Library News

Beyond the Reading Room: Access the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Online

It’s easy to think of an archives as being bound to one space: a reading room. However the organizational, descriptive, and educational work of the archivists at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections goes well beyond the reading room. There are many resources available so that your archival goals can be met no matter where you are.

Even though we cannot take you through a physical tour of the Archives, we have a series of webinars that introduce you to the Archives and how to work with us, highlight our Asian American and African American digital collections, and teach you how to navigate a finding aid. Find our recorded webinars here and watch the library calendar for more webinars coming this summer!

Experiential learning with the Archives and Special Collections doesn’t stop when you can’t visit the reading room. Instead it shifts to engaged digital pedagogy with our over 64,000 digitized archival records. We are able to hold remote class sessions introducing you to Latinx history in Boston, using archival visual resources, telling stories informed by archival material, and more. Learn how to schedule a class session or workshop and view some of our class examples on our newly published Teaching with Archives Program page.

Want to learn more about our variety of digitized collections? Visit some of our CERES exhibit portals where you can view online exhibits and browse collections’ records in context. Find our collection sites with exhibits and contextual resources below: 

Have a question about Boston history or using Archives? Our reference services are still open and available by contacting archives@northeastern.edu or filling out this form to contact us here.

We look forward to working with you beyond the reading room to continue activating the history of Greater Boston and Northeastern through the use of our records. 

 

Access to Kanopy limited during summer

Beginning in May, Northeastern University Library will be reducing full access to Kanopy videos. From April 27 through August 24, Kanopy will be a mediated library service and access will be limited to instructional use and research support for faculty and students. Films that are already triggered (licensed because of usage for one year) will appear on the site and in Scholar OneSearch, but other films will have to be requested. 

If you have films you know you will use in teaching and research this summer from the Kanopy collection, please notify Erin Beach (e.beach@northeastern.edu) or Amy Lewontin (a.lewontin@northeastern.edu) and we will ensure that the films are activated in ample time for the summer sessions.  You can also use the request form on the Kanopy site after April 27, and if you identify that the film is for class use, we will expedite the activation.  Please note that this can take a day or two so be sure to build in adequate lead-time. 

If you live in the Boston area and wish to use Kanopy outside of academic use, the Boston Public Library offers Kanopy for free, and one can watch four films a month, once you obtain an e-card. More information is available here.

Thanks for your understanding of this necessary cost-saving effort and please let us know if you have any questions.

These aren’t the books you’re looking for: Inventory project highlights misplaced materials

Have you ever gone looking for a book in the stacks and not been able to find it even though you know you’re looking in the right place? Yeah, us too. And we agree, it’s very annoying. When materials aren’t where we expect them to be, it can, at best, cause frustration for our users, and at worst, delay access to materials they need for important research projects. In any library, keeping materials organized and easily able to be located is an essential job, and its one that we in the IDEAS (Information Delivery and Access Services) department take very seriously. This year, we’ve expanded our usual stacks maintenance plan to include the first item-by-item stacks inventory in recent memory.

By scanning each item in the collection one at a time, we’re able to quickly assess whether an item has been misplaced or misshelved, whether its online record doesn’t match the physical book, or whether there’s a larger problem such as the item not being in the catalog at all. How might such problems arise, you may be wondering? Well, there’s a few different things that may have happened, but the most common scenario is that someone went looking for a book and couldn’t find it. After it was missing for long enough, that book was eventually marked missing and then withdrawn, so no one else expects to find it in the stacks – at least not until we’re able to acquire a replacement. Sometimes these books are genuinely missing, but most often they’ve been shelved far from where we expect them to be, perhaps because a patron or library shelver didn’t know where they belonged or because the spine label for some reason didn’t match the online catalog. By doing an inventory, we’ve been able to quickly find problem items and fix the issue. 

To begin this project, we first asked Greg McClellan in Library Technology Services to build an API based on code developed at Georgetown. (Many thanks to Access Services librarian Nicole Thomas for attending their session at the ELUNA conference last year and bringing the idea back to us!) The inventory tool allows you to scan barcodes one at a time and alerts you when it finds certain pre-coded errors in Alma, our integrated library system – typically an invalid location, suppressed bib, or item not found. Students have been working in shifts in pre-assigned sections, taking spare Surfaces and barcode scanners up to the stacks.

This is an example of a book we found on the shelves in the Oversize section that had been withdrawn. Note the title is highlighted green so students know to pull it and route it to IDEAS for correction.

The API also allows you to manually flag for errors to the physical item, such as an incorrect spine label or item in need of mending and even tells you when books have been shelved out of order by comparing each item’s call number to the previous scan. At the end of a scanning session, students can export their data to Google sheets, so we’ve been able to maintain a complete record of which materials have already been scanned.  

As of the building closure in March, a team of nine student workers have scanned 85,000 items in our collection, alerting us to hundreds of problem items. IDEAS has been able to address many of these problems ourselves, but the majority have gone to our metadata department, RADS, for correction. Toby, Karen, and Cheryl have done a phenomenal job keeping up with all the materials ending up on their desks, enabling us to get materials back on the shelves and in students’ hands that much faster.

Our initial goal was to have the project completed by June. Of course, with the building closure, this will have to be adjusted, but we’re excited to get back at it as soon as we can!

Expanding Services to Supporting Online Learning

In the past few months, the Online Learning team has been hard at work to expand library services to our global community. We’ve worked with various departments across the university and the library to offer robust and dynamic online programs. Here are a few of the ways we’ve expanded over the year. We are constantly looking for new ways to innovate, improve our services and offer even more programs and online opportunities for our students, faculty and staff. We welcome comments, questions, or ideas for new online initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to Lindley (l.homol@northeastern.edu) or Dina (d.meky@northeastern.edu) at any time.

—Lindley Homol and Dina Meky

Women’s History Month in the Archive: Remembering Phyllis Ryan

This Women’s History Month we’re proud to highlight the collection of  Boston-based activist Phyllis Ryan. The Phyllis M. Ryan papers at the Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections trace the arc Ryan’s career trajectory through the 1960s to late ’80s in Boston, documenting her role as a communicator, facilitator, and radical activist. However, Ryan is not the only figure present in her own collection. While the papers cover her work in Boston’s civil rights scene, combating institutional and political discrimination on the basis of race, ability, class, and faith, Ryan’s name and image appear alongside those of other public figures of the time.

A large portion of the papers are composed of newspaper clippings from and press releases to a wide range of publications. Many of Ryan’s most effective roles were operating as a go-between for progressive candidates and causes which she would relate to the press. The nature of Ryan’s work frequently relegated her to a voluntary role of background character in the many political narratives she shaped, promoting movements and voices without promoting herself, creating access and elevating the voices of the marginalized without taking personal advantage.

Phyllis Ryan’s work in political activism began in school clubs while she attended Northeastern University, supporting local progressive campaigns, writing for the Northeastern News, and promoting collegiate activism on campus. After obtaining her degree, Ryan’s first major political successes began with raising awareness of housing discrimination in the Boston area with the Fair Housing Federation of Greater Boston. Ryan continued on to work in advisement and press representation for the Boston Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and was particularly active in the movement for racial integration of the Boston Public Schools. In response to the church bombings in Birmingham, Ala., during the 1960s, Ryan organized marches, sit ins, and a rally of 30,000 people on the Boston Common to raise awareness and solidarity. Significantly, she also organized Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Boston in April of 1965, working with local religious leaders to spend hours briefing Dr. King on the difficulties facing the Boston communities, and writing the speeches that he would give throughout his stay.

Ryan’s final political act of her long public career was a successful unification of Newton’s local politicians to create wheelchair access for a nearby public lake. This act of path-making, public service, and barrier lifting is beautifully characteristic of Ryan’s public career.

Ryan’s careful voice and clear mind were operating influentially behind the scenes of so many political and social advances in Massachusetts, from combating right-wing extremist political campaigns to protesting the misuse of urban renewal funds, suing the New Haven (Conn.) Police Department for illegal wiretapping of politically active citizens’ homes, and advancing reform at Walpole State Prison. We invite you to look further at the life and work of an extraordinary public servant and iconic piece of Boston’s history of activism. While our reading room is currently closed, you can view the digitized collection online in the Digital Repository Service, and we hope to see you in person once the archive reopens!