Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From the Director

2009 marked the Russell Library’s 35th year—a year so busy that we have had no time to pause or reflect. Our celebration seemingly has been an acceleration of activities that demonstrate the growth and prominence of the Russell. If you follow us on the Web or otherwise, you have a good idea of what’s happening. With my first blog post, however, I am going to pause and reflect about the productive year we have had.

In September 2009, our online launch of a new database of research finding aids eclipsed any other event. A project of several years (not counting those in which we only could dream of the possibility) brought to fruition, it was almost “show-stopping”; we are so proud. The database allows patrons to conduct full-text searching of collection finding aids, browse by subject, and browse alphabetically by collection title and collection creator. Not only are our collections more accessible for off-site users but also all patrons can target collections that are most relevant to their areas of interest. At present, the database contains finding aids for over a hundred of our collections – a number that will grow extensively as staff members continue to build this resource.

The same month, the Vintage Baseball database was put online. It was also a project of numerous years, but so worth the wait. The development of the databases was a collaborative effort among former and current staff members of the Russell Library, the Digital Library of Georgia, and the Libraries Systems department. On the frontline for us was Abby Griner, who is persistent and obviously loves challenges. Brava, Abby.

Below: oral history interview with Bill Stuckey

Our Media and Oral History unit spent the year on the road again with Bob Short. Reflections on Georgia Politics produced its 89th interview and the project team has great plans for 2010. Fortunately, this project continues to garner financial gifts for its operation. Chris Lopez’s arrival in midyear was welcomed by all and allowed the unit more flexibility for completing administrative work and managing the media collections. The unit has also expanded partnerships on and off campus that will build collections, promote programming, and provide needed support. Congratulations to Craig Breaden and MOH for steadily building one of the top such programs among research centers.

Below: Sheryl and Kat on collecting trip
Arrangement and Description, led by Kat Shirley, bears the challenge of preparing for our first move. Conducting a complete inventory of holdings at four sites, correcting intellectual and physical errors and updating records; contributing to decision-making on bar coding and high density retrieval systems, on new building workflow, storage, and office systems, specs for a paper Conservation Lab; planning the physical move of collections and re-shelving are just a few of Kat’s tasks. Although there is some student assistance, she has no respite from regular duties such as collection pick up, accessioning, processing and supervising. She is a “Wonder-Woman,” and we appreciate her. Project Archivist Renna Tuten has completed the two-year grant to process the Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers and announced the opening of the collection. We all rejoice at job well done—and meeting deadline.

Jill Severn, with Jan Levinson and Abby Griner, has taken Access and Outreach to new heights. Jill and Jan managed to fabricate two major exhibits during the year while promoting partnerships and public programming on and off campus. I am exceptionally proud of their presentation of Measuring Deliberate Speed: Georgians Face School Desegregation, the culmination of a year of research and planning. The exhibit was created to showcase materials that illuminate the tactics, rhetoric, and reactions of Georgians to federal school desegregation mandates. Using text panels, artifacts, and selected audio and film clips, the display examines the landmark federal and state legal decisions that led to the desegregation of public schools in Georgia between 1950 and 1961.
Below: Participants at RFCLG 2009 PPI
The Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia continues to prosper under Jill’s leadership. Now the core outreach program for the Russell, the Forum fulfills Senator Russell’s call for an informed citizenry and follows the National Issues Forums model for civic engagement and deliberative discussion. Jill, Jan, and Forum consultant Margaret Holt, with various partners held institutes and forums this year. Crusaders or not, this is one dedicated and enthusiastic team. Abby Griner also established the Russell’s electronic records program for its collections. She inventoried and assessed collection electronic records, worked with local Systems personnel for server needs, outsourced old formats for transfer or evaluation, and began contacting congressional offices’ systems managers. Woo Hoo!!! You go, girl, and we’ll soon be in the advance.

And, what have I done? I’ve pedaled hard to keep abreast of the talented Russell staff; it’s a reward for me to encourage, support, advocate, cheer on, and participate in their visions, projects, and accomplishments. I, too, have been embroiled in new building and moving plans, meeting with architects and consultants, responding to Spec requests, and traveling to see how others have done it. It is challenging, it is exciting, and it is almost unbelievable that we are breaking ground in late January.

I have to observe that the Russell’s 35th year is also my 35th year at the Russell. Spending most of my time now with donor relations and development, I have traversed Georgia and ventured to the DC area to meet with former, new, and prospective stakeholders. What a delight to renew old friendships and make new ones. What a reassurance to engage with Georgians and others who are interested in our work, active in politics and policy, and who recognize the importance of preserving and making accessible our record as a democracy. What an affirmation of our mission and Senator Russell’s legacy.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to seeing you in 2010.

Sheryl B. Vogt

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