The Academic Commons Annual Report 2019-2020

Honoring Our History, Embracing Our Evolution

In Academic Year 2019-2020, the Academic Commons and Jefferson Libraries (Paul J Gutman Library and Scott Memorial Library) celebrated significant anniversaries and simultaneously adapted and evolved to meet Thomas Jefferson University’s changing needs.

In the fall of 2019, the Scott Memorial Library celebrated its 125th anniversary. We hosted exhibits and led initiatives to highlight the library's rich history as a fixture of Thomas Jefferson University (more on that later). While honoring our past, we also updated our name (changing from the Center for Teaching and Learning to the Academic Commons) to reflect our role best and illustrate how we partner with different groups at the university.

We may have gotten a new name, but we maintained the same reliable and expert services even as we expanded our reach to even more departments and colleges and dealt with unprecedented challenges. We led a university-wide initiative with major transformations to teaching and learning practices and invested in new software and resources vital to scholarship and research. When faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, we immediately prioritized online learning services, organized COVID-19 resources for researchers and authors, and embraced new tools to expand our reach and share our collections and resources remotely. The following report will highlight the significant events, initiatives, and milestones of Academic Year 2019-2020.

Key Library Statistics

Top eBooks

Across the Jefferson Libraries, the most accessed eBooks:

  • Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine
  • Clinically Oriented Anatomy
  • Rubin's Pathology: Clinicopathologic Foundations of Medicine
  • Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Grant's Atlas of Anatomy
  • Histology: A Text and Atlas with Correlated Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Varney's Midwifery
  • Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking
  • Grant's Dissector

InterLibrary Loan

InterLibrary Loan fill rates were lower this year due to library closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Library Assistance

In Academic Year 2019-2020, Jefferson Libraries supported the continued implementation of LabArchives, an electronic research notebook, across Thomas Jefferson University. In conjunction with the Office of Research Conduct & Compliance, Jefferson Libraries hosted 43 trainings with 386 attendees. Across the university, LabArchives currently has 1,118 users who have logged 594,030 activities in 1,555 Notebooks.

New Library Resources

The Jefferson Libraries added several digital resources to our collections, which became extremely useful during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote teaching, learning, and research became the norm for our library patrons.

Highlights of new resources include:

Acland's Video Atlas of Human Anatomy, which has nearly 330 videos of human anatomic specimens,

Visible Body, which provides interactive 3D images and animations of anatomy, pathologies, and physiologic processes,

SciFinder, a comprehensive database on literature which offers integrated access to references, substances, and reactions related to chemistry, physics, environmental science, and more.

In the summer of 2019, the Gutman Library finalized a project it had begun the previous year to migrate catalog systems. Now, both the Gutman Library and Scott Library use Primo, an easy-to-use cloud-based software. Utilizing the new system allows the two library catalogs to be searchable in one place. This project was accomplished with the hard work of Gutman staff: Meg Leister (Circulation), Damien McCaffery (Electronic Resources), Daniel Verbit (Systems), and Scott staff: Dorothy Berenbrok (Senior Librarian) and Daphne Hyatt (Associate Director).

Highlighting Our Collections & Connecting with Our Community

The Design Center and Textile & Costume Collection

Gutman's Special Collections and Design Center did not let COVID-19 slow them down. The team used the pandemic as an opportunity to expand its digital collections.

Gutman Library's Special Collections are now searchable online.

Over 4,500 digitized items from Gutman’s collections were added to JSTOR, making the materials discoverable to the world alongside relevant books, articles, and primary source materials. Collections included: Textile Industry Postcards, Textile Trade Postcards, Textile Woodblocks, Philadelphia Postcards, and Textile and Costume Collection.

In April, the Design Center hosted COMMON THREADS: African Objects of the Textile & Costume Collection virtually in partnership with The Woodmere Art Museum. Instead of postponing the in-person lecture, the team used Zoom to host over 130 attendees. At COMMON THREADS, Jade Papa, Curator & Adjunct Faculty, highlighted unique African pieces from Gutman's collection and Woodmere's Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia exhibit.

A digital flyer promoting COMMON THREADS to Thomas Jefferson University and Woodmere Art Museum patrons.

Additional events included "Hanger-Making Hangout," where East Falls students and staff created padded, archival hangers to better store historic garments and "Treasured Textiles: The Science Behind Preservation," a virtual lecture given to Thomas Jefferson University alumni.

Left to right: A digital flyer promotes "Treasured Textiles" and students and staff gather at "Hanger-Making Hangout."

From the Archives

The Scott Memorial Library’s Archives and Special Collections also focused on organizing, sharing, and celebrating important historical documents and pieces. Over 14,000 pages from 1,358 unique medical works from the early to mid-1800s joined the Jefferson Digital Commons (JDC), thanks to a grant from CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) awarded to Thomas Jefferson University and six collaborating institutions last winter. The collection of records offers a comprehensive look at the history of medical education in Philadelphia through the end of the Civil War. It gives a glimpse of the voices of medical greats—such as Thomas Mütter, Samuel Gross, and George McClellan—as well as the often-unheard voices of students. Records include class notes and dissertations, matriculation records, commencement addresses, faculty lecture notes, and more.

Left to right: Drawings from John Hill Brinton's 1852 thesis, pages from Stephen A. Garrison's 1827 student notebook, a 1843 ticket for Thomas Mutter's surgery lecture.

The collection also added new interviews with Stan Gorski, long-time Gutman Library Director, prior to his retirement in September 2019. The interviews, conducted by Kelsey Duinkerken, Special Collections & Digital Services Librarian, included conversations about the history of Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus and its previous institutions (Philadelphia Textile School, Philadelphia Textile Institute, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, and Philadelphia University). These interviews can be found on the JDC.

Historical photographs of the buildings on the East Falls campus.

Supporting Authors and Researchers

The Jefferson Digital Commons

The Jefferson Digital Commons is a university resource for authors to share their scholarly work with the world. In the spring of 2020, the JDC celebrated a significant milestone: over 5 million total downloads! Learn more about the JDC's milestones here. The JDC’s website got a refresh. The new site provides more resources on open access, an updated organizational structure that makes it easier to find items, and mobile and iPad optimization so viewers can access the site anywhere.

The JDC added a COVID-19 section to its repository, capturing and preserving research, academic and scholarly work, and personal stories written by the Thomas Jefferson University community. Archiving this material will help historians learn and reflect, and allow public health experts to prepare for the future. By preserving this work, we can study the pandemic’s impact on our healthcare system, teaching and learning institution, and the broader Philadelphia community.

The Jefferson Open Access Fund

In its second year, the Jefferson Open Access Fund supported 48 authors. The fund helps cover the cost of Article Processing Fees for authors trying to publish in open access journals. Here's what fund recipients had to say about the financial support:

Office for Professional Writing, Publishing, and Communication

Academic Year 2019-2020 was a year of growth and development for the Office for Professional Writing, Publishing, and Communication (OPWPC). By the end of the year, the team had worked with members of faculty and staff from ALL colleges, in addition to various centers and institutes including Jefferson Center for Injury Research & Prevention, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Jefferson Center for Interprofessional Practice & Education, and the President's Office. When the team (somehow) found additional time, it hosted book clubs, led writing workshops and retreats, published Evanescent, a literary journal, and even co-facilitated Jefferson's first-ever International Write-In Day. Additionally, the OPWPC teamed up with the Jefferson College of Life Sciences, the Department of Marketing and Communications, and the Graduate Student Association to create the Science and Communication Initiative. This program is devoted to helping JCLS students develop science communication skills and motivating a passion for science outreach. Students who complete the program are awarded a science communication certificate. Learn more about the OPWPC's achievements in Academic Year 2019-2020.

Left to Right: a flyer promoting International Write-In Day, the cover of Evanescent, a flyer promoting a workshop led by the OPWPC.
A flyer advertising the workshops for the Science Outreach & Communication Initiative for JCLS students.

Helping you design your best work

In addition to helping faculty, students, and researchers write and present their best work, the Academic Commons provided support with audiovisual, video production, photography, and graphic design needs.

Promoting Teaching and Learning Excellence

The Instructional Design and Educational Technologies Support teams oversaw a campus-wide project to update the university's learning management system (LMS). Throughout the year-long initiative, they helped colleges and groups across the enterprise migrate years of course work and materials from Blackboard to Canvas and start using the new LMS.

The Instructional Design and Educational Technologies Support staff created valuable instructional materials, including written and video guides, led workshops on new features of Canvas, and offered individual consultations to support instructors as they learned the new tool.

Special Events & Exhibits

The Academic Commons had lots to celebrate in Academic Year 2019-2020, and celebrate we did! To honor the Scott Memorial Library's 125th anniversary, we hosted a birthday party for the library in October, inviting members of the university to enjoy donuts and cider as we unveiled an exhibit, "The Scott Memorial Library Quasquicentennial," which highlighted the library's milestones and evolution through the years.

Left: Kelsey Duinkerken, Special Collections and Digital Services Librarian Right: Event attendees read up on the library's history.

To further celebrate, we decorated the Scott Memorial Library's 3rd and 4th floors with wall wraps of the university's archival photographs.

Wall wraps getting put up on the 3rd floor.
Finished wall wraps on the 4th floor.

At Gutman Library, we launched a new week-long event for students called Brain Break. During finals week, staff hosted workshops for students to de-stress. Topics included meditation and yoga. A highlight of Brain Break was a 'zine-making workshop, where librarians shared the new 'Zine Collection at the library.

Top: Librarians pose with 'zines from the new collection Bottom: An exhibit highlights woodblocks and block-printed textiles of the Special Collections (Fall 2019).
The "Fabulous Floss of East Falls" exhibit curated by Daniel Verbit celebrates National Embroidery Month with needlework pieces made by East Falls campus community members Wendelyn Anderson and Monique Chabot. (February 2020)
The "Physician Assistants: Collaboration and Care" panels, created by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and featuring items from the Gutman Library Collection, PA Department and items loaned from Dr. Baker and Emeritus Professor Rackover. Professor Nicole Cournoyer executed this exhibit planning and logistics, and Daniel Verbit assisted in obtaining the artifacts from the history of the PhilaU PA program. (March 2020)

Staff Highlights


Davidian, Christine. Gordon, Larissa. Rele, Shilpa. Matthews, Jennifer. Verbit, Daniel. "Advancing Open Access Through an OA Fund: Perspectives from Two Libraries." OpenCon Philly. (November 2019)

Laynor, Gregory. "Librarians as Partners in Medical Education Scholarly Activity Initiatives." University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. (February 2020)

Papa, Jade. "The Muscatine Button Queen." The Costume Society of America's Southeast Annual Symposium - Fashion Queens. (November 2019)

Papa, Jade. "Little Willie’s Sewing Buttons: The Mother-of-Pearl Button Industry in Muscatine, Iowa.” American Everyday: Resistance, Revolution, and Transformation Conference. (February 2020)

Verbit, Daniel. “Collaboration at University Results in a Research-Informed Graphic Novel: A Case Study.” New England Graphic Medicine Conference. (March 2020)

Verbit, Daniel. “Open Project Based Learning Workshop Invention." American Occupational Therapy Association Conference. (March 2020 - Canceled due to COVID-19)

Walter, Pamela. “Lightning Talk: Launching Peer-Editing Group: Benefits and Lessons Learned.” Thomas Jefferson University Faculty Day. (June 4, 2019)

Wilson, Jennifer. “Faculty writing: A year-long approach to producing publishable manuscripts.” Thomas Jefferson University Graduate Medical Education Conference. (October 11, 2019)


Verbit, Daniel. Graduate Occupational Therapy Students: Communication and Research Preferences from Three University Libraries. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 39:2, 113-1

Mangione S, Wilson J, Herrine SK. Am J Med Sci. 2019 Feb;357(2):87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2018.09.007. PMID: 30415760

Rosenthal S, Russo S, Berg K, Majdan J, Wilson J, Grinberg C, Veloski J. Identifying Students at Risk of Failing the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination. Fam Med. 2019 Jun;51(6):483-499. doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2019.429968.PMID: 31184761


Laynor, Gregory. Awarded grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region, to develop an online course and mentoring program.

Verbit, Daniel. Awarded Provost Nexus Innovation Learning Grant for Interprofessional Project for Health Literacy.