From Mark Twain to Single Women: Friends of the Libraries Programming Attracts Diverse Audiences

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Rebecca Traister addresses a class of students

This past year was an exciting one for the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries, who were able to bring a full schedule of rich programming to the community. We kicked off the year with the annual Harvest of Ideas, a reception celebrating Lehigh faculty who have published a book over the past year. The event was an excellent opportunity for attendees to talk with faculty in an informal and festive setting, while enjoying some great refreshments.

The second event, also presented in September, was a panel discussion consisting of Lehigh alumnus and book collector Alfred J. Barcan and Professor of English Seth Moglen. Barcan, who donated his collection of more than 1,000 volumes of Victorian literature and design to Special Collections the previous year, chronicled his collecting methodologies throughout the world. Focusing on an area of strength in the collection, Moglen lectured on Mark Twain and the use of artwork on both the covers and in the text.

In October, the Friends provided support for the campus visit of poet Nikki Giovanni, cosponsoring with the Ann Neitzel Endowment Fund for Poetry and Creative Writing and Africana Studies at Lehigh University. Librarians and staff also hosted a visit by students and teachers from the Bethlehem Area School District (elementary, middle and high school groups) and teachers in which students read Giovanni poetry, learned about her life, and developed questions to ask her during a special meeting.

In November, the Friends sponsored a campus and community series event: Grief, Love, and Memory in Modern Tibetan Buddhism, a talk by Dr. Annabella Pitkin, Assistant Professor of Buddhism / East Asian Religions, Department of Religion Studies. In this talk, Pitkin examined grief, love, and memory between students and teachers through the life story of a Tibetan Buddhist figure who lived during the agonizing upheavals of Tibet’s 20th century. She described evidence that refutes longstanding caricatures of Tibetan Buddhists as unable to be modern because of their religious commitments.

Events planned for the spring semester were delayed by a surprise snow storm that postponed Rebecca Traister’s visit until late March. However, attendees proclaimed that Stephen Buonopane’s talk in early March on the suspension bridges of John A. Roebling was “just marvelous.” Buonopane explained how relevant historical records and other archives were to his research as a practicing civil engineer in his well-illustrated talk, citing examples of bridges no longer extant. Records of such structures are useful in restoration of bridges and the nation’s infrastructure. The talk concluded with a number of questions from the seventy persons in the audience.

Rebecca Traister’s visit to campus, rescheduled on March 30, was filled with meetings with faculty and students. Traister participated in a luncheon sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and then attended a class on political sociology where students had the opportunity to discuss her recent articles in New York Magazine. The day culminated with her public lecture, “All the Single Ladies”, co-sponsored by the Department of English, presented to an audience of well over 200 attendees in Whitaker Lab.

If you have enjoyed this programming, please consider supporting the Friends of the Lehigh Libraries. Information about the Friends, as well as a link to membership information can be found here: