About Denise Rayman

My name is Denise and I'm in my second year of study at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. I am a Graduate Assistant at the International and Area Studies Library. I received my Bachelor's in Linguistics here at UIUC in 2011, specializing in Mandarin Chinese Sociolinguistics, and I also minored in Business. My husband also received his Bachelor's from UIUC in 2011, and he is currently a 2L here at the University of Illinois College of Law. I also work at University of Illinois Archives, where I answer reference questions and process incoming materials. I also worked at the Undergraduate Library for three years as a Student Assistant during while I was an Undergrad.

New to Campus: UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship

The UNESCO flag. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This spring the Illinois campus joined a network of more than 3,800 other centers and clubs by gaining our own UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship. This is the 2nd UNESCO-affiliate center in the United States. The center was founded by Amani Ayad, coordinator for the Library and Information Sciences Access Midwest Program (LAMP) at GSLIS; Barbara Ford, director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and  member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO; and Helaine Silverman, professor in the Department of Anthropology.

UNESCO was founded in 1946 by the United Nations with the goal “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” They also manage the UNESCO World Heritage List, which identifies global sites of “outstanding universal cultural value.” The UNESCO Center at Illinois seeks to further the goals of UNESCO by hosting expert speakers for community lectures, giving tours and field trips to nearby World Heritage Sites, hosting reading and discussion groups, and many more activities.

The UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship kicked off their work by hosting a visit from Guy Djoken, the Executive Director of the UNESCO Center in Washington, DC this April 14-16th.

First meeting of the UNESCO Center! From left to right: Ellie Hanauer, Associate Director, Center for Global Studies; Prof. Barbara Ford, Director, Mortenson Center for International Librarianship; Don Gerard, Mayor, Champaign; Guy Djoken, Executive Director, UNESCO Center for Peace; Laurel Prussing, Mayor, Urbana; Dr. Helaine Silverman, Director, Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP); Amani Ayad, LIS Access Midwest Program (LAMP)

The UNESCO Center will be having its first reading group meeting on May 6th at 7:00pm. All are welcome to come for a discussion of the assigned reading, which is Be Skilled, Be Employed, Be the Change Generation. The event will be held at Strawberry Fields, check it out!

If you’d like to get in touch with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship, their email is ucgc.champaign [at] gmail.com.

If you would like to read more about the new UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship, and the work of UNESCO in general, check out these links:

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The Timbuktu Library Burnings and the Importance of Library Disaster Planning

Overview: A Tragedy Dodged

On Saturday the 26th of January, Islamic rebels set fire to two Timbuktu libraries of ancient manuscripts as they fled from incoming French and Malian troops [1]. Initial articles in the media reported it to be an enormous loss of ancient knowledge, uncounted numbers of ancient Islamic manuscripts, some dating back to the 11th century, gone in one day [2].

However, a few weeks later the librarians and Timbuktu citizens came out with happy news: prior to the burnings the majority of manuscripts were surreptitiously removed from the libraries in 2012, put in cataloged metal boxes, and stashed “beneath mud floors, into cupboards, boxes, sacks and secret rooms, into caves in the desert or upriver to the safety of Mopti or Bamako, Mali’s capital” [3]. It had been done quietly, and “a few hundred” manuscripts left behind, so as not to alert the terrorists to their actions [3]. Some manuscripts have been lost, but the traditional form of conservation practiced by the local family guardians of these manuscripts, simply hiding them, in combination with modern digitization efforts that have been going on for the past two years, has prevented a tragic loss of global heritage. UNESCO has also pledged to help with recovery efforts [4].

Mathematical manuscripts from the Timbuktu collections. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

If you would like to view some of the digitized manuscripts for yourself, check out the The Tombouctou Manuscripts Project website, and search through their database.

Library Disaster Planning

The Timbuktu manuscripts were saved because there was effective, unique disaster planning in place for them. While most archivists would not consider hiding their holdings in the houses of local families, for the Timbuktu manuscript guardians, who were used to unstable governments, it was the most effective available option.

While disasters present a threat to all librarians, the majority of libraries do not have irreplaceable manuscripts, and the majority are also not under threat from terrorists. However, all libraries need disaster plans. Fire, water, and natural disasters (such as tornadoes and earthquakes) are the biggest threats to the majority of library collections. Water presents the most obvious damage to anyone who has dropped a book or magazine in the bath, but it presents a second threat of mold if the book is not dried properly. Fire presents the first damaging effect of burning the paper, but the use of water-based fire-suppression systems adds the damage of water and mold.

Library disaster plans outline what should be done in the case of damage to buildings and materials, and how collections should be triaged and made stable for later conservation processes. Our own library has a detailed disaster plan which outlines what is to be done the case of disaster with all types of materials we hold, from Albumen Prints to Vinyl Records. (The library’s disaster plan is not available to the public for safety reasons.)

In the wake of the world’s increasing globalization, the importance of protecting heritage documents has become an international, and not just local, concern. Blue Shield, “the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross,” is a group working to create internationally coordinated responses to threats to cultural heritage, such as the terrorist threats to the Timbuktu manuscripts, and they are also working to protect the cultural heritage of Syria during its current political unrest.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning about the manuscripts housed at the Timbuktu library and the Islamic manuscript tradition, check out these resources:

If you’re interested in the particulars of how libraries put together their disaster plans, check out these resources:

Continue reading

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Introducing New Librarians: Laila Hussein and Antonio Sotomayor

Laila Hussein

Laila Hussein comes to the University of Illinois Library after working as a cataloger and Reference Librarian at New York University. Prior to that, she was a human rights activist in Egypt , and worked in the United States  with Landmine Survivor Networks, International Torture Survivors, and did outreach to the HIV positive community in New York. She holds two Masters degrees, the first from New York University in Near Eastern Studies, and the second is from Long Island University in Library Science. Laila brings to the International and Area Studies library lots of great experience in both libraries and international outreach!

As the Middle Eastern and North African Studies Librarian, Laila is looking forward to working with Illinois’ community of faculty, staff, students and scholars to help build the Library’s Middle Eastern collection. She also hopes to help students with their research needs by working with instructors to develop tailored library guides for classes. Her plan also included to work with other universities in the United States and around the globes to develop relationships that will benefit the scholars in the field of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, Laila’s dream project is to develop the Middle Eastern and North Africa minorities collections and have Illinois University become the main resource for these types of collections to both international and local scholars. She has also recently developed a new LibGuide on the Arab Spring, concurrent with her display in the Marshall Gallery (the open area on the first floor of the Library) on this important topic. Be sure to check them both out!

Laila is a native Arabic speaker, and she is also proficient in Persian, Hebrew, Old Ottoman, and German. In her free time, Laila enjoys exercising and listening to audio books.

Her office hours this semester are Tuesdays 10:00am – 12:00pm and Fridays 11:30am – 1:30pm, and you may also reach her by email at lhoussei AT illinois.edu.

Antonio Sotomayor

Antonio Sotomayor is originally from Puerto Rico, and completed his undergraduate education at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez before coming to the United States for graduate school. He holds a Masters’ degree in Counseling from Indiana University, another Masters’ degree in Latin America and Caribbean Studies from the University of Illinois, and a Doctorate in history from the University of Chicago. His research interests lie in Latin American studies and Brazilian cultural and political history and the history of sport, which brings him here to work at the International and Area Studies Library.

As a new librarian, Antonio has been evaluating the breadth of our library’s existing Latin American collection, which is among the top five in the United States. Our collection’s specialties are Andes, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Caribbean Area materials. Antonio believes his primary goal as the Latin American Librarian is to promote and continue developing our Latin American collection. He plans to improve the collection’s online presence by redesigning the Latin American and Caribbean website, and by digitizing some materials for online access. He is also reorganizing our current journals and magazines for better access and easy browsing in the IAS reference room.

Antonio seeks to connect with to departments that have Latin America related research around the University to promote our collection and services. Right now he is working closely with the Center of Latin America & Caribbean Studies, and the Lemann Institute for Braziian Studies. Antonio is also the co-planner on an exhibit in the library for this coming fall which will promote the 50th anniversary of the Center for Latin America and Caribbean Studies.

Antonio is a native Spanish speaker, and is proficient in Portuguese. In his free time, he enjoys genealogy, watching football and other sports, and both playing and watching basketball. He is also a photographer, and his photographs have been presented in different exhibits.

His office hours this semester are Monday and Tuesdays 9-11am, and you can visit his library web page.

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HathiTrust Digital Library for World Scholars

HathiTrust Logo

The HathiTrust Digital Library, which is a consortium of libraries working to digitize and make available a wide variety of cultural documents, has recently won an important “Fair Use” victory in court. What HathiTrust is doing is now legally considered “transformative,” but for researchers, HathiTrust has already been very transformative.

HathiTrust has currently digitized over 10 million volumes of which less than half are in English. (See more HathiTrust statistics.) There are languages from Abkhazian to Zuni for the multilingual researcher to explore. Not all HathiTrust books, however, are available to everyone.  Some books are not yet in the public domain, so they are only searchable and not fully readable.

To get started exploring the HathiTrust’s rich collection of resources, check out a few of their internationally-focused collections:

To search HathiTrust effectively, consider that there are two basic ways to search, catalog search and full-text search. The catalog search function searches the bibliographic record for the item, including title, author, language, date, and basic subjects. The full-text search searches inside the document for words. Both search functions allow you to limit to particular languages, and also to only full-text documents.

The search results for HathiTrust have faceted search on the side, like the University of Illinois’ own VuFind catalog, which allows searchers to refine their results further by subject, date, language, and so on.

For who want to “browse” the collection by call number, like at a physical library, books can be searched by Library of Congress Classification. For instance, those looking for books classified as “Home Economics” would search for “TX.”

The University of Illinois catalog also holds records and links to HathiTrust full-text books, so when you’re searching our catalogs you may notice them in your results.

But the best part about the HathiTrust Digital Library — if you belong to a HathiTrust partner institution (like the University of Illinois!) then you can download free PDF copies of full-text resources!

If you’ve been looking for a way to explore multi-lingual archival material without all of the dust and papercuts, HathiTrust is a great place to start exploring the emerging world of open-access digital archives.

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Mo Yan — 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner

Literary history holds many examples of writers who were formerly soldiers — Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brian, Stephen Crane, and T. E. Lawrence to name a few, but few of them can ever hope to be called such things as “[…] famous, oft-banned and widely pirated […] (Feb 15, 2005. Donald Morrison, “Holding Up Half the Sky”, Time Magazine, read more) Even fewer of these soldiers ever become Nobel Prize winners.

Mo Yan (莫言), a pen name, meaning “don’t speak,” for Guan Moye (管谟业), is the first resident of mainland China to be awarded the Nobel prize in Literature. He was a solider in the People’s Liberation Army after the Cultural Revolution. The only two other Chinese recipients of Nobel prizes are Liu Xiaobo (2010 Nobel Prize for Peace), who is currently imprisoned, and Gao Xingjian (2000 Nobel Prize for Literature), who gave up his Chinese citizenship in 1996. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan and his works have a complicated relationship with the Chinese government. While his books are often interpreted as critical of the government, he is a Chinese Communist Party member and the vice-chairman of the party’s Writers’ Association. He has been criticized for his compliance with the government, but some have argued that by his doing so, his books have been able to reach more people. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan is reportedly currently avoiding the media and working on his next book. (Oct 11, 2012. Sui-Lee Wee. “China’s Mo Yan feeds off suffering to win Nobel literature prize”, Reuters. Read more.)

The UIUC collection holds many of Mo Yan’s works, both in the original Chinese and in English translations. The International and Area Studies Library has pulled a selection of his titles for display, and they are available for checkout. You can also view his works available in our online catalog.

Mo Yan's works on display at the IAS

Mo Yan’s works on display at the IAS. Photography by Elizabeth Svoboda.

Those wishing to learn more about Mo Yan and his work should come visit the IAS and check out our display and selection of his titles, and also check out these suggested library resources:

Interviews and Articles:

Literary Criticism and Interpretation  

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