AURA — Alfred University Research and Archive

What is AURA?  No, not aura, a distinctive atmosphere, or an energy field from a living being, but AURA.  AURA stands for the Alfred University Research and Archive.  It’s Alfred University’s own digital repository, a place to discover the past and inform the future.
  What is a digital repository?

  • A means of storing and providing access to digital content (research, scholarship and documents of historical significance)
  • Provides a stable, well-managed, permanent archive for digital scholarly and research materials of enduring value produced by faculty, staff, and students
  • Supports research, learning and administrative processes
  • Includes a wide range of content: research data, meeting minutes, newsletters, theses and dissertations, published articles, technical reports, conference papers, historical information, etc.

For example, this newletter of the Science Fiction Club, Lanruojifics, Fall 2002
What are the benefits of a digital repository?

  • Content can be searched full-text, across all documents
  • Allows the content to be shared locally and globally
  • Allows wide and rapid dissemination of intellectual output, thereby raising awareness of Alfred University to a wider audience
  • Stores and organizes the plethora of digital documents created on campus in one place, accessible from anywhere
  • Supports a wide range of file types (text, images, video, data sets, etc.)
  • Access to content can be restricted as needed
  • Required for researchers applying for certain types of federal funding
  • Usage can be tracked for statistical purposes

Why not just put this material into Blackboard?

  • AURA makes content available to external audiences (open access availability)
  • AURA’s content can be indexed by search engine harvesters (such as Google)
  • AURA’s content is organized into collections and subcollections
  • BlackBoard was designed as a course management system; not a document warehouse. It doesn’t allow for searching across documents and doesn’t manage collections or access to them as well as AURA does.

How can you help to build AURA?

  • ·         Submit your club’s publications and meeting minutes for inclusion in AURA
  • ·         Submit your publications and research to AURA.
  • ·         Submit publications from your program, division, school and college.  Help us keep AU’s institutional memory strong in the digital era.

Want to check out AURA right now?
— Steve Crandall

Art From Books, As Books

On a Tuesday morning at the end of January, nearly 100 students congregated at the Scholes Library, meeting in front of the circulation desk but quickly spreading out into multiple lanes of busy traffic throughout the building.  Though they were not here to work on research papers or look up biographical information on artists, they were here to begin a project centered around the library and its collections.  Every area of the library was opened to them, with rare and unusual items from the archives and special collections on display–but for inspiration, not information.


“One Hundred Steps,” Samantha Calkins


A glance at the typography of “One Hundred Steps”

The students were here as part of the Freshman Foundations program, a first-year experience for BFA students.  At the beginning of each term, Foundations students have a week to produce a work of art within parameters set by their professors, typically parameters about the format their work will take.  Unbeknownst to the students coming back from winter break, their professors had met with the librarians at Scholes during the fall term to put together a project that would bring students into the library and have them creating artwork inspired by and using library resources.  The assignment they settled on that fall was books; not just any books, but artists’ books–the perfect meeting of book and art.

Interior view of “Wolf’s Bite” by Kelsey Mayo


Cover, “Wolf’s Bite”

At the end of the week, we here at the library were invited to the Foundations classroom to see the finished books, and the results were truly impressive.  Using everything from books of patterns and decorative motifs to scans of magazines, encyclopedias, and survey texts, the students had created an array of artworks that ranged from traditional narrative books to the wildly experimental.
The forms, materials, and methods that students made use of were just as varied as the content.
"The World is Bigger Than Me or You -- and That's Okay," and accordion fold book by Mikaela Suders.

“The World is Bigger Than Me or You — and That’s Okay,” and accordion fold book by Mikaela Suders.

Scattered amongst the neatly side-bound volumes were creations that pushed the edges of what a book can look like, works that expanded in lengthy accordion folds or were cut to match the shape of their subject.  Some of the students’ works played with form in a way that affected the meaning or perception of the book as a whole, altering the movement from page to page.
Materials provided an even richer field of experimentation.  The majority of the works were made of paper, but others unfolded on sheets of fabric, plastic, or even glass.  Still others were made of traditional materials, but contained small samples of the unexpected–a sachet of lavender, an old map, a splash of glaze.
"What is in a Bottle," Ruby Wisniewski

“What is in a Bottle,” Ruby Wisniewski

Perhaps most rewarding for the librarians involved in the project, some of the works showed signs of inspiration from the materials in the library that the students had been perusing just a few days before.  Works like A Humument, the modified Victorian novel mentioned in our first post on artists’ books, echoed in the selectively concealed and revealed words of books like “Alice,” pictured below.
"Alice," Julianna Metz-Root

“Alice,” Julianna Metz-Root

Even more exciting, soon the students’ art and the works that inspired them will be able to sit side by side.  Within the next few weeks, the students’ books will be delivered to the Scholes Library and housed in special collections alongside our other artists’ books.  Once the books have been delivered and cataloged for our collection, they will be on display to the public–and be sure we’ll make an announcement as soon as they’re available!

Oceana Wilson

Former student library employees pay it forward

Anyone who visits the Alfred University libraries is sure to notice the helpful students working at our front desks. You might be surprised to learn, though, that the Alfred University libraries employ nearly 100 students in a typical semester. That’s a lot of students!
I contacted some former student employees to ask how the experience of working in the libraries impacted their job searches and career plans after graduation. As the following examples illustrate, students gain highly marketable skills while working in the libraries and the experience can have a strong influence on their eventual career plans.

Catherine Dillon

Catherine Dillon

Working at Herrick Library had a big impact on Catherine Dillon’s career aspirations after graduation. She says, “I have a great amount of respect for my supervisors at Herrick Library and they were key figures in guiding my career focus.” After graduation, Catherine became an evening and weekend supervisor at Binghamton University’s Bartle Library, and was later promoted to Library Reader Services Coordinator. She is working towards a Master of Library and Information Services degree at the University of Buffalo. She credits her time at Herrick with helping her to “learn to approach work with an open and flexible mindset, which in this job market is key.”
For Kristin Eklin, working as a student supervisor at Herrick Library made her realize that she wanted to eventually work in a leadership or management position. Working with student supervisees and patrons gave her a chance to sharpen her communication skills and helped prepare her for her current position in event planning and marketing at St. John’s Foundation in Rochester. Kristin says that her experience at Herrick was “extremely valuable during job interviews. Many employers prefer job candidates that have maintained steady employment through out college and demonstrated growth in to the role of supervisor. This position also displayed my ability to work with peers, faculty, and staff.”
Olivia "Liv" Tsistinas

Olivia “Liv” Tsistinas

After graduating from Alfred with a BFA, Olivia “Liv” Tsistinas wasn’t sure what she would do next. Her experience at Herrick Library helped her to land a job as an evening and weekend supervisor in a library. She went on to earn a Master of Library Science degree and is now a Clinical/Outreach Librarian at Upstate Medical University’s Health Science Library. While it may seem a long way from art school, Liv says that she has found ways to use her background in art, including coordinating library exhibitions in two gallery spaces. She says, “I love being able to incorporate all the facets of my Alfred University experience into what I do!”
Caitlin Brown, who works as a monograph cataloger at the Indiana University law library, says that she “liked working in the library so much that I got an MLS and became a librarian!” At the Scholes circulation desk, where she worked from 2006 to 2008, she found herself “kind of in the middle of everything” and used the experience to improve her research skills. In grad school, where positions were very competitive, she found that her experience at Scholes was a definite plus.
Oceana Wilson

Oceana Wilson

Working at Herrick Library was the first step in a career in libraries for Oceana Wilson, eventually leading to her current position as Director of Library and Information Services at Bennington College. While at Herrick, she had the opportunity “to see some of the behind the scenes work that went into creating the innovative services and responsive environment of Herrick Library. “ It was getting to know the librarians at Herrick that encouraged her to become a librarian. She says, “They really believed in the work that they were doing and that was very inspiring.”
When Jessie Baldwin sought work at Scholes Library, she already knew that she wanted to be a librarian. She gained lots of practical experience at Scholes, from working at the circulation desk, to helping students to find books, and being responsible for opening the library.
Jessie Baldwin

Jessie Baldwin

The experience helped her to get into a library science graduate program and, while she was still in school, to be hired at the Upstate Medical Library. She says, “I learned a ton that I still carry with me. I always felt I had one of the best work study jobs at Alfred.”
At Herrick Library, Greg Arnold gained skills in customer service and staff supervision, both of which helped him to land his current position as Lead Library Assistant at the Werner Medical Library in Rochester. He says that he wouldn’t have known where to start if he hadn’t “supervised student workers, handled patron questions and complaints, interacted and communicated with my supervisors, and dealt with the occasional craziness that comes with libraries.” Greg’s experience at Herrick gave him a greater appreciation for what libraries do and helped to clarify his career goals, which includes a desire to own his own business one day.
Joy Thomas with her husband

Joy Thomas with her husband

After graduating from Alfred University, Joy Thomas worked briefly in retail before taking a position at the Cornell University Library, first in access services and, for the last six years, as Borrowing Coordinator for Interlibrary Loan. She says that it was her experience working in access services at Herrick Library helped her to get her first library position. She “really loves working in the library and can’t see that ending anytime soon.”
These are just some examples of ways in which students have benefited from the experience of working in the Alfred University libraries. Of course, the libraries benefit as well! Without student employees, the libraries couldn’t function at anywhere near their current levels of service – students open and close the libraries, and provide essential services in the evenings and on weekends when full-time staff and librarians have gone home. Students bring other benefits to the libraries, too. As Herrick librarian Brian Sullivan notes, “Student workers keep the library’s culture, perspective, and values centered on our primary patrons, AU students!”
— Ellen Bahr

“1st International Photographic Button Show, or Revisiting the Button Button Show”

With all of the photo based shows opening up this week around campus, I was inspired to re-visit a display I organized for Scholes library four years ago, the “1st International Photographic Button Show, or Revisiting the Button Button Show.”  buttons on top of crateHarland Snodgrass, professor of painting and video at the College of Ceramics from 1969 to 1985, donated the buttons to Scholes Library back in 2008, along with a series of videotapes he made as a faculty member here.
The “Button Button” show originated in 1976 when Harland sent out over 2000 requests for submittals. Each artist who submitted work was asked to submit four identical images, one of which was returned as a button to the artist while the other three were added to the traveling exhibitions. Submissions came in from all over the United States, as well as Canada, Uruguay, Scotland, and England and, in the end, he received a total of 200 entries.  Each entry was die cut by Harland and made in to a button. The show traveled “from coast to coast,” being exhibited in galleries and museums.
In 2010, Harland sent me an email describing the show, which was first installed in Fosdick Nelson Gallery in March 1977. At the end of the description he explains how one of the buttons contained a hidden video camera and the images of gallery visitors were projected live through a monitor at the front of Fosdick Nelson Gallery.
“The show was a dotted line  – buttons spaced eye height – about 8″apart, all around the entire gallery with late submissions piled up at the entry. buttons_with_CrateAs crowd came in, they cued up and made this slow, shuffling line, following the dots around the entire space. Was wild because of the button’s size, everyone was sucked right up to the walls and the entire center was empty. I made a show poster in the window foam board of the entrance saying BUTTON BUTTON with a 12 ” hole cut out with a video monitor pushed up to it from behind. Looked like one of the buttons except it moved.
I had a very wide lens on a b/w camera and as folks came by the semi hidden camera, while looking closely at the buttons, they became a distorted, graphic part of the advertisement outside the gallery.  Moving button images . . .”    

— Snodgrass, Harland. E-mail to John Hosford, August 30, 2010

In the short time I have known him, Harland has always exhibited a keen sense of community with Alfred and, more specifically, with the School of Art and Design. Button_Button_paperworkHis donations to Scholes Library are “raw materials” that have been boxed, moved, stored, shifted, dropped, photographed, and finally shipped back to the relative comfort of Scholes Library in the village of Alfred, where they can be prodded and coaxed into new forms.
The display in Scholes Library will be up from February 10th through March 10th.
– John Hosford