Research librarian retires after 40 years at the Rakow Library

Imagine you are a passionate collector of glass bells. You venture out to your mailbox one autumn afternoon, gather up your pile of junk mail, flyers, invoices, and magazines and spot a thick, white envelope, return address Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York. You drop the rest of the mail quickly and open this one. Several photocopied ads for glass bells from an early House and Garden magazine spill out of the envelope. Attached to one of the pages is a post-it note with a short message: “Found these. Thought you might enjoy them. Gail.”

Now imagine mailboxes opening all around the world, with information on beer steins, beads, lacy glass, stained glass, eyeglasses, telescopes, and hundreds of other subjects. At the other end of this information stream is Gail Bardhan, Reference and Research Librarian at The Corning Museum of Glass.

Throughout her career, Gail has been making these connections and strengthening the Rakow Research Library’s ties to glass collectors and scholars, as well as enriching their knowledge of the fantastic collections at the world’s library of record on glass.

Gail in 1977 at the Acme Warehouse

Gail browsing the card catalog in 1977.

On September 29, 2017, Gail will retire, leaving behind thousands of answered reference questions, collection inventories, bibliographies, publications, and — most importantly — happy patrons.

When Gail started at the Library in January 1977 as the acquisitions and film librarian, the collection was located downtown at an old Acme warehouse. As one of her first projects, Gail tackled organizing the Rakow’s large collection of slides. Her knowledge of images in the Library’s collection developed from these beginnings, but in typical Gail-fashion, she kept expanding the boundaries of her expertise, learning about images in the various archives and collections, in vertical files, and other, often obscure, locations. A frequent refrain in the Library, especially when looking for images, is: “Have you asked Gail?”

Once Gail found out the parameters for one of my typically obscure research projects, she would have bibliographies printed out for my review, and suggestions of “materials I might not think to ask for.” Many times, Gail’s intuitions paid off for me in finding tidbits of unknown information that I only would have found by dumb luck on my own. — LindaJo Hare, cut glass researcher

Gail in 1986

Gail, Reference Librarian, in 1986.

As a young mother in 1979, Gail recalls adding records into OCLC, the world’s largest shared library database. The Corning Museum of Glass became the first U.S. museum to participate in this important national bibliography. Baby Jay would lie swaddled (sometimes unhappily) on the library floor while Gail worked on the one computer terminal in the whole town that was connected to the OCLC network. In 1984, she edited a two-volume set called The History and Art of Glass: Index of Periodical Articles (G.K. Hall), citations compiled from the Journal of Glass Studies. While Gail worked on these publications, she and her husband Pro were also welcoming their second son, Neil, to the family.

Over the years, Gail has represented the Museum at professional conferences and presented regularly at the Annual Seminar on Glass. In 2014, she co-curated Designing for a New Century: Works on Paper by Lalique and his Contemporaries, a Rakow Library exhibition. Karol Wight, President and Executive Director of the Museum, notes: “Gail is regarded in the glass world as someone who can answer any question, however obscure. Over my time at CMoG, I have regularly received accolades about Gail from appreciative users of the Rakow’s resources, whether they are present on our campus or elsewhere in the world, including from my own husband (a medieval historian).”

Gail is an exemplary librarian — she is passionate about acquiring and sharing knowledge, dedicated to helping patrons, and she loves talking about glass! Gail is also a generous and caring colleague, a mentor and friend to everyone in the Library. — Jim Galbraith, Chief Librarian

As first a cataloger and then a reference librarian, Gail has provided research support for many Corning Museum of Glass publications and worked with a variety of glass clubs, organizations, and researchers, including the Stained Glass Association, the Carder-Steuben Club, the American Cut Glass Association, and many others.

Gail giving a tour in 2013.

Gail giving a tour in 2013.

And researchers recognize a kindred spirit. Kelly Conway, Curator for American Glass, recalls feeling somewhat intimidated on first entering the prestigious Rakow Library as a graduate student and seeing Gail behind the reference desk. She quickly realized, however, that Gail loves helping researchers passionate about glass. “If you added it up, Gail must be the single most thanked person in all of glass-related literature published in the last few decades!”

It isn’t only the books and reference materials that comprise a great library. Gail’s presence over many years has made the Rakow Library an inviting and congenial location for pursuing important glass research. It is a pleasure to give her my thanks for her assistance through the years and to wish her a long and successful retirement. — Kenneth Depew, Library Fellow

Bonnie Salzman, researcher and writer, describes the first time she met Gail:

Tom Dimitroff took me up to the library and introduced me to Gail and told me that she was the BEST at finding things no one else could find. And he was right! I spent four days at the library, and … found some great drawings of bottle stoppers and powder boxes that I had never seen.

 

Now this is the best part — since then, from time to time, an envelope would show up in my mailbox. In it would be a few advertisements, an article, or perhaps some old line drawings of perfume bottles that Gail had come across … THAT is Gail! Thanks, Gail, for so many great years and for being such a friend to crazy glass people like me!

Museum and Library staff will miss Gail’s energy, wisdom, and unfailing generosity of spirit. Luckily, she will be returning to us as a volunteer and will continue to serve as editor of the Glass Club Bulletin, so we don’t have to say good-bye, just see you soon.

Whenever Gail answered a particularly tricky reference question or found an elusive piece of information, she would say, quoting Norma Jenkins, former Rakow Librarian: “Can I go home now?”

And so, reluctantly, we answer: Yes, Gail, you may. With our thanks for the many gifts you have given us over the years.

Gail at the reference desk in 2012.

Gail at the reference desk in 2012.

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As a member of the Rakow Library’s public services team, Regan Brumagen answers reference questions, coordinates e-reference and provides expertise and leadership in the identification, assessment, and recommendation of emerging technologies and electronic resources that enhance and expand library services and instruction. Before joining the Museum staff in 2004, Brumagen worked as a reference librarian and instruction coordinator at several academic libraries. She received an M.A. in English and a M.L.S Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Currently, Brumagen is a member of several American Library Association divisions. She has served on numerous committees for these divisions over the past 12 years.

5 comments » Write a comment

  1. What a treasure you have been these many years to glass enthusiasts. Marshall could never have written his book without your devotion to the cause. You were always smiling, patient, and concerned. You will be missed.

  2. I met Gail about a decade ago during research on car vases and was inundated with a table full of material. She was so helpful among other library personnel. I will never forget her help and made my trip to Corning most successful.

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