Q: You're the
university archivist and head of Special Collections & Archives. What led
you into this area?
I was drawn to librarianship at an early age in part because my motherís
two sisters are librarians. Later on, after thinking about various other
careers, I realized that librarianship, especially special collections
librarianship, was a natural outgrowth of my education as well as being work
that I enjoyed. The archival component of my career came later, when I
worked at Duke and the University of Chicago.
Q: Where are
your degrees from and in what?
A: I earned
my bachelorís of art from Wesleyan from the College of Letters in 1977 and a
Master of Library Service from Columbia University in 1982. My College of
Letters major was especially germane for my job here at Wesleyan.
Q: When did
you come to Wesleyan and what were you doing before that?
A: I came
back to Wes in 1997 as university archivist. I was promoted in 1998 to head
of special collections and university archivist. Immediately before that, I
was the head of Public Services in Special Collections and Archives at the
University of Chicago. Before that, I was director for Collection
Development in Special Collections at Duke University. Before that, I was
head of Rare Book Cataloging at Duke. And before that, I was senior rare
book cataloger at Duke.
Q: What are
your objectives as the university archivist?
A: My to-do
list is endless, but my central goal is to get the greater Wesleyan
community excited about Wesleyanís fascinating history. Thatís the first
step in preserving it and documenting for the future.
Q: What types
of material are included in the Special Collections & Archives?
Collections & Archives has first rate collections in many areas. Our
collections include rare books, manuscripts, university archives, and local
history. We have materials in nearly all formats: paper, audio and video
tapes, photographs, CDs and DVDs, electronic records and objects. We have
superb rare book collections in English and American literature, history,
poetry, Methodistica, 19th century British social and economic
history, Arthuriana, fine press, and artistsí books. We have a strong queer
periodicals collection. We have the remains of the original Wesleyan
Q: Can you
give a few examples of projects people would use these archives for?
recent projects using the Wesleyan University Archives were extensive
historical photo documentation research done by Rob Olson and associates as
they worked on the new campus landscape plan; Web sites about Middletown and
the river prepared by students in Vijay Pinchís Waterways class; and an
alumnus researching the history of Eclectic. The rare book collections are
heavily used as well, most often in conjunction with class assignments.
Q: How do you
go about helping people find what they need?
A: First, we
listen carefully and ask questions to be sure we understand what they really
want. Then we rely on a combination of our knowledge of the topic and of our
holdings, and a range of different tools, including archival finding aids,
the libraryís online catalog, card files, published sources or other things
to help them find sources.
Q: Do you
recommend the Wesleyan community to send you copies of their publications to
A: We are
definitely interested in additions to the Wesleyan University Archives.
Materials you give to the archives today will support the researchers of the
Q: What are
your thoughts on your job?
A: The work
is always interesting and challenging. Itís extremely varied as well.
Although I do spend a fair amount of time in meetings, I also teach, write,
acquire materials, do research and reference, supervise staff, plan for the
future of Special Collections & Archives and work with donors. I especially
enjoy working at Wesleyan because of my connections with the university
going back to childhood. Wesleyan and Middletown feel like home to me.
Q: Do you set
up exhibits in the library?
A: Iím in
charge of the libraryís formal exhibit program, so I set the schedule and
approve requests to install exhibits. The student art exhibits on the lower
level and exhibits in the Olin lobby are not coordinated by me. Iím often,
but by no means always, the one who puts together the exhibits as well.
Q: And you
also give presentations and teach?
and presenting about our collections is an enormous part of my job. This
academic year, I gave presentations about our holdings to 45 classes of
Wesleyan undergraduates, three graduate classes, and one graphic design
class from Mitchell College. These classes ranged from English classes
studying Shakespeare to early modern European history students to the Atomic
Theory seminar. Iím a regular presenter at alumni events and professional
meetings as well. In addition to sessions that are part of classes taught by
Wesleyan faculty, I taught two classes of my own this year. During the fall
semester, I taught a five-week course in the history of the book through the
new Continuing Studies program. In the spring semester, I taught a
full-credit, 13-week masterís level course, Texts in Context: The Book as
Cultural Artifact, through the Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Teaching
these classes was a wonderful, rewarding experience for me.
Q: What is
your personal interest in the history of Wesleyan?
connections to Wesleyan go back a ways, since my father, Wolfgang F. Taraba,
came here in 1950-51 as a foreign student from Germany. He also taught
German here from 1959 to 1963, so Wesleyan was very much a part of my early
Q: Outside of
work, what do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
A: Not too
surprisingly, I love to read and visit libraries and museums, both art and
history. I collect found photographs of women in couples or groups Ė
imaginary ancestors, in a way. My partner, Marie Clark, and I live in
Middletown in a 19th century house with our elderly Labrador
retriever, Sappho, and our two cats, Sebastian and Victoria.
Q: Is there
anything else that I should know about your role here in special
A: I love my