Friday, April 24, 2009

Meet Diana Gates

Today, we have what Mr. Rogers might call a "very special" librarian profile. Today, you'll meet Diana Gates, our Deaf Collection Librarian. On a daily basis, she pulls off the Herculean task of managing the Deaf Collection here at Gallaudet.

The Deaf Collection works on a very simple principle: if it's by a deaf person, has a deaf person in it, or is about deaf people, deafness, sign language, or audiology, we try to get it. What few people realize is that the Deaf Collection that lives on the first floor is only the tip of the iceberg. The stuff you see on the first floor always has a second copy downstairs, so not only is the entire Deaf Collection on the first floor duplicated in the basement, but it is also accompanied by the one-of-a-kind stuff that doesn't circulate. We do not allow the rarer items to circulate in order to preserve them for future researchers.

So who gets to feed the beast? Diana Gates, that's who. She's the lady you always see kind of running up and down the stairs in the Library, and this is her story.

1) Where are you from, anyway?
I am from Mattoon, Illinois, which is in central Illinois. But I have been living in Maryland for a good while.

2) How did you get here?
I have to laugh at this question. If you only knew how many crazy family trips we made to Washington, D.C. before I became a student. My godmother and uncle lived here before I was a student at Gallaudet. My uncle was stationed in the Army at Fort Belvoir; we started coming shortly after the 1968 riots. About that time, I heard about Gallaudet College, as it was called in those days, and we visited the campus, which had fewer buildings then.

3) How long have you worked here, and can you give me an idea of some of the more interesting things you've seen in your tenure at Gallaudet?
I started working right after President Nixon resigned as President, August 1974. The Library was in the Edward Miner Gallaudet building and was known as the Edward Miner Gallaudet Library. You can see this stamped on some of the Library’s older books. In 1981, the Library moved into Learning Center, which was renamed the Merrill Learning Center after President Merrill.

In 1973, I started working here as a student assistant doing practically everything: circulation, cataloging, shelving, the Deaf Collection, and Archives. Library Science was available as a major at Gallaudet at that time. I majored in English and Library Science; I guess I must have been a terrible student because I was in the last class to graduate with a major in Library Science. I started full time work in my last semester and graduated in 1975. I started as a Circulation & Reference Librarian, and then became the Northwest Campus Librarian, followed by Reference & Instruction Librarian and currently, the Deaf Collection Librarian.

As for interesting things happening here at Gallaudet, there’s been more emphasis on ASL, Deaf culture, Deaf space, Deaf history, emphasis on the Deaf rather than the deaf, more interpreters, congressional legislation, such as ADA, and an explosion of publications and films related to deaf people and deafness. Finally, as everyone knows, technology--computers, pagers, and software programs--which benefit the deaf. Some academic offerings reflect those changes. From 1970, the campus has gone from a “little Southern college” into a competitive high-tech university.

4) What have you specialized in?
After 34 years, I have done a variety of things: circulation, interlibrary loan, and reference. In 1983, I established the Northwest Campus Library for the School of Preparatory Studies; I also tutored students with learning disabilities in reading. Later I supervised the Computer Lab and Tutoring Center. I remained there until the Prep Program closed in 1995. Then I returned to the Kendall Green campus to do more circulation and reference library work. I had the pleasure of working with the English, Foreign Language, and Physical Education Departments.

Currently as the Deaf Collection Librarian, I track down and purchase deaf related books, periodicals, and films and also do deaf reference work. In addition, I am learning the ropes in the Archives, which is a totally different kind of black hole filled with fascinating information about the campus and anything deaf related.

5) What's in the Deaf Collection?

The Deaf Collection is full of interesting little gems of knowledge and of course big research findings, too. The Collection has materials on the early days of deaf education around the time of the establishment of the American School for the Deaf. There are also audiology and speech materials and theories from Alexander Graham Bell’s promotion of oralism. Sign languages and fingerspelling materials from many countries are acquired for the Collection. Deaf school yearbooks and our own Tower Clock are among the popular items. Areas where Deaf people are involved in sports, linguistics, sociology, culture, psychology and the arts, to name a few, are also represented. Literature, with deaf characters or fiction written by deaf authors, is also included. Basically, most areas of knowledge that have something related to the deaf or deafness. It is the largest collection on deafness in the world and there things there that you won’t find by Googling! Google is great but it doesn’t have all the information and at times its accuracy can be questionable.

6) What can you do for students or faculty doing deaf-related research?

As librarians, we work with the faculty to support the curriculum and information literacy objectives. Class presentations, workshops, email, IM, and one-on-one sessions by appointment are different ways the librarians work with students.

7) Can you list some of the resources that you use the most in working with students and faculty? Why are they good resources to use?

There are many wonderful resources in the Deaf Collection. In your last blog, Jane Rutherford mentioned some of the basic deaf reference resources, which are a good place to start. The Deaf Research Guide is THE place to begin any deaf research. There are research guides that help guide you to finding materials in the ALADIN Catalog and online article databases. The guides were developed based on frequency of questions we receive, such as biographies of deaf people or deaf culture. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section includes answers to sign language, statistics, and much more.

Let’s not forget many resources are becoming available online through the ALADIN Catalog.

And finally, Librarians are also excellent resources if you need help with your research, a curious question, or simply something fun and light to read.

8) What do you like the most about working here?

I grew up wanting to be a librarian because I love books, but it involves working with people too. Each day is different. Most of our patrons are from on campus but researchers from around the country and the world come to use our resources. Often the researchers return and it’s like meeting old friends again. It’s rewarding to assist people with their research. Their research questions may be a simple question, such as, "Who is Laurent Clerc?" or something more complex.

The work may seem routine sometimes, but the duties do change and the technology constantly changes. It’s exciting to do research and obtain new materials about a deaf artist or author from a hundred years ago. There’s a sense of ownership in your work, which contributes to the collection that reflects Deaf history and our heritage. It’s rewarding and an honor also. Finally, there are always projects waiting, such as digitizing, updating a webpage, searching for more deaf materials to acquire, and accepting donations.

9) There's been some talk about a new library building in the works over the next few years. What's the one thing you'd most like to see change from the old building to the new one?

I visualize a new large, functional building that is “inviting” to everyone with natural and artificial light, packed with student-focused features, and temperature- and climate-controlled rooms for preserving our old deaf materials, some of which date back to the 1500s. This would be a perfect place for Gallaudet’s museum. This new facility would have “older” architectural features that reflect the campus’s heritage like many of the older universities. There’s something mystical about buildings which hold scholarly knowledge about mankind and the universe. It makes you think of the library in the Harry Potter films!

10) Last question, I promise: What's your favorite color?

That’s such a difficult question. It’s like taking one color out of an artist’s canvas and I don’t think a color or a particular hue can stand alone; they work together and complement each other. Imagine if everything in the world was one color! If you are really curious about a few favorite colors, stop by and ask me in person!

That does it for this week. Next week: Graphic novels. What's so great about them anyway? Why do we have them? Tune in next week and find out!

Question of the Week
I just tried to find a book in the Deaf Stacks with the call number 268.433 D4w 19--, "We are the Church," which is a lesson plan for religious education for deaf kids. I tried and tried to find it, but it was nowhere! The numbers just went from 268.4 to 268.6. Then I asked a librarian and he found it right away. How do call numbers work, anyway?
Here at the Gallaudet University Library, we use a system that you might recognize from your hometown's public library: The Dewey Decimal Classification. It's just right for a library of our size. Dewey splits up all books into 10 major subjects like Literature, Religion, or History (000, 100, 200, etc.), which are then split up into ten more subjects that fit under the larger heading, like American History, Christianity, or British Literature (110, 120, 130, etc.). Then those subjects are split into ten each (111, 112, 113, etc.) and so on down the line.

How is this reflected in the call numbers? Let's look at 268.433 as an example. Let's break it down; look at how the number changes as you get more and more specific:

200: Religion
260: Christian Social and Ecclesiastical Theology (a heading used for church services, schools, observances, etc.)
268: Religious Education
268.433: Religious Education -- Young People

D4w: A code for the book's author and title information in order to make the call number even more specific

19--: Year the book was published. It's incomplete because we're not sure what year this book was published, a rare exception.

We do not use the call numbers to distinguish between the Deaf Stacks and General Stacks, so you will need to pay attention when you look at the ALADIN Catalog record for the book you want in order to find out whether it's in the Deaf or General Stacks.

Here, you can see how call numbers don't work like actual mathematical figures -- we don't divide Religion by Young Deaf People and get 268.433 in the result. They're more like serial numbers, like the ones on your cell phone or computer. Finding the above call number works in this process:
  1. Go to the Deaf Stacks shelf labeled with the range containing your call number; in your case, it's the one with a sign that says "155.4 TO 304.2"
  2. Scan the call numbers on the shelf until you reach the books whose call numbers begin with "268"
  3. Scan those books until you reach the books that start with "268.4"
  4. From this point on, each new number counts upward. Thus, 268.4 comes first (because there's no extra number), then 268.40, 268.41, 268.42, 268.43
  5. Then start counting up again with a new number: 268.430, 268.431, 268.432, 268.433
  6. Then we have the letters, which can look a little weird, but they're also in order, alphabetically
  7. Then the numbers again
  8. Then the letters again
  9. Then, if until this point, you still have three books with the same call number, look at the year at the very end -- if the call number you found in ALADIN is 268.433 D4w 1999, and you see the exact same year on one of those three books, that's the one you're looking for.
Call numbers seem to develop their own mystique for some people, especially those who aren't strong in math. Fortunately, math isn't necessary to navigate the shelves, just careful attention and a willingness to spend a little time among the books.

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