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At the start of July, Cornell University Library made a giant leap to the future by implementing an innovative integrated library system (ILS) called FOLIO, becoming the first large research library in the world to migrate to the platform. 

Since 2016, Cornell University Library has been collaborating with institutions around the world to develop the new ILS, which is a complex suite of software for running services and operations—from ordering, paying for, cataloging, and lending out materials to analyzing resource use across physical, digital, local, and remote collections. An acronym for “The Future of Libraries Is Open,” FOLIO is envisioned as a sustainable, community-driven alternative to proprietary ILS products that are costly to purchase and maintain and are subject to vendor control. 

The open source and collaborative nature of FOLIO aligns with Cornell University Library’s commitment to open access and the wide sharing of knowledge, according to Simeon Warner, associate university librarian for information technology.

FOLIO also offers improved functionality and greater freedom and flexibility. 

“It’s a very dynamic system. We are not at a vendor’s mercy for how it’s going to work, and we’re also not locked into the way that it works right now,” Warner said. “We can request that the FOLIO community develop a new feature or we could develop it ourselves and contribute it to the community.” 

Since the start of the FOLIO project, Cornell University Library staff members have been working with colleagues in other libraries to develop and improve various functionalities of the platform—from managing metadata and enhancing how library holdings are described and made discoverable, to safeguarding the privacy of patrons. More than a hundred institutions around the world are now part of the ongoing FOLIO partnership. 

The library’s switch to the open source system is a milestone not just for Cornell but for the global library community, according to Debra Howell, director of information technology operations at Cornell University Library. 

“Cornell is the first large research library in the world to go live with FOLIO, and others are learning from our experience,” Howell said.

 “In implementing a software system of this size and complexity, we had a very smooth go-live experience,” she added. “This is attributable to the dedication of our staff from every part of the library.” 

Howell also mentioned the support provided by Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) in integrating FOLIO with other software systems used at Cornell. “It was an ensemble cast,” she said. 

Community support and collaboration is vital to libraries now more than ever, especially when it comes to sharing ever-growing electronic resources, according to Warner. 

“It’s essential to understand that a library like Cornell’s has never operated alone,” he said. “Now, FOLIO provides us a foundation to move forward in the way that libraries work together—and that’s exciting.” 

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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Ballroom dancer. Silent film star. Fashion designer. Animal rights advocate. Irene Castle wore many hats – and donned countless dazzling costumes – as a celebrity during the early twentieth century.

Through a gift from John Foote ’74 and Kristen Rupert ’74, Cornell University Library recently acquired Castle’s collection of professional and personal mementos chronicling her colorful, trendsetting career.

Aficionados of silent film, lovers of local lore, and scholars in filmmaking, fashion, and other disciplines have a lot to explore and learn from the collection, according to Foote, who lectures at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs and is a distant relative of Castle’s.

“These are not just stale artifacts but windows into the life of an extraordinary woman and fascinating part of Ithaca’s history,” Foote said. “There is something in this archive for everyone.”

Hundreds of photographs, letters, and manuscripts paint a vivid portrait of Castle and her circle, from her ballroom dancing years with first husband Vernon Castle to her time in Ithaca, New York, during her marriage to Robert E. Treman and her time acting for Wharton Studio, a silent film production company that ran from 1914 to 1919. This trove of archival materials had been in the possession of Castle’s granddaughter, Castle McLaughlin, a senior curator at Harvard’s Peabody Museum.

Irene Castle was known for playing strong and stylish female leads such as the title character in the serial “Patria,” a swashbuckling, gun-toting munitions factory heiress who helps thwart a foreign invasion. Off-screen, Castle was also a pioneering entrepreneur who designed many of her own costumes and skillfully cultivated her image to become a household brand, said Denise Green, associate professor in the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design in the College of Human Ecology and the director of the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection, who advocated for the acquisition of Castle’s collection.

“She was a very astute businesswoman,” Green said. “She knew the value of her name as a brand and so she branded all of her fashion innovations.” In 1917, Castle collaborated with Corticelli Silk Mills to develop "Patria"-themed fabrics, and started her own clothing line, Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions, in 1923. She also applied her moniker to everything from her “Castle Bob” haircut in 1913 that sparked a trend in the ’20s to the “Castle Band” of jewelry around her forehead that later resurfaced in hippie fashions of the ’60s, according to Green.

Castle’s archive also helps to illuminate the history of silent film production in the U.S. and, in particular, Wharton Studio, which lost most of its film reels in a fire.

“The tragedy is that early silent film was recorded on nitrate film, which is highly flammable,” Green explained. “And to really understand this history, we have to look at other kinds of archival sources like film stills, advertisements, extant garments, and correspondence.”

Castle’s photo albums and other ephemera are currently featured in a collaborative exhibit between the Wharton Studio Museum and the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection titled “Serial Style: The Business of Being Irene Castle,”, which is part of the larger exhibit “Breaking Barriers: Women’s Lives and Livelihoods” running through Feb. 26 in the History Center in Tompkins County. The display also includes dresses from the Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions line and a 1920 portrait of Castle by painter and former Cornell professor Olaf Brauner, which was recently acquired by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty, associate university librarian, said that she is thankful for the philanthropic support and the institutional partnerships that have made it possible for Castle’s collection to find a home at Cornell University and be shared with the broader public through the current exhibit at the History Center.

“I’m also very grateful for the fact that faculty like Denise Green and the library can collaborate to find collections that inspire exploration and cultivate intellectual growth and scholarly pursuit,” she said.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.


Photography and philanthropy share a long history at Cornell, including first president A.D. White’s donation of architectural photographs in the late 1800s. This year, new gifts boost the study and appreciation of photography at Cornell through the establishment of a curatorship of photography for rare and distinctive collections (RAD) at Cornell University Library as well as a teaching gallery and photography fund at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Through her gifts, retired banking executive Nancy Sukenik named the curatorship, teaching gallery and photography fund in honor of her husband of 40 years, Richard Sukenik ’59, an avid photographer who died in 2014 and was a controller for chemical company W.R. Grace.

Since her husband’s death, Nancy Sukenik had been planning to make gifts to Cornell, and she was encouraged by his close friend Steve Segal ’59 to support photography in recognition of Richard’s love for the art form.

The Richard Sukenik ’59 Curator of Photography for Rare and Distinctive Collections will play a crucial role in developing and coordinating the library’s vast and distributed photographic holdings, said Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty, associate university librarian who started RAD as a way of building connections among the special collections and archives across the library.

Library collections that contain photographic materials vital to teaching and scholarship include: the labor and management collections at the Kheel Center; Mann Library’s special collections; and the trove of items on Asia in the Echols Collection, Wason Collection and the Southeast Asia Digital Library. The wide-ranging photographic holdings in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) include horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey’s cyanotype photographs; the Cornell Human Sexuality Collection and its archives related to the AIDS/HIV pandemic; and the Africana Collections, which contains the photographic archives of the New York Amsterdam News, one of the oldest African American newspapers in the country.

The Sukenik Curator will collaborate with other curators to strengthen these and other photographic collections and contextualize them within broader visual and textual sources, Evangelestia-Dougherty said.

The gift to support the new Richard Sukenik ’59 Teaching Gallery at the Johnson Museum will greatly advance its public engagement and educational programs, said Jessica Levin Martinez, the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

“This will be a vibrant and dynamic gallery classroom with works rotating along with the pace of Cornell classes,” Martinez said, “and that will make teaching with works of photography and the broader collection relevant, accessible, and fresh for faculty and students.”

The Richard Sukenik ’59 Fund for Photography will also support the work of Kate Addleman-Frankel, who for the past four years has served as photography curator for both RMC and the Johnson Museum and who will now be the museum’s dedicated Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography.

“With the fund, our Davis Curator is now able to do new research, make strategic acquisitions, mount daring exhibitions, pursue new faculty and student collaborations, and care for the collection in innovative ways,” Martinez said.

Through the Sukenik Fund for Photography, Addleman-Frankel recently acquired a piece by Apsáalooke (Crow) artist Wendy Red Star, and she plans to continue building the museum’s holdings of photographs by Indigenous artists and others underrepresented in the collection, with a focus on building strengths and making connections across university repositories.

She will also serve as a counterpart and collaborator for the library’s Sukenik Curator and expand upon the Mellon Foundation-funded partnership between the museum and the library in holding joint exhibits and leveraging newly created resources for teaching with photographs on a variety of topics.

The gifts to the library and the museum are “serendipitous,” Evangelestia-Dougherty said.

“Our continued collaboration is emerging from this institutional friendship between the library and the museum,” she said. “Both entities have a resonant mission around photography and its documentation and preservation. We each have a unique voice, but we share a commitment to conversations around our collections.”

“Thanks to the generosity of Nancy Sukenik, we are able to honor and share Richard’s passion for photography with generations of Cornellians, researchers and friends of the university,” Martinez added. “We are so grateful for all that these gifts make possible now and long into the future.”

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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Scholars studying the shifting landscape of work can now dig deep into more than a half-century’s worth of knowledge from the ILR School’s digitized publications available on HathiTrust Digital Library, a vast collection of digitized content from libraries around the world.

The ILR publications go back to the earliest days of the school and cover a wide range of topics related to industrial and labor relations, from unions and collective bargaining practices to disability accommodations in the workplace.

Suzanne Cohen, collection development coordinator at Catherwood Library, and Jim DelRosso ’99, M.P.A. ’03, assistant director of Catherwood Library.

“It’s a combination of ILR School history, the history of the field of industrial and labor relations, and anything having to do with the world of work,” said Suzanne Cohen, collection development coordinator at Cornell University Library’s Catherwood Library in the ILR School.

Working closely with Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution in the ILR School, the librarians and staff from Catherwood Library made the publications as accessible as possible through the application of a Creative Commons Public Domain designation.

The documents – including annual reports, conference reports, research bulletins and library acquisitions lists – trace the growth of the ILR School and chart popular subjects of discussion and study across the decades.

The earliest ILR publication, for example, is a report on a 1947 gathering titled “Labor-Management Conference on Working Together in a Democratic Society,” which revolved around various topics, including social security and frontiers in human relations, and featured speakers from academic institutions, government agencies, private corporations and labor unions.

“The school has been committed to playing an active role in workplace scholarship by hosting these kinds of seminars and bringing in scholars to talk about their studies,” said Jim DelRosso ’99, M.P.A. ’03, assistant director of Catherwood Library. “Now anyone can access documents from conference symposiums and seminars and see how the scholarship around issues have evolved.”

In this effort, the Catherwood librarians learned from the pioneering work of colleagues at Mann Library who, in 2017, unlocked HathiTrust-hosted materials published by scholars at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, according to Cohen and DelRosso.

“They gave us an unbelievably clear roadmap of what to do,” DelRosso said.

The ILR materials on HathiTrust also complement the more recent materials available on DigitalCollections@ILR, an open-access online repository established in 2005 that’s managed by Catherwood Library and now housed in eCommons.

Cornell University Library currently has 613,307 volumes in HathiTrust, making up 3.5% of the digital library’s holdings. The partnership with HathiTrust is vital to fulfilling Cornell’s mission of engaging the world, according to Cohen and DelRosso.

“We trust HathiTrust’s preservation. We trust their access,” DelRosso said.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.


With recent enhancements to Cornell University Library’s online catalog, library patrons can now judge a book by its table of contents and other information vital for easily finding the right book, journal, or audiovisual material for research and scholarship.

The added table of contents is now available for an estimated 800,000 catalog entries in nearly 350 languages in the library’s digital and physical collections. To further enrich the online catalog, the library is also working with a third-party system called Syndetics to display tables of contents, excerpts, and descriptions.

“When a user views a record in the catalog, the Syndetics service gets queried,” explained Jesse Koennecke, director of acquisitions and e-resource licensing services at the library. “Almost half of the time, there is relevant table of contents or summary data in the Syndetics system that gets displayed in the catalog and can help the user evaluate the resource.”

The table of contents enhancement has come at critical time, according to Xin Li, associate university librarian.

“The library saw heavy reliance on online access throughout the pandemic, and we turned the pandemic lockdown into an opportunity for developing new services to meet faculty and students’ needs,” she said. “The online table of contents will remain useful far into the future.”

For music buffs and scholars, the library catalog now also displays track listings, performer and production information, release versions, and other data gathered from Discogs, an online music database with a vast community of users and contributors.

This type of integration helps Cornell University Library to provide patrons with the information they need in an efficient and sustainable way, said Steven Folsom, a discovery metadata librarian who is part of a project for linking library catalog data with data from external sources such as Discogs.

“This is an example of libraries acknowledging that we might not necessarily have the internal resources to capture a lot of information for every library acquisition,” Folsom said. “We have to rely on dynamic connections to pools of data from external sources.”

Library patrons also benefit from knowledge drawn from a community of experts and enthusiasts outside of the library, according to Beth Kelly, a music cataloger.

“Discogs is such a great resource and its very accurate,” she said. “You have all these music aficionados contributing to it, and they are so tied to their collections and can tell you about this release versus that release.”

Folsom added: “Library catalogers might not always be able to add every third violinist on a catalog for a every recording, but you may be surprised to find that somebody was able to capture that info on Discogs, and now we see it in our catalog.”

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.


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