginia’s Academic Library Consortium’s “Curriculum Driven Acquisitions” Program beginning in fall 2022. Through the program, the consortium receives a list of assigned course texts and uses central funds to acquire unlimited-use e-books for the Library’s collection. Through this mechanism, the program relieves financial pressures on students, and serves to build the Library’s collection in an organic manner. UVA Library’s acceptance into the program is a result of collaboration between the UVA Bookstore and Scholarly Resources and Content Strategy staff, particularly members of the Library’s Acquisitions team.

This story originally appeared in the Library’s Annual Report for FY 2022-23. Download the full PDF to read more.