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Pairing Rare Books with Beer!

 

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All the books laid out on the table ready to go! (Before you panic, I had everyone leave their beers on their tables before they came up)

Yesterday evening I partnered with The Homestead Atlanta and Eventide Brewing to host May’s Curiosity Club, where I did a rare books and beer pairing. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was really engaged. Like a lot of the rare book events I do, I like to talk for a little bit to give people an overview and then let them come up and look at the books and ask questions (which is always more fun than just listening to a lecture).

For the pairing, I used Eventide’s four flagship brews as the starting point. I grabbed their tasting notes, and started to think about how those might relate to rare books. One of the big things I emphasize is that the book is a technology, and one that has developed considerably over time. If we look at the book as a physical object as well as a transmitter of written knowledge, we can see that development (not only is this approach really useful, but since many patrons haven’t thought of the book as a technology before it also is a lot of fun to watch them discover a new way of thinking about books for the first time!)

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Where’s Julia?

Interested in seeing my work IRL (or virtually?) I have a couple events coming up this month where you can do just that:

May 17, Eventide Brewing, Atlanta: As a part of HomesteadATL and Eventide Brewing‘s Curiosity Club series, I’ll be presenting a new spin on the beer and book pairing. Using Eventide’s brews, I’ve mapped out the history of the book by matching the tasting notes of the beers to the “tasting notes” (physical attributes) of the books, and lined them up to show how books as a technology have evolved. Come have a beer, hold a book (not while holding the beer, please), and learn about book history in a new way!
You can register here and find the Facebook event here.

May 23, webinar: I’ll be presenting Not So Rare Any More: Reaching New Special Collections Audiences Through Unlikely Collaborations as a part of NFAIS’ Lunch and Learn series. This half hour talk will give a run down of my process of identifying new communities to engage with, and the process of developing programming tailored to different community interests.

Common Good classes: This month is the first time I bring rare books in to teach along with the folks at Common Good, who teach college-level courses to incarcerated scholars at a state prison. These are private classes, but I’m so excited to finally meet the scholars and use our books to support their learning, that I wanted to gush about it here!
If you haven’t heard of Common Good before, they’re doing amazing things and I am consistently impressed by their work (check out, for example, the mindblowing projects shared at this conference).

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Current Projects: Now Actually Current!

I noticed recently that a bit of dust had collected on my current projects page, so I used it as an excuse to reorganize and rewrite the whole thing. If you’re curious what I’ve been up to in the last year, make sure to go check it out!

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Zine Workshop for Pique Art Gallery

Hi all!

A while back I did a zine workshop as a part of an exhibition at Pique Art Gallery in Covington, KY. I wanted to share the archived version for those who are interested in (re)watching it. Full transcript for those who prefer text will be coming soon!

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Colonial England and Afternoon Tea

While we’re on the subject of updates, here’s a post from my other blog to tell you a bit about the book(s) I’m working on right now. I’m extra excited because both allow me to deep dive into a subject area I’m curious about, while also giving me a chance to do some food history research AND use the historic cookery books I’ve been acquiring for work!

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Interview with Library as Incubator Project

A few days ago, the Library as Incubator Project posted an interview they did with me about earlier this month. I had a lot of fun doing the interview, and it also got me to think through how my art informs my practice as a librarian (and vice versa). Check it out!

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PhD Debt, “Bad Decisions,” and Misdirected Focus

I’ve been thinking about some of the arguments I’ve seen recently that place the focus of student debt arguments on students. The end of one article I saw last month caught my attention for this reason, and I’ve written a bit of a response. It’s somewhat more blunt and cranky than my writing typically is, but if you don’t mind that, read on!

Last month, an article was published in The Atlantic that brought attention to Karen Kelsky’s PhD Debt spreadsheet in Google docs. The spreadsheet gave current and former grad students a chance to talk about their debt and how they try to manage it. Lots of people have some really good ideas about dealing with debt, and some of these, as well as plenty of information on the rising cost of education, make it into what was mostly a very enjoyable article. However, at the end of the article, the author reminds us that PhD debt can also be the result of “simply making poor decisions,” and points to the following quote:

I tutored, worked 5 jobs, never bought drinks or ate on campus. I had several craiglist tutor jobs up. I also had a 6 years of Research Assistant to an administrator in which I published a lot. I got 3 years fellowships. I played the game and it was okay for the tuition payoff. I don’t regret it but do not recommend it for anyone unless you are rich and want to get a “vanity PhD.”

I have several friends who owe over 100K and are very bitter and they have a right to be. I want to say I was lucky but I worked my ass off!

There were over 14 of us when we started and only 4 graduated. There are 3 more that have over 100K debt and are still in the program. They let some of the people “hang themselves with their own rope” by not funding them and those people withered away. The older grad students were left to fend for themselves and also died on the vine. I also saw just plain bad decision making like some grad students living by themselves when they should have got a roommate or buying a new mac computer every 2 years and attending every conference on credit card debt.

I know people who have done this. I’ve worked full-time in graduate school. We all work our asses off and make a lot of sacrifices. But ending the article with this implies that this should be the path everyone takes (or is able to take). First of all, huge kudos to this person for having the energy and ability to work so many jobs and balance that with graduate school. If you’re able to do that, good for you, and you have a skill set there to be proud of.
However, how feasible is this for…almost anyone else? How can you tell me and my colleagues that it’s stupid of us to borrow money to attend conferences, when the decision not to attend a conference means not being able to share your research or get a job with your degree? How could someone who’s a parent possibly work all these jobs on top of the insane workload of school and childrearing? How could you tell me that when I elected to live alone when my world was crashing around me last year, that I made a “bad decision” by choosing to keep my sanity rather than living with that insane couple from Craigslist?

Ending the article with a quote that emphasizes other people’s different choices as “bad” places the onus of student debt squarely on the shoulders of debtors, and ignores the much, *much* bigger issue of unreasonable educational costs. Students have always made sacrifices to go to school, but the implication was that they would be able to be more prosperous in their careers. I love my students, my field, and my research so much, and I’m grateful every day to do my work. However, I also am looking at paying back a mortgage’s worth of debt so I can do work that will hopefully help people and improve education.* This means that I don’t have the freedom to be as flexible in where I go or how many risks I can take, which in turn potentially diminishes how well I can do the work I’m paying all this money to do. I feel like in my field I’m very lucky because my colleagues are supportive and wonderful, and wherever I go I’ll probably be in an environment that fosters creativity and professional development, but I know that’s not the case for a lot of people.

Just like every other student, my path is a process of balance as I try to negotiate keeping costs low while in school while also doing the things I need to for success. In my case,  I grow, cook, and preserve as much of my own food as possible, I hand wash my clothes, I keep my heat low and my A/C high, and I walk wherever I can (among many, many other things). But I also need to travel to conferences, pay my rent, keep the lights on, and sleep once in a while in lieu of working a 4th job, and so I take out loans. The idea of paying them back is absolutely terrifying, but it’s also the only option if I want an education (our departments try to offer as much assistance as they can, but in a lot of cases their hands are tied when it comes to how much students can be compensated and for how long).

My path isn’t right for everyone either (I doubt most people are interested in fermenting sauerkraut in their apartments!), but I think it’s a mistake on the part of the article’s author and this former student to judge other people’s decisions without knowing what goes into them. I have very good reasons to live alone, and I have very good reasons to not get a 4th job. Other students have struck a different balance and there are very good reasons behind their decisions too. Yes, sometimes people make bad choices, but that is true with absolutely any set of decisions one is offered with, and the vast majority of the time, student loans are used to try to make ends meet. My advice to them is to remember that this problem is bigger than any one of us, and to turn your judgment and frustration towards those making it near-impossible to get an education. If you still want to direct some feelings towards struggling grad students, make sure they are feelings and actions that help those people learn and put food on the table at the same time.

*I think the biggest problem I have with a lot of this is the assumption that because someone is willing to pay for an expensive education, that it means it’s ok that the education is expensive (and this wasn’t in the article, per se, just a trend I’ve noticed).

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