Pellom McDaniels: The struggles of those who came before
At first, it might seem like an odd fit – an ex-NFL player is now a liberal arts professor and part-time curator in Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). But it makes perfect sense if you know Pellom McDaniels III.
As the consultant curator for the African Americans in Sports collection, Pellom works with MARBL to build related research collections. He’s also an assistant professor of history and American studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).
Pellom earned a master’s in 2006 and a PhD in 2007, both from Emory’s Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts. He earned a bachelor of arts in communications from Oregon State University while playing defensive end and linebacker for the college team.
He was a defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1998, and played one season for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999 until injury sent him into retirement in the 2000 pre-season.
The injury was actually a serious health problem – blood clots in the lungs. While he was sidelined that season, Pellom did a lot of reading and contemplating, particularly about “Why did I pursue this career as a professional athlete? Why was it so important that I would risk my life?” he says.
“That got me thinking –why are so many young black men breaking their necks trying to pursue a career where the risks outweigh the rewards?” he adds. “The more I read, the more I realized the best place for me was to be at a university, pursuing one of my goals, which was to be a college professor.”
As a graduate student at Emory, Pellom got to know Randall Burkett, curator of MARBL’s African American Collections, while working on a Langston Hughes exhibition and symposium in 2004 with English professor Larry Jackson. After that he began working in MARBL; he was one of two grad students brought in to help process the Carter Woodson collection and helped construct the exhibit around Woodson’s personal library in 2006, serving as co-curator. Those experiences touched off Pellom’s longtime interest in Woodson. “I knew who he was, but when I learned that we had the collection, I became interested in knowing more about the man and the historian,” he says.
Currently Pellom is writing a biography of Isaac Murphy, a 19th century African American jockey who won the Kentucky Derby three times and still holds the highest winning percentage of any jockey. “Here’s a person who doesn’t have any papers, so I’m trying to piece together what I do know and create the scenario of his life that’s believable and authentic,” he says.
He’s written other books including “My Own Harlem,” a self-reflective book of poetry about Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine district, and “So You Want to Be a Pro?” which explains to young readers that only a small percentage of those who try to become professional athletes actually do, and encourages them to develop character and self-discipline while aiming for academic and career success.
Pellom grew up in San Jose, raised by his grandparents. When he was 14, he learned a valuable lesson from his grandfather. Playing on the varsity football team his freshman year took a toll on his grades and he failed a class. That summer, his grandparents took him with them to their jobs at the Beechnut baby food factory. He worked all summer with the giant cookers, and cut up fruits and vegetables as they came down the conveyor.
“It was pretty intense manual labor,” Pellom recalls. “At the end of the summer working there, my grandfather just asked me if I understood. And that was all he had to say. I understood I had a choice.”
With education available to him that wasn’t an option for his grandparents, he got the message that “you’d better take advantage of it or life can be very difficult. You can live OK with this type of occupation, but you have a choice.” He made up the failed class at a junior college nearby and kept his grades up after that.
Pellom lives in Kansas City with his wife, Navváb, an instructor at UMKC and a consultant for the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri, who earned her MPH at Rollins School of Public Health, and their two children, 10-year-old Ellington and 7-year-old Sofia. He has curated multiple exhibitions at UMKC and has served on the boards of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Black Archives of Mid-America.
At MARBL, Randall is impressed with Pellom’s knowledge and deep interest in history-making African American athletes. “His energy, intellect and enthusiasm for the work make him an ideal person to help build our African American collections,” Randall says. “His special knowledge of and interest in the history of sports made this a natural extension of our collecting focus.”
Pellom has high hopes for the African Americans in Sports collection. “What I believe this collection will do is add another dimension to African American life and history that has been somewhat ignored because of how society tends to imagine sports to be trivial, and a waste of time,” he says. “We haven’t placed a high value on sports as a way to understand social, political, and labor history.”
“I would like to see Emory become the repository for the papers of significant African American athletes who have had an impact on American culture,” he continues. “So many of these men and women have had deeper, more meaningful lives beyond the sports they’ve participated in.”
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
Library Employee Advocacy Forum held its elections in June for employee representatives. Topics the group plans to address in the coming year include staff and new-staff coffees, collaborating with the Libraries’ administration to hold regular staff team building events and encourage staff professional development, and strengthening relationships with the Digital Library Initiative and Employee Council.
Here is a list of newly elected representatives and their divisions:
Administration: Abby Ellerbe, Moffett Morris
Content division: Steve Johnson, Susan Kellett, Brian Methot, Bonnie Jean Woolger
Digital programs and systems: Sari Connard, Alex Thomas
Health Science Library: Maria Jenkins
MARBL: Kathy Shoemaker
Services division: Erica Bruchko, Patrick Buckley, Lisa Hamlett, Erin Mooney
Media of interest
Unlocking HathiTrust: Inside the Librarians’ Digital Library
July 15, 2011
The more I communicated with HathiTrust personnel, the more I realized that they are a surprisingly small group of library-minded folks doing a herculean job not only participating in mass digitization projects with Google and the Internet Archive but building a new, large-scale digital library with its own features and services. Enter the inspiration for this follow-up interview: to correct my (and others’) misperceptions about this important and emerging librarians’ digital library.
British Library makes Google search deal
June 20, 2011
The British Library has reached a deal with search engine Google about 250,000 texts dating back to the 18th Century. It will allow readers to view, search and copy the out-of-copyright works at no charge on both the library and Google books websites.
Google ends newspaper digitization project
May 24, 2011
Google emailed its newspaper partners May 19 to inform them that it would be discontinuing its effort to digitize the world’s newspaper archives and make them available online, the Search Engine Land blog reported. The project, which was started in 2008, has digitized material from about 2,000 newspapers. Google said it would focus instead on “newer projects that help the industry, such as Google One Pass, a platform that enables publishers to sell content and subscriptions directly from their own sites.”
Why libraries still matter: Critics say they’re obsolete, but New York’s main branch is a reminder of what the Internet can never do
May 11, 2011
The anniversary of the NYPL’s main building is an occasion to talk about why the library needs to be a place as well as an ethereal mass of data residing somewhere in “the cloud.” Not everything we need or want to know about the world can be transmitted via a screen, and not every experience can be digitized. Also, not everything a library collects is a scannable book or document. The NYPL’s anniversary exhibit includes such treasures of print culture as a Gutenberg Bible, a copy of the Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, and a first quarto edition of “King Lear.” It also features the personal effects of writers, such as Jack Kerouac’s rolling papers, harmonica and Valium box (with notes scribbled on it).
Above readings found via Twitter
Amazon to allow library lending of Kindle books
April 20, 2011
Library patrons across the United States will soon be able to borrow ebooks from over 11,000 libraries using Amazon’s Kindle reading device. Long a missing link in the library lending chain, Amazon’s announcement today that it will offer, sometime later this year, Kindle library lending is likely to create a flood of demand, since many patrons have long been puzzled and librarians irritated by the inability to use the market-leading device to access library books.
Above reading suggested by Kathy Britt
The future of libraries in the e-book age
April 4, 2011
A lot of attention has been focused on the way bookstores and publishing companies are managing the e-book revolution. The role of libraries has often been overlooked. But when HarperCollins Publishing Co. recently announced a new policy that would limit the number of times its e-books can be borrowed, it sparked a larger conversation about the future of libraries in the digital age. (Many interesting comments follow the article.)
. . . to Randy Gue, who was hired full-time in July for two positions after working for 13 years in a variety of positions in MARBL. As curator of modern political and historical collections for MARBL, he will identify and acquire archives, manuscripts and other materials that document modern American and Southern history, as well as modern American politics. As instruction specialist for primary source materials, he will coordinate MARBL’s expanding instruction program and provide research services.
. . . to the service awards 2011 committee of Holly Crenshaw, LeEllen Hannan, Kitty Quitmeyer, Emily Thornton and Bev Turner, who put on a fun Paris-themed party (and got Rick to wear a beret and speak French) and provided tasty food for the event.
. . . to Guo-Hua Wang, who has been invited to present at the “1911 China Revolution” conference in the Library of Congress on September 8. She will present the impact of an American missionary on the revolution, based on her research on Young John Allen done in MARBL.
. . . to Stacey Martin, who became the web strategist in June. She is responsible for the library’s public website and Staff Web. She works with staff in all divisions to provide technical and content support through digital programs and systems; to ensure that the library’s web presence provides access to library search tools and digital assets and highlights collections and the services available from staff experts; and to support web-related work in other campus libraries. She also collaborates extensively with the library’s development and external affairs staff to make the website beneficial in promoting communications, development, events and exhibits.
. . . to Holly Crenshaw, who moved from associate director of publications to director of communications in June. In addition to overseeing the communications department, she will continue to direct the publication of the MARBL magazine and the Report to the Community, and she currently is working on a draft of the library’s new strategic plan. Holly has a library degree from Emory and work experience in Special Collections (now MARBL), as well as many years of experience with print and electronic media at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Significant Contribution Awards
Four categories of Significant Contribution Awards were given at the Library Service Awards Celebration on June 14. The first three awards below recognized an individual and a team that has made significant contributions to the work of the library while also exemplifying the library values; the Leadership Award recognizes an individual. Each individual received a framed certificate and $250. Each team received framed certificates and a gift card equal to $75 per person up to 10 members ($750 max).
The Community Building Award: for a significant contribution to building a sense of community in the library through teamwork, collaboration and modeling the library’s values while advancing its work in an exceptional way. The individual award was given to Steve Johnson The team award was given to the Aleph Implementation Team of Laura Akerman, Amy Boucher, Kim Durante, Bernardo Gomez, Mike Mitchell, Elizabeth Roke, Jeff Sowder, Heather Williams, Winnie Johnson, Kim Collins, and Terry Gordon.
The Quality Service Award: for a significant contribution to quality library service for the user community. The individual award was given to Randy Gue. Team award to the Combined Services Desk team of Liz Cooper, Amy Boucher, Mel Bunn, Alex Kyrychenko, Lloyd Busch, Erich Wendt, Jessica Perlove, Tara McCurley, Jon Bodnar, and Erin Mooney.
The Creative Initiative Award: for those who initiated the creation of a specific new product, process or service to improve efficiency or productivity, or streamline a significant process. The individual award was shared by David Vidor and Susan Kellett Gue of the content division. Team award to the Orientation Video Task Force of Bran Peacock, Christine Terrell, Lloyd Bush, Erin Mooney, Liz Cooper, and Liz Chase.
The Leadership Award: for an individual who made a significant and positive impact on library staff or services while exemplifying the library values. The winner is Heather Williams, Electronic & Continuing Resources Team and Aleph Implementation Project manager.
More High Fives
. . . to our employees who celebrated milestone anniversaries this year:
Five years: Malisa Anderson-Strait, Nydia Charles-Huggins, Holli Eremine, Julie Newton, James Steffen
10 years: Kathy Britt, Mel Bunn, Kim Collins, Karen Garrabrant, Ann Lech-Mlynarz, Michael Leonard, Susan Pinckard, Scott Turnbull, Alfredo Villar, Kirsten Wehner
15 years: Kyle Fenton, Bernardo Gomez, Susan McDonald, Marilyn Pahr, Sandra Jefferson
20 years: Ann Frellsen, Donna Hudson, Terence Jefferson, Marian Kelley, John Klingler, Pam Matthews, Sue Trowbridge
25 years: Lloyd Busch, Brandy Scott
30 years: Margaret Ellingson, Linda Nodine, Eileen Rubnitz
Sharing our knowledge
Several staff members attended the 2011 ALA Conference in New Orleans in June:
Laura Akerman, Amy Boucher, Liz Cooper, Holly Crenshaw, Kimberly Durante, Jennifer Elder, Margaret Ellingson, Charles Forrest, Richard Gess, Jaime Katzman, Lisa Macklin, Frances Maloy, Brock Matthews, Chris Palazzolo and Alain St. Pierre.
Charles also participated in two panels: “Designing a Specialty Commons: What You Need to Know about Furniture, Equipment, and Technology Before Designing Your Own” and “The Digital Bridge to Somewhere,” which focused on digital technologies, especially e-readers, and their impact on facilities design. Incidentally, Charles is a member of the ACRL/LLAMA Interdivisional Committee on Building Resources for libraries, the ALA Presidential Task Force on Council Effectiveness, and is completing the final year of a three-year term on the ALA Council as elected division councilor from LLAMA (Library Leadership and Management Association, a division of ALA).
Kim Collins, Brian Croxall, Erika Farr, Chris Pollette, Miriam Posner and Stewart Varner attended the Digital Humanities conference at Stanford University June 19-22.
. . . to Henry Benjamin, who started in June as an operating systems analyst/administrator in the IT Desktop Support team. Henry, a native of New Orleans and a graduate of Morris Brown College, comes to us from the University of Pennsylvania where he was a senior IT support specialist working with faculty and grad students in the labs and in the Math and Physics Department.
. . . to James Bias, who started in May as an operating systems analyst/senior administrator on the systems administration team, maintaining the library’s Linux servers. Originally from Alabama, James brings a strong background in systems administration and programming and recently worked for Peer One web hosting in Atlanta.
. . . to John Ellinger, director of digital programs and systems, who started in May. John brings a blend of technical expertise and leadership/management skills from several areas, including the defense and nuclear industry, and most recently, a publishing firm in Augusta. Originally from Maryland, John holds a bachelor’s in computer engineering from Clemson University.
. . . to Lawrence Hamblin, library specialist in bibliographic management on the area studies team, who started in April. He is the East Asian languages specialist, replacing Etsuko Nozawa. Lawrence orders and catalogs materials written in Japanese, and he also will assist patrons in using Japanese materials. A native of the Atlanta area, Lawrence earned a BA in biology from Amherst College and became interested in learning Japanese after seeing “The Matrix.” He spent a year teaching English in China (he learned Chinese while he was there).
. . . to Marc Hardison, who began in June as the temporary facilities coordinator, filling in for Amanda Welter while she is out on family leave. Marc, who grew up in Warner Robins, worked for Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office for 13 years, then left to sell laboratory equipment for a year before returning to Emory. He earned a BS in agricultural engineering from Auburn University.
. . . to Kim Norman, who started in June as a part-time conservation technician working on the African American scrapbook project, funded by the three-year Save America’s Treasures Grant. She previously worked in the Libraries’ preservation office as a staff conservation technician (2002-05), and has a private practice as a book and paper conservator. An Ohio native, she holds a bachelor’s in sociology and economics from Sweet Briar College in Virginia and an MFA in book arts and printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
. . . to Stacey Martin and husband Chris, who welcomed a baby boy, Rhodes Key Martin, on June 10. Rhodes, weighing in at 6 pounds and 15 ounces, joins big brother Jack at home.
. . . to Bev Turner and husband Charles, whose grandson, Dakarai Salim Adrian Parker, was born July 23 to their daughter and son-in-law, Mishka and Adrian Parker. Dakarai weighed in at 6 pounds and 3.5 ounces.
. . . to Amanda Welter and Shauncey Wynn, who welcomed a baby girl, Remley Claire, on July 26. At 8 pounds and 10 ounces, she joins big brother Roche at home.
. . . to Laura Carroll.
And happy retirement …
. . . to Geniece McCutchen.
. . . to Susan McDonald, whose mother passed away in July.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
Mel Bunn: Drawn to painting portraits
Most library staffers are used to seeing stacks and storage leader Melanie Bunn doodling in a notebook during a meeting or, well, most anytime she’s not moving around. Now her creativity will see a larger stage.
Mel is painting portraits of 20 colleagues for a library exhibition called “The Portrait Project: A Snapshot of Emory Libraries Staff,” which opens Sept. 12 on Level 2 in the maps area (the site of the African Origins display last winter). She began the project by taking a series of grainy black and white photos of staff members with her Blackberry, then she worked from those shots to create offbeat portraits with oil paint, oil pastel and graphite. Alex Kyrychenko, Heather Williams, Steve Johnson, Brigitte Collier-Laney, Lisa Macklin, Marty Ike, Ronnie Gable, Marie Hanson, Lars Meyer, Patrick Buckley, and Tara McCurley are among those who will be featured. The purpose is to increase the visibility of library staffers’ often-anonymous work.
“We wanted to get people from different areas of the library,” Mel says, adding she doesn’t want anyone offended that they weren’t included in the portraits: “I can only paint so many people!”
The artist’s self portrait and a brief bio will appear at the end of the exhibition, “so everyone can recognize my talent. I want all the glory,” Mel deadpans.
Mel has been drawing since she was little. At the age of 10, she won a national art contest, drawing Toucan Sam of Froot Loops fame freehand. “I won a TV and an Atari set,” she recalls. The ability may be in her bloodlines – her great-grandfather was a professional artist and her grandmother was an artist as well.
A native of Tampa, Mel earned a BFA in visual arts with an emphasis on painting at the University of South Florida. After that, she moved to Atlanta and took a couple years of literature classes at Agnes Scott College to see if she wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but scrapped that idea. “I just wanted to get out in the real world,” she says. (She later took one of Kevin Young’s poetry classes.)
Mel worked as a freelance artist for about a year after attending Agnes Scott, doing faux-finishing and mural work in “ritzy homes around Atlanta” until she landed a job with Publix as a sign artist. “I would draw lovely chickens – huge 8-foot-tall chickens – cows, pigs, vegetables. I had to draw pigs dancing,” Mel says. “I drew Mr. Cheese over and over again – they loved Mr. Cheese. He was a piece of Swiss cheese with two eyes and little Converse shoes.”
But her workspace in the back of the meat department was really cold, so after five years, Mel left and came to the Robert W. Woodruff Library. That was nearly 12 years ago. Since then, she’s overseen the stacks and storage side of several stack tower projects and developed skills in process improvement and project management.
Mel has tons of meeting notebooks filled with circle doodles and graffiti. “It’s difficult for me to listen unless I’m drawing,” she says. Most everyone she has meetings with knows this about her, so they don’t take offense (not that we know of, anyway).
She hasn’t moved away from art, however; she just gets to create on her own terms now. At home in Avondale Estates, Mel has taken over a huge dining room table near windows that provide lots of natural light. She likes to be near the family while she’s working – Laney, her partner of almost 18 years, and the dogs. “And I usually have to listen to loud hip-hop music while I paint – Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Kanye,” Mel says. “There’s something about the beat.” Laney really appreciates this, of course, she adds.
Though Mel had considered literature and writing in her future pursuits, it’s to our (selfish) benefit in the library that she didn’t follow that path. Otherwise, we might not be able to enjoy her upcoming exhibition of staff portraits.
“Writing was too emotional,” she says. “Art is a way to get me out of my head. I don’t have to think. It’s intuitive.”
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
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