Thank you, Sydney Bufkin!

Picture of Sydney Bufkin

Professor Sydney Bufkin,
photo by K. Remington

This summer, the University Library says goodbye to three stellar employees: Sydney Bufkin, who completed her Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship, and retirees Carol Blair and Dick Grefe.

Normally, we would celebrate our friends with a cake-filled fête. Because in-person celebrations aren’t possible due to Covid-19, we celebrate their contributions digitally…until we can safely gather together again.

In this post, we recognize Digital Humanities (DH) Fellow Sydney Bufkin. Since 2015, the University Library has hosted a Digital Humanities Fellow as part of our DH initiatives supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For the past three years, we have been lucky enough to have Professor Sydney Bufkin in this role. Sydney was a familiar addition to the library. In her previous role in the English Department, Sydney regularly collaborated with librarians to bring information literacy skills to her classroom.

As DH Fellow, Sydney combined her pedagogical expertise with digital research methods to support faculty research and student projects—in and outside of the library. Within her first month, she was on the road to the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship as a team member on Stephanie Sandberg’s Understanding Human Trafficking project. She worked closely with Emily Cook, research and outreach librarian, to develop a new library curriculum for working with the first-year Writing Program. Sydney also played an important role in the development and launch of the library’s Digital Culture and Information minor, serving as our in-house expert on assessment.

In addition to the day-to-day work of teaching, coding and consulting, Sydney led two major campus initiatives. In the 2018-2019, Sydney led the campus-wide initiative “Rewriting the Code,” a year-long initiative aimed at inspiring women at W&L to explore careers at the intersection of technology and the humanities. With the help of Kellie Harra ’18, our Mellon post-baccalaureate fellow, Sydney designed and organized two workshops on HTML, CSS, and Python. The demand for the workshops was so high, they were repeated in Winter Term. The initiative culminated in a forum featuring a full day of panels and presentations from six early-career women working in technology. Not only did this remarkable initiative bring together students, staff and faculty from across the university, it inspired a number of women to pursue the Digital Culture and Information minor and take more Computer Science courses.

Beginning in 2018, Sydney served as Institutional Lead for a multi-institutional grant from the Associated Colleges of the South, “Pathway to Diversity: Uncovering Our Collections,” to locate the history of desegregation and integration at W&L and three other ACS institutions in our archival collections. As part of this project, she supervised two summer research students and worked with faculty members to integrate primary sources into their courses. In 2019, the project received a second round of funding to create a shared online repository for the material. To highlight student contributions to the project, Sydney planned and hosted a multi-day “Curating Our Collections Institutional History Symposium” at W&L in late 2019.

Finally, we must acknowledge Sydney’s continual advocacy for non-tenure track faculty within the library and the entire university. Her willingness to speak up in any and every meeting brought needed attention to the employment conditions of contingent faculty. We are grateful for her dedicated work over the past three years to improve the lives of her students and colleagues.

*Written by Digital Humanities Librarian Mackenzie Brooks

Women Who Code Workshop

Professor Bufkin provides guidance during a “Rewriting the Code” workshop

Thank you, Carol Blair!

Picture of Carol Blair

Carol Blair, photo by K. Remington

This summer, the University Library says goodbye to three stellar employees: Sydney Bufkin, who completed her Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship, and retirees Carol Blair and Dick Grefe.

Normally, we would celebrate our friends with a cake-filled fête. Because in-person celebrations aren’t possible due to Covid-19, we celebrate their contributions digitally…until we can safely gather together again.

In this post, we recognize Senior Library Assistant Carol Blair. Carol joined the W&L family in 1983 and worked in library acquisitions, a part of what is now called Collection Services, from the very beginning. During her tenure, she witnessed a transformation in library systems and processes: from multi-part order forms to today’s online purchasing systems. These technological innovations resulted in faster turnaround times for faculty requesting books. Books now arrive only days after order, as opposed to previous wait times of six weeks!

Animal Portraits

Animal Portraits by Carol Blair

Carol does much more than purchase books, media and serials. She processes donated gift books and is instrumental in the organization of our yearly library book sale, a favorite event for W&L community members and local Lexington patrons alike. She also helps manage aspects of the library budget, like the spending of endowed funds. Basically, Carol has been instrumental in library operations since 1983. Her varied tasks and duties cannot fit into one blog post.

Moving into retirement, Carol will have additional time to pursue her interests in art and golf. Carol graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a degree in Art and continues to produce artistic works—notably, highly realistic portraits of animals and golfscapes. She even flexed her artistic skills when winning the “Best in Show” prize at the library’s edible book event in 2016!

Thank you, Carol, for 37 years of service to the University Library! 

We look forward to seeing you out on the links, with a sketchbook or just enjoying life in Lexington!


A note from Carol’s long-time colleague, Senior Reference Librarian Dick Grefe:

Picture of Dick Grefe

Senior Reference Librarian Dick Grefe, photo by K. Remington

Carol’s retirement causes me to fear for the future.

Not so much the library’s future—we have anticipated this and planned for it and may be able to do a credible job of reassigning tasks and otherwise coping. Instead, I fear for the future of publishers and distributors with whom Carol has dealt over the years. 

For much of that span, these businesses have depended upon Carol to examine and correct their operations—their incorrect invoices, their statements sent to the wrong address, their failure to inform us of changes in their procedures and products, the occasional missing link, etc.  I wonder how CQ and National Journal and Sage and Oxford and Cambridge and several other companies can possibly manage to avoid total chaos without Carol’s intervention to save their corporate butts.

They, like W&L, will just have to get their houses in order.  And since they won’t think to say it, let me say it: Thank you, Carol, for keeping us and our relations with the academic publishing world humming along for all these years. Best wishes.—Dick Grefe