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Character Studies

East Asian Librarian Institute hosted by Pitt

In a narrow office on the second floor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library, Jinfu Lu stares into his supersize computer screen. A paperback book with Chinese characters stretched across its cover lays on his desk in front of him. To his left, his "to do" list — a waist-high bookshelf on wheels loaded with Chinese publications, which the library has just received. They need to be processed and assigned call numbers before they reach the shelves.

Lu looks through OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), a national database shared by librarians across the country, and finds an existing record of the book on his desk. His eyes glide across the black-and-white screen, moving from one line to the next. He notices that the title field does not contain Chinese characters, just its English phonetic equivalent, which would be no help for a researcher who types in Chinese characters.

Finding Chinese characters on OCLC is no easy task. Lu’s fingers jitter across the keyboard, typing in the title one English syllable at a time. Each time he hits enter, rows of small white squares numbered 0 to 9 instantly appear across the bottom of the screen. Inside each is a separate Chinese character. He scrolls down row after row (there can be hundreds of characters for each syllable written in English) until he finds what he needs and clicks the appropriate box.

As the catalog librarian for the 15th-largest East Asian collection in the country, Lu’s work can be tedious and time-consuming because the OCLC cataloging software only allows him to type in the characters one by one. Cataloging a Chinese publication with an existing bibliographic record in the OCLC database takes less than five minutes. But if he must catalog a new record, or if he finds a big error in an existing one, Lu might spend more than an hour tracking down the Chinese characters for just one book. What adds to his challenge is that there isn’t a universal publishing standard in China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. So the University might receive books with no authors or titles, or government pamphlets with titles that look more like paragraphs. It becomes the job of the cataloger to create records that a researcher will not only be able to find, but find in a logical location in the library.

Understanding the nuances of cataloging Chinese works is just one thing that 25 East Asian librarians from around the country will learn at the Luce Summer Institute, hosted by Pitt’s University Library System. With a Henry Luce Foundation grant, Pitt library administrators have created a three-week course (one week of distance learning followed by two weeks at Pitt) to address a training shortage for East Asian librarians working in U.S. libraries. Because of the University’s strong relationship with the country—Rush Miller, director of Pitt’s University Library System, visits and consults with China’s major libraries regularly—and because of the number of Pitt professors studying Chinese culture, library officials chose China as the focus of their first institute. Similar programs might be offered for Japanese and Korean librarians in the future.

Along with teaching how to catalog current and rare Chinese publications like Lu does for Pitt, the Luce Institute will cover everything from collection development to the history of Chinese printing to management and fundraising. Instructors at the institute will include Pitt faculty as well as library administrators from China, and elite institutions such as the Library of Congress, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. The institute will run from July 26 to August 13.

Although Lu will not be teaching the course on cataloging, he probably could. He knows every field in a record like the back of his hand; where to look to confirm authors’ names and subjects; how to quickly pull up Chinese characters for each corresponding English syllable; and the one rule that all catalogers must live by—if in doubt, don’t guess.
—Mike Ransdell

Renaissance Woman

Ruthann Mangelsdorf made her dreams come true
Ruthann and Clark Mangelsdorf

They already had an apartment in Oakland and a house in Latrobe, Pa. So when his wife, Ruthann, told him she was thinking about buying a place on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes so she could be closer to her clothing store on East Carson Street, Clark Mangelsdorf was less than enthusiastic. And, after visiting the house, even less so. Sure, the location was ideal, and the view was stunning, but the house needed many repairs—too many, in his opinion.

"You can get into this if you want," he told her when she asked for his opinion, "but I don’t want anything to do with it. We have enough on our plate right now."

She listened politely, considered what he had to say, and then told him she was buying the house.

"That didn’t stop her," says Clark Mangelsdorf with a laugh, because he ended up working on it anyway. "Once she decided to do something, it was an accomplished fact."

Like opening Renaissance Woman, a boutique for plus-size women in 1990. Until she told him she had a location picked for her store, her husband—an emeritus faculty member in Pitt’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering—was completely unaware that she ever harbored entrepreneurial dreams.

At the time, Ruthann was working as a grants and contracts consultant for the psychiatry department. After opening the store, she divided her workweek between Pitt and Renaissance Woman.

She started working at Pitt in 1959 as a research technician in the Graduate School of Public Health. She steadily climbed the ladder, eventually transferring to the Office of Research, where she became a contracts officer and, ultimately, ended up as the interim director of the grants office in the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. She retired from the University in 1999.

In August 2002, at the age of 62, Ruthann Adams Mangelsdorf died, just four months after learning she had breast cancer. Before she died, she told her husband to donate $25,000 of her life savings to the University of Pittsburgh, where she had spent 40 years of her professional life.

About four months after his wife died, Mangelsdorf called Kathy Sidorovich, a close friend and coworker of his late wife. He thought she could shed some light on how his wife would want the money used. She reminded him that Ruthann was adamant about research administrators taking the necessary test to become certified. Evidently, she felt that the more research administrators who became certified, the better they would be at their jobs and the better the University’s chances of receiving grants. So in 2003, The Ruthann Adams Mangelsdorf Memorial Fund was created to help research professionals and the University do just that.

"I think she felt that Pitt had given her opportunities she would not have had at other places," says Mangelsdorf. "She had only a high school degree. She took some college courses while at Pitt but didn’t get her degree. She was allowed to demonstrate her responsibility independent of her education. And she rose to a very prominent position."

Building Blocks

Generous contributions from Pitt alumni and friends
help lay a solid foundation for future students

On most days, from 8:30 a.m. when it opens until 9 p.m. when it closes, the Athletic Support Services Office in the Petersen Events Center serves hundreds of student-athletes. The private academic support rooms used for tutoring, complete with white boards and oval tables, are usually booked solid. Owing to a generous gift from Pitt’s Vice Chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations G. Reynolds Clark, and his wife, Linda, many of those students will now be learning in a study room that bears the Clarks’ name.

Pitt alumnus Stephen Tritch knows nuclear. As the president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company, Tritch (KGSB ’77, ENGR ’71) oversees all of the commercial nuclear power company’s worldwide operations. Now, because of a $75,000 gift from his company, many undergraduate engineering students at the University of Pittsburgh will also be able to learn about nuclear power. Part of the Westinghouse donation to the School of Engineering will go toward creating a course in nuclear engineering.

Campaign Watch

Institutional Advancement is working hard to reach the goal of $1 billion, and Pitt’s alumni and friends are responding. We are now more than two-thirds of the way there:
$675 million!

Campaign total is based on estimated gifts and pledges as of March 31, 2004.

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