Campus Features

A New Chapter: Library volumes are plated to honor newly promoted faculty

Allison Vance
12/13/2013  8:00 am

faculty member holds book for photograph

On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, a select group of faculty members gathered together for one of the university’s lesser-known academic ceremonies. Thirteen years ago, the University Library initiated a program in which newly tenured or promoted faculty select a book to be added to the Library collections. These selections are book-plated in their honor, and stand as a reminder now and into the future of the remarkable accomplishments of the faculty at this university.

Each selected book receives a bookplate with the faculty member's name, rank and year of selection. The plates also include a brief explanation of the volume’s significance in his or her life and work. The books will be placed back in the regular collections of the University Library where future readers will discover these plates in their own studies.

At Tuesday's ceremony, the books were all on display and the new honorees had their first chance to see their chosen volumes with the new bookplates.

At the event, Provost Ilesanmi Adesida explained the significance of “the book” as an enduring symbol of learning and their unique place in higher education.

“Even in this age where the printed word is challenged by the endless potential of zeroes and ones strung together in the digital world, physical books and tangible libraries remain the philosophical and the intellectual foundation of scholarship and research,” he said. “And so, it is appropriate and significant that we have a university ceremony that honors your scholarly achievement through your very personal connection to a specific text. “

But unlike many other academic rites of passage like convocation or graduation, this ceremony was small and intimate. Between mingling and taking bites of snacks, those being honored had the opportunity to learn a little bit about their colleagues and to compare their choices. The plated books were arranged on rows of tables and next to each book was a note that explained why the person chose that book.

There are no criteria for book selection – the choice is entirely a personal decision. And the reasons for the choices were as different as the books themselves.

Psychology professor R. Chris Fraley chose “Attachment,” a book he felt “inspired generations of psychological scientists to study human attachment relationships and their role in personality development and interpersonal functioning.”

Arnab Chakraborty, a professor in urban and regional planning chose Atlas of the World. He said his parents gave him an atlas as a gift when he was a child.

“I remember my excitement going around challenging people to name a place that I could not find in my Atlas!” he said.

Ilana Akresh, a sociology professor, chose the children’s book “Goodnight Moon.” Her three sons were born when she and her husband were both assistant professors at Illinois, and they loved the book.

“The book binds me to my children and my husband,” she said.

Mathematics professor Jeremy Tyson chose “Lectures on Analysis on Metric Spaces” in memory of his advisor who died of cancer in 2007 at the young age of 47.

“It is an honor to receive this promotion,” Tyson said. “It is bittersweet not to be able to share it with (my advisor). I gratefully recognize his memory with this selection.”

In total, 77 new volumes were added this year to this very special and very select collection. And a new class of faculty took up residence – at least in name – in the University Library.

“Since coming here to Illinois, I've seen countless examples of excellence at work,” said Dean of Libraries and University Librarian John P. Wilkin. “I'm so proud the Library recognizes newly tenured and promoted faculty members in this way. Their book selections honor, and serve as a permanent reminder of, their tremendous accomplishments."

The Library maintains a list of all the previous faculty honorees and their book choices here

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