Medieval Manuscripts, Monty Python, & Harry Potter at Linderman

People often wonder what relevance Medieval Studies has in today’s world- or at least they ask me what I plan on doing with a degree in Medieval Architectural History.  I think for many the Middle Ages seems like a faraway place that has little influence on their everyday reality.  And yet, if you look for it, it’s there in some appropriated and reinterpreted fashion.

Why do Vikings make an appearance in my home through Capital One commercials? And why choose Vikings to sell credit cards anyway?  Why do several of Lehigh’s academic buildings recall the Ye Olde- what is the legacy of the style?  When one thinks of dark deeds, do they usually occur on a dark and stormy night, set against the backdrop of a castle or ruined cathedral?  Why is the imagery so evocative?  And of course, there is the noble King Arthur & the dream of Camelot or the outlaw hero Robin Hood, whose story was lately retold in the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe action flick.  There are the tales from our childhood: fairy tales, folk tales, Harry Potter, and Disney princesses- the role of Snow White will be reprised by K.Stew in 2012.   How many of us geek out to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (books, movies, action figures, or Elvish), or most recently HBO’s adaption of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones?

Linderman Library’s 2011 winter exhibit is entitled Being Medieval. The purpose of the exhibit is to question what informs our understanding of the Middle Ages and the idea of Medieval through a juxtaposition of Lehigh University’s medieval and renaissance manuscript collection with later artistic and literary interpretations from the last three hundred years. The manuscripts were last displayed in 1970 by John C. Hirsch, currently at Georgetown University.  Professor Hirsch researched and wrote an exhibit catalogue  entitled Western Manuscripts of the Twelfth through the Sixteenth Centuries in Lehigh University Libraries: A Guide to the Exhibition.  His catalogue remains the authority on Lehigh University Library’s manuscripts and will be included in the online exhibit.

The ground floor exhibit was inspired by Marcus Bull’s work, Thinking Medieval: An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages (New York, NY: Plagrave Macmillian, 2005) and a class I took as an undergrad many moons ago at the University of Missouri.  According to Professor Bull, “To ‘think medieval’, in other words, is to ponder what the words ‘Middle Ages’ and ‘medieval’ have come to mean beyond the academic context.  What associations do these terms trigger, and why?” (Bull, Thinking Medieval, 1). He begins his treatise with a discussion of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994). He wonders why Tarantino chose to use the phrase, I’m gonna git medieval on your ass!, to describe the violent torture about to be undertaken in the film (Bull, Thinking Medieval, 10-12).  The other source of inspiration was an interdisciplinary course shared between English and Art History that examined the changing artistic illustrations of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and Dante’s Inferno.  At the time of the course, I was not yet a medievalist; however, the class has always stuck with me and was one of the best classes I took as an undergrad.  We examined these images from the Early Modern Period through the Late 2oth century not simply as a reflection of the texts themselves but also situated in the artistic and cultural periods of the artists.  I’ve assembled a few of them for you in the cases outside Lucy’s cafe.

It begs the question why are certain stories told again and again- why do they continue to resonate with us? The exhibit does not attempt to answer these questions; however, the artifacts assembled allow you to ponder both the questions raised and your own construction of the Middle Ages.  The exhibit will run between November 15, 2011 and February 24, 2012 and will give our community the chance to compare the authentic Ye Olde with later interpretations and inspirations of the Medieval.  Information about tours will be forthcoming.

Introducing ASA 2.0: A New Library Search and Discovery Tool!

In recent years, Lehigh Libraries has been focusing on innovative services through adopting open source software solutions to build a next generation library environment.  A first step in the direction of more dynamic user-centric offerings was the introduction, in January 2011, of a new Library website built upon the Drupal content management system.  Also, the Libraries is a founding partner in the Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE) project, a two year project funded in conjunction with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop community source software for academic libraries. Now, Lehigh Libraries is pleased to announce another initiative with the potential to transform the Library experience for our users: ASA 2.0, a next generation search and discovery tool for Library resources.

ASA 2.0 Search Results Page
ASA 2.0 Search Results Page

ASA 2.0 is powered by VuFind, an open source discovery technology developed under the leadership of Villanova University. With VuFind, ASA 2.0 has the potential to do more than search and display for the Library catalog.  ASA 2.0 incorporates many innovative features to allow users to query and browse multiple Library resources in a simple, yet sophisticated, manner.  Some features of ASA 2.0 include:

*Faceted Searching. The user starts from a basic search box and then can narrow down the results by clicking on various facets of the results such as Format, Language, Author, Genre, Era and Region.

*Live Record Status and Location. Enables the display of current holdings information.

*My Account. Logging into “My Account” allows one to check the status of a library account, request items from the library, and renew items that are already checked out. Also, the user may “tag” records with descriptors for easier retrieval, and mark titles as “favorites.”

* Persistent URLs mean that you can bookmark any search result URL that can be used over and over, presenting the same or updated results, if new collections have been added since your last access

*Saved Searches. The user may save resources from both the search results page and from the record view page to their own custom lists.

*Citation Management: The user may export records to citation management software like RefWorks, EndNote and Zotero.

*”Similar Items”. When viewing a record, the user will be offered suggestions of resources that are similar to the current resource.

*Browse for Resources. The user may browse the catalog and explore what the library has rather than only being able to see a very narrow spectrum of results.

ASA 2.0 is currently in BETA mode. This means we are still actively developing and soliciting feedback from our Library patrons. For the time being, the ASA Online Catalog Search on the Library Website will remain unchanged.  But, we invite you to take ASA 2.0 for a test run or, if you like it, bookmark ASA 2.0 as use it as your primary discovery tool for the Library catalog.  In either case, please take a moment to share your feedback by completing this short survey about the new ASA 2.0 Online Library Catalog Search!


Alumni Access To ProQuest…Better Than Brownies!

Lehigh is known for her incredibly curious, creative students, and so it is no surprise that for most of our alumni, graduation does not mark the end of their education. Rather, our alumni find themselves just starting on a path of lifelong learning. In addition to The Goose, brazen squirrels, and the rich, chocolately goodness of Lehigh brownies, recent graduates can find themselves also longing for the good old days when they had access to a wealth of books, journals, and library databases. Well, long no more, dear alumni.

While we can’t beam you back to your favorite study nook in Linderman or Fairchild Martindale, we can offer you access to a selection of electronic journals via our alumni subscription to ProQuest’s ABI Inform and Research Library databases. The Library has prepared a guide to show you how to get access to these subscription databases. ProQuest covers a wide variety of topics with scholarly journals in subject areas ranging from business to history to mathematics. Librarian support is also important when doing research, so in the library guide, you will find my contact information. If you have any questions about how to get access to the alumni library resources or even if you just have a tricky research question, please let me know.

While the Library is thrilled to be able to provide ProQuest to our alumni, I would be remiss if I did not mention another great resource available to alumni…your local public library. Here in Pennsylvania, public library card holders have AccessPA’s POWER Library available to them. POWER Library is a state-wide collection of electronic resources available to anyone with a PA library card.  To use POWER Library, patrons click on the POWER Library icon from their local public library’s web site, and enter the barcode number from the back of their library cards into the box provided. Additional database coverage will vary by individual library so make sure to visit your local public library’s web site to see what online resources they offer and for your library’s link to POWER Library. When you visit your public library’s web site, you may be surprised to find out that they also offer downloadable e-books. Again, availability of downloadable e-books will vary by individual library.

So remember, just because you’ve left South Mountain, you still have Lehigh’s Libraries to support you in your lifelong quest for knowledge. And knowledge won’t bring back the freshman 15 like those brownies will!

I’m with the Banned

In Cold BloodFor Banned Books Week I was asked to write about a banned book — one that influenced me growing up. As someone who’s been gaga over horses since childhood, the obvious choice is The Red Pony–but that’s too easy, and besides at the time I read it was just a horse story to me. I’m going to write about In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I was probably in 7th or 8th grade when I read it with my dad.  My dad has always been a serious guy, and we tended to bond over heavy topics. One of my fond childhood memories is watching the British documentary series The World at War  with dad, and talking about it afterwards. So anyway, I noticed dad was reading In Cold Blood, so I wanted to read it, and we read it together.

If I learned about Big Evil from watching footage of Hitler on The World at War, then In Cold Blood was probably my introduction the banality of evil. I marveled that Hickock and Smith,  two  petty criminals, were able to subdue and murder a whole family.  One of the themes of the book was that, aside from having miserable childhoods, there was nothing particularly remarkable about either of them. They weren’t intelligent, their plans were ill-conceived, and their ineptitude was almost comical, except for their actions in the Clutter home that night. 

When I read In Cold Blood, I responded to it differently than other books I had read as a teen. It might have been the first time I thought about the writing, and the writer, as much as the story.  I was in awe of Capote’s portrayal of the family,  the crime, and the town of Holcomb, Kansas. For me this book defines a writer’s ability to portray a sense of place. If the murders weren’t bad enough, Capote paints it all against a backdrop of a lonely and isolated rural countryside.

I also wanted to know more about the author. How did he gather all of this information, do all of the interviews, and still maintain enough distance weave it all into this unsentimental work?   I sought out more of his books, and eventually I read them all.  Music for Chameleons (wow, what a difference from In Cold Blood) sparked an interest in reading short stories that has lasted a lifetime.  

I’ve reread In Cold Blood a few times since I read it with my dad — but not recently. Maybe it’s time to pick it up again…

Celebrating Colleagues

Friday, September 16 marked my last day as the Help Desk/Web Support Librarian at Lehigh University Libraries.  I had the pleasure of being a librarian at Lehigh for 5 3/4 years, which means I spent over half of my librarian career life there.   I’ve been very fortunate in my career and have been able to work with some wonderful librarians and library staff over the years.  I really thought I would retire (which is still 20+ years away!) while at Lehigh, but a wonderful opportunity came along and I’ll be the new library director at Muhlenberg College.

My colleagues at LTS (Library and Technology Services at Lehigh) really outdid themselves in throwing me a going away party.  The outpouring of warm wishes and the generosity and thoughtfulness of their gifts truly warmed my heart.  It is not easy leaving a place where I not only enjoyed what I did, but I also worked with some wonderful people.

I wish I could name everyone in LTS and their many wonderful contributions, but I would undoubtedly forget someone or spell a name wrong.  LTS is a large organization within an excellent university and I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many highly competent and motivated people.   I learned a great deal and became a better librarian and a better person because of my time at Lehigh.  I’ve learned more than I had ever expected to about interlibrary loan, cataloging, technical services, account maintenance, wireless networks, computers, networks, networking, customer service, course reserves, course management systems, and so much more.  All of these things can be learned, but to do any of these very well, you need the right people in the right positions.  LTS seemed to have a lot of that combination in place!

I want to thank everyone at LTS for expanding my knowledge of libraries and technology, for continuously providing exceptional services, and for always looking for creative ways of doing more than was expected.  It truly was an honor to work with all the staff at LTS as well as the many faculty, students and staff I had the pleasure of working with at Lehigh.  I will continue to celebrate my colleagues with surprise thank yous, LinkedIn recommendations, or simply by living their example.   I look forward to working with many of them in the future, albeit in a different capacity.  I have been truly blessed with my colleagues at Lehigh.  Not only are they my colleagues, but I am grateful to be able to call them my friends as well.

Thank You for over five years of awesomeness!

Poor as in Standard & Poor’s

When Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States government’s credit rating to AA from AAA, the world economical markets reacted accordingly as expected: they took a nose dive to dropping to an alarming stage. While the economists and political scientists focused on what the effects were, I wanted to know more about the S&P and its rating system. Believe it or not, there was once a real man named Henry Varnum Poor who travelled in the United States by train through the newly constructed railroads and took obsessive notes about how they operated, their service. He then added some statistical data on his notes, and voila: the era of “rating” started with no returning back! The competition between the railroad companies was a cut-throat fight, and it was just the right time and right place to be for Mr. Poor who understood the power of his work and decided establish his company.

Here is a piece from Wikipedia on the history of Standard & Poor’s: “The company traces its history back to 1860, with the publication by Henry Varnum Poor of “History of Railroads and Canals in the United States.” This book was an attempt to compile comprehensive information about the financial and operational state of U.S. railroad companies. Henry Varnum went on to establish H.V. and H.W. Poor Co. with his son, Henry William, and published annually updated versions of this book.
In 1906, Luther Lee Blake founded the Standard Statistics Bureau, with the view to providing financial information on non-railroad companies. Instead of an annually published book, Standard Statistics would use 5″ x 7″ cards, allowing for more frequent updates.
In 1941, Poor and Standard Statistics merged to become Standard & Poor’s Corp. In 1966, the company was acquired by The McGraw-Hill Companies, and now encompasses the Financial Services division.” (Yes, the same McGraw-Hill, publisher of the most of your textbooks!)

The first edition of Henry V. Poor’s “History of Railroads and Canals in the United States” can be found in the Lehigh’s Special Collections, the very book that set the standard for the “rating system”. The book contains detailed data about the local railroad companies, such as Asa Packer’s Lehigh Valley Rail Road Company, and also a rich advertisement section with handsome illustrations of railroad tools, equipment, and engine parts. It seems that Lehigh’s copy has been circulated frequently, especially in the 1960s and 1970s and was loaned to other institutions through Inter Library Loan.

Lehigh’s copy of Poor’s book’s bookplate and title page are another enigma: The bookplate indicates that this particular book was donated to Lehigh by Albert Brodhead, Class of 1888, who, in his will, also donated more than 50 real estate properties to Lehigh University in North and South Bethlehem, such as the block where the Tally-Ho Tavern is and where most of the offices along the West side of the Brodhead Avenue are — Lehigh still owns and maintains many of them. The library staff who accessioned the book on December 8, 1941, rubber stamped the book with a library accession stamp, but on a later date, strangely, probably a library user, dropped a note next to this date with a ballpoint pen: “A day that will live in infamy” –probably referring to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous line, “A date which live in infamy” from his “War speech” of December 8, 1941.

Can a book from 1860 still be relevant and, more importantly, how many stories can a book tell us? Inquiring minds can fetch countless stories from a simple book that is on the shelves of your library.

The “Industrial Age” has passed and the magnitude of the U.S. railroad system has diminished to a vanishing degree, but Mr. Poor’s rating system is still a solid “gold standard” in the economical markets that, ironically, the fate of our daily lives and our standard of living are determined by his clever invention. Books, on the other hand, are timeless and they are immune to predictions, while they contain every known prophecy.

Ilhan Citak

*If you’d like to take a look at Lehigh’s copy of Henry Varnum Poor’s “History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America” please send an email to Special Collections at to make an appointment.


Searching in the Stacks (for love)

Lehigh University was always different to me since Bethlehem was my hometown. The lifestyle here was always more peaceful and slower than the frenetic pace of comparable universities. The Linderman Library contributed to that uniqueness by making communal studying a joy rather than a burden, especially after the renovation as more technology and sleeker architecture blended with the old beautiful stacks and rotunda. Many of the memories as an alumnus were made in the stacks of the Linderman Library, where I courted my beautiful wife, Grace.

Both of us were history majors, more worried about our esoteric research interests and less about matters of love. We both grew up in the households of college professors so our temperaments were more suited to books. My fondest memories of Lehigh are of taking courses in history where I first met Grace. Of course we ended up doing a lot of homework together and Linderman had most of the books we needed.

Seven years later I realized that I had met someone with whom to share my life for eternity. I had just finished my Master of Arts in History and was working on my Master of Library and Information Science while working full-time at the Fairchild-Martindale Library. It is funny how both Lehigh and libraries keeps being an inescapable element of my life. Some people said the timing was wrong but I thought the timing could not have been more perfect.

On May 21, 2011 we found ourselves in front of the altar of Grace’s hometown church and joined in holy matrimony. Naturally we thought it appropriate to have our wedding photos taken at the same library where we did such things as eat takeout from Quiznos while reading about carrier warfare tactics. With the blessings of LTS we rushed over after the wedding and took a long series of photographs before hurrying off again to a traditional twelve course Chinese banquet.

Lehigh University will always be a part of me. Its exceptional libraries fulfilled both my desire for knowledge and my pursuit for that special someone. I did a lot of searching in those stacks, not just for books, but for someone that defies MARC cataloging standards. Somewhere in the 300 fields I could probably enter “Female, 5’0”, Italian, generally cantankerous.”

More Summer Reading Suggestions From LTS Staff

Our recommendations for summer reading continue with two recommendations from Sharon Wiles-Young, Director Library Access and one from Tim McGeary, Team Leader Library Technology.

From Sharon:

Rich Boy by Sharon Pomerantz. In her first review, Sharon tells us that Rich Boy is a story about Robert Vishniak’s” journey from suburban Philadelphia to high society New York City in the 80s” that asks “what defines success and self?” This debut novel from Sharon Pomerantz will definitely be appearing on my nook Color in the near future.


How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal. In her second review, Sharon summarizes How To Bake A Perfect Life as being about “mother and daughter complex relationships interspersed with recipes and baking bread.” Sounds like a great read for a holiday weekend with the family, Sharon. All the angst and none of the carbs!


From Tim:

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned To Ask the Questions, by Rachel Held Evans. Tim writes, “Rachel Held Evans recounts her experiences growing up in Dayton, TN, famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. With fearless honesty, Evans describes how her faith survived her doubts to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn’t as important as asking the questions.” You had me at monkey, Tim.

Whatever you decide to read, I wish you a safe and happy holiday weekend. Both libraries will be open the following hours over the weekend: Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from noon to 5 PM. Both libraries will be open for regular summer hours on Monday. Regular summer hours are from 8 AM to 5 PM for Linderman Library and from 8 AM to 10 PM for Fairchild Martindale Library.

Summer Reading Suggestions

Summertime and the living is easy… Summertime is also a time to catch up on one’s reading. LTS staff members have compiled a list of their recommendations for summer reading. I will post selections from this list over the next few weeks. Here are three book suggestions to get you started:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This is what I am reading now. Somehow I missed being forced to read it in high school. It is a very exciting story about love, deceit, and creative, exacting, unmerciful (mostly) revenge. However, it takes place over a number of years and has many characters. I found the character map in Wikipedia to be helpful for keeping everyone straight.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Doreen Herold, Cataloging Librarian, recommends The Help. This story takes place in the 1960s in Mississippi. Some reviews describe it as being similar to Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. by Kerry Patterson et al
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High has been recommended by Tina Hertel, Help Desk Librarian.  Tina says, “Effective communication is a key skill that will benefit your own career, your relationships, and your organization.” This title is available as an e-book in the Library’s eBrary Collection.

A Night… at the Opera?

1898 Mustard and Cheese “Off the Stage” cast

A night out on the town for Lehigh students may consist of dinner at the Thai Kitchen and trip up Rte. 378 to the Rave Theatre at the Promenade Shops for a movie. This will probably run you and your date at least $40 for dinner and $30 for the movie tickets and concessions. Perhaps you will watch a movie about a groom and the best man having some encounters with the police and missing the wedding. The title of the movie might be named after a popular pop song of the year. And the movie ends with plenty of laughs and you and your date had a good time.

In 1896 a similar scene was being enacted by Lehigh students of ages long past. There were no movie theaters until after the turn of the century, but Lehigh students could opt to spend the evening at the local opera house Fountain Hill Grand Opera House! For the mere price of $1.00 a student could find prime seating in the orchestra section. If he were feeling a bit more parsimonious a gallery seat only cost a quarter. Included in that cost was the chance to see their fellow students on stage, for Lehigh’s own Mustard and Cheese Drama Club were the ones putting on the show.

The Mustard and Cheese Drama Club has a storied history at Lehigh. As with many Lehigh students, the foundation of their inspiration was “beer and companionship.” One night in 1884 at Rennig’s bar here in Bethlehem, two brothers, Richard Harding Davis and Charles Belmont Davis, decided that the university needed a dramatics organization. The name “Mustard and Cheese” was derived from the copious amounts of cheese and condiments consumed at Rennig’s to accompany the beer.

One the club’s first productions were the play “The Wedding March” by W.S. Gilbert (better known for his collaborations with Sir Arthur Sullivan). This was the farcical story of a wedding party gone awry and the police are forced to intervene until a guest bribes the police officer in charge. The name of the play itself comes from a popular wedding song of the era by Richard Wagner.

Creating such a production in 1896 was no small expense. Each individual costume for the twelve cast members cost the club a hefty $1.50 with an additional $0.50 charge for the wig. A receipt for 200 monochrome posters billed Mustard and Cheese $35.00. Hiring an orchestra for two nights ran $34.00, including railway fare and a car ride to the opera house. To recoup the costs, admission was opened to the public and tickets were sold at Hohl’s Drug Store. Total attendance was only 203 persons with a gross of $143.30, from which the opera house deducted expenses, leaving Mustard and Cheese with only $75.00.

The cost of creating these theatrical events was well worth the expense to the members of Mustard and Cheese. As the productions continued through the years, alumni would often write to the club asking about the current state of affairs. Current club members would reciprocate with invitations to new productions. A scrapbook, now in Special Collections, was kept to record these comings and goings, complete with records of each production and even cast photographs. A brotherhood was created here at Lehigh University that has continued through the years.

Today’s Mustard and Cheese has changed from its origins. The opera house in Bethlehem is long gone, replaced by the Zoellner Arts Center and the Touchstone Theater. The student actors are no longer required to wear costume dresses since now there are women in the club. Ticket prices have certainly gone up too. So I say to you, Lehigh students of today, why not get in touch with your Lehigh roots and take the time to have a night at the opera?

*Contact Special Collections to access variety of documents and photographs related to Mustard and Cheese.