Behind the Curtain: Walker Byer

Photograph of IU Archives graduate student Walker Byer in front of bookcaseTitle: Processor

Education: Walker holds a B.A. in International Studies and Anthropology from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) and recently graduated from IU with an M.L.S. in Archives and Records Management.

Work History: Before working at the IU Archives, Walker was a bookseller at Bloomington’s local Half Price Books Outlet.  Even though this was his first job working in the profession, he has visited lots archives and rare book libraries in the past!

In what ways do you work with the IU Archives?:  As a processor, Walker’s work primarily focuses on arrangement and description of the collections at the Archives with a particular focus on folklore collections and related topics.  In addition to processing, Walker also helps to write the Behind the Curtain staff features of this blog; assist with reference questions; and monitor the archives reading room.  Walker also helped curate the recent exhibit Collecting Folklore: Generations of Indiana University’s Folklore Institute.

Favorite collection or item in the Archives?: Walker’s favorite items are student journals from the Folklore Student Papers.  These journals were an assignment in an introductory class taught by John McDowell.  The students kept a journal for the entire month of October to record their observations on the folklore of Halloween.  Walker notes that “I love to study the way that folklore makes up our every day lives, whether it’s small social customs or larger holiday celebrations.”

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives?:  Walker is currently processing the collection of Dr. Fabio Rojas, who teaches sociology at IUB.  In addition, Walker is also assisting in a digital adaptation of the exhibit mentioned above.

Favorite experience working with the Archives?:  Of his many experiences at the Archives, Walker’s favorite was the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit.  “It was rewarding to see the joy it brought to members of the Folklore department.  It was a fun learning experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists?:  Working with the IU Archives has provided many learning experiences for Walker.  In addition to learning skills for a future career in archives, Walker has enjoyed learning the folklore that permeates the IUB campus.

Behind the Curtain: Laura Bell, Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Role: Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

Educational Background: B.A. in English with a minor in Educational Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Current MLS graduate student with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.

How she got here: During Laura’s last semester as an undergrad, she worked as a student assistant at the college library.  After graduating, she knew she wanted to pursue Library Science but was unsure what specialization to choose. Laura also wanted to be sure she was picking a path that she would enjoy so she decided to work and gain more experience.

Laura began working full time in the Access Services Department at the main academic library at West Virginia University. The people in that department were amazing and they provided great opportunities to learn skills that led to her current interests. She worked to improve her customer service skills with patrons, and she learned more about library school in general by talking with her supervisor at the time, and IU alum, Hilary Fredette.

After 6 months in Access Services, she began working in the special collections department/archive at WVU.  At the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC), she managed the historic photographs collection including selecting images to go online in the database, managing student workers, handling image requests and reproductions, and working to help with other projects.  Laura’s position at the WVRHC led her to decide on the archives specialization.  She had supportive mentors who encouraged her when she started applying to schools and making decisions. Their enthusiasm and knowledge showed her how many things archivists get to do and how they can make materials more accessible to patrons. Another alum from the program, Danielle Emerling who works at the WVRHC, coordinated with Carrie Schwier of the IU Archives to set up a time for Laura to visit the Archives when she visited the campus that spring.  After seeing everything that IU and the MLS program had to offer, she decided this would be a good place to gain the experience and knowledge she needed to become an archivist. Now, she gets to work here and she loves it.

Example of a dance card in the IU Archives Collection

Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: The IU Dance Cards Collection. It was one of the first collections that she processed.  Each dance card is unique and it was really interesting to see how many events there were on campus throughout the 1920s-1950s.

Current Project: She is currently processing the Claire Robertson papers and working on other small projects as they come up.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Hard to pick one! She enjoys processing collections the most, but she really enjoyed researching materials and finding images for East Meets Midwest: A History of Chinese Students at Indiana University, an exhibit that was displayed in the Wells Library in March 2017.

What she’s learned from working here: Since Laura is from Maryland, the rivalry between IU and Purdue was news to her!  She also just enjoys getting to learn the general history of the university and what it was like when it first began.

Behind the Curtain: Anne Haines, Web Content Specialist

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. This week meet one of our AMAZING partners! 

Photograph of Anne Haines smiling behind the IU Libraries reference desk.
Anne Haines, IU Libraries, Web Content Specialist

Title: Anne is the Web Content Specialist in the Department of Discovery and User Experience (DUX) at the IU Libraries.

Education: Anne has a B.A. in English and an M.L.S. degree, both of which she received from IU Bloomington.

Work History: Before enrolling in library science coursework and joining the IU Libraries, Anne worked in the Registrar’s Office at IUB.

Working with the IU Archives:  Part of Anne’s job is the management of the WordPress platform which hosts the IU Libraries’ many blogs; one of which belongs to the Archives (which she thinks is “amazing!”).  In addition to working with the Archives, Anne works with other departments in the Libraries, to help them create and manage the content on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Favorite collection in the Archives: For Anne, every visit to the Archives reveals new and exciting things.  Despite this, she says that “anything related to Herman B Wells gets the heart-eyes emoji from me!”.  Additionally, she also finds the student scrapbooks amazing.

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives: No specific project really, just the ongoing work I previously mentioned.

Favorite experience working with the Archives: When asked about her favorite experience during her time working with the Archives, Anne said that she loved the time when Dina Kellams, Director of University Archives, uncovered the Story of Carrie Parker.  The social media and blog posts that covered the story received a great deal of attention.  The Herald-Times also took an interest in the discovery.  IU’s establishment of a scholarship in honor of Ms. Parker shows just how life-changing the telling of people’s stories can be.  “I didn’t have that much to do with all of this, other than to keep Dina apprised about how many visits the blog was getting, and helping to amplify the story on social media – but it was just too cool to watch it unfold.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists: Anne only had one thing to say to this question: “Archivists are awesome!”

Sincerely Yours: How Cecil Got His Gun

Cecil K. Byrd (1913-1997) was a longtime librarian and faculty member at Indiana University. He served as Curator of Special Collections (1942-1946), Assistant Director of Libraries (1946-1949), Associate Director of Libraries (1949-1964), University Librarian (1964-1972), and finally professor and librarian emeritus at the Lilly Library (1980-1997).

Air mail envelope addressed to Dr. Robert A. Miller from C. K. Byrd
Air mail envelope from Cecil K. Byrd’s wartime correspondence with Robert Miller, June 1944.

Cecil K. Byrd (M.A. 1938, Ph.D. 1942, History, Indiana University) landed a plum job at IU as Curator of Special Collections upon his graduation, but his career was soon interrupted by the entrance of the United States into World War II. Byrd left the university for service in the U.S. Navy in April 1943, not long after an important IU special collections milestone– the donation of the Oakleaf collection on Abraham Lincoln, which Byrd cataloged, and the opening of the library’s Lincoln room (then located in Franklin Hall).

Photograph of Cecil K. Byrd and three scholars in the Lincoln Room at its dedication on February 13, 1943.
Lincoln Scholars at Lincoln Room Dedication, February 13, 1943. Cecil K. Byrd is the second from the right.

During his wartime service as a ship’s navigator, Byrd corresponded with IU Libraries Director Robert Miller, who kept him up to date with campus affairs. In return, Byrd shared some of his experiences as well as his eagerness to get back to his beloved job (“I would give my share of paradise to be sitting on my thin bottom in that red chair in Rare books and attending an auction now and again!”). One of Byrd’s more entertaining anecdotes appears in a June 23, 1944 letter, written while Byrd’s ship was stationed in France on transport duty. It concerns the requisitioning of a machine gun that he just had to have, not for himself, of course, but for Lincoln:

“Visited a German ammunition dump that had been evacuated a few hours before. Mindful of the Rare Book section, I selected a machine gun that in some mystical way had been connected with Lincoln for a souvenir. Pulled and groaned with the thing many miles and had nearly reached the ship when I was hailed by a British M.P. who wanted to know what I was doing with one of his Majesty’s guns. I gave him my little song and dance and “for Lincoln” he let me take it aboard. But I was so disappointed that it wasn’t German that I gave it to the mess boy with the story that I captured it alone and unarmed.”

Byrd’s mock-curatorial escapade was not the end of his exploits abroad in the name of the IU Libraries. During a stopover in England, he used coupons to procure “enough Harris tweed…to make myself a suit and topcoat” (stereotypical mid-century librarian wear?) and offered to buy additional cloth for Miller:

“Don’t know whether you like tweed or not. I’ve bought enough Harris tweed in Eng. to make myself a suit and topcoat. It takes coupons but I have a contact out to get more. If you are interested I think I could get you enough for a suit or topcoat. The last I got cost me $27 for 7 yards. You’ll have to trust me for the general color, etc. I’ll not make you look either like a librarian or race track tout — something in between. Let me know about this.”

After the war, Byrd returned to his beloved library, complete with a brand-new title: Assistant Director of the Libraries. And the rest is history- the expansion of library collections and branch libraries, the establishment of the Lilly Library as IU’s rare books and special collections repository, etc. etc. Except for Abraham Lincoln’s machine gun. Byrd totally made that up.

Read the entirety of Byrd’s June 23, 1944 letter to Miller here, including original handwriting and transcript.

Byrd’s wartime correspondence with Robert Miller is located in the Indiana University Libraries Director’s records, 1932-1977, Collection C540, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.