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NHPRC Supports Processing Environmental Collections at The Bancroft Library


The Bancroft Library is currently engaged in a two-year project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process a range of archival collections relating to environmental movements in the West. A leading repository in documenting U.S. environmental movements, The Bancroft Library is home to the records of many significant environmental organizations and the papers of a range of environmental activists.

Among the library’s environmental holdings are the records of the Sierra Club, including correspondence of naturalist and Club founder John Muir, the records of the Save-the-Redwoods League, and the records of Save the Bay. Among the collections already made available to researchers in this current NHPRC-funded project are the records of the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the records of the Small Wilderness Area Preservation group, the papers of environmental lawyer Thomas J. Graff, and the records of California-based Trustees for Conservation. Collections scheduled to be processed in the next eighteen months include the records of such major environmental organizations as Friends of the River, Friends of the Earth, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Earth Island Institute.


In Memory of Ruth Bancroft 9/2/1908 – 11/26/2017

Photo of Ruth Bancroft in The Ruth Bancroft Garden
Ruth Bancroft, photo courtesy of The Ruth Bancroft Garden, photographer unknown

UC Berkeley alumna Ruth Petersson Bancroft, founder of The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and well-known expert in dry gardening, passed away at the age of 109 on Nov. 26. Her oral history, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California: Creation in 1971 and Conservation, conducted in 1991 and 1992, is described by interviewer Suzanne B. Riess as “…the amazing chronicle of the growth of a passionate gardener, from her childhood recollections of spring wildflowers on the hills of an earlier, bucolic Berkeley, to her current triumphs, and the tribulations of stewardship of a garden more or less in the public trust.”

The daughter of first-generation Swedish immigrants, Ruth Petersson was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Berkeley, California when her father landed a professorship at UC Berkeley. Of her childhood, she said, “I spent a lot of time wandering around and also over into Wildcat Canyon, just looking at the wildflowers and I think that’s what started me in the interest of wildflowers…” Although Ruth originally studied architecture as one of the only women in the program at UC Berkeley, the Great Depression hit and so for the sake of job security, she switched her career to education. It was during her time as a teacher of home economics in Merced that she met Philip Bancroft, Jr., the grandson of Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose 60,000-volume book collection began the Bancroft Library. After they married, the couple moved onto the Bancroft Farm in the East Bay. The Bancroft family sold much of their land to the city of Walnut Creek as it expanded over the years. Later, in 1971, Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave the last 3-acre plot of walnut orchards to his wife in order to house her extensive collection of succulents.

Though The Ruth Bancroft Garden now boasts a beautiful display of water-conserving plants, the garden was not without its hardships at the beginning. Just a few months after Bancroft began her garden, a severe freeze in December killed nearly all that she had planted. Still, she persevered. “Well, I started again the next year… I figured it doesn’t happen that often, and you can’t just not replant those same things, because they might have another twenty years before they’d be killed again. So I’m just replanting. Have to start over again.” To this, Riess queried, “You didn’t think in some way you had been given a message?” Bancroft laughed and replied, “No.”

A long-time friend of Bancroft and former manager at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Wayne Roderick said, “I would classify Ruth as a genuine dirt gardener. She’s out there doing things with her bare hands. She would be out in the garden by seven at the latest, and for the first hour she was weeding the path of the little spotted spurge, hand-weeding those paths until her knees would get so sore from the rocks, the gravel. That’s what I mean by a genuine dirt gardener.” In addition to Bancroft’s hands-on style of working, she also kept meticulous records as she created her garden. An invaluable addition to her oral history is the transcription of the entirety of her handwritten notes on the garden’s first year, cataloguing every trial and triumph. Riess urges in her introduction to the oral history, “Any gardener will do well to read that year of Ruth’s journal, to see the value of a journal, as well as the work involved in realizing a dream, and the necessity of being willing to weed!”

Over the years, Bancroft also had many helpers that contributed to the development of her impressive creation, such as Lester Hawkins, who created the original design of the garden, and her husband Philip. Roderick recalls, “Phil Bancroft just adored Ruth, and he wanted her to have anything she wanted. He did everything he could to help her. I don’t think Phil thought about the garden continuing, but he certainly was there to make sure she got what she wanted for the place. He was a farmer-type, but he enjoyed seeing the garden, and he was willing to get in and help.” Later, her garden would inspire fellow gardener Francis Cabot to create the Garden Conservancy, of which the Ruth Bancroft Garden became the first of many private gardens to be preserved for the public.

Still, through all of the international recognition and acclaim she received, Bancroft maintained a simple and genuine love for gardening: “You never know just what’s going to bloom when, during the summer. And a lot of the bloom just lasts a day, or possibly two days. It’s interesting to see what there is, and catch it before it’s gone.” When asked whether she had had a mission for the garden, she replied, “I just started it for the fun of it, and the enjoyment of it. I had no idea that people would be looking at it, no idea at all.“

The Ruth Bancroft Garden will hold a public, all-day celebration of Bancroft’s life on February 17th, 2018.

Maggie Deng
Oral History Center Student Assistant

Announcing the Release of the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project

The world of firefighting is much more than masked people in uniforms running into burning buildings and rescuing scared cats from trees. While the bravery of firefighters can’t be overestimated, they also work in a complex system that requires constant training and education, a cohesive partnership with local government, extensive procedures and protocols, managerial oversight, effective communication within departments and to the public, acute familiarity with the local and regional environment, and a whole lot of administrative work. The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) is a shining example of how people make a civil service operation run and keep people safe. All of these elements, as well as the historic and cultural aspects of the department, are why we chose it as our focus for our California Fire Departments Oral History Project.

The project was originally conceived by Sarah Wheelock, an independent researcher. She wanted to explore several major thematic areas of firefighting in California and she worked with the Oral History Center to do just that. With great sadness we learned that Sarah passed away in 2014 and thus she was unable to see the project through to completion. Taking over the project in 2016, I wanted to honor her original plan and cover the themes that she had outlined. So, I decided to embark on interviews within one department – the SFFD – to document the ways in which they have handled urban fire, climate change, diversity, technological change, and changing demographics.

The SFFD was founded in 1849 and was run by volunteers. It became a paid department, officially integrated into city government, in 1866. The 150th anniversary of the paid department was in 2016, when I was conducting interviews. Given my budget for the project, I was able to interview six people who worked with the SFFD in different capacities. I wanted to include multiple perspectives to understand the organizational, cultural, geographic, economic, and political systems of one of the oldest departments in the country.

The individuals who I interviewed were able to illustrate many of the themes that I wanted to document, and much more. Among the six people I interviewed were Chief Robert Demmons (the first and only African American chief of the SFFD who instrumental in integrating more more women and people of color into the SFFD), Bill Koenig (longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Jim Lee (also a longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Steve Nakajo (member of the SFFD Fire Commission), Lt. Anne Young (one of the first females hired), and Jonathan Baxter (longtime paramedic and current Public Information Officer). 

These interviews work in concert to illustrate day-to-day operations in the stations, administrative duties, how the city of San Francisco and the department work together, the relationship between paramedics and the department, training, equipment, fire science school, the role of unions, the challenges and triumphs of integrating the departments, the public perception of the department, the role of innovation and changing technology, cultural changes in the department, challenges in fire safety particular to the geography of San Francisco, and the hopes for the future of the SFFD.

It is with great excitement that we present the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project. I want to give a special thanks to all of the narrators for sharing their stories with me and helping me to document one of the most historically significant fire departments in our country.

This project is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Wheelock. Her California Firefighter oral histories from the 2000s will be released in early 2018. 

From the Oral History Center Director – OHC and Education

For an office that does not offer catalog-listed courses, the Oral History Center is still deeply invested in — and engaged with — the teaching mission of the university.

For over 15 years, our signature educational program has been our annual Advanced Oral History Summer Institute. Started by OHC interviewer emeritus Lisa Rubens in 2002 and now headed up by staff historian Shanna Farrell, this week-long seminar attracts about 40 scholars every year. Past attendees have come from most states in the union and internationally too — from Ireland and South Korea, Argentina and Japan, Australia and Finland. The Summer Institute, applications for which are now being accepted, follows the life cycle of the interview, with individual days devoted to topics such as “Project Planning” and “Analysis and Interpretation.”

In 2015 we launched the Introduction to Oral History Workshop, which was created with the novice oral historian in mind, or individuals who simply wanted to learn a bit more about the methodology but didn’t necessarily have a big project to undertake. Since then, a diverse group of undergraduate students, attorneys, authors, psychologists, genealogists, park rangers, and more have attended the annual workshop. This year’s workshop will be held on Saturday February 3rd and registration is now open.

In addition to these formal, regularly scheduled events, OHC historians and staff often speak to community organizations, local historical societies, student groups, and undergraduate and graduate research seminars. If you’d like to learn more about what we do at the Center and about oral history in general, please drop us a note! 

OHC student employees Hailie O'Bryan and Pilar Montenegro
OHC student employees Hailie O’Bryan and Pilar Montenegro in front of our “blue wall of transcripts”

In recent years we have had the opportunity to work closely with a small group of Berkeley undergrads: our student employees. Although the Center has employed students for many decades, only in the past few years have they come to play such an integral role in and make such important contributions to our core activities. Students assist with the production of transcripts, including entering narrator corrections and writing tables of contents; they work alongside David Dunham, our lead technologist, in creating metadata for interviews and editing oral history audio and video; and they partner with interviewers to conduct background research into our narrators and the topics we interview them about. With these contributions, students have helped the Center in very real, measurable ways, most importantly by enabling an increase in productivity: the past few years have been some of the most productive in terms of hours of interviews conducted in the Center’s history. We also like to think that by providing students with intellectually challenging, real-world assignments, we are contributing to their overall educational experience too.

As 2017 draws to a close, I join my Oral History Center colleagues Paul Burnett, David Dunham, Shanna Farrell, and Todd Holmes in thanking our amazing student employees: Aamna Haq, Carla Palassian, Hailie O’Bryan, Maggie Deng (who wrote her first contribution to our newsletter this issue), Nidah Khalid, Pilar Montenegro, Vincent Tran, and Marisa Uribe!

Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director of the Oral History Center

Reaxys 2.0 Migration


Logo for Reaxys Database

Reaxys is a web-based tool for the retrieval of chemistry information and data from published literature, including journals and patents.Chemists at Berkeley are active users of Reaxys, doing 1000’s of searches/month!

Elsevier has rolled out a new version of Reaxys (Reaxys 2.0) that has a number of enhanced features, including:

  1.       An increasingly simple user interface.  The opening page has spaces to (a) type in the search query in a search bar or (b) type in the name of the structure or draw the structure.
  2.       Search functions using the querylets to increase the specificity of the search and reduces the time that the user has to filter the results post search.
  3.       Search functions that contain auto suggest. Similarly it also searches for singular/plural and synonyms
  4.       Using Boolean operators (obviously one of Elsevier’s strengths)
  5.       Listing hits in the initial screen (post search).  No secondary search needed.
  6.       A big increase in the number of searchable Asian patents

The migration is Reaxys 2.0 is ongoing, but migration should be completed by November 30, 2017. Soon UCB users will be directed to the new interface, but will continue to have the option to use the old interface for the foreseeable future.

Call for written comments on the proposed framework for Healthy People 2030

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting written comments on the proposed framework for Healthy People 2030. The framework lays out the Healthy People 2030 vision, mission, foundational principles, plan of action, and overarching goals that will guide the selection and prioritization of objectives for Healthy People 2030 when written. You will find a link to the full committee report on the website.

The deadline to submit comments is September 29, 2017.

CDPH in the News, February 2017

CDPH in the News

Thousands of California Workers Alerted to Elevated Lead Levels

from Newsweek

More than 6,000 California workers in munitions, manufacturing and other industries have elevated levels of lead in their blood that could cause serious health problems, according to a recent report from the state’s public health agency. The report, containing the results of tests conducted between 2012 and 2014, comes as the state’s workplace health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, is considering a major update of its safety standards for workplace lead exposure for the first time in decades. The current standards are based on 35-year-old medical findings, which at the time did not recognize the dangers of even low-level exposure to lead. More recent science shows chronic, low-level lead exposure can cause lasting harm.

CA PrEP program delayed

from Bay Area Reporter

Problems with California’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program are leading to the delayed launch of a program that would help people statewide get access to PrEP. California Department of Public Health officials have said the trouble with ADAP, which is supposed to help thousands of people get the care they need to stay alive, started after the agency switched to new contractors last July. CDPH spokespeople have said the agency’s still trying to resolve the issues.
Courtney Mulhern-Pearson, director of state and local affairs at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said some clients have reported being turned away by their pharmacies or even being dropped from ADAP because of the glitches.

What Researchers Found in California’s Marijuana

from ATTN:

Researchers in Northern California have delivered some unsettling news for marijuana users: It turns out, a sizeable amount of the pot sold in California’s medical marijuana dispensaries test positive for mold and bacteria that could be dangerous for patients with compromised immune systems. Fungi and bacteria – including Cryptococcus, Mucor and Aspergillus, E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter baumannii – were detected in 20 of the marijuana samples. If inhaled, these pathogens “could lead to serious illness and even death” because inhaling a contaminated substance “provides a direct portal of entry deep into the lungs, where infection can easily take hold,” Joseph Tuscano, a researcher UC Davis, said in a statement.
For the time being, more research is needed in order to better inform patients and recreational users about the quality and safety of their weed. California’s Department of Public Health is actively developing statewide standards for cannabis testing, with the intention of implementing them before the state fully rolls out its recreational marijuana system in 2018.

Children’s Bureau of Southern California Awarded Nearly $1 Million to Address High Obesity Rates in Los Angeles, University Park, Jefferson Park, and West Adams

from prweb

Children’s Bureau was awarded $880,000 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with funding from the California Department of Public Health and the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant will support the Champions for Change – Healthy Communities Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education eligible populations by providing nutrition education, physical activity promotion, and working to create healthier environments for low-income individuals and families where they live, learn, work, play, pray, and shop.
Key efforts under the initiative include teaching fundamental skills such as cooking, reading food labels, shopping on a budget, growing fruits and vegetables, and introducing low-cost and fun ways to be physically active. In addition, champions in communities throughout the County will be identified to help improve access to healthier foods and increase opportunities to be physically active in a variety of settings, including early childcare centers, schools, faith-based organizations, corner stores, parks, worksites, and cities.

Advocate of Toxicants Policy Reform Reappointed to State Scientific Guidance Panel

from UC Riverside

Carl F. Cranor, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside and a longtime advocate of reforming policies for regulating exposure to toxic substances, has been reappointed to the Scientific Guidance Panel of the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program. Cranor was first appointed to the panel in 2012. The Senate Rules Committee approved his reappointment in January to a three-year term that ends Jan. 1, 2020.
The Scientific Guidance Panel plays a significant role in the California Biomonitoring Program, making recommendations about the program’s design and implementation – including the identification of chemicals that are a priority for monitoring in California – and providing scientific peer review. Five members are appointed by the governor, two by the speaker of the Assembly, and two by the Senate Rules Committee.
Established by Senate Bill 1379 in 2006, the California Biomonitoring Program is a collaborative effort of three departments in two state agencies: the California Department of Public Health in the Health and Human Services Agency, and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and Department of Toxic Substances Control in the California Environmental Protection Agency.

UC SHIP board looking to add surgery options for transgender students

from Daily Bruin

University of California representatives are working to include certain transgender surgeries in student health insurance coverage. Attendees at the UC Student Health Insurance Plan meeting Tuesday discussed voting to add breast augmentation surgery for male-to-female transgender students to the UC SHIP plan, said David DiTullio, an Executive Oversight Board graduate representative for the Student Health Advisory Committee. However, they tabled the vote and decided to collect more data about the feasibility of adding the surgery to UC SHIP coverage over the next year before making a final decision.
The UC SHIP staff hopes to implement the male-to-female top surgery benefit for the 2018-2019 school year but has not reached a decision, said Karina Keus, a SHAC and EOB undergraduate representative. UC Berkeley added the surgery to its plan this year, but no students have taken advantage of the top surgery yet… Keus said the Berkeley campus is not under the umbrella of the UC SHIP system; it receives insurance through Anthem. The benefit is temporary and might be discontinued at UC Berkeley if the California Department of Public Health does not approve it, Keus added.

Web Portal Downtime

Over the weekend of Jan 6-8, the Public Health Library’s web portal will migrate to a new server. This change should be invisible to you, but in order to do this, we will take down the web portal on Friday, Jan 6 at around 3pm. It should be back up on Monday, Jan 9 in the morning. Please plan ahead if you think you will have any weekend needs.

If you need to make article or other requests during this period, please use the website, or you may call the Public Health Library at 510-642-2510.

Winter Holiday Hours Alert – Please plan ahead

Although the Public Health Library will be closed to the public from December 19 to Jan 2, we will be providing library services to CDPH staff on December 19 to 23 from 8 am to 5 pm and December 28 to 29 from 9 am to 5 pm.

You can reach us as usual by calling (510) 642-2510 or by logging in to your web portal.

If you wish to visit the library on any of these days, please let us know beforehand by calling 510-642-2510 so we can open the door for you and make sure that a librarian will be here to assist you.

Please plan ahead and anticipate your project needs, especially if you will be using our Document Delivery service. We may not be able to readily get non-online material for you.

Thank you for continuing to use our library and information services! Please let your new and existing colleagues know about our services and resources if appropriate.

Happy holidays!

Web Portal Downtime

Over either the weekend of 12/9-11 or 12/16-18, the Public Health Library’s web portal will migrate to a new server. This change should be invisible to you, but in order to do this, we will take down the web portal on the Friday before at around 3pm. It should be back up the following Monday in the morning. We will let you know the dates for this the week before it happens. Please plan ahead if you think you will have any weekend needs.

If you need to make article or other requests during this period, please use the website or you may call the Public health Library at 510-642-2510.

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