Brock Matthews: Building support for the Emory Libraries
Ask anyone on the library staff if they’ve ever seen Brock Matthews, the Library’s director of development and alumni relations, in a bad mood. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d say yes.
Known for his enthusiasm and friendly demeanor, Brock greets coworkers in passing, and he’s equally at ease striking up a conversation with attendees after a poetry reading or donors and potential contributors at a symposium.
Isn’t it awkward to chat with people you don’t know well, or talk to strangers at an event? Not for Brock. “I’m not very shy – I’ve always been a talker,” he says. “When my mother used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always used to say ‘a talk show host.’ ”
Rick Luce, vice provost and director of libraries, has noticed Brock’s ease with a variety of topics. “It almost doesn’t matter what the conversation is, Brock gets intellectually drawn into what’s going on,” Rick says. “It’s really nice to see someone who has such broad interests. He’s also a good listener, which is not always true of people who are good talkers.”
Brock is originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, about an hour southeast of Raleigh. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s in communications “after changing majors many times. At one point I wanted to be a dentist,” but the chemistry requirements convinced him otherwise, he says. He earned his MBA at Emory.
He began working at Emory in the central development office in 2002 and was senior director of annual giving before coming to the library. He took over the library development job on a temporary basis in June 2010, working both jobs that summer until he was offered the library development position permanently in September that year.
From the start, Brock found the library’s director of development and alumni relations job very appealing. “In terms of working for a different unit of fundraising, I thought it was the most intellectually intriguing because you get to meet so many kinds of fascinating people, from poets to authors to donors to even artists like Camille Billops,” Brock says. “I always joke that people think because you work in a library, it can’t be that exciting. But it’s probably the most exciting job I’ve ever had.”
He travels frequently for work – from around-town visits, to day trips a few hours away, to out-of-state travel. He’s busiest with donor visits in the fall, sometimes traveling up to two or three times a month. Most donors are in Georgia – the Atlanta area, Macon, Savannah, Athens – and there are some in New York City, D.C. and other cities scattered across the country.
Brock and Jaime Russo, the library’s assistant director of development, try to see the library’s closest donors once or twice a year, and they also contact a list of other donors by phone, mail, or email. However, cultivating relationships for a major gift can take months, even years, depending on the scale and size and finding the right project, so in-person visits are important.
A resident of Midtown, Brock loves spending his free time in nearby Piedmont Park with his pug, Josie. He travels so much for work that it’s a nice change to spend time at home, he says. But he has vacationed in other countries – China, France, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, all since 2005. Traveling for vacation is different, he says. For example, “When I’m in New York City on business, I don’t get to see much of the city, because I’m working or meeting with people all day, and at night I’m just exhausted,” he says.
Emory Libraries doesn’t have a built-in alumni base the way the schools do. “A lot of donors are what we call friends – they don’t have a direct relationship with Emory other than they might be someone who attends the poetry readings, or who came to the book festival,” Brock says. “Some of our most generous donors are people who didn’t graduate from Emory. We really rely on those relationships; that’s why the Decatur Book Festival and 12th Night are critical for us to continue growing our base of support.”
During fiscal year 2011, the library – including MARBL curators and staff, development and administrators – brought in about $2.9 million in gifts and donations, plus nearly $1 million in grants.
That includes the $1 million gift of rare books to MARBL; a $40,000 gift from the Vasser-Woolley Foundation for the Paul Seydel Belgian Collection to purchase additional books; and a $695,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC).
“Last year was our best year ever,” Rick says. But he and Brock both say none of this can be attributed to one person; a donation is often the result of the efforts of development, curators, administrators and others.
Brock adds that fundraising is a team effort that involves multiple departments in the library. When donors ask for more details about the collections or exhibitions, he follows up with a press release or a packet of information, “or I’ll ask one of the curators to write a couple paragraphs about a collection or help me come up with a proposal,” he says. “Everyone plays a role in fundraising, whether that’s things behind the scenes that keep the library running, or a public-facing role, like someone working in MARBL helping a researcher or giving a tour to a potential donor,” he says. “We certainly couldn’t do our jobs without the great team that’s here in the library.”
Rick says Brock has developed strong working relationships around the organization, from mentoring Jaime to the way he works with Ginger Smith and the public programming team; how he works with the curators, and donors; and being able to weave it all together.
“He’s always prepared and organized,” Rick says. “He’s got the ability to engage people in all parts of the operation and seems to really thrive in all areas of what we’re doing. He’s been a delight to work with.”
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
About LEAF Election results
The Library Employee Advocacy Forum’s (LEAF) vision is to bolster a community where each person can feel empowered to succeed. We are a committee consisting of staff-elected representatives and functioning as an advisory group regarding staff concerns and as a communication link between library administrators and staff. We strive to embody and reinforce our values of trust, respect, and shared interest in success both in LEAF and the larger organization we represent.
LEAF meets monthly as a group, quarterly with the library’s administration, and as needed with other members of the organization as well as groups within it. Through these interactions, we aim to create and sustain a safe place for the exchange of information including changes within the organization and employee feedback regarding these changes.
Some of our goals and challenges include building relationships between library staff and our administration, empowering the staff to prosper in an environment of continuous change, and being a conduit between the administration and the staff as they find the difficult balance between the library’s institutional goals and the individual’s daily work.
LEAF meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month and are open to the general staff. Staff may submit agenda items by contacting their division’s representative(s), placing their comments into the Straight Talk! box in the first floor break room, or submitting comments to the online Straight Talk! form.
LEAF on Staffweb (login first):
Straight Talk! online form:
—Lisa Hamlett, LEAF secretary/vice chair
Media of interest
Google Files Motion to Dismiss in Google Books Case
thedigitalshift.com (Library Journal)
Dec. 23, 2011
Google yesterday filed a motion to dismiss the Authors Guild as a plaintiff in the long-running Google Books lawsuit, arguing that the organization lacks “associational standing” to sue on behalf of individual copyright holders.
My Own Private Librarian
Nov. 4, 2011
Fearful that the only search students can do is on Google, librarians are eager to show off what they can do. The latest effort is the personal librarian.
What Students Don’t Know
Aug. 22, 2011
This is one of the sobering truths these librarians, representing a group of Illinois universities, have learned over the course of a two-year, five-campus ethnographic study examining how students view and use their campus libraries: students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students.
. . . to the iHoliday party organizing committee, who did a fabulous job choosing the delicious food from a new caterer (Chef Vic’s Simply Heart & Soul), the line dancing entertainment (One Step Above) and decorating the change of venue this year, the Research Commons. Pictured above, from left: Brigitte Collier-Laney, Jack Scott, Pamela Pope, Lee Pasackow, Bev Turner, Henry Benjamin, Melanie Kowalski and Rebecca Sutton Koeser.
. . . to Sarah Quigley, who became the manuscript archivist in arrangement and description in August, replacing Laura Carroll. She had been MARBL’s project archivist for the processing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference records (part of a CLIR grant) since June 2009.
. . . to Kate Jarvis (MARBL) and Cheryl Oestreicher (Auburn Avenue Research Library), who have authored/co-authored articles in the late summer issue of Archival Outlook, which is the newsletter of the Society of American Archivists.
. . . to Marc Hardison, who joined the facilities team full time in October after filling in for Amanda Welter during her maternity leave over the summer. Marc provided project management for several major initiatives over the summer, including the renovations of WHSCL and the business library, the Research Commons construction, and the Chinese Culture Exploratorium on Level 1.
. . . to Margaret Ellingson and the ILL team, who received a Star Award from the Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative. This international group advocates for a revolution in the way libraries conduct resources sharing. The award recognizes libraries who demonstrate best practices in resource sharing and interlibrary loan services and that reach 80 points on a checklist; Ellingson says the Woodruff ILL department scored more than 100 points.
Sharing our knowledge
East Asian studies librarian Guo-Hua Wang, attended the Sino-American Academic Library Forum for Cooperation and Development conference in Xiamen, China in October, both to give a presentation and as a member of the organization committee. The topic of her presentation was how librarians support faculty teaching and student learning. She presented the model she designed: LLOLI (Language Learning Oriented Library Instruction). She demonstrated how she taught library instructional classes to Chinese language learning students in Chinese; as a result, students learned the skills of retrieving Chinese resources and at the same time learned the Chinese language.
…to John Bence and Kate Stratton, who started in July as MARBL research library fellows, working in university archives. Originally from Vermont, John earned his bachelor’s in history from Kenyon College in Ohio and his master’s in archives and public history from NYU, where he worked as a graduate assistant in university archives. After graduating in January, he worked in the archives at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City before moving to Atlanta for this job. Kate, a native of San Diego, received her bachelor’s in English literature and Italian from UCLA. She earned her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she worked in Wilson Library’s Southern Historical Collection before coming to Emory.
. . . to Paige Knight, who started in November as a digital imaging technician. Paige, who grew up in Lithonia, received her BFA from Atlanta College of Art and worked as a digital photographer for 10 years at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She looks forward to helping digitize the library’s special collections.
. . . to Richard McNeal, who started in September as a senior library specialist and the service desk evening/weekend supervisor. Originally from Ohio, Richard received his B.A. in religion and philosophy from Thiel College. He previously worked at Georgia Gwinnett College and Savannah College of Art and Design, and he was a student supervisor at our circulation desk while working on his Master of Divinity degree (2009) at Candler School of Theology.
… to Matt Roberts, who started in August as the subject liaison for comparative literature and French and Italian studies. As a Ph.D. candidate (he’ll finish in summer 2012), Matt has taught courses in the Comparative Literature Department and has served as a teaching assistant for the Department of Theater Studies. He was a Woodruff Fellow in 2009. In addition to his academic work, he is also a theater artist and is currently working on a number of plays and performance art pieces. A native Chicagoan, Matt received a B.A. in philosophy and liberal arts from DePaul University in Chicago.
…to Ryan Taylor, temporary project archivist for the MARBL team, who has been working on processing the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as part of the CLIR Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant since September. He completed his MLIS from Drexel University in December. An Alpharetta native and no stranger to the Emory community, Ryan was an intern in the Emory University archives earlier this year. He graduated from Emory with a bachelor’s in history in 2010.
…to Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, who started in August as the digital repository coordinator for the Intellectual Property Rights Office. Originally from New York but raised in Philadelphia, Leah received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and her MLIS from Simmons College, and completed her doctorate degree in history from Emory in 2011. Having been a graduate assistant at the James Weldon Johnson Institute and at the IP Rights Office in the library, and a member of the library policy committee, Leah has been a member of the Emory library community for quite some time.
… to Roger Whitson, who began work in September as the Mellon postdoctoral fellow for DiSC. A native of Springfield, Mo., Roger received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 2008 and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech. During his fellowship, he worked on a number of digital humanities projects to bring the latest technology into the classroom.
. . . to Elizabeth Russey Roke and husband Mike, who welcomed a baby boy, Linus William Roke. Linus, born on Dec. 17, weighed 7 pounds and 14 ounces.
. . . to Sandra Jefferson.
. . . to Miriam Posner.
. . . to Liz Cooper.
. . . to Kate Tomlinson.
. . . to Joan Smith.
. . . to Patrick Buckley, whose father passed away in December.
. . . to Dennis House, whose brother passed away in December.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor, and Gabrielle Phan, communications student assistant
Karen Garrabrant, Slam Ma’am
At work, Karen Garrabrant processes orders in the acquisitions and receiving departments of Woodruff Library. But after hours, you can find her at various venues around Atlanta participating in a poetry slam, or cranking out verses of slam poetry on a laptop or with pen and paper – whatever is available.
Slam poetry, a fairly new artistic form, was started by Chicago truck driver Marc Smith in the 1980s. It’s an unconventional form that makes poetry accessible and extremely interactive through the use of audience members as judges. At a poetry slam, poets recite their work and five members of the audience are typically called upon to act as judges and score the poems. Influences from improv theater, comedy and hip hop are evident, and audiences also get involved through some call and response.
To Karen, slam poetry is all about being vocal. “The wonderful thing about slam poetry is that anybody can tell their story. Everybody has a story. Slam poetry events have no hierarchy – your story is as important as anybody else’s,” she says. “It’s an invaluable form of personal interaction between poet and audience in a world that’s overwhelmed by technology.”
Karen (aka Karen G, the “Slam Ma’am”) has hosted poetry shows since the ’90s, when she met slam poets from New York, South Carolina, and North Carolina who introduced her to the art form. She began volunteering at slam poetry events and was even a judge at the National Poetry Slam at St. Louis in 2004. Since then she’s been a faithful attendee of the National Poetry Slam competitions. By 2005, she began bringing poets with her to events and eventually founded her own slam poetry team, Art Amok, for which she mentors and coaches other poets. The experience also has given her the chance to host and book touring poets from around the country.
Art Amok is one of two teams in Atlanta that competes frequently at a national level, and they’ve placed in a variety of competitions at both team and individual levels. Over the years Art Amok has won “trophies, a little bit of cash, and bragging rights,” Karen says. In 2010, they placed 9th in the country out of 76 teams. On an individual level, members of Art Amok have made it through several rounds of competition and placed highly in a variety of slam poetry contests. The team’s most recent success: member Theresa Davis was crowned the Women of the World Poetry champion of 2011 and featured in Creative Loafing.
A prolific poet, Karen is one of the lucky few who never suffer from writer’s block. During the months of April (National Poetry Month) and November, she participates in a 30-day poetry challenge, during which she has to produce 30 poems in 30 days. Although Karen draws her inspiration from the everyday, her poetry is anything but mundane. It would be impossible to characterize her poems in just a few words. Her poetic style is diverse; some of her poems are goofy parodies while others have a feminist slant and are considered a form of political storytelling. She has had two of her poems and a semi-biographical article published in “Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution.” Her work has even been published in “Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry.”
Karen, a native of the small town of Pittman, New Jersey, lives in College Park. She earned a bachelor’s in English literature from George Mason University.
Despite having performed at slam poetry events for several years, Karen still gets nervous every time she steps up on the stage. “It’s usually a bad sign if I don’t get nervous, because that means I’m on autopilot or just going through the motions,” she says. “When I’m really nervous it’s a sign of how much I care. It’s almost like a ratio; if I’m really intensely nervous, like quaking in my boots, I really care about it a lot.”
Karen’s own piece, “What Remains”
Karen reading her piece “Jacqueline”
—Gabrielle Phan, communications student assistant
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