Michener Library: Celebrated Dedication of 40 Years
A number of exciting events marked the 40th anniversary of the naming and dedication of the University of Northern Colorado's main library for UNC's famous alumnus: James A. Michener. Michener was a bestselling Pulitzer Prize winning author who attended and taught at UNC in the 1930's and remained connected to the university throughout the remainder of his life. Prior to his death in 1997, Michener designated the University Libraries as the official repository documenting his lengthy literary career.
Students Meet "Mini-Michener"
As part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the dedication of Michener Library, UNC students were invited to take part in a photo contest. Contest entries had to include a small cut-out of James Michener somewhere in the library. The "Mini-Michener photos" were posted to the University Libraries Facebook page. Two winners were chosen and each received a small prize.
The overall celebration was titled: James A. Michener Library: Dedicated for 40 Years and included events, exhibits, student competitions, and opportunities for the campus community, both past and present, to reflect on the role that the University Libraries has played in their lives.
In anticipation of this celebration, numerous archival materials were digitized. Oversized photos of the original building construction, dedication, and interiors were placed permanently on display in the Government Publications area located on the lower level of Michener Library. Additionally, collages of historical library photographs were created for the first floor entrance area of Michener Library.
The formal program on November 2, 2012, was held in the Government Publications area and was attended by an enthusiastic group, which included alumni/ae, current and retired UNC personnel, students, as well as members of the Michener Society and the broader community. The speakers shared information about James Michener, his role at UNC, and why the building was named for him.
The program began with introductory remarks and a history of the University Libraries by Dean Helen Reed. Stephen May, author of Michener: A Writer's Journey spoke on James Michener's development as an author in the 1940's and the personal impact on James Michener of naming a library building in his honor. UNC Professor Michael Welsh spoke about the role of libraries in the academic environment and how they continue to evolve. The program concluded with Jay Trask, Head of Archival Services, introducing the recording of James Michener's speech at the dedication and naming ceremony October 27, 1972.
Monthly READ-Ins @ Michener Library
For Academic Year 2012-2013, the English Education Program and the University Libraries has made the occasional READ-In a monthly event celebrating books, authors, and readers. On the first Tuesday of each month, members of the UNC community, including students, faculty, and staff, share selections that address a chosen theme at Michener Library. For example, in time for the November election, readers chose words from past presidents, and March honored Women's History Month. On April 22, a special READ-In will support Greeley's Holocaust Memorial Observances. For more information, please contact Dr. Jeri Kraver at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the group's Facebook page.
Banned Books Week
In the fall of each year the American Libraries Association (ALA) observes Banned Books Week and celebrates the freedom to read. Like ALA, the University Libraries also recognizes banned books, censored music, and prohibited films and encourages students to exercise their freedom to read, listen, and watch content of their choosing. In late September, the Banned Books Week observance in Michener Library included a large, informative display with interactive elements and student readings from selections of banned and challenged books. Over 350 students participated in the activities, which were comprised of a trivia contest, a poll of the most read banned books of 2011, and a signature wall offering students a place to voice their support of the freedom to read. The Friends of the UNC Libraries graciously supported this event by providing prizes to five trivia game winners.
Beets, Baseball, and Beyond: An Exhibit of Hispanic Heritage and Team Spirit
When is the best time to schedule an exhibit about baseball? It had best be in the off-season. The convergence of Hispanic Heritage Month and UNC Homecoming 2012 was the perfect time to celebrate local heritage and team spirit. In October, the UNC Hispanic Studies Department, Friends of the UNC Libraries, and the University Libraries co-sponsored a month-long exhibit entitled, "Beets, Baseball, and Beyond: Hispanic Contributions to Weld County, The Gabe & Jody Lopez Collection." The extensive display, comprised of more than 55 panels, documented the rise of the Mexican/Spanish semi-pro baseball teams of Colorado's Front Range. This unique group of teams flourished during a five-decade span, from the 1920's to the 1960's, and included the Greeley Grays and 35 other teams. The teams eventually became part of the Rocky Mountain League of the National Semi-Pro Baseball Congress. Gabe and Jody Lopez have family connections to the Greeley Grays and are collectors and curators of the team's memorabilia.
The "Beets, Baseball, and Beyond" exhibit also highlighted Weld County's agricultural and labor history. The men who formed the baseball teams came to the region as a result of an intensive worker recruitment campaign by the Great Western Sugar Company. The push started prior to 1910 and continued into the 1920's. Both Mexican-Americans from the southwestern United States and Mexican nationals were employed by Great Western. The company established worker housing called "colonias." The recreation of baseball was a welcome diversion for the men of the colonias, providing a break from the arduous toil in the beet fields. The teams were renowned for their athletic skill and camaraderie. The league was racially integrated, and lifetime friendships were formed.
In conjunction with the Greeley Grays memorabilia, Dr. Charles Collins, UNC Geography professor, shared a collection of agricultural tools from his family's sugar beet farm. He also created a display of Braceros-related books from the University Libraries. The word "bracero" literally means "arm worker," so the closest English translation would be "manual laborer." The Braceros Program, a contract labor system between the Mexican and U.S. governments, was developed in part to cope with World War II-induced labor shortages. From 1942 to 1964, 4.5 million Mexican workers entered the United States to work in the Program, and some of these braceros provided the essential manual labor at sugar beet farms in Colorado.
To celebrate the exhibit, a reception was held on Friday, October 5, 2012. The event was well-attended, despite the snowy weather. Sheila Bolsover, President of the Friends of the UNC Libraries, and Helen Reed, Dean of the Libraries, welcomed attendees. Peggy Ford Waldo, Museum Development Curator of the City of Greeley Museums, introduced Gabe and Jody Lopez. A roster of entertainment rounded out the evening. Dr. Elizabeth Franklin, UNC Hispanic Studies Professor, introduced Carlos Olivas, guest guitarist. Also on the program was a poetry reading by Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez (UNC Emeritus Faculty). Dr. Carlos Mellizo of the University of Wyoming was on hand with a display of his pencil sketches, Caras del Mundo Hispánico. Thanks to the collaboration of many, "Beets, Baseball, and Beyond" was an emotionally and intellectually rich experience for all attendees.
Building Bridges with Library Instruction
During the 2012 Summer Session the University Libraries Instructional Services Department participated in the Bridge Program, a student-focused initiative headed by University College. The Bridge Program brought a select group of incoming freshmen athletes to campus in an effort to acclimate them to college life prior to the fall semester. The 16 students were enrolled in three academic courses, including a one-credit library course titled Introduction to Undergraduate Research (LIB 150). The faculty for each course worked together in the spring and summer of 2012 to develop and deliver the Bridge curriculum, so that course concepts were reinforced in all three courses. In addition, the faculty developed programming activities, including service learning opportunities, film viewings, and a faculty mixer. The mixer allowed students to meet faculty from a variety of UNC programs. Libraries faculty are looking forward to working with the second cohort beginning July 1, 2013.
Photography and Friendship: The Robert Vavra Collection and James Michener
The novelist James Michener and photographer Robert Vavra had a lifelong friendship and working relationship that resulted in the 1968 book Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections, with narrative by Michener and photographs by Vavra. The American-born Vavra, who is considered to be the world's premier photographer of horses, met Michener after moving to Spain in 1958. Thereafter, he often served as Michener's photographer. Following Michener's death in 1997, Vavra published the biography Michener's the Name, featuring photographs taken over the course of their decades-long friendship.
In 2005, the University Libraries Archival Services Department acquired a collection of Vavra's photographs and correspondence related to James Michener. The materials date from 1965-2005 and are part of the James Michener Manuscripts Collection. The Robert Vavra Collection consists primarily of correspondence between Vavra and Michener, miscellaneous correspondence from fans addressed to Michener, photographic images of Michener, his wife, and friends that provide a very candid look at Michener's life, and photographic prints of the images used in the book Iberia. The manuscript of Michener's the Name, along with negatives and photographs used in the book, is also included.
Items from the Robert Vavra Collection were among the first to be digitized for inclusion in Digital UNC, the University of Northern Colorado's digital repository. There are currently almost 200 photographs and pieces of correspondence available on the site, many of them related to trips to Spain that the two undertook during the development of Iberia. For example, one photograph depicts Michener observing bulls in a stable in Teruel, Spain. Other subjects touched on in the collection include the naming of Michener Library, as discussed in a letter from Michener to Vavra and their mutual friend John Fulton.
Over time, the Libraries plans to make the entire Vavra collection available through Digital UNC. Archival Services adjunct faculty Melissa Gurney is currently working to scan the original materials and create accompanying records. Other Michener-related materials, such as the Centennial Collection, are also slated for future digitization.