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YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center to Visit UT Library, View Rare Books

Aspiring young poets from Knoxville’s YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center will visit the UT Knoxville campus next Monday, June 25. Their visit will include a tour of the John C. Hodges Library and a stop by Special Collections to learn more about the poet for whom the community center is named.

The teenagers took part in two poetry workshops this spring under the tutelage of UT English professor Katy Chiles and English major Kelli Frawley—a poetry-writing workshop and a workshop on famous African American poets. In the poetry-writing workshop, students wrote poems about Knoxville, taking their inspiration from the poem “Knoxville, Tennessee” by poet Nikki Giovanni, a native Knoxvillian.

Chiles teaches and writes about African American and Native American literature. She hopes the students will be inspired to consider writing as a career option.

Phillis Wheatley was an enslaved African woman whose book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, published in 1773, was the first published book by an African American woman. Wheatley was seven years old when she was captured by slavers in West Africa, transported to America, and sold at auction. She was emancipated in 1773, the year her book was published. Wheatley died in childbirth at age thirty-one.

In 2014, the UT Libraries purchased a rare first edition of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. UT’s copy of the book is particularly noteworthy because it contains a rare inscription by the poet herself. The Wheatley volume and other rare books by African-American authors will be on display when the visitors from the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center visit Special Collections.

The idea for the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Project emerged from conversations between professor Chiles and Christopher Caldwell, the UT Libraries’ humanities services librarian, while the two were attending a rare books conference. They collaborated with Thura Mack, the UT Libraries’ coordinator of community learning services and diversity programs, and Javiette Samuel, the director of community engagement and outreach in UT’s Office of Research, to plan the program and secure funding. Funding for the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Project was provided by the UT English Department and the UT Council for Diversity and Interculturalism. Kathy Mack, director of the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center, helped organize the program.

The YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center is a community center in the east Knoxville area that offers programs for seniors and after-school enrichment for young people.

Digital Collection Spotlights Tennessee’s First Home Demonstration Agent

Virginia P. Moore was Tennessee’s first home demonstration agent. Her work with farm women and rural girls in the early 20th century is documented in a new digital collection created by the University of Tennessee Libraries.

The Virginia P. Moore Collection can be viewed online at

Moore organized canning clubs in rural counties, teaching girls to cultivate and preserve their own produce, as well as introducing them to new home conveniences. Many photographs in the digital collection feature canning club girls at state fairs and canning competitions or tending their garden plots.

Farm and home demonstration work arose out of the Progressive movement, which sought to better people’s lives, especially through education. Legislation enacted in the late 19th and early 20th century created land-grant colleges (Morrill Act, 1862), established agricultural experiment stations (Hatch Act, 1887), and sent demonstration agents into rural areas to share the latest research on improved farming and homemaking practices (Smith-Lever Act, 1914).

Moore worked as a rural teacher, then as an organizer of school improvement associations, upgrading rural schools. In 1910, she became Tennessee’s first home demonstration agent, working with women and girls in developing canning clubs. With passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, she moved from Nashville to Knoxville to become assistant director in charge of home demonstration work in the new Division of Extension under UT’s College of Agriculture. By 1916, Moore had 32 home demonstration agents reporting to her at the county level, as well as two district-level agents in East and West Tennessee.

Today, UT Extension, the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture, continues to improve lives by delivering research-based information to citizens throughout the state.

The Virginia P. Moore Collection, documenting Moore’s life and career, was donated to UT Libraries’ Special Collections by her great-niece. In addition to the photographs that were digitized for the online collection, donated materials include Moore’s notes, letters, and publications, as well as recipes and club reports from the canning clubs with which she worked.

Special Collections acquires and preserves collections of manuscripts, books, printed ephemera, maps, and other unique research materials for use by researchers from around the world.

Read a lengthier article about Virginia P. Moore at

Pictured above (from the Virginia P. Moore Collection, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries):
1) Sealing contest at the Tennessee State Fair, 1912. Virginia P. Moore is on the far right.
2) Mrs. J. J. Hardin giving pruning demonstration to four members.
3) Two Hamilton County canning club members with exhibit of canned produce and baked goods.

Here’s #HowToGetIntoHodges

You’ve seen our video tutorial on #HowToGetIntoHodges, right? We showed you how Vols have learned to use the pull and push method, the buddy system, the side kick, and total avoidance to get past the heavy doors of Hodges Library.

The doors at the Melrose entrance are lovely. But after 30 years on the job, they have become increasingly obstinate . . . I mean unwieldy!

We’ve tried oiling the hinges. We’ve tried replacing the hinges. We’ve tried new pneumatic closers. We’ve even tried coaxing and wheedling. All for nought. Neit. Nein. No way.

So-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, we’re replacing the doors. (That’ll show ‘em!)

Remodeling of the Melrose entrance will begin sometime between late May to early June and will incorporate a whole new set of doors for your effortless entrance to the heart of campus.

We know you can’t wait to feel the breeze in your hair as you glide into the library with poise, so stay tuned for updates on our timing and progress. There will be fun in store!

Awards and Recognitions

UT Libraries and librarians were honored with several awards this spring.

The Libraries’ Diversity Committee received this year’s Dr. Marva Rudolph Diversity and Interculturalism Unit Excellence Award. Thura Mack accepted the award on behalf of the committee at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet on April 17. Our Diversity Committee was recognized for having “demonstrated continual campus leadership in diversity through professional development, educational programs, and wellness events, as well as through diversity-centered research presented at the local, state, and national level.” The Diversity Resident program and the “Difficult Conversations” lunch-and-learn series were also mentioned. Continue reading

A Makerspace in the Library

makerspace postersA makerspace is coming to Hodges Library. We’ve been polling students to capture their vision for what’s to come.

Makerspaces provide tools and space where people with shared interests gather to work on projects while trading ideas and knowledge.

There are makerspaces for arts and crafts, and makerspaces for rapid prototyping of new products, just to name a few scenarios.

A makerspace may allow the novice to explore woodworking, metalworking, and electronics in the same workshop. CAD software, 3D printers, legos, lathes, laser cutters — any or all of these might be found in a makerspace.

In April, we celebrated National Library Week with a makerspace fair in the Hodges, Pendergrass, and Devine libraries. Booths set up along the Hodges second-floor hallway showcased gaming, 3D printing, and other “maker” crafts, and let students try their hands at traditional crafts such as origami or Japanese stab binding.

We used the opportunity to gather students’ ideas for the makerspace. Any student who filled out our survey got a ticket for a free makerspace t-shirt from our on-site screen-printing operation. T-shirts featured the custom designs our Marketing and Communication team created to generate interest in the makerspace and the Libraries in general as a space for everyone (“A space for the visionary,” “A space for the naturalist,” “A space for the mad scientist,” etc.).

Ours won’t be the first makerspace on campus. The Innovation and Collaboration Studio hosted by the Tickle College of Engineering and the College of Architecture and Design’s downtown Fab Lab are already allowing students to turn their ideas into prototypes. Continue reading

UT Libraries is “SGA Campus Partner of the Year”

The Student Government Association has named the UT Libraries their SGA Campus Partner of the Year for 2017-18. Librarian Rachel Caldwell accepted the award at SGA’s Transition Ceremony on April 26.

The UT Libraries was recognized for collaborating with SGA to encourage the use of open educational resources (OER) in university courses. Open textbooks, one type of OER, can be read online for free, potentially saving each student hundreds of dollars a year. For several years, the Libraries has spearheaded an effort, led by scholarly communication librarian Rachel Caldwell, to inform campus about how open textbooks benefit both students and instructors.

In 2017, the Libraries worked with SGA to establish the SGA Open Education Award, which recognizes instructors who adopt OER in their courses. Together, SGA and the Libraries have been tracking the savings from adoptions of open textbooks. During the 2017-18 academic year, UT instructors who adopted open textbooks in their courses saved students almost $750,000.

The Libraries’ administration also was acknowledged for inviting SGA input to library planning with a standing invitation to the SGA president or delegate to hold an ex officio seat on the Libraries’ Dean’s Student Advisory Committee (DSAC). This ensures valuable feedback from SGA on improving library services and resources. DSAC members, in turn, were invited to review nominations and make recommendations for SGA Open Education Awards.

Rachel Caldwell and student success librarian Anna Sandelli, both of whom worked closely with the SGA over the past year, look forward to another productive year of collaboration in 2018-19.

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