In recent weeks, the State Historical Society of Iowa has been faced with reorganization and funding cuts, which threaten to reduce access to its irreplaceable collections and to displace staff who have dedicated their careers to helping Iowans learn about their past. Plenty of folks have written about the specifics of the situation (the petition link includes links to many helpful sources to educate yourself), but what I want to focus on is my experience with SHSI, and why that experience makes me believe absolutely in the importance of keeping this organization funded and its records accessible .
I was lucky enough to work at SHSI at the start of my Master’s program, and it was one of the most valuable and enjoyable jobs I’ve had. I started volunteering there when I decided I would apply to the Library and Information Studies program, and later came on as a work-study employee after I was accepted. I bounced around to do a few different things at the Iowa City branch, including some cataloging, preservation/conservation, and special collections (one of my first assignments was working with Civil War and World War I diaries from Iowa veterans, which was challenging and lots of fun). I got to learn about some awesome Iowans through the records they left behind, and their stories are the ones I turn to again and again when I talk with others about the value of preserving history.
>For those who read my blog posts a few months ago, you might remember this post where I celebrated the completion of my manuscript on Iowa libraries during World War I. Recently, I heard from a publisher I sent a proposal and sample chapter to, and they made some great suggestions for improvements that they wanted to see before the manuscript was sent through peer review. I wanted to share some thoughts here, but more importantly I wanted to solicit some input from folks who have read my research (or listened to me talk about it). I want my manuscript to be as awesome as possible, and I bet there are some great suggestions out there!
I had initially planned to publish my talk from the Library History Round Table symposium at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in a peer-reviewed journal, but it occurred to me that my other talk (from Library History Seminar XII) is going to be on the same research, and most likely in the same journal. So, I added my conference talk to my Scribd account to share with everyone! While you’re there, you can follow me with your account too. Sometimes they get picky about downloading things if you haven’t uploaded your own work, so I can also e-mail the PDF of the talk to anyone who is interested. Otherwise, go here to read the document in full online.
The talk discusses three of the six libraries I researched (Burlington, Davenport, and Mt. Pleasant) more in-depth, whereas my talk from September discussed al 6 libraries, but with somewhat less detailed attention paid to each in order to keep within time constraints. The published version of that talk will be about 25 pages, so that will give me a chance to pay a little more attention to each of them.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know!
March 2011 update: Scribd accidentally deleted my account, meaning that you cannot read this paper on their site. Sorry folks!
>I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a wonderful Google map that shows all the book bans and challenges in the U.S. over the last 3 years. When I ran across this map a while back, it gave me the idea to do a similar thing with the Herbert Metcalf letters that inspired my WWI Iowa libraries project. (Metcalf was the man to whom librarians around the state sent letters indicating that they had removed items from their shelves in response to his request).
I made the map and used it for a class presentation, and just recently dug it back up while I was poking around Google. For those who are interested in Iowa or World War I history, this might be of interest to you. You can find my map at this link.
>I’ve been working on my thesis, but my time lately has been overwhelmed with moving and with polishing my talk for Libraries in the History of Print Culture. Since I haven’t had time to visit any new libraries in the last month, I’ve enjoyed getting to review what I’ve already learned and refine my assumptions and methods.
After my last talk (at ALA) I got really positive feedback and also some great questions from the Q&A. Some of the most helpful was from Wayne Wiegand (who has written the book on WWI US libraries), who encouraged me to reconsider my approach slightly. I was talking about censorship as an official act, while the organization that was encouraging censorship (the Iowa Council of National Defense) was actually a volunteer organization. I’m not sure how I missed that, but I’m glad to have people interested enough in my research who also have the knowledge to provide constructive criticism!
>I am doing research at Cedar Rapids Public Library today, and I always get excited when I notice almost immediately the same trends occurring here that I’ve noticed in other parts of the state. For example, both Cedar Rapids’ and Burlington’s libraries were keen to advertise at the ‘moving picture shows’ starting in 1912. A frame would be shown with an ad for the library on it. Both also publicized themselves in the local newspaper (which seems to have been rather common around the state).
This is the first post of my research blog, where I’ll chat about the latest developments in my research, especially those tidbits that are interesting but perhaps not relevant to the final published articles.
My biggest project I’m working on right now is my thesis, which I’m defending in December. I’m researching Iowa libraries during World War I, and talking about how libraries during this time changed policy/removed materials in order to better align themselves with the sentiment of the time (which was not so favorable toward German-Americans, of which there are many in Iowa). What I’m doing that I’m particularly excited about is looking at the administrative records from the libraries (board meeting minutes, finding lists, etc) so I can get the libraries’ view of what happened and try to determine a motive behind their decisions. So far I’ve visited Iowa City, Mt. Pleasant, Burlington, Davenport, Dubuque, and gotten records scanned and sent to me from Council Bluffs. I still have to visit Cedar Rapids, Wellman, Ottumwa, and Waverly. I was hoping to visit more, but time/money constraints mean that I probably will not get to!