Quick Takes on Events and News – November 2020

One of America’s Most Celebrated Writers Meets More than 300 Readers on Zoom

On September 27, Connie Wu organized a special Meeting Author and Book Discussion event on Zoom. Ha Jin, an award-winning writer and a professor of the Department of Literature and Writing at Boston University, joined the virtual event from his home. Even though it was 9:00 on Sunday night, almost bedtime for many people, 288 accounts logged into this Zoom session. Because many accounts were joined by couples at the same time, at least 300 people shared a literary feast brought by Professor Jin.

Ha Jin has published more than 20 books, and has won almost all literary awards in English writing: Flannery O’Connor Short Story Award, Hemingway Foundation/Pen Club Award, Guggenheim Scholarship, National Book Award, PEN/Faukner Award, Asia Society Award, Townsend Fiction Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize (2012), PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Remote Center Literature Prize, etc. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2006.

Ha Jin shared his view on writing and knowledge on international literature. He also answered many questions from audiences with his wisdom and insight.

The session lasted until 11:00 p.m. All attendees were attracted by Ha Jin’s literary accomplishment and charming personality. Many attendees expressed their appreciation of the evening. Three Rutgers professors who participated in the session say: “It was such a wonderful and enjoyable virtual event”; “Ha Jin is a truly rich mind, a profoundly humble and outstanding gentleman”; and “he is an admirable, honest, great writer!”

Submitted by Connie Wu

New Brunswick Librarians Play Key Role in New Ithaka Report

Understanding the many constituencies that make up an academic library’s patrons is a formidable task. Scientists utilize resources quite differently from artists, and even scholars within a specific discipline like the humanities may have divergent practices and expectations depending on their academic niche and experience of library services at previous institutions. In the Fall of 2018, under the auspices of Ithaka S+R and the Modern Language Association (MLA), New Brunswick Libraries began a qualitative study of the information needs of faculty in languages, literature and cultural studies at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. The study was conducted by Triveni Kuchi, James P. Niessen, and Jonathan Sauceda. The purpose was to examine the research practices of faculty in a particular field, namely languages and literature, to identify what resources and services scholars currently use and wish they had access to at Rutgers. A report was completed in the Fall of 2019 and made available on the Scholarly Open Access at Rutgers repository (SOAR).

In addition to Rutgers University, thirteen other university libraries across the United States and a team from MLA participated in the languages and literature study. A capstone report that analyzed and combined all the information and findings from individual reports was published by Ithaka S+R on September 9, 2020.

Check out the MLA report on “Language and Literature Research in Regional Comprehensive Institutions” and Ithaka S+R’s blog post about the study.

Full reports are available from:

Cooper, Danielle, Cate Mahoney, Rebecca Springer, Robert Behra, Ian G. Beilin, Guy Burak, Margaret Burri, et al. “Supporting Research in Languages and Literature.” Ithaka S+R. September 9, 2020. https://doi.org/10.18665/sr.313810.

Kuchi, Triveni, James P. Niessen, and Jonathan Sauceda. “Research practices of scholars in literatures, writing, and cultural studies: a qualitative study of faculty at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.” October 31, 2019. https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/t3-2ydq-5h89.

Submitted by Triveni Kuchi

“Book Women” Delivered Library Books on Horseback during Great Depression

Did you know? In the depths of the Great Depression, groups of librarians known as the “book women” loaded up their horses with books and journeyed deep into the Kentucky mountains to deliver reading material to the state’s poorest, most-isolated communities. Read more in this article from Southern Living.

Submitted by Marty Barnett

Librarians and Archivists Join Universitywide Society and Pandemic Initiative

More than two dozen faculty and staff from the School of Arts and Sciences and other schools across Rutgers University have joined forces to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and research and collaborate on projects that address the global health crisis.

Francesca Giannetti, Erika Gorder, and Christie Lutz are part of one of the sub-topic working groups called Digital Humanities: (NJ) Oral History, Libraries and Archives. This subgroup is comprised of archivists, librarians, public and oral historians and others interested in public humanities methods and engagement. They are exploring methods to preserve, through archival and oral historical documentation, some of the ways in which teaching and learning shifted in response to the pandemic.

Submitted by Christie Lutz 

No Power? No Problem

There are a many negatives for RUL resulting from the pandemic, but today is an unusual plus.  With the North half of College Avenue Campus experiencing a power outage, our “distributed library faculty and staff” are able to continue to provide services in spite of the power outage. It strikes me that a “positive” story would be possible under these circumstances. (Pun intended 🙂)

Submitted by Tim Corlis

Matt Badessa