Staff Biographies

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The following staff members have specialized knowledge in their fields. Click on the links to access their curricula vitae.

John Brady

In his dual role as Director of Reader Services and Bibliographer of Americana, John Brady manages the Department of Reader Services which serves researchers at the reference desks, in the reading rooms, and outside the Newberry’s walls via email, while also managing the library’s collections in the 10-floor book stack building; as a bibliographer he collects current monographs, antiquarian books, and manuscript Americana for the Newberry. Since coming to the Newberry in 1998, as a Reference Librarian Mr. Brady has facilitated research by providing reference assistance and reader orientations; answering reference correspondence regarding Newberry collections; and conducting bibliographic instruction, tours and orientations for visiting groups, classes, and fellows. His role in collection development at the Newberry began in 1999. Prior to arriving at the Newberry, Brady worked in publishing and was an instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago, for which he taught undergraduate Early American History courses, via fully interactive satellite technology, for US military stationed abroad (primarily in the Sinai Desert, Egypt). He holds a master’s degree in library sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a second master’s degree in history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After studying at University College Dublin for a year, Brady earned his bachelor’s degree in both history and English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Martha Briggs

Martha Briggs is Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts at the Newberry. More than 800 manuscript and archival collections dating from around 1700 to the present fall under her jurisdiction. The collections include three railroad corporate archives, the Midwest Manuscript Collection, the Midwest Dance Collection, the Ayer Modern Manuscript Collection, and the Newberry Library’s own institutional archives. She is a graduate of Brown University, and holds master’s degrees in history and library science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Columbia University

Karen Christianson

Karen Christianson is the Associate Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry. Christianson is a medieval social historian, specializing in monasticism, gender roles, and the interaction of family and feudal ties in power relations, especially in twelfth- and thirteenth-century France. She is working on a monograph on the monastic order of Fontevraud. Christianson has taught medieval, early modern, and world history at the University of Iowa, Chicago State University, and DePaul University, and holds a PhD in medieval history from the University of Iowa.

Paul F. Gehl

Paul F. Gehl is the Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at The Newberry. As such, he is responsible for one of the largest collections on printing history, calligraphy, and design in North America. He is also a historian of education. He has published extensively on manuscript and printed textbooks of the Renaissance, on the book trade, and on modern fine printing and artist’s books. His interactive online monograph, entitled Humanism For Sale: Making and Marketing Schoolbooks in Renaissance Italy, has been hosted by the Newberry’s Center for Renaissance Studies since 2008.

Daniel Greene

Daniel Greene is Vice President for Research and Academic Programs at the Newberry. Greene is a US historian who specializes in American ethnic and religious pluralism. He is the co-editor of Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North (Chicago, 2013), a book accompanying a collaborative exhibition between the Newberry and Terra Foundation for American Art on view at the Newberry from 2013 to 2014. His first book, The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism: The Menorah Association and American Diversity (Indiana, 2011) won the American Jewish Historical Society’s Saul Viener Prize in American Jewish history, 2011–12. Before coming to the Newberry, he was a historian at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Greene is an Affiliated Faculty member of the history department at the University of Illinois Chicago. He earned his PhD in history at the University of Chicago.

Hjordis Halvorson

Hjordis Halvorson is the Vice President for Library Services. Ms. Halvorson began her career at the Newberry in 1988 as the Reference Services Supervisor and then Director of Reader Services. As Vice President for Library Services, she provides leadership for numerous initiatives to improve access and management of the collections and service to library users near and far. She builds close collaboration between library services and research and academic programs and works to extend the Newberry’s participation in regional and national endeavors. Ms. Halvorson taught for six years as an adjunct faculty member in Dominican University’s GSLIS program and is currently active in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of ACRL, having served as a member-at-large on the RBMS executive committee along with other committee involvement. She is also active in the work of the Chicago Collections Consortium. Before coming to the Newberry, she served as reference and serials librarian at the University of St. Thomas. She received her MLS degree from the University of California Berkeley and her MAT from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Patricia Marroquin Norby

Patricia Marroquin Norby is the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies. An award-winning artist and scholar of American Indian art and visual culture, she earned her PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation, “Visual Violence in the Land of Enchantment,” has been nominated twice for best dissertation awards, including the Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize for Best Doctoral Dissertation in American Studies and the University of Minnesota Best Dissertation Award in the Arts and Humanities. Her writing centers on three artists from Northern New Mexico: Tonita Peña, Helen Hardin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. In her work, she utilizes her fine arts training to draw critical connections between art production, environmental politics, and the physical health of American Indian women artists. Currently, she is co-editing a special issue on aesthetic violence for the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, published by UCLA. She is also collaborating with the Great Lakes Scholar Dr. Susan Sleeper-Smith on a book of representations of American Indian and Indigenous women in The Newberry Library collections. Born in Chicago, Illinois she is of Purépecha/Nde and Chicana heritage

Liesl Olson

Liesl Olson is a literary scholar and Director of the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture at the Newberry. After receiving a BA from Stanford University and a PhD from Columbia University, she taught at the University of Chicago as a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Humanities Division. She then held a NEH/Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Newberry (2010-11) and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2011-12). Olson’s first book, Modernism and the Ordinary (Oxford UP, 2009), examines a broad range of twentieth-century writers and how their works present the habitual and unselfconscious actions of everyday life. She is currently writing a book about Chicago’s literary and cultural centrality during the early twentieth century, Chicago Renaissance: How the Midwest Made Modernism (forthcoming, Yale UP)

Matt Rutherford

Matt Rutherford, MLIS, is Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry. In addition to managing the Newberry’s renowned genealogy collection, Matt has also answered thousands of questions on a wide range of genealogy topics. He has spoken at the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Conference on Illinois History, as well as several local genealogy societies, including the North Suburban Genealogical Society, the Genealogical Forum of Elmhurst, and the Illinois St. Andrew Society. In addition, Matt teaches seminars on a variety of genealogy topics, including beginning genealogy, researching at the Newberry, researching pre-fire Chicago, adoption searches, non-population census schedules, the history of the federal census, and the Social Security Death Index. He is the co-author of A Bibliography of African American History at the Newberry Library (2005)

David Spadafora

David Spadafora, a historian of European thought, became President and Librarian of the Newberry in October 2005. A Professor of History at Lake Forest College since 1990, he served as President of the College from 1993 to 2001 and Dean of the Faculty from 1990 to 1993. Mr. Spadafora’s scholarship focuses on English, Scottish, and French thought from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. His book on British Enlightenment-era historical optimism, The Idea of Progress in Eighteenth-Century Britain, was named a Choice Outstanding Book in 1991. He is at work on a book-length project about the relationship between religion and secularism in Britain during the eighteenth century. Mr. Spadafora is a graduate of Williams College and earned his PhD from Yale University, where he was a member of the History Department and an administrator during the 1980s.

Jennifer Thom

Jennifer Thom is the Director of Digital Initiatives and Services. She focuses on library special collections and digital-project management. Thom arrived at the Newberry in 2003, managing the Retrospective Conversion Project (to put information from more than 650,000 catalog cards online) and several other large-scale cataloging projects including the Roger S. Baskes Collection; the McCormick Theological Seminary Collection; the Sister Ann Ida Gannon Initiative; and the French pamphlet project, which was funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources. Before coming to the Newberry, Thom was the Development Administrator and later the Curator of Photography/Digital Projects Manager at the Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library. Prior to moving to Denver, she was the Director of the Albert J. Zak Memorial Library in Hamtramck, Michigan. Thom holds a master’s degree in library sciences and a bachelor’s degree in Medieval studies from the University of Michigan.

Carla Zecher

Carla Zecher is Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies and Curator of Music. She specializes in French Renaissance poetry and music, and early modern French travel writing. Prior to coming to the Newberry, she taught at Bates College and Coe College. She is the author of Sounding Objects: Musical Instruments, Poetry, and Art in Renaissance France (University of Toronto Press, 2007) and a co-editor, with Gordon M. Sayre and Shannon Lee Dawdy, of Dumont de Montigny, Regards sur le monde atlantique, 1715-1747 (Les éditions du Septentrion, 2008). She holds undergraduate degrees from Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a diploma in harpsichord performance from the Strasbourg Conservatory, and a PhD in Romance Studies from Duke University.