WKU Libraries Blog

News and events from WKU Libraries

WKU Libraries Blog - News and events from WKU Libraries

SOKY Book Fest partners select finalists for 2016 Kentucky Literary Award

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership announces the three finalists for the 2016 Kentucky Literary Award. This year’s award will go to a work of fiction by a Kentucky author or with a significant Kentucky theme that was published in 2014 or 2015. The three finalists include:

The Marble Orchard, Alex Taylor


Cementville, Paulette Livers


Hurry Please, I Want to Know, Paul Griner


The winner will be announced at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest’s Meet the Authors Reception to be held Friday, April 22– the night before the main Book Fest event. The Kentucky Literary Award is presented annually by the Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership. The 2016 award is sponsored by the Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information about the award, contact Sara Volpi, Book Fest and Literary Outreach Coordinator, at sara.volpi@wku.edu or 270-745-4502.

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest is a partnership of Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and Western Kentucky University Libraries. For more information, visit sokybookfest.org.

Don’t Say “No” to the Dames

Margie Helm's Colonial Dames membership card

Margie Helm’s Colonial Dames membership card

Founded in 1891, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America seeks to preserve and promote an understanding of America’s formative years through education and historic preservation.  Membership requires proof of descent from an ancestor who served the country during the Colonial period, but candidates must also be “invited and proposed” by an existing member.

Lydia Mae Helm, a cousin of WKU head librarian Margie Helm, resolved to join the Colonial Dames in 1942.  A Washington attorney who already knew many Dames socially, Mae was nevertheless a little intimidated at the prospect.  Her first test was appearing at a formal tea for 60 women, of whom 20 were being vetted as candidates.

Afterward, Mae informed her cousin Margie that the tea was a “complete success,” given in a “gorgeous apartment” and attended by women of charm, wealth, civic conscience and patriotism.  She was especially dazzled by those who had married titled foreigners, and conversed with one who promised to help her with her genealogy.  Planning her research trip to the Library of Congress, Mae declared “I have started and I am going to finish it.”

Margie Helm herself became a member of the Kentucky chapter of the Colonial Dames in 1951.  Two years later, she was recruited by its Historic Activities Committee in a project to identify 18th- and early 19th-century houses in the western part of the state.  Highly tasked as WKU’s head librarian and busy with church and other community work, Margie resisted the assignment, but received a stern letter from the committee.

“You can’t do this to me,” wrote Frances Fairleigh, “and further more one does not say ‘No’ to any work of the Dames.”  “So accept gracefully,” she advised.  Further, Margie was not to delegate the task to any outsider, for “this is Dames’ work.”  “For the present,” Frances concluded, “you are chairman of the western district.”  Margie appears to have surrendered, noting on the envelope her meek reply: “accepted temporarily.”

Mae and Margie Helm’s adventures with the Colonial Dames are part of the Margie Helm Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  When processing is complete, a finding aid will be available in TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Gift Donation to WKU Libraries from Sister City Kawanishi, Japan

Since 1995 the City of Bowling Green has participated in the Sister City Program with the City of Kawanishi, Japan, a city of 156,000 located in Hyogo Prefecture near Kobe, Japan. As part of this program WKU Libraries annually exchanges library materials with the public library in the City of Kawanishi. WKU Libraries sends materials related to Kentucky to Japan. This year’s gift from Japan range from novels to the history of Japanese paper, from children’s books to works with amazing photography and art.

Keiko Fujii, Project Manager of Cultural & International Exchanges, and Brian Coutts, DLPS Dept. Head coordinate these exchanges annually.

Among the books received include:

Maruyama-Okyo Maruyama-Okyopic









Tokubetsuten Maruyama-Okyo by the Osaka Museum featuring the artwork of 18th century Japanese artist Maruyama Ōkyo.

arikawa railway

Hankyū Densha (Hankyu Railway) by Hiro Arikawa

arikawa library wars

Toshokan Sensō (Library Wars) by Hiro Arikawa

Toshokan Sensō (Library Wars) and Hankyū Densha (Hankyu Railway) by young adult novelist Hiro Arikawa.


Washi bunkashi by Yasuo Kume about the history of Japanese style of paper known as “washi”.


11 Cats and a Pig by Noboru Baba


Picture of the Tōdai-ji












The gift also included children’s picture books such as 11 Cats and a Pig by Noboru Baba and Tōdai-ji Temple by Takeshi Kobayashi, featuring photography of Tōdai-ji. The 8th century Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and it also features the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha.

WKU Libraries Participates in International Student Fair

DSC_0399Dean Connie Foster, Library Public Services Department Head Brian Coutts, Library Faculty John Gottfried, and Marketing Coordinator Jennifer Wilson represented the Libraries at a student fair for the incoming International Students on Tuesday, January 19 at the Honors College and International Center. Approximately 100 international students who are new to WKU’s campus participated in the orientation, asking many questions, including library hours, locations, and services.

Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation with Tom Kimmerer

venerable-trees (6)

On the evening of February 11, 2016 at Barnes & Noble in Bowling Green, KY, WKU Libraries kicks off its spring season of Kentucky Live! with Tom Kimmerer, Chief Scientist at Venerable Trees Inc., in Lexington, KY. Tom Kimmerer talked about his new book Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass. A graduate of the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, with a PhD. in Forestry and Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kimmerer has studied trees and woodland for over forty years, the last thirty-two of which have been in the Kentucky Bluegrass.

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On the Plains of Mexico

Charles Nourse's Mexican War letter

Charles Nourse’s Mexican War letter

Like his sister Sally, Charles E. Nourse (1826-1866) of Bardstown, Kentucky was an intelligent observer and capable correspondent.  In service with the 4th Kentucky Infantry during the Mexican War, Charles wrote home to his family of his experiences while on duty.  Three of his letters are now part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.

“I am in the city of Vera Cruz and am very well,” Charles wrote his brother James in November 1847, but his landing at that Mexican port city had not been uneventful.  Asleep during the approach, he was awakened by a thunderstorm that kept his ship, and its seasick crew, tacking offshore for 3 days.  Afterward, he had a chance to explore the city, with its many tradesmen, war-damaged houses, and a few attractive “Senoretas.”  A month later, a long march took him through fascinating territory.  Of Perote Castle, the 16th-century Spanish-built fortress used by the Mexicans as a prison, he wrote that “a few bombs could kill every man in it and it is very unhealthy.”  While in the valley of Perote, Charles and his fellow soldiers heard gunfire in the distance and readied themselves for battle, only to learn that it had been an accidental discharge and that it had killed a young soldier from Louisville.  Finally, standing on a high point overlooking the valley of Mexico, Nourse found a 50-mile view that took in fertile fields, “six or seven cities with glittering spires & domes,” lakes, and snow-capped mountains.

With spring 1848, however, came the “sickly season,” when every day Nourse would hear the “solemn dead march” as its victims were taken to their final resting place.  Nevertheless, he assured his grandmother, he had emerged unscathed.  And besides, he reflected, “All have to die!  if a man be buried on the plains of Mexico without a stone to mark his place of rest or under a marble monument at home what is the difference when he is dead.”

Click here to access a finding aid for Charles Nourse’s letters.   For more collections on the Mexican War and other wars, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

A Woman’s View of the Fight

Union and Confederate letterheadsIn Kentucky, the imminent breakup of the Union in 1861 and the approach of civil war sparked lively intra-family debates.  In the Brown Family Collection, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, a transcribed letter to Charles Ewing Nourse (the Browns were his in-laws) from his older sister Sarah (“Sally”) Doom, the wife of a Nelson County tanner, eloquently shows her struggle to make sense of the war.

Was it a purely political question of states’ rights, Sally wondered, versus an intrusive federal authority?  “I cannot,” she wrote, “look upon the disruption of the most glorious Government that man ever saw, with any sympathy or pleasure.”  The whole, she believed, was greater than the sum of its parts, and the initial secession of South Carolina would lead to “the privilege of all to secede into innumerable petty states which can and will be overthrown and enslaved by any Foreign power that may desire it.”  Insisting that she was “very green to try to talk politics,” Sally nevertheless declared that “if I were a man I would devote myself to my country (if I had the sense).”

But she wanted to dig deeper into the matter.  “We ought to weigh the thing better than we have,” she continued.  To those claiming that secession would remedy the current crisis, and that it was worthwhile to “throw away” the benefits of a federal government, she cut to the chase:

Could I believe the South were actuated by noble feelings, I could sympathize with them.  But the grand moving object of ‘our noble progenitors’ is the survival of the African slave trade . . . in my opinion the most degrading, despicable occupation a people could engage in.

Click here to access a finding aid for Sally’s letter.  For more collections on the Civil War and slavery, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.  Click here to browse a list of our Civil War collections.

More Than Meets the Eye

Louise Carson Drake and Ann McNallyHere is Louise (Carson) Drake, looking fabulous during a tour of Venice’s Grand Canal in 1951 with her friend Ann McNally in the background.

Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1894, Louise was descended from Revolutionary War patriots (she and WKU’s own Margie Helm shared a great-great grandfather, Thomas Carson).  After graduation from Georgia’s Brenau College in 1917, Louise entered law school at the University of Kentucky.  Three years later, she aced the bar exam, scoring the highest of anyone who took the test and earning an invitation to practice before the state court of appeals.

Instead, Louise chose to marry eye, nose and throat specialist Dr. William Preston Drake and immerse herself in the social and cultural affairs of her home town.  Active in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Colonial Dames of Kentucky, and Bowling Green’s XX Literary Club, Louise also served as the second woman member of WKU’s Board of Regents.

A tireless student and author of local history and genealogy, Louise searched archives far and wide to compile materials on her Carson, Porter and Helm ancestors, amassed a roster of Kentucky Revolutionary War soldiers for the DAR’s Kentucky Society, and worked with her cousin Margie Helm to preserve an ancestral cemetery.  She also traveled worldwide, looking fabulous.  After her death in 1979, her friend Jane Morningstar praised her “appreciation of life” and her “superior intellect with the faculty of total recall.”  Louise, she wrote, “had personal beauty and was always dressed in perfect taste and style. . . .  She was a gracious Southern lady with pride, dignity and courage.”

Louise (Carson) Drake’s papers, consisting largely of her genealogical and historical research, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections about genealogy, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.


The Department of Special Collections recently added a first edition of a book composed of a beautifully illustrated poem by Madison Julius Cawein.

Madison-J-CaweinThe poem, “Let Us Do The Best We Can,” is one of the works produced by this prolific Kentucky poet. He was popular in his lifetime (b. March 23, 1865, d. December 8, 1914), but he is not a familiar name to many Kentuckians.  He was known as the “Keats of Kentucky,” and acclaimed as the great nature poet of his time.  He loved and praised the beauty of  the flora and fauna of his native Kentucky and showcased a deep love and appreciation of the same. Cawein said of his poetry that “the dreams which any true poet presents to the world may not be of that imperishable stuff that makes for immortality, but they help humanity for the time being, and that is sufficient, is all he hoped for them; dreams of a beauty that has never died, and that will never utterly perish from the earth, as long as the aesthetic sense is a part of the spiritual nature of man” (Rothert, O.A., 1921, The Story of a Poet.) 

From “Let Us Do The Best We Can”:

Let us do the best we can, I say

and have done with the failures of yesterday:

Let us do our work, whatever it is

Let us do our work, or hit or miss

and the world will take from our hearts its tone

and echo the song that’s in our own,

for happienss lies in the work we do,

whatever it be, or old or new:

And whatever the work, whatever the way,

Let us do the best that we can, I say!35827

See this book and other poetry written by Cawein at the Special Collections library. Search the collection by using KenCatTopSCHOLAR and the One Search online catalog.

Fall 2015 Library Student Assistant Scholarship

Western Kentucky University (WKU) senior Katie Gamble from Hopkinsville, has been selected as the recipient of the WKU Library Student Assistant Scholarship.  Gamble is a senior who will graduate in May 2016 with a B.S. in Communication Disorders, completing her degree in only three years.fall15studentacholarshipPictured: Doug Wiles, Gamble, and Dean of WKU Libraries Connie Foster.

According to her supervisor Doug Wiles, Gamble has worked as a Stacks Management student for two-and-a-half years.  “During that time, I have noted Katie’s motivation to be exceptional in every endeavor: academic, work-related, and personal,” said Wiles. “Katie has been a leader in several projects, including a significant transition for Stacks Management to staff  the Helm Information Desk.”

Gamble has performed at a superior level academically, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average while working in WKU Libraries and volunteering in the Kelly Autism Program. In addition, Katie was the first student employee to serve on the WKU Campus Library Advisory Council.

“I take pride in telling people that I am a WKU Libraries Student Assistant and am very thankful for the opportunity to work here,” said Gamble. “I can genuinely say that being a student assistant has strengthened my time management skills and has made me more independent.”

Katie was recognized at a reception on Wednesday, December 9 in Cravens Library. The scholarship is sponsored through funding from the Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information on the Friends program, go to wku.edu/library and click on “Support Us.”