Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Digital Temple: Telescope for George Herbert’s “Book of Starres”

The following post was prepared by Dr. Chris Hodgkins of the English Department:
Dr. Robert Whalen

When Robert Whalen of Northern Michigan University began to explore how he might apply emerging digital technology to the English poetry of Metaphysical master George Herbert (1593-1633), he thought with youthful optimism that such a project might take, oh, a year or two. After all, the complete printed works of Herbert fit into only one volume. How long could it take to transcribe, encode, and annotate the lyric poems of The Temple (1633)? Thirteen years later, he knows. The Digital Temple, more than a decade in the making, is now available from University of Virginia Press/Rotunda, America’s leading academic digital publisher, where it keeps company with the digital papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and is being hailed by advance reviewers as the state of the art in digital editions.
Dr. Christopher Hodgkins
With his co-editor, UNCG’s Christopher Hodgkins, who joined the project in 2008, Whalen shared a 2010-11 NEH Digital Humanities Grant to finish building a born-digital documentary edition which makes instantly available not only exact transcriptions of the earliest known textual witnesses of The Temple, but also densely detailed digital captures of these three oldest witnesses: the Williams Manuscript of 1628, the Bodleian Manuscript of 1633, and the first printed edition of 1633. Herbert’s Temple has been compared to a “book of starres,” and the amazingly interactive search capacities of this electronic engine—which in digital parlance is called “the Versioning Machine”—include literally telescoping powers of textual magnification. These powers bring into startling focus many of Herbert's configurations that have previously been little noticed, and allow us to see his storied constellations in deep and brilliant new ways.

What took so long? The digital capture was the least of it—expert technicians at the British, Bodleian, and Folger Shakespeare Libraries with their cutting- edge equipment made relatively quick work of producing the beautifully high-density page-for-page facsimiles. These are so fully “pixelated” that one can zoom in to analyze watermarks and count inkspots, flyspecks, or binding stitches—if one fancies such details. No, the real labor turned out to be in the encoding—that is, embedding the transcribed texts of the poems in intricate TEI-XML code language that enables a dazzling range of searches about both style and substance, from rhyme and meter to spelling and word choice. This powerful search engine will discover as-yet-unknown patterns. Above all, the instant parallel display of the three witnesses—with richly-encoded transcriptions, expert explanatory notes and high-resolution images—discovers in ways not possible with any print edition how the creation and experience of poems is a living process, not merely a static final product.

Come join Professors Whalen and Hodgkins at the March 6th, 4 pm book launch event in the Hodges Reading Room where they’ll demonstrate many of these features and discuss the practice and the power of digital editing. Their next project: The Digital Works of George Herbert, which will capture the manuscripts and first editions of every other Herbert book—most of which will come from UNCG’s own world-class Herbert archive in the Amy Charles Collection!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Friends Dinner on April 29 To Feature John Shelton Reed

The following post was prepared by Jim Schlosser, Chair of the Programming Committee of the Friends of the UNCG Libraries.
John Shelton Reed

John Shelton Reed, an acclaimed humorist on southern culture who once compared the modern South to a pair of comfortable tattered jeans, will be the speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends of the UNCG Libraries. The dinner gathering will be April 29 at Cone Ballroom in the Elliott University Center.

The William Rand Kenan, Jr. professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Reed has written widely and spoken often, seriously and wittingly, about the ways of the South.
The novelist Lee Smith summed up Reed as "hysterically funny and the most astute observer of the South that we have." The humorist Roy Blount Jr. included Reed as the only sociologist in Blount's "Book of Southern Humor."

Reed's latest book, published last November, “Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s," concerns intellectuals who gathered in New Orleans, including William Faulkner. Reed also wrote the immensely popular "1001 Things Everyone Should Know about the South." Fellow southern writer Florence King described the book as "an informative encyclopedia that is also sidesplittingly funny." The cover includes two iconic, vastly different Southerners, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee." Also shown is one of the South’s favorite delicacies, the "Moon Pie."

Reed also is the author of “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue," which he wrote with his wife, Dale.

In his writings defining the South, Reed has been quoted as saying, “The South is like my favorite pair of blue jeans. It's shrunk some, faded a bit, got a few holes in it. It just might split at the seams. It doesn't look much like it used to, but it's more comfortable, and there's probably a lot of wear left in it."

Also, he once said, "I think there's a suspicion in the South of people putting on airs. You see it in most Southern politicians, but you also see it in someone like Richard Petty, who may be a multimillionaire stock car driver, but he's also beloved because he has a nice self-deprecatory way about him."

Reed joins an array of well-known literary people who have spoken at the annual dinner. They include writers Tom Wolfe, Roy Blount Jr., Robert Morgan, Lee Smith, Fred Chappell, Mickey Spillane, John Ehle, John Crowe Ransom, Doris Betts, John P. Marquand and Paul Greene; columnists Leonard Pitts, Clarence Page, Tom Wicker, James Reston, Robert Novak and George Will; cartoonist  Doug Marlette and Walt Kelly; historians Harrison Salisbury, John Hope Franklin and Taylor Branch; photographer Hugh Morton; television personalities Roger Mudd and Charles Kuralt; and Southern observer Hodding Carter.

The Friends of the UNCG Libraries, some 285 members with a board of directors, is a volunteer group that advocates and promotes the Jackson Library and the Harold Schiffman Music Library.  The membership is currently raising money to redesign the landscape in front of the Jackson Library facing College Avenue.

The annual dinner, which is the Friends major fund raising event, will start with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by the program and dinner. Tickets for members are $50 each and for non-members $60. Table sponsorships are available for $500.   For those who just want to hear Reed, a fee of $15 will be charged.

Reed knows of what he speaks about and writes. He is a native Southerner, having grown up in Kingsport, Tenn.  He went north for his higher education.  He graduated with a degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his sociology from Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Chapel Hill in 1969.

Information about tickets to the annual dinner may be obtained by calling the UNCG Box Office at 336-334-4849.

During his long stint in Chapel Hill, Reed also served as director of the Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. He helped found the university's center for the Study of the American South.

Reed has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the National Humanities Center.  He has lectured at more 300 colleges and been a visiting professor at many others, ranging from Oxford and Cambridge in England to tiny Centre College in Kentucky.  President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the council of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  He has received honorary degrees from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and, aptly, the University of the South in Tennessee.

 A song he wrote, "My Tears Spoiled My Aim," has been recorded by North Carolina singer Tommy Edwards. Reed's book, "Holy Smoke," inspired Edwards to write a song by that name. Reed was a consultant to the play "Kudzu," based on a comic strip drawn by fellow Southerner and Reed friend, the late Doug Marlette."

New Exhibit: “French History Illustrated: The Action Images of Job”

The following post was prepared by Dr. William K. Finley, Special Collections Librarian.

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives in Jackson Library is currently mounting a visiting exhibit of vibrant illustrations from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French books.  “French History Illustrated: The Action Images of Job” represents the breathtakingly colorful book and magazine images of Jacques Onfroy de Breville (1858-1931), who was known by the pseudonym of “Job.”  Included in the exhibit are numerous illustrations from French books and magazines, as well as toys (soldiers and farmyard scenes), commemorative plates and other artifacts designed by Job.  While Job’s illustrations were basically drawn for children, his images (especially those done in pochoir) will fascinate adults and children alike.

The exhibit will be open for viewing between February 4 and March 14 during Special Collections’ opening hours of 9-5, Mon-Fri.  On February 18, at 4:00 P. M. in the Hodges Reading Room, Jackson Library, guest curator Robert Maloney will discuss and display the works of this fascinating artist.  This event is free and open to the public.   

University Libraries Score Well in Survey

This posting was prepared by Kathy Crowe, Associate Dean for Public Services.

The University Libraries conducted the LibQual+™ survey in fall 2012 to determine student, faculty and staff perceptions about the UNCG Libraries (Jackson and the Harold Schiffman Music Library).  LibQual+ is a standardized measure develop by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in 2000.  It measures what service is desired by clients and the service they perceive they are receiving.  LibQual+ ™ also asks what is the minimum level of service with which they would be satisfied. 

The survey includes core questions on three dimensions:
·         Affect of Service (services)
·         Information Control (collections and resources)
·         Library as Place (library buildings)

Additional questions ask about general satisfaction with the Libraries and how often they use it, both in-person and virtually.  There is also space for narrative comments.

The Libraries last administered LibQual+™ in 2008 so we are able to compare progress.  And, because LibQual+™ is administered by libraries nationwide we are able to benchmark results with our peers. 

912 students, faculty and staff completed the survey. The highest number of respondents were from the Social Sciences and  Education (35%) and undergraduates were the highest user group (35%)

We gained much useful information from the survey and results were generally quite positive.  On a nine-point scale the overall satisfaction score was 7.94 (7.47 in 2008). 

The overall satisfaction scores improved from 2008:

UNCG compared very favorably nationally and with peer institutions:


The specific questions that received the highest ratings were “Employees who are consistently courteous” (8.18), “Employees who have the knowledge to answer user question” (8.09) and Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion”  (8.05).  

LibQual+™ also provides feedback on what is most important (desired) to our users.  All groups rated information control as most desired with specific needs centered around easily accessible electronic information and journal collections.  

The survey also provides the Libraries with the opportunity to address services that need improvement.  The area that received lower scores was primarily related to the Jackson Library building and, in particular, the need for quiet study space.  Specific plans to address areas targeted for improvement are now being developed.

The narrative comments also provide a rich source of information.  Some examples include:

      I was very anxious about my ability to use a university library system after only using a community college system.  The information sessions that were offered and that I attended were wonderful. I was even able to do this from home on my own!  That's how good the sessions were. (undergraduate)

      The library is a very warm, inviting, and useful place to obtain the required information I need for my work. It is also an excellent site for group work, discussions, and project completion.  (graduate student)

he Libraries continue to follow up on the data gathered from LibQual+.  For example, one issue identified was the need for an improved web site which will be addressed in the coming year.  We will also improve signage in the quiet areas. 

Check here for additional results from LibQual+.