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iSchool Alum, Phil Metzger, Pays it Forward by Funding a Student Scholarship

Just as the new school year began, the iSchool received a generous gift to directly support a student studying in the area of rare books and conservation. Dr. Metzger decided the best way to ensure the continuing scholarly focus in the area most meaningful to him was to designate his annual gift as a student scholarship in rare books and conservation.

Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Cassie Alvarado, had this to say about. Dr. Metzger's gift, "I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Metzger pretty well over the past few years. As we discussed opportunities within the school he might consider supporting, the opportunity to directly support a student with his annual gift was one that really seemed to resonate with him."

Metzger, the Curator of Special Collections at Lehigh University until his retirement in 2005, originally intended to become an academic librarian. Phil credits his shift toward a conservation focus to his visits with then-dean Glenn Sparks and to the Rare Books class taught by Ann Bowden, first librarian of the Harry Ransom Center. Metzger, who received the MLS in 1975 and PhD in 1984 from the School of Information, noted that he contributed the gift "because this School changed the way my life would go."

Many professional accomplishments of Phil Metzger's career reflect his particular interest in special collections development. At Lehigh University, he developed the collection of published writings of Pfaff authors presently held in Special Collections there. Additionally, he is the author of Publishing and the book trade in Austin, Texas, 1870-1920, an exploration of the railroad's arrival in Austin up to 1920, the concurrent expansion of the book trade, and the challenges of record-keeping and accessibility. Eventually, Phil became interested in a related, new topic called "Hidden Collections," meaning that all kinds of collections are around us but not catalogued or made available for study. The Library of Congress' 2003 "Exposing Hidden Collections" conference and white paper entitled "Hidden Collections, Scholarly Barriers," fueled Phil's interest in the difficulties of providing access to uncatalogued and unprocessed archival, manuscript, and rare book materials.

"Hidden collections can be anywhere from a large university to a small historical society," Phil remarked, adding that cataloguing adds a dimension to the issues of prioritizing, budgeting, and "what's important to what." He elaborated on a recent Hidden Collections example in which grant-funded Lehigh students researched the massive archives of the Moravian Church dating from the 1750's to modern times. The cataloguing and exposure to these archives led students to an understanding of the wider historic value and challenges of hidden collections, as well as opening a new research source. After helping select the project's cataloging system, Phil was privileged to put the first record into the Moravian archives' public access catalog. He now volunteers ten hours a week at the archive, and says of his work, "It's really worth doing."

On a recent visit to the iSchool, Phil explained his motivation for giving to student support in the iSchool, "I would like to say that the area of rare books and conservation is so important. If the iSchool excels in this, then they will really have done something. Texas is a place that can be the very best at it."