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New library collections feature one of ASU's first Black professors

Jan. 20 "A Look Inside Black Collections" event to offer archive toolkits.
January 18, 2022

J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers first to join recently established Black Collections initiative

While sorting through photos in the J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers, one of many collections in the backlogs at ASU Library, Associate Archivist Elizabeth Dunham often joked that Grigsby was “a total dad.”

A teacher and an artist, he traveled often to national conferences and took pictures of everything that caught his eye along the way, from random buildings “right down to the pictures out the plane window,” Dunham said with a laugh.

Grigsby’s penchant for documentation may have been considered a charming character quirk during his lifetime, but today, it’s the reason ASU Library is able to offer a unique glimpse into the life of one of Arizona State University’s first Black professors in the fine arts department.

And it’s a long time coming for members of Arizona’s Black community, said Jessica Salow, who was recently named archivist of Black Collections at ASU Library, a new role for a new collection, both created as part of the university’s LIFT (Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach) Initiative.

Portrait of ASU Library Archivist of Black Collections Jessica Salow.

Jessica Salow was recently named archivist of Black Collections, a new role for a new collection, both created as part of ASU’s LIFT (Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach) Initiative. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“It really was ... I'm going to use the word 'criminal' that we did not have a collection that documented Black life here in Arizona,” Salow said. “Because Black people have lived here forever, even before territory times.”

Per point 23 of a list of 25 actions ASU put forth in fall 2020 to address embedded injustices and structural problems within the institution and society at large, “ASU has committed to providing funding to sustain the Community-Driven Archives Initiative in the ASU Library in order to enhance the historical record of and the university’s and library’s engagement with underrepresented communities.”

Established in 2017 with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ASU Library’s Community-Driven Archives Initiative pulls from existing archival materials within the Greater Arizona Collection to create collections that highlight individuals and communities who have been historically underdocumented.

“Historically, ASU has not really focused on documenting marginalized communities,” Salow said. “(That kind of material) was just kind of shoved into the Greater Arizona Collection or university archives. So there really needs to be a reexamination of a lot of the ways that we classify and assign metadata to particular things in order to make them accessible.”

The Bj Bud Memorial Archives, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) collection in Arizona, and Valley Friends of the Farm Workers Photographs, a collection documenting Arizona farmworker history and Cesar Chavez's "Fast of Love" in 1972, are just a couple to have come out of the Community-Driven Archives Initiative.

The J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers is the first of the Black Collections to be arranged, described and made available for research via Arizona Archives Online.

Boxes labeled "J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers."

The J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers document the life and work of the influential Black fine arts professor. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“Particularly within the Black community, I've heard that people didn't even know we had archival material documenting Black life in Arizona, because it was either not classified as such or was misclassified,” Salow said. “So I really would just like to get the word out right now that we are starting work on Black Collections and that we want the Black community of Arizona to know that ASU is a partner with them in preserving that history.”

To that end, Salow will be hosting a Community Conversations event Thursday, Jan. 20, titled “A Look Inside Black Collections” that will share how the library’s Community-Driven Archives Initiative is expanding to document the lives of Black Arizonans and offer free resources, toolkits and archival materials.

“A large part of the work that I'm doing is building those relationships with members of the community, because the trust just isn't there yet,” Salow said. “So my purpose is to just listen, to learn and to impart my particular knowledge to people about how we can help and how this collection could benefit generations years down the line.”

The Community Conversations event is free and open to the public, and it will be held virtually via Zoom. For those who wish to learn more about becoming a community archivist and supporting efforts to preserve local history, resources covering everything from what it means to be an archivist to starter toolkits are also available online.

“It was already important to us to have these things available online for people who couldn’t be here in person for whatever reason, but especially with COVID, it’s even more important that we make these resources as accessible as possible,” Salow said.

Like Grigsby (who was born in North Carolina), Salow, a Pennsylvania native, also made her way out west later in life. Despite this, the affinity both she and Grigsby share for their adopted home is apparent.

The majority of the content in the Grigsby collection focuses on his life and work in Arizona, beginning when he was invited to teach art at the all-Black Carver High School in Phoenix in 1946. When Carver High School closed, Grigsby briefly taught at Phoenix Union High School before coming to ASU in 1966.

At ASU, Grigsby taught art education, particular art for high school, and served as the adviser to Give a Damn Art Teachers (GDAT), a student organization formed in the late 1960s to give students opportunities to interact with learners from a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

ASU Library Associate Archivist Elizabeth Dunham looks at photos of African and Indigenous masks from the J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers collection.

ASU Library Associate Archivist Elizabeth Dunham shares some photos of African and Indigenous masks, the subject of Grigsby's doctoral dissertation and a good portion of the content of the collection. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

A number of the photos in the Grigsby collection document various GDAT off-campus workshops, seminars, museum tours and student exhibits. Other materials in the collection include 35 mm color slides thought to be intended for class presentations, some of his own original works and materials related to his doctoral dissertation on African and Indian masks.

“Even now, I think his research interests are relevant to folks, because we’re still trying to understand culture, trying to understand identity, and that’s the same type of work Dr. Grigsby was doing,” Salow said.

On Monday, Feb. 21, Salow is planning to host an event to celebrate Black History Month that will go into more detail about the content of the Grigsby collection. Invited speakers include Grigsby’s son, Marshall, and ASU School of Art Professor Bernard Young, whom Grigsby recruited to the faculty.

“Dr. Grigsby had a really wide influence,” Salow said. “And this work is all about uplifting and making visible that hidden history that most people really don't know a lot about, internally to ASU and then also externally to the communities that surround ASU, because we need that.”

Keep an eye out for more information about the Feb. 21 event on the Community-Driven Archives Initiative website and social media platforms.

Top photo: Elizabeth Dunham (left), ASU Library associate archivist, and Jessica Salow, archivist for Black Collections, sort through slides from the J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Papers, the first of the Black Collections to be arranged, described and made available for research via Arizona Archives Online. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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New table in Labriola Center recalls canals built by Hohokam

New table reflecting Indigenous heritage unveiled at Labriola Center.
November 24, 2021

Salt River artist, ASU Indigenous Design Collaborative partner on symbolic artwork now on display in Hayden Library

A new table made by Indigenous people for an Indigenous space at Arizona State University evokes the ancient canal system built by the Hohokam tribe that first sustained people in the Valley.

The 25-foot table, a collaboration between a local artist and the Indigenous Design Collaborative in the Design School at ASU, was unveiled Monday night during an event at the Labriola National American Indian Data Center at Hayden Library on the Tempe campus.

Selina Martinez, a designer for the collaborative who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ASU, designed the table based on sketches by Jeffrey Fulwilder, a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

“We wanted to incorporate a connection to the land and to water and why people are here in Arizona and the ancestors of this place,” said Martinez, a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe who is working toward becoming a licensed architect. She also was the project manager for the table, which was fabricated in Phoenix. Claudio Vekstein, design director of the collaborative and a professor of architecture, worked closely with Martinez on the detailing of the table.

The table is made of blue fiberglass resin, a durable material used to make boats, and is coated with copper paint atop a steel base. Lit from below, the translucent surface glows like a river down the length of the table, which has 12 matching blue and copper fiberglass chairs.

Installation was tricky. The heavy table could not be brought up the stairs to the Labriola Center, which is on the second floor. So the glass façade of the building was removed and a crane eased the table through the opening. 

The table is made of fiberglass resin, the material used to make boats, and is coated with copper paint. The textured surface of the paint was inadvertent — the result of a chemical reaction. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The yearlong collaboration by Fulwilder and Martinez was during the pandemic, so all communication had to be on the phone. Fulwilder said that during one conference call, he sketched as they spoke.

“Water kept crossing my mind. That’s important to us, but how can we put this on the table?” he said.

“The idea of it was when you’re looking at the river and the current from underneath pushes up the water, it forms all these designs. That’s what it is.”

The design also incorporates other symbols important to the tribe, like baskets and squash blossoms.

Fulwilder said that in his work, he wants to catch the viewer’s attention.

“I want them to want to know more about us so that maybe they can be more respectful to the land and respectful to our ways,” he said. 

Wanda Dalla Costa, Institute Professor and creator of the ASU Indigenous Design Collaborative, said it's important to work with local artists, who bring the perspective of their communities. She also has a cross-appointment with the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Wanda Dalla Costa, Institute Professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, created the Indigenous Design Collaborative a few years ago, and one of the first projects was to gather students to brainstorm ways to make the campus more welcoming. The result of their project was a book released in 2018, “Indigenous Placekeeping: Campus Design + Planning.”

“Within this book we researched the 22 tribes in Arizona, and we came up with 16 proposals,” said Dalla Costa, who is an architect and taught the studio course that produced the book. One of the proposals now completed is the welcome wall of tribal languages on the lower level of Hayden, made of wood and resin with the help of local artists.

“We work a lot with artists because we feel they bring the perspective and the worldview from the local communities,” Dalla Costa said, referring to artists as “co-pilots.”

She said of the table: “It’s not something generic, it’s not something off the shelf. It’s a response to a place-based narrative and the people of this place.

“With the (Indigenous Design Collaborative), our vision is about preparing the next generation of designers, of which Selina is one, to act as field transformation ambassadors, transforming the field of architecture and design.”

Selina Martinez, a designer with the ASU Indigenous Design Collaborative, created the table based on sketches from artist Jeffrey Fulwilder. The two had to communicate over the phone during the pandemic. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Martinez said that having cultural representation is important on campus. She had never met an Indigenous architect before she met Dalla Costa.

“It can be difficult if you don’t see yourself reflected not only in the environment but literally in the curriculum, and you don’t see those histories uplifted and sometimes they’re even invalidated,” she said.

“Hopefully we’re moving away from that. Even seeing physical objects like a table, or anything that references anything Native American, is impactful.”

Martinez has worked with several tribal communities in a variety of design capacities.

“For me, it’s been about, ‘How can our environment help practice our culture? How can we reincorporate culture back into these spaces that have been suppressing that culture?'”

Martinez believes that Indigenous-inspired architecture would respond more appropriately to the climate.

“We are constantly in a heat crisis in the summer, and it seems extreme to put a glass box in the desert,” she said.

“Incorporating more materials like adobe would bring a sense of the context we’re in.” 

Ricardo Leonard, vice president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, gave a blessing and sang "Two Rivers," about the spot where the Salt and Gila rivers meet, during the celebration Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Several tribal leaders attended the celebration. Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community, said: "This is about making a statement. It’s like we’re taking back our narrative here.

"This is a step, but there’s so much more we can do."

Jacob Moore, associate vice president for tribal relations at ASU, earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at ASU. He noted that years ago, before the recent renovation at Hayden, the Labriola space was less than inviting and he would study elsewhere.

“This is really a reclaiming of space of our ancestral people and our homelands,” said Moore, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

“This is a gathering space, a space to share among our Indigenous. Having a space where you can be around friends that is inviting is important to students and their success.”

Rosetta Walker, who is Lakota, attended the event and said that she is a member of the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix.

“Every time I go to the museum, I think of the people who inhabited these lands a thousand years ago,” she said.

“If we can pay tribute to them somehow, I think that brings our power back.”

Top photo: (From left) Designer Selina Martinez, Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa, artist Jeffrey Fulwilder, Jessica Sepulveda and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Vice President Ricardo Leonard chat before the celebration of the new community table at Hayden Library’s Labriola Center on Monday, Nov. 22. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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How cartography helped the Grand Canyon become grand

September 28, 2021

ASU team to share historic and interdisciplinary atlas with the public

Published in 1882, “Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District with Atlas” was the first monograph produced by the United States Geological Survey. 

Written by the “poet of the Grand Canyon,” Clarence Dutton, the work intersected literature, art and cartography. It changed the way the Grand Canyon was viewed and respected, as an iconic geological masterpiece.

“For more than three centuries prior to the publication of Dutton’s geological analysis of the Grand Canyon, Europeans had visited the region on more than a few occasions. They dismissed it as valueless each time,” said Matthew Toro, director of maps, imagery and geospatial services at the ASU Library. 

“As late as 1861, one observer infamously wrote that the Grand Canyon was a ‘profitless locality.’ Dutton and his associates, on the other hand, seamlessly combined geological science, literary prose on landscape aesthetics, a collection of topographic and geologic maps, and some of the most iconic illustrations and panoramic landscape views of the Grand Canyon ever created,” Toro said.

“Dutton’s works offered a new way to envision and interpret the canyon. They helped transform our consciousness of the Grand Canyon region into the landscape icon we now know it to be.”

Now, almost 140 years later, a team of Arizona State University humanities scholars seeks to give new life to Dutton’s work.

Stephen Pyne, professor emeritus at the School of Life Sciences; Steven Semken, professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration; Julie Tanaka, curator for rare books and manuscripts at the ASU Library; and Toro, the project’s director, together form the core team for “Dutton’s Atlas: How Cartography Helped the Canyon Become Grand.”

The project will include four main components: 

  • A digital atlas counterpart to the rare physical atlas.

  • An interactive online multimedia exhibit that curates the atlas with maps, images and video.

  • A complementary physical exhibit.

  • A symposium event offering insightful presentations on the various historical-geographical and socio-cultural dimensions of the atlas.

The project’s title is directly inspired by the 1999 book “How the Canyon Became Grand,” by project co-investigator Pyne. The book considers historical, environmental, intellectual and cultural perspectives of the Grand Canyon, paralleling the interdisciplinary analysis that the project hopes to achieve.

“We intend to deepen the public’s sense of space, time and place, specifically their own interpretations of the Grand Canyon region,” Toro said.

“Dutton’s Atlas” is supported by the ASU Library, the ASU Institute for Humanities Research, the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration and, most recently, a 2022 project grant award from Arizona Humanities

“Over the term of the 2022 project period, we will leverage the Arizona Humanities award to execute the multifaceted project and deliver a rich combination of scholarly research, digital storytelling and event programming to Arizonans and the broader public,” Toro said.

Engaging humanities scholars and Native representatives, the project will highlight the role of cartography in fostering new perspectives and insights about the Grand Canyon. 

Together, the digital atlas, digital and in-person exhibits and symposium will help audiences appreciate Dutton’s historic contributions and discover their own relationships and connections with the canyon. 

Top image: "The Transept, Kaibab Division, Grand Cañon: An Amphitheater of the Second Order," from Clarence Dutton's “Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District with Atlas.” Scanned from the 1977 republication of the original 1882 material. Photo courtesy of ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub

Lauren Whitby

Digital Marketing Manager , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Late professor’s legacy remembered with memorial, exhibit

David William Foster was a Regents Professor of Spanish and women and gender studies

September 27, 2021

The School of International Letters and Cultures recently held a memorial in honor of David William Foster, a Regents Professor of Spanish and women and gender studies who died last year at the age of 79.  

Foster joined Arizona State University 55 years ago and helped build the Spanish and Portuguese programs that are now housed in the School of International Letters and Cultures. Over the course of his career, he published more than 50 book-length, single-authored critical studies, bibliographies and anthologies, and over 35 edited and co-edited anthologies.  A small crowd of professors, alumni and other members of the ASU community sit at round tables facing a screen hanging on the wall. A person stands at a lectern in front of the screen. The School of International Letters and Cultures recently held a memorial in honor of David William Foster, a Regents Professor of Spanish and women and gender studies who passed away last year at the age of 79. Download Full Image

The memorial in Old Main on the Tempe campus, held the day before what would have been Foster’s 81st birthday, had in-person attendees and was also livestreamed on the school's YouTube channel. Remembrances from Foster’s former colleagues and students continued after the event concluded as members of the school community shared stories of the beloved professor.  

“The memorial for David was a great success,” Spanish Professor Carmen Urioste-Azcorra said. “It served as a homecoming for many doctoral students who worked with David since the early '70s, and we had presentations and messages from three different Latin American countries that David knew very well: Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.” 

Edurne Beltrán de Heredia Carmona, an assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, worked closely with Foster during her Spanish PhD studies at ASU. Beltrán graduated from ASU in summer 2021.  

“Working with Dr. Foster meant always having a second opportunity for everything (and a third one, too),” Beltrán said. “I will always remember what he told me the last time we met in person: ‘Always stay by the side of your students and support them, even when you know they aren’t always right.’” 

An exhibit celebrating Foster’s life and career is now open in the lobby of Hayden Library. The exhibit includes a short biography of Foster, shelves of books he wrote and other texts relevant to his studies and photographs from his life. It features furniture like a desk and several chairs along with potted plants to make students feel at home and replicate “the unique experience of working with him in his office,” said Seonaid Valiant, curator for Latin American studies at the ASU Library.  

The walls of Foster’s office were covered in posters, and he had numerous bookcases placed back to back and packed full of books, Valiant said. The exhibit is designed to mimic the atmosphere of his office, a place of deep thinking that reflected the personality of the man who occupied it.  

The exhibit “helps all visitors visualize David at work: His desk — like the one in the library — was always perfectly organized, and the office walls were covered with pictures and film posters,” Urioste-Azcorra said. “By virtue of his immense critical production, he was a strong magnet for prospective students. He always had an open-door office policy that made him easily accessible for everybody.” 

Beltrán echoed this experience of feeling welcome in Foster’s office at any time. 

“One of the things from Dr. Foster that will always stay with me is the supportive attitude that he always offered to each and every student,” she said. “Countless times we would walk into his office with all kinds of problems or issues, he would listen carefully and offer a quick, easy solution for us, followed by a funny joke that would make us leave his office motivated.” 

Students, faculty, staff and other members of the greater ASU community can view the exhibit during library hours now through Dec. 1. 

The memorial and library exhibit are just two examples of the many ways ASU is continuing to celebrate Foster’s legacy. The ASU Library has also acquired the David William Foster Papers, Valiant said. They are currently processing 27 boxes of his research material on cultural studies in Latin America. 

Donations are being accepted for the Foster Latin American Research Fellowship Endowment, which supports graduate students completing work in Latin American studies with funding for their travel, housing and other expenses while they conduct research beyond ASU. 

A student lounge was dedicated in Foster’s name in the new Durham Hall building, which houses the School of International Letters and Cultures. And next fall, the inaugural David William Foster Memorial Lecture will be held thanks to a generous donation from his wife, Virginia Ramos Foster.  

“David was an extraordinary human being and scholar, a real mensch with an outstanding mind,” school Director Nina Berman said. “He built and put the Spanish and Portuguese section at ASU on the map, and we are excited that we are able to honor his legacy.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

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Alex Soto named director of Labriola National American Indian Data Center

August 27, 2021

ASU Library-based center grows community reach, focus on Indigenous librarianship

The Arizona State University Library has appointed Alex Soto to the position of director of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center, the library’s dedicated Indigenous community space and notable collection of research and open-stack materials by, for and about Native Americans.

Soto, a member of southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation, was previously an assistant librarian with the Labriola Center, and will serve as the center’s first new director in more than 20 years and only the third academic professional in the center’s history. 

The importance of information literacy and the role of reparative archives within tribal communities inspired Soto toward a library career, following years of success as a touring hip-hop musician and activist. These experiences now inform his vision for Indigenous librarianship and the Labriola Center at ASU, which is situated on the ancestral homelands of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh peoples.

Indigenous librarians, archivists and curators are contemporary culture-keepers.

— Alex Soto, newly appointed director of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center

Under Soto’s leadership, the center will expand its community space in Hayden Library, the university’s largest library on the Tempe campus; develop programming and enhance partnerships for greater engagement and connection to the communities it seeks to support; and advance opportunities that prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems.

"ASU believes in leveraging our place in the Arizona communities we serve,” said Jim O’Donnell, university librarian. “We have a unique opportunity to build on the successes of Labriola to create a truly distinctive center closely tied to the people it represents and serves. We are lucky to have the ideal leader for this in Alex Soto.”

The Labriola National American Indian Data Center, part of the ASU Library, began in 1986 as the American Indian Library Materials Center at Hayden Library under the significant leadership of the late Mimi McBride, who established and maintained the center. 

McBride was instrumental in securing support for the center’s growth, which led to the Labriola Center’s official dedication on April 1, 1993, through a generous endowment gift of Frank and Mary Labriola. The Labriolas wished for the center “to be a source of education and pride for all Native Americans.” 

Additional funds were later provided by the Alcoa Foundation and the National Education Association. 

With locations in Fletcher Library on the West campus and Hayden Library on the Tempe campus, the Labriola Center brings together current and historic information by Indigenous authors across many disciplines through its international research collection in addition to research support for students and faculty and a growing set of community spaces — all of which Soto sees as vital to Indigenous success and scholarship. 

“Indigenous librarians, archivists and curators are contemporary culture-keepers,” Soto said. “Historically, there has been a disconnect between Indigenous communities and libraries due to the library profession’s disregard of Indigenous knowledge. My goal is to Indigenize librarianship to respond to the information needs of ASU students and Indigenous communities. The Labriola Center supports and affirms Indigenous knowledge in academia and beyond,  which I believe is crucial for Indigenous self-determination.“

Soto earned his bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies from ASU and his master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Arizona, as part of the university’s Knowledge River Program. Before he began working at ASU in 2017, Soto provided public information services for Phoenix Public Library patrons, a part-time position that allowed him to pay his bills when he wasn’t touring with the hip-hop trio he co-founded, Shining Soul. 

“Within my first year of working for the Phoenix Public Library, my music partner and I were asked to lead youth workshops on songwriting and beatmaking,” Soto said.

For the first time, Soto began to view libraries as platforms for social justice.

“We would bring in turntables and drum machines,” he explained. “I saw that the youth coming to our workshops had stories, but they didn’t feel they had outlets to share them. The workshops allowed me to show how music — just turntables, mics and drum loops — was my strategy to build resilience when I was coming up. Like the kids that came to our workshops, I had to navigate social and class challenges within settler-colonial society while keeping my culture strong. Hip-hop rooted in tribal communities is a way for Indigenous peoples to share what matters to us and who we are today. In hindsight, I’ve been archiving before I realized it, since my music shares and documents information about my rez.” 

In presentations and scholarly publications, Soto advocates for an action-based research agenda for Indigenous librarianship, which he defines through a lens of relationship building and community activism. Indigenous librarianship, he says, often requires “difficult conversations and careful determinations” to give appropriate context to questions and issues surrounding materials, archival resources, and learning and research support. 

“As director, I plan to demonstrate the importance of Indigenous librarianship in Indigenous cultural preservation and in promoting Indigenous modernity at the same time,” Soto said. “The Labriola Center will serve as a hub that connects ancestral community knowledge with Indigenous-informed scholarship. Through our initiatives, we hope to equip Indigenous communities with information literacy and archival skill sets needed to defend tribal sovereignty into the 21st century.”

Since 2019, Soto has worked with units across the university, including the American Indian Student Support Services and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, implementing new programs and sparking new collaborations. He recently partnered with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing to deliver programs for the NEA Big Read, and he has worked with tribal colleges, tribal libraries and tribal government leaders. 

Soto continues to be a frequent collaborator with the ASU Library’s Community-Driven Archives Initiative, which seeks to expand and enrich Arizona’s historical archives by reimagining them as inclusive, intersectional, decolonial spaces for engagement. Additionally, Soto was instrumental in the development of the library’s Indigenous Land Acknowledgement and plans to work with ASU’s Indigenous faculty and staff to see that the ASU Library operationalizes it within its overall services.

“The Labriola has been a resource for a long time at ASU,” said Traci Morris, the executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at ASU and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “However, under Soto’s leadership, I believe that the Labriola will become not only a central place for Indigenous issues on campus, but can be the premier data hub and resource for the community as well as ASU. I look forward to working with Soto as he implements his vision for Indigenous data sovereignty.” 

Morris and Soto are currently collaborating on the development of an Indigenous Leadership Academy for emerging Indigenous leaders from throughout Arizona.

On Sept. 2, Soto plans to make introductions and lead tours of the Labriola Center’s newly expanded space in Hayden Library, including its original second-floor space, as well as provide information on services, resources and the history of the center and what’s to come in the year ahead. Then, there will be a Sept. 9 Open Mic Night welcoming new and returning students and community members. 

“Community activism is about sharing information with the people, and librarianship is one way to do it,” Soto said. “Our students will return home, so here they need to know how important it is to use the library for self-determination and sovereignty.” 

Top photo: Alex Soto, a member of southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation, will serve as the Labriola Center's first new director in more than 20 years and only the second director in the center’s history. Photo by Kelsey Hinesley/ASU

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist , ASU Library

Mapping the ASU Library map collection

3D Explorer allows library users anywhere in the world to visit the Map and Geospatial Hub

August 20, 2021

Everyone, no matter where they’re located, now has the power to visit Arizona State University's Map and Geospatial Hub, located on the third floor of Hayden Library, to explore and access its geographic information resources.

All thanks to a new tool: the 3D Explorer. Computer illustration of ASU map hub The 3D Explorer is an interactive 3D web scene that literally maps the ASU Library map collection. Download Full Image

The 3D Explorer is an interactive 3D web scene that literally maps the ASU Library map collection, the Map and Geospatial Hub. With some powerful search and visualization features, the tool allows anyone, from anywhere in the world, to virtually visit and explore the thousands of maps and other materials housed in the Map and Geospatial Hub as if they were physically located in the space itself. 

“Especially during the pandemic, when it may be more difficult for some to visit the library in person, the 3D Explorer lets us bring library treasures directly to them,” said Matthew Toro, director of the Map and Geospatial Hub, who oversaw the project, which was led by the hub’s first fully remote intern. “The main driver for this project was really about expanding access to the ASU Library’s cartographic collections.”

The Map and Geospatial Hub is home to tens of thousands of maps, aerial photographs and other geographic information resources. These collections focus on the greater Phoenix metro region, the peoples and communities throughout the state of Arizona, the greater American Southwest and Mexico, but its collections cover the whole globe. 

Toro spoke with ASU News about the library’s new virtual research tool, the 3D Explorer, and how it allows people to get closer to library collections even if they can’t visit in person.

Matt Toro

Matt Toro is the director of the Map and Geospatial Hub at the ASU Library.

Question: Is the 3D Explorer a kind of virtual map librarian?

Answer: That’s a great way to think about it. At the Map and Geospatial Hub, we’re always happy to help library users find what they’re looking for, but we also recognize the efficiency of, and increased demand for, more of a self-service model of access to library assets, especially through direct online access. The 3D Explorer offers a new route for users to independently discover and access geospatial information — through a dynamic and engaging 3D web scene. Not only can users easily search for and find geographic information resources themselves, but they can also virtually tour and explore the Hub space itself.

The 3D Explorer models the entire Map and Geospatial Hub. Nearly every feature in this application is selectable by the user – from staff offices, to globes, to various hardware and office equipment. We also added some cool functionality to support this virtual experience, including a panoramic photo viewer allowing users to view the interior and exterior of the space in 360 degrees. 

Q: What would you say is one of the most valuable functions of the application?

A: The core value of the application is its search functionality. The 3D Explorer allows users to search for inventoried maps with both simple or advanced search. The tool will dynamically visualize the exact location of any particular map, aerial photo, atlas or other cartographic resource held at the Map and Geospatial Hub. When a user selects a specific map from the list of search results, she will be greeted with a pop-up box indicating not only the drawer location of the map in question, but, when available, she will also be greeted with a digital thumbnail image of the map in question. 

In the future, once we’ve got everything fully digitized, she will also be greeted with a link to directly download the high-resolution image. We want to bring as much of the in-person experience of visiting the hub and exploring its resources to online audiences. We want to bring the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub to anybody in the world, no matter where they’re located.

Q: How did the tool come about?

A: We’ve actually been experimenting and prototyping this for a few years. While the Map and Geospatial Hub is currently located in the newly renovated Hayden Library, we used to be located in a different ASU Library building. In anticipation of the move — completed in early 2020, just before the pandemic — we had to plan for how we would relocate the collection from one site to another. We needed a way to systematically manage the physical layout and organization of the collection and to analyze its contents so that we could make sound decisions about which maps would go and which would stay. The most reasonable solution was to literally “map” the collection itself. 

We began work to develop the two core components: the 3D space model and the database table of our map inventory. Taking it to the next level as a customized, feature-rich web application required real programming talent. Robert Cowling, our first fully remote intern, brought the skills to make it happen. Bob, who holds a master’s degree in (geographic imformation systems) and is currently finishing his second master’s in library information systems, was able to devise and implement a clever software architecture solution to bring the vision to life. Eric Friesenhahn, our map and GIS specialist here at ASU Library, created and refined the geometric features that comprise the latest, most sophisticated version of 3D indoor space model. Jill Sherwood, our geospatial data analyst here at ASU Library, contributed critical input to the design, function and maintenance of the application.

It was a true team effort. And I’m happy to report that the 3D Explorer is already revolutionizing the way we’re able to serve the ASU and broader community with geospatial resources. 

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

ASU Library awarded $249K digital preservation grant

August 5, 2021

The Arizona State University Library and its partner organizations were selected by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as the recipient of a 2021 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program award, totaling $249,974, with the aim of advancing digital preservation practices among under-resourced organizations.

ASU Library’s partner organizations include the Sustainable Heritage Network, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Association of Hawai’i Archivists, Northwest Archivists, Inc., and Amigos Library Services.  Stacey Erdman Stacey Erdman, digital preservation and curation officer and acting digital repository manager for the ASU Library, is the grant project's principal investigator. Download Full Image

Stacey Erdman, digital preservation and curation officer and acting digital repository manager for the ASU Library, will serve as the principal investigator of the three-year grant and manager of the multi-organizational project, which will deliver an innovative digital preservation training program to practicing librarians and archivists struggling to provide ongoing care for their digital collections.

Erdman, discussed the award with ASU News and said the grant project stemmed from her involvement with the Digital POWRR Project. (POWRR stands for “Preserving (digital) Objects with Restricted Resources.”)

Question: How did this grant proposal come about?

Answer: I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with the Digital POWRR Project since its inception in 2011, which has provided research, outreach and advocacy in the digital preservation field, specifically focusing on under-resourced cultural heritage institutions. POWRR’s work over the past decade has included the highly regarded POWRR Tool Grid, a white paper detailing the testing of various digital preservation tools and systems, a one-day workshop and a two-day professional institute — one of which was graciously hosted at ASU Library in summer 2018. I served as the technical coordinator on the first research grant and provided curriculum design, community coordination and instruction services for the education-focused grants. 

The professional institute grant focused on practical, hands-on technical training and cohort-based learning, and provided a gentle introduction to assessment procedures through the use of a tool we developed called the POWRR Plan. Attendee feedback demonstrated that practitioners in the field have an interest in working collaboratively with peers to assess organizational capabilities, stages of growth and maturity, and measures they can take to properly care for their unique digital collections.

During the time I served as a POWRR instructor, I also was awarded a scholarship to attend the NEDCC's Digital Preservation Assessment Training program, where I learned how to employ the framework that they had recently developed. As part of my training, I performed a digital collections assessment at Ripon College. This training really demonstrated the power of formal assessment processes to me, and made me think critically about how it could be operationalized as a supportive training program that could benefit organizations who were struggling to care for their digital collections.

Q: Did you develop this proposal with members from the partner organizations?

A: Digital POWRR has built relationships with many wonderful partner organizations around the country during the course of the past decade. Partners help us publicize events and connect us to the professionals who would benefit the most from the training. For this grant, six partner organizations will sponsor a small cohort of six individuals drawn from their membership to participate in this training program. Project staff will work with the partners to screen participant applications, and will help with the final selection of participants. By locating training within cohorts drawn from existing communities of practice, it is hoped that participants will feel a greater sense of familiarity and comfort. Additionally, partner organizations may ask their participants to later work on using their new expertise to help operationalize a peer assessment program/relationship system within their own membership.

Q: Can you share any details at this time about the grant or the training program you’ll be developing?

A: The grant is a three-year award that serves dual purposes. It is primarily a training program, but it also serves as a research project. I am serving as the principal investigator for this grant and will also be the project manager. In the process of creating the proposal, I have already assembled a small team of expert collaborators, drawn across the digital preservation landscape, who will serve as advisers or peer mentors to the cohorts that we select for the training opportunity. We will collaborate on the creation and delivery of educational resources for the participants — all through remote technologies — and will provide ongoing support to participants as they complete their three different — self and peer — assessments. I will also be responsible for overseeing the project’s final deliverables, including compiling the participant’s case studies and assessments into an ebook, and writing a white paper that summarizes mentor and participant feedback regarding the assessment process and frameworks utilized, including suggestions for ways peer assessment programs can be successfully operationalized within existing communities of practice. 

One exciting feature of the program is that participants will be compensated for their time and participation in this project with a stipend of $3,000. We will also provide their home institutions with a small “tech startup” subaward of around $900, so that they can make small technology-related purchases to jump-start their preservation initiatives.

Q: Why is this grant award significant to libraries, in general, and to the ASU Library, specifically?

A: Providing training on assessment procedures and practices is beneficial for practitioners, their collections, their organizations and the profession overall. In the words of Susan Swartzburg, “it is the responsibility of every institution that holds unique collections, regardless of its size and resources, to properly care for its collection.” Most libraries and archives either create or acquire digital materials, and don’t always have specialized staff able to care for these materials. Organizations serving BIPOCBlack, Indigenous and people of color populations, or who are resource-constrained, often have the most unique collections that are most at risk of loss. I feel a deep sense of duty to do everything I can to help equalize the playing field in the digital preservation community, so that preservation does not become the province of the elite. Additionally, by immersing myself in the world of assessment procedures and practices, I expect my own body of knowledge and skills to grow in this area, which will undoubtedly prove to be helpful for my position here at ASU, especially as we start to think about working towards CoreTrust Seal and Trusted Digital Repository certifications down the road.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

Book collection to help children of parents who are incarcerated

Center for Child Well-Being, ASU Library collaborate on Empathy Through Literacy book collection

June 8, 2021

More than 2.7 million American children are directly affected by the current incarceration of a parent or loved one. Many of them, as well as their relatives and peers, lack the resources to deal with the associated feelings of shame and stigmatization.

Arizona State University's Center for Child Well-Being and the ASU Library have put together a collection of 64 books designed to help Arizona’s nearly 100,000 children of parents who are incarcerated better cope with their feelings. Empathy Through Literacy, Noble Library, Arizona State University, Center for Child Well-Being The Empathy Through Literacy book collection at Arizona State University's Noble Library. The collection, designed to help children of parents who are or who have been incarcerated, appears through a collaboration between ASU Library and the ASU Center for Child Well-Being, based at the Watts College for Public Service and Community Solutions. ASU photo Download Full Image

The books are part of the “Empathy Through Literacy” collection developed by the center. They are directed at a range of ages from early reader to young adult and are available to visitors to the main floor of ASU’s Noble Library on the Tempe campus.

ASU Library’s participation in this project was motivated by the library’s recent “Future of Print” initiative, which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as an effort to transform engagement with library print collections, said Shari Laster, who is head of ASU Library’s Open Stack Collections.

Laster said visitors will see that this collection looks different from what they may expect in a traditional academic library book display. It’s meant to invite exploration and engagement and to offer the public more insight, based on the experiences of those involved, into the lives of children who are dealing with family members and loved ones who are incarcerated, she said.

Laster said the books will help children of incarcerated parents understand that they have done nothing wrong — something that their peers need to know, as well.

“They are books that are rich in imagery, and include fiction as well as nonfiction,” she said. “It’s easy to pick them up and read them. We hope people reading them will make connections in their own lives, maybe to someone they know or maybe to understand the experience of what it’s like to be a person in these situations.”

Laster said while the collection is currently at Noble Library, ASU affiliates can request materials from this display for quick delivery to an ASU Library location convenient to them.

Many times children, teens and young adults whose parent or loved one is incarcerated feel very alone and stigmatized, said Judy Krysik, director of the Center for Child Well-Being, which is based at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“There’s a lot of shame that goes with it,” said Krysik, a School of Social Work associate professor. “This exhibit shows that if they pick up a book about how others have dealt with it, it’s not uncommon, it helps them know they are not alone. The books can also help parents, caretakers and teachers who need to know the language of how to talk to a young child about incarceration.”

In addition, Krysik said some parents feel they have to keep their or a family member’s prior incarceration a secret because they’re afraid their children won’t be invited to play dates and parties at other children’s homes. Grandparents and other family members may also feel the impacts of this, she said.

“The occurrence of incarceration is so common in this country, and a lot of understanding and empathy needs to be developed,” Krysik said.

Donors including the Hickey Family Foundation have provided funds to purchase books from the collection to be sent to Arizona children’s hospitals, the state Department of Child Safety’s placement center, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Children’s First Leadership Academy, as well as to public libraries that do not have the funds to purchase the books, Krysik said.

Krysik said posters are being printed promoting the collection and will be displayed in the counseling centers at all four ASU campuses. The counseling center is starting a support group for those affected by incarceration, she said.

Posters also will be sent to several Arizona libraries, with those in rural areas being especially targeted in hopes they will draw attention to the books being available there as well.

Krysik said the center’s next target is to offer the books for placement in visitor areas of jails and prisons so parents can read them with their children.

For more information about the project or to donate, visit

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Local artists exhibit work at ASU's Vault Gallery

June 3, 2021

Two local artists exploring themes of unity, joy and initiation are exhibiting their work this summer at the Vault Gallery, part of Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus library. 

In her exhibition "What Unites Us," Nasim Nourian examines human interconnectedness, and for newcomer Chelsea Niven, winner of the 2019 Eric Fischl Vanguard Award at Phoenix College, the Vault Gallery marks her first curated exhibition, titled “Inchoate Amelioration.” art work by Chelsea Niven Courtesy of Chelsea Niven Download Full Image

Although the downtown Phoenix library remains closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, Jackie Young, the gallery’s curator and senior library information specialist, says students and library staff have been happy to see the return of new art to the Vault Gallery.

“Over the years, art has always been a part of the downtown library. It makes a significant difference in the mood and tone you feel when you’re here,” said Young, who in a typical year, will bring at least three new art exhibitions into the gallery space as a way of enhancing the library’s connection to its local community and increasing students’ exposure to diverse perspectives. “New art reinvents the library space in a new way every time we have new artists.”

The Vault Gallery has been something of a blessing for students in need of a mental break while studying in the library as well as for emerging artists seeking opportunities to share their work. 

“For the artists, many times, it’s the first opportunity they’ve been given to exhibit their work at a gallery,” she said.

Here to talk about their summer exhibitions at the Vault Gallery and their approaches to making art are Niven and Nourian, whose work will be featured at the gallery through August. Nourian immigrated to the United States from Tehran, Iran, and Niven was born and raised in the Southwest.

Question: Have you always made art?

Nasim Nourian: I used to draw and paint when I was a little girl. My first artwork was this gigantic green spider on the wall of our living room, which as a toddler I was extremely proud of, but also upset my mother to no end. I was successful in repeating the same mistake when I was a teenager and I painted a life-size Persian Miniature painting on the back wall of my closet. This time, mom did not let me get away with it so easily. So I locked away my artistic talent in that closet and gave up art altogether. In my culture, art was considered to be just a hobby, not a "serious" career. I did not paint or draw for almost three decades until the passion was rekindled when I took an art course at a community college and it all rushed back to me like the dam had been broken.

Chelsea Niven: I have been making art for as long as I can remember. It has always been something that’s a part of me and how I express my emotions. I wouldn’t feel like myself if I didn’t create art.

Q: Can you describe your artistic process?

Nourian: I am moved by what I see around me. It could be a stranger's face or movements. It could be a loved one moving about their daily routine, or it could be a random photo I see on social media. Whatever the source of inspiration, it stays with me, in my head, as a form of a picture. And it stays with me until I put it down on paper or canvas. These pictures are persistent and sometimes annoyingly so, and I feel the urge, almost a calling, to create an art work. 

As artists, just like any other creative genre, we want to be liked. I feel uplifted when people “like” my art. And yes, I’ve been influenced, especially when creating commissioned art, by whether it will be liked or not. But the process, even to this day, is at times obscured by uncertainty. Will I be able to express what’s in my heart? Will the final work be authentic enough? Am I finished or do I need to work on it a little more, another hour or another day? I’ve been told that it's through the process that we grow and I believe this to be true. When I don’t feel all those fears come up when I start a project, then it's not worth it. So, I let it all come up … and then through it all, something authentic emerges that I call art.

Niven: My art process has been changing and expanding so much, and I am sure will continue to do so. People have asked me where I get my inspiration from and honestly, it all depends on what I am doing. Is it a commission piece? Or am I just trying to use some of the paint that I have left over? Sometimes I have an idea in mind and just do a quick sketch of what I want to create. When I begin, I just let it flow. There are also times where I have nothing in mind and just listen to music and let whatever my vision is come to life. I tend to go into a trance and get lost while I am working on my art. It’s an escape for me in this busy world.

Q: Is there a particular subject you are currently drawn to in your art?

Nourian: Well, I always like human forms and portraits. I’m drawn to the paintings of Alice Neel right now and her naked approach to expressionistic portraits.

Niven: I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to a specific subject. I like my art to inspire people, fill them up with a sense of happiness, and evoke joy and deeper thought. My paintings are almost interactive. If you look at it from different perspectives, it shifts and changes in color. It highlights the importance of the bigger picture in order to see the harmony and come to a better understanding of one another.

Q: What do you think is the function or the power of art in society?

Nourian: The power of art is the power to express oneself like no one else can. It is the uniqueness and the exceptionalism of every single human being exactly as it was intended.  

Niven: Art is supposed to make people think and help them connect with their inner selves as well as others. The other important part of art is that it connects us to people around the world. Someone who speaks Mandarin can look and understand a painting the same as someone who speaks Portuguese could. That is one of the many beauties of art, it’s a universal language that brings together humanity and shows that we all carry the same emotions and basic ideals. I think this aspect of art is something that we, as a whole world, need to acknowledge and put into practice while interacting with people in our everyday lives. Art can teach the world to have more compassion.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

In praise of beautiful books: Hayden Library to display 'Kelmscott Chaucer'

May 24, 2021

In what reads like a piece of advice from a 19th-century version of Marie Kondo, British textile designer William Morris once wrote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 

An artist, poet and visual designer, Morris was devoted to beautiful things and created many in his lifetime. In 1891, he founded the Kelmscott Press out of a desire to return to an artistic craft that had faded during the Industrial Revolution: the finer production of books.  Title page of the Kelmscott Chaucer The ASU Library is marking the 125th anniversary of the 1896 Kelmscott printing of “The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now Newly Imprinted" as part of International Kelmscott Day on June 26. Photo courtesy Kelsey Hinesley Download Full Image

The ASU Library holds all 53 titles printed by Kelmscott, including the 1896 publication of “The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Now Newly Imprinted,” thought to be one of the most beautiful books ever printed, exemplifying Morris’ vision of the ideal book. 

Both the original and a facsimile of the "Kelmscott Chaucer," as it is known, will be on display, Friday, June 25, at Hayden Library, as part of the international celebration of the publication’s 125th anniversary, coinciding with International Kelmscott Day on June 26.

Brief presentations on bookmaking, biophilia and illustrations are planned for the in-person event, along with a display of a selection of books from the Kelmscott collection.

“In this age of digital books and paperbacks, it’s important to remember that since antiquity, books were objects of beauty, collected as art works, and often one of a kind before the printing press was invented,” said Julie Codell, professor of art history in Arizona State University's School of Art, within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “William Morris wanted to bring back books as beautiful objects and picked Chaucer to match a beautiful book with a major poet’s works.”

In addition to the in-person event, an all-virtual event is slated for Saturday, June 26, on International Kelmscott Day, featuring a panel of student and faculty speakers, including Codell, who will give a talk on the friendship between Morris and his longtime collaborator Edward Burne-Jones, which generated what is now referred to as the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Other event speakers will include ASU Library's Karina Wilhelm, manager of learning services in the Design and Arts Library, who took a lead role in coordinating the Kelmscott events; Suzy Morgan, who manages the Conservation Lab in Hayden Library, who will speak on bookmaking; Daniel Mayer, director of Pyracantha Press, on the aesthetic legacy of Kelmscott and contemporary artists' books; ASU alum Jacob Robertson on the influence of Rossetti; and Naomi Cadena and Channing Schoneberger, who will speak on the topic of biophilia.

All events are free and open to the public. 

"I think Morris came at a time when Chaucer’s literary reputation was not as secure as it is today and so created this stunning book." — Professor of art history Julie Codell

Wilhelm and Julie Tanaka, the curator of rare books and manuscripts at the ASU Library and the interim head of Distinctive Collections, plan to release a digital exhibit on the Kelmscott Press on June 25.

William Morris

William Morris (1834–1896), founder of the Kelmscott Press. Public domain photo.

“This event is for everyone," Tanaka said. "We want to spark the curiosity of people who may not otherwise know William Morris, his work or the history of the time in which he lived. For those more familiar with Morris and the Kelmscott Press, or for those who are interested in the book as a physical object, there might be some appeal in exploring these books in person and seeing the differences between the first and last book printed.”

Tanaka, who joined the ASU Library about one year ago, aims to demystify special collections for learners of all ages, in part, by holding regular events and exhibits that are open to the community.

“By inviting people through the doors to experience a variety of materials from clay tablets to old books to posters and prints, handwritten letters, photographs and much more, I hope to remove the mystery of special collections,” she said. “I want to share the excitement and the stories that important pieces in our collection tell with anyone who is interested.”

Codell says such stories include the popular image of Chaucer in the 19th century.

“I think Morris came at a time when Chaucer’s literary reputation was not as secure as it is today," said Codell. "And so created this stunning book, combining the printing press with a medieval decorative sensibility of a one-off medieval manuscript to celebrate Chaucer, the poet of Morris’s beloved, and to a large extent an invented and imagined Middle Ages.”

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library