Posts Tagged ‘wvu’

For many of us, it’s fun to read books. The contents within the pages are entertainment, they allow us to escape, or even provoke new ideas. Some of us are challenged by good writing. And I, for one, always wonder what the author of each good story is like. I grew up reading some science fiction and fantasy by Orson Scott Card, and then I found out he was a Mormon. Although I’m leery of the religion, I met Card at a nice, independent bookstore in San Diego. He was engaging, thoughtful, and endearing—everything that I had thought he would be.

I’ve mentioned before in my blogging that I’m not a celebrity hound. I don’t usually care much for the famous—the exciting no-names are more intriguing. But when I added a face and personality to the books that I had read, I felt some sort of tangible connection to the literature. Somehow they seemed more grounded. I’ve met many authors, before and after that encounter with Card, but he will always stand out to me. Now only if I could have lunch with Bill Bryson…

What if I told you that all of you that access to published writers (award-winning and good writers at that!) is usually nothing more than looking in your neighborhood. Here in Morgantown, we’re practically swimming in authors and scholars. After all, most good professors have been published extensively in journals, texts, and even trade books. Some write amazing stories. When I lived in Illinois, I worked at a bookstore while going through undergrad at the University. I commonly sold books from my professors, such as Leaving Atlanta, by Tayari JonesLedbelly, by Tyehimba Jess; and The Echo Maker (winner of the 2006 National Book Award), by Richard Powers. Getting to know the author can be a wonderful way to learn more about the material, and, if you’re an aspiring writer, find out all the secrets to the trade.

Here’s a list of some of Morgantown’s published and award-winning authors, which is by no means comprehensive. I work with the College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (CPASS), and I study through the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and the English department, so this list is heavy on the folks I work with, for, and around on a daily basis.


Ethel Morgan Smith

Smith is an associate professor at the English department. She is the author of From Whence Cometh My Help. An excerpt:

Determined to give voice to the African American community that served as the silent workforce for Hollins College, Ethel Morgan Smith succeeded in finding individuals to step forward and tell their stories. From Whence Cometh My Helpexamines the dynamics of an institution built on the foundations of slavery and so steeped in tradition that it managed to perpetuate servitude for generations. Interviewing senior community members, Smith gives recognition to the invisible population that provided and continues to provide the labor support for Hollins College for more than 150 years.

Smith specializes in creative nonfiction and African-American literature. She is working on an upcoming project to be detailed within the website but.if.and.that in April, 2011.

Ethel Morgan Smith, author and professor at WVU / Photo courtesy of Ethel Morgan Smith


James Harms

Harms is a professor of English at WVU, and is an amazing poet. He has won three Pushcart prizes, he has published several collections of poems, and has appeared in countless publications and magazines. One of my favorite mags, Smartish Pace, featured Harms, and you can even read one of my favorite poems of his here. One of his better collections, in my opinion, is Freeways and Aqueducts, of which the following praise appears from the English department website:

“Atmospheric and often lovely . . . these poems dwell unapologetically in the quotidian, attempting to transform the banal into the sublime. When this succeeds, it does so beautifully. . . . The collection is worth a good read—both for its images of quiet loveliness (‘you cupped my face like handful of water’) and for its masterfully sustained mood, the pleasant ache of chronic homesickness.”



Mark Brazaitis

Brazaitis has a book on my reading list, which came highly recommended, titled An American Affair: Stories, which won the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize. Brazaitis, also a professor at WVU, offers many courses; one of his classes I wish to attend as a grad student is his fiction workshop (also highly recommended to me). For a sample of his writing, you can visit Sun Magazine and read The Boy Behind the Tree. Check it out!


Sarah Einstein

Einstein is receiving her MFA from WVU, and is moving on to Ohio, where she’ll be pursuing her PhD. She is the winner of a Pushcart prize for her nonfiction essay Mot, published by Ninth Letter at the University of Illinois (by my alma mater and creative writing department). You can read selections from Mot and a get a unique perspective on the voice of the “other” at but.if.and.that.

Sarah Einstein, Pushcart winner, WVU alum, and all-around great writer / Photo courtesy of Sarah Einstein

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Did you know that I’ve hidden a quote in a book in the library, and if you find it you can win a Stephen King hardcover novel?

Did you know you can rent DVDs out the wazoo down in the lower level of the downtown campus library?

Did you know that the library itself is actually two buildings on the main campus, and that there are five in the system?

Did you know that there are now ebook collections?

Do you know where the bust of Dante is?

Did you know that the library has one of the largest collections of books by Isaac Asimov, as well as large collections of Mark Twain and Shakespeare?

Did you know that there are librarians that like to text answers to you?

No? Read on. With the help of some librarians and students, I got to poke around in the nether regions of one of the more interesting places I’ve been in.

I am the son of a librarian. I’m also the son of a mechanic, but for some reason I turned out to be a bibliophile, much to my dad’s chagrin. I have a healthy respect for libraries, especially libraries that are adapting to today’s technologies and oft-changing times. Anyone in the digital media market knows how volatile it can be with DRM platforms constantly changing, along with the devices people are using (Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, etc.). Students are demanding folks, especially undergrads that have never been around a strong, university library system.

The atrium is a lovely place to study, and marks the separation of the "old" and "new" libraries on the downtown campus.

Here in Morgantown, at West Virginia University, is a lovely collection of libraries. Individually they are known as the Evansdale, Health Sciences, Law, Charleston Health Sciences, and downtown campus libraries. The most action – and intrigue – is found at the downtown campus library. When I first entered the library last semester, I got lost. For those who haven’t been indoctrinated, the downtown library is actually TWO libraries—the Wise Library (or “old” library) and the addition to the front of it, simply called the downtown campus library. You’ll also notice that if you take the stairs on the front half of the building, you’ll end up going to floors two and four. In the back half, you’ll have to go up a flight of stairs, and then go up a half flight of stairs on either side to access places like the Robinson Reading Room. If you want to access the rare book room in the Wise Library, you have to go to the back left elevator, go to the sixth floor, and then walk across the access hall into the other building. Let’s just say that you’ll want to stop by the main desk for a map if you have to look something up.

At that main desk I had a chance to chat up Linda Blake, the electronic journals coordinator and science librarian. It turns out that what my librarian mother always said, “If you don’t know, ask a librarian,” is true. If you think about it, most librarians have to have a master’s degree in a field like information technology. They’re pretty savvy, and they put to rest the old stereotypes of bitter women with peacock glasses and a hatred for children. If you talk to someone like Linda Blake, you can find out a lot.

Librarian Linda Blake and her assistant, Jaclyn Carenbauer, a freshman studying social work, at the main desk of the downtown campus library. When in doubt, ask a librarian!

“Did you know about the Asimov collection?” said Blake, “There was even an article in the D.A. (Daily Athenaeum) today about it.” And so there was. Turns out that over 600 Isaac Asimov books now reside in the downtown campus library, and you can take a look at them.

“Or how about the bust of Dante?” Blake was referring to a beautiful bust of 13th-century poet Dante Alighierhi. There’s a fascinating story that can be found here, regarding the history of the library, where in 1940, Italian immigrant Thoney Pietro commissioned the bust to be given to WVU “as a token of his appreciation of happiness which had come to him since his arrival from Italy.” In short, it took 19 years for the bust to find its way home, after spending some time in the Library of Congress. For those in Morgantown not indoctrinated in the history of Pietro, you can check out pictures of one of his houses on Kingwood here, or a rendition of his “castle” (an old friary) here. (You really should take a look at the friary, at least). Blake stated that on her tours of the library (oh, yes, there are tours), the history of Dante’s bust is one of the stories she tells.

Thoney Pietro's bust of 13th century Florentine poet Dante. It's located in the Robinson Reading Room, one of the "deep quiet zones."

But if you want to catch a glimpse of history, you should take a tour of the rare book collection. Librarian Christy Venham gave me a short tour.

On the sixth floor of the "new" library, you can access a hallway to the Wise Library, home to the rare book collection.

When you go, the process is pretty strict. First, you need to check in with one of the students at the entrance.

Criminology freshman Dominic Lowman is ready to check you into the rare books section of the Wise Library.

He’ll have you fill out a form if it’s your first time in the rare books section. If you have a backpack or purse he’ll give you a locker key. Then you’ll be monitored when you look through the books. White gloves keeps the oils from your hands from rubbing off on the books. You can always ask curator John Cuthbert any of your questions.

The hallowed grounds of antiquities, history, and culture

More of the rare books collection

“We’ll let you take books into the Stealey Manuscript Reading Room, and you can only have a pen or pencil, paper, or a laptop, and nothing else.” said Venham. “We have security cameras and one-way mirrors to observe the readers.” Needless to say, the experience is something all students should go through. “Some classes come here—a variety of English classes are assigned to rare books.”

Venham wants students to know that to look at the rare book collection you can only come on Monday through Friday.

But if you’re like most students, you’ll probably want to know the cool stuff, like the fact that you can check out DVDs in the lower level, a floor a lot of students don’t think of venturing to. Linda Blake wants to remind students that the collection isn’t “browsable like Blockbuster,” and that if you want to find out ahead of time what you might want, go to the media section of the website, and look up DVD or VHS.

It’s also good to know that you can always text or instant-message a librarian one of your questions. And if you’re really into the digital world, it’s good to know that WVU is building an Ebrary, and Blake is in charge of around 30,000 electronic journals.

Of course, if all else fails, you can still go make out in the stacks.

The stacks. Just to the right you'll be able to find the book I hid the clue in.

And speaking of stacks, here’s your clue to win a new, hardcover book by Stephen King—Under the Dome. There’s a book in the stacks that has to do with one of Americana’s finest writers and humorists on the subject of the Mississippi River. There is a rare, first edition book in the rare books that you can view, but librarians will ask if you’ll read one of the other editions downstairs, like the one I hid the clue in. I’d give you the call number, but that would be too easy. Here’s another hint: the rare book collection has the 1883 edition. I’ve hidden my clue in a 1957 edition. The first person to write the clue down in the comments section will win. Disclaimer: Librarians and library staff are exempt from winning.

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A view from along the rail trail near downtown Morgantown, photo by Aaron Geiger

Morgantown, West Virginia is one of the most unique places in the United States: it is close to Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; it is surrounded by wilderness and Appalachia; it is home to West Virginia University; it is the mother to a grand cultural mix of health care, coal mining, environmentalism, academia, pharmacology, athletics, and outdoor recreation. We’d venture to say the diversity of lifestyles is probably the most dynamic you’re going to find in the area.

That’s why we’ve decided to start a blog to clue some of Morgantown’s masses, potential students, and curious bystanders in on some of the more intimate and hidden areas of the town and its surrounding townships and hollers. We will focus on a different lifestyle each weekday, to be repeated each week. We’ll also do some smaller lifestyle vignettes on Fridays (that will not be repeated). We encourage you, the reader, to participate in adding your lifestyle and interests to our pages. We are inclusive. We are Mountaineers.

Mondays – Kirk Auvil will take you into the lives of gamers and hobbyists at the start of each week. Morgantown is home to a large crowd of enthusiasts, and they are passionate about what they do.

Tuesdays – Aaron Geiger ventures into the literary world of WVU, downtown Morgantown, and surrounding areas to investigate the weird lives of bibliophiles, verbal miscreants, and lingual voices. On its own, WVU hosts some incredible writers, poets, authors, and speakers. You can expect a Bryson-esque barrage of dry humor and interesting facts every Tuesday.

Wednesdays – Toni Cekada looks at the bread-and-butter of Morgantown and WVU: the spirit of volunteerism. From sending books to prisoners, to chronicling the Faces in the Mine to providing innovative outreach to the homeless, the town is a wonderful place to get your giving-back on. Expect Toni to unearth ways to volunteer you never knew existed, but always felt you should have been told.

Thursdays – Keri Gero investigates a little-known, but popular fact of Morgantown: pets and their owners. From jogging the rail trail with your dog, to finding apartments with dog parks and cat-friendly housing, to exploring the local shelters and dog-massaging parlors, Keri will bring the cultural gem of animal-friendly Morgantown to you.

Fridays – One of us will offer up a new vignette each week, maybe more, that will look into other lifestyles of Morgantown: the gay community, the Latino foundation, rifle team members, extreme sport enthusiasts—you name it. We’ll also take guest contributors here, too!

Thanks, and enjoy our site.


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