Research Highlights / Full Story

From Library to Academic Center

The building, located in the center of RIT's campus, is named for Charles F. and Florence Murray Wallace. Mrs. Wallace was a 1907 graduate of the university's Domestic Science Department. An inventor and a chemist, Charles Wallace was one of the founders of Wallace and Tiernan Inc., which invented the chlorinator that made public water safe to drink. The Wallaces were major financial supporters of RIT.

The Wallace Memorial Library was erected during the initial phase of construction when RIT moved to Henrietta from downtown Rochester. At that time, 1968, the student body totaled about 6,500 students. As enrollment grew so did the need for more space. A fourth floor and a wraparound addition were added to the library in 1991. At this time, the Cary Graphic Arts Collection and RIT Archives moved to new space within the renovated building and the three libraries became known as RIT Libraries.

In 2009, a merger of academic units on campus created The Wallace Center, which now includes RIT Libraries, Faculty Career Development Services, and RIT Production Services.

This merger was representative of the changes occuring in academic libraries due to the tremendous growth in digital publishing. RIT Libraries' digital collections now surpass its print holdings. Hundreds of thousands of electronic journals and books are available globally, 24/7, giving researchers instant access to millions of research articles without having to leave their home, office, or lab. Discovery tools such as SUMMON, launched by RIT Libraries last fall, and Google Scholar facilitate the discovery of authoritative information and research can now be done in a fraction of the time. This ease of access is complemented by a human touch, as each RIT college has a librarian with subject expertise who provides instruction and specialized research assistance to students and faculty.

In summer 2013, The Wallace Center underwent a physical transformation to reflect this change in the information landscape, evolving from a traditional library housing print collections to a modern space for collaborative learning. In addition to some cosmetic touches of paint and carpeting, collections were moved to increase the seating area capacity on the first floor by 40 percent. The renovated area reflects student input.

"We came up with the themes of discovery, community, scholarship, and technology based on our interactions with students as to how they view today's academic library," said Shirley Bower, director of RIT Libraries. "These words now define the functionality of the space throughout the first floor."

To enhance students' academic learning, a laptop "bar" was installed as well as a new mediascape collaboration station that allows students to work together on projects and assignments by sharing what's on their laptop screens via a large flat-screen display.

As part of the transformation, The Writing Center and the RIT American Sign Language and Deaf Studies Community Center relocated from the Student Alumni Union to The Wallace Center.

Added Bower: "We wanted to bring these types of services into the same facility. The idea was to create a space that's not just about the library, but about supporting academic success for the students."

Open-Access Journals

The Scholarly Publishing Studio, which is located on the first floor of Wallace, assists faculty in the dissemination of their scholarship.

One of the ways in which it does this is by publishing several open-access journals. RIT faculty members serve as the editors. The journals are international, niche publications. There are currently eight journals: Journal of Applied Packaging Research, Journal of Applied Science & Engineering Technology, Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Journal of Unified Statistic Techniques, Journal of Game Design and Development Education, RIThink: Multidisciplinary Online Journal (comes out of Kosovo), Journal of Interactive Humanities, and Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities.

The journals are double blind peer-reviewed, so throughout the screening process both the authors' and reviewers' names are not known.

The journal's editor determines the scope of the research and makes calls for papers. Each journal has its own international editorial board comprising up to 40 people.

"The board members from around the world help garner interest in the journal, obtain submissions, and give credibility to the journal," said Nick Paulus, manager of Scholarly Publishing.

"Open-access journals are a growing movement," said Paulus. "It's just a different business model for scholarly journals. Anyone worldwide can access the research for free. The provost and the university subsidize the cost to publish the journals. The goal is not to make money off the journals, but to share our scholarship with the world."

Open access to RIT scholarship is also the theme of RIT's digital repository, RIT Scholar Works. Accessed via the same website as the open-access journals, RIT Scholar Works preserves the work of faculty and students, increasing its visibility and impact with widespread, open dissemination. It features a complete repository of RIT theses as well as faculty scholarly publications.

Uncovering and Sharing RIT's History

Unique collections are instrumental to research, like those found in RIT Archives.

"Each piece of paper and photograph tells a story," said Becky Simmons, RIT Archivist.

It's the jobs of Simmons and Jody Sidlauskas to learn the stories of RIT's history and share them.

The two archivists acquire, preserve, catalog, and disseminate the university's historical records from art to photographs to historical papers.

"When Jody and I started working in the archives 11 years ago we had little in the way of finding aids," said Simmons. "It was the first time RIT had a full-time archivist in almost 15 years. All we had were lists of the boxes on the shelf. So it's been a process of digging into those boxes."

They began organizing and describing the contents and then created searchable websites and finding aids thanks to financial support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The finding aids provide detailed descriptions of archival collections and background information on the history and creators of the materials.

Treasure Trove of Artifacts

So what's in the archives? They contain records from RIT dating back to its roots as the Rochester Athenaeum, covering everything from RIT's presidents' speeches, correspondence, and memos to activities from each of RIT's departments.

There are more than 200,000 images of academics, people, and the campus from the 19th century to the present. And it's a bevy of artifacts. Here are just a few examples: oil paintings of three past RIT presidents done by Stanley Gordon; the pocket watch of Carl Lomb; copies of every issue of Reporter magazine; a hockey stick signed by the RIT hockey team from the 1982-1983 NCAA Division II hockey championship season; and the original comic strip collections of political cartoonists John Scott Clubb and RIT alumnus Elmer Messner, who penned drawings for the Rochester newspapers.

Through the years, Simmons has purchased the artwork of early RIT faculty members like Ronald Pearson and Alling Clements. Pearson enrolled in the School of American Craftsmen after serving in World War II and taught metals classes part time while working full time as a studio artist. Clements, a graduate of the Mechanics Institute, joined the RIT faculty in 1921 and taught drawing classes. He was widely known for his oil and watercolor paintings.

"I'm proud of the work that we have by our faculty members because they were and continue to be an important part of the Rochester community," said Simmons.

Snapshot of American History: Photojournalist Donates His Work

RIT alumnus and noted photojournalist Bernie Boston donated his entire photographic body of work to the RIT Archive Collections. Throughout his career as the White House photographer for The Washington Star and The Los Angeles Times, Boston documented moments of national significance, particularly the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Boston's iconic photo "Flower Power," one of the most requested images in the Boston collection, captures a war protestor placing flowers in the barrels of soldiers' rifles at a rally in 1967 outside the Pentagon. The photo was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.

"It's a fascinating collection and representative of the caliber of the work of our photo school's graduates," said Simmons.

RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive

An ongoing initiative for RIT Archives is the building of the RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive. This collection includes the NTID historical records (yearbooks, newspaper clippings, documents, and photographs) and materials from the TRIPOD school started by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Megan Williams. Williams established the elementary school in California in 1982 for deaf educators and students following the birth of her deaf son. When TRIPOD closed, Williams donated its archive to RIT. Also in the archive is the collection from NTID's first faculty member Robert Panara. It includes literature, plays, and poetry highlighting deaf characters and writers.

There are about 1,000 different collections within the RIT Archives. Simmons will always gladly accept donations and gather records as the university continues to 'write' its history.

"The job changes with the times," said Simmons. "We certainly aren't done!"