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‘Libraries Transform’ brought department successes together

Mills Professor Kathryn Reiss discussed her creative process of writing from the heart, and writing from the head. Several faculty members in a myriad of other departments listened carefully as Reiss shared her latest book.

On Wednesday, April 12, the third annual Libraries Transform: Celebrating Faculty Authors event held a space for faculty and staff authors to share their published work in the Heller Rare Book Room.

Eleven authors were featured and six read excerpts from their books. The event finale was a reading from English Professor Kathryn Reiss, whose 20th book was published last year. Reference Librarians Lawral Wornek and Leia Casey collaborated with the Provost’s Office and the Center for the Book to organize the annual event.

Assistant Adjunct Journalism Professor Meredith May, Artist in Residence Dance Professor Shinichi Iova-Koga, Professor of Spanish and Spanish American Studies Carlota Caulfield, Adjunct English Professor Kim Magowan, Distinguished Visiting Writer Achy Obejas and English Professor Kathryn Reiss read from their work.

Government Professor Paul Schulman, Assistant Professor of Biology Jennifer Smith, Book Art Professor Kathleen Walkup, Book Art Professor Julie Chen, and Director of Systems and Banner Services Mahmud Rahman were featured as well, but were unable to attend the event.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” Provost and Dean of the Faculty Chinyere Oparah said. “We share more with the people in our field than the person two doors down from us.”

Both Oparah and Wornek emphasized how the event was a way to reintegrate the flow of information from one department to another.

“The thing that has come out of at least two events is professors from other departments listening to each other’s work,” Wornek said. “I think it’s a good way to bring together various people on campus and let people show off what they’re doing and show off the library and our collection.”

Publishing can be hard and lonely, Wornek said, and she wanted to have a place to appreciate the work that faculty members have accomplished.

“[This event was] a way to celebrate the work that faculty do on campus,” Wornek said. “We have a good mix of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.”  

The event started in 2015, when Wornek read an article in the College and Research Libraries Journal. Other college libraries were holding events showcasing their faculty members’ published works, so Wornek and Casey started Libraries Transform with the support of the then Provost David Donahue.

Only books, chapters in books or short stories that have been published in the last year are accepted, and faculty members have a month and a half before the event to submit their works. After pieces have been accepted, the library buys what is available and displays them in the library before the event. Once the event is over, the display case is opened and the books are available for checkout.

“I think professors who are at Mills are so talented to teach anywhere they want in the country, but they choose Mills because they want to build small, hands-on, and lasting relationships with their students,” May said. “There’s a selflessness that they have.”

May read a passage from her book “I, Who Did Not Die,” which was published in March. Iova-Koga read from a book that he compiled of his own writing as well as others, “95 Rituals,” in honor of Anna Halperin’s 95 birthday. Caulfield read two humorous poems from “The Neuemeister notebook,” Magowan read from her piece published in “Hobart,” and “The Literary Review” titled “Why We Are With the Men We Are With,” and Obejas read “Volver” from “Bridges to Cuba.” Finishing the event, Reiss read from her 20th book, her newest book, “Message in a Bottle.”

First year MFA dance student Nicole Matthews liked how the event allowed her to see what faculty from other departments had accomplished and what some of their writing processes were.

“Now I know more about the successes of the people teaching here, who have graduated from here,” Matthews said. “I’m proud to be a part of the Mills community here.”