Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Check out the #HackLibSchool Blog!

For LIS students and new professionals, I have glorious news! You might remember me talking about Hack Library School in various posts. Basically it started out as a shared space for everyone to talk about their experiences in LIS programs and give advice to others. Now, it has evolved even further into a collaborative blog! I'm excited that Micah Vandegrift (who came up with the project and has worked really hard to make it awesome) asked if I wanted to be a part of the next stage. The answer, of course, was yes! So, I'll be blogging here, and I'll be blogging at the HLS site too! We have some great ideas for topics to discuss and for series of posts (check out Micah's Two Minute Insights). I'm very excited about today's post, where each of us talked a little about our experiences in different conference settings. It's a great read, especially for students getting ready to go to conferences! Is there a topic you want us to cover? Questions you have? Post them here or on the HLS blog!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Next Phase of Library History Research

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!
The first idea the publisher had was to situate the research in a broader context of WWI regionally and nationally. I do this a bit, but I agree that adding more context would help the material be informative to a wider audience, and would help them relate to it more easily. He suggested I start out by looking at Christopher Capozzola, and I'm going to revisit Wayne Wiegand's bibliography as well (any other suggestions are welcome!)
The second suggestion centered around appendices, and this is where I would love to have some input from the folks who are even vaguely familiar with the research I've done. My work centered around primary documents from the libraries, and it was suggested that an appendix of select documents would help to guide students' understanding and to show a progression of events at the institutions. I definitely have some favorites I want to include, but I want to know what documents readers want to see or know more about!
Lastly, I asked around about other ways to make useful appendices and here are the types of appendices I've been told would be most useful: a timeline, a map/maps, definitions, and suggestions for further reading. I would love to hear of anything else that you think would be helpful for readers!
Thanks in advance--I'm looking forward to seeing where this project takes me!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank you, Dr. Munsterberg

Being a student of history is a lot of fun because you get to "meet" many interesting characters. Not only do you get to learn a lot about these folks, but sometimes I've found that I relate to them and this helps me better understand what it was like to live in the time period(s) I'm looking at. Relating to a historical figure also helps me look at current events differently by placing what happens now in the context of what happened then (and how that individual and the folks around them reacted).

One of the first times I experienced this was when I worked at the State Historical Society of Iowa in Special Collections. It was through there that I met the Mather family via their papers. For those interested in pioneer or Quaker history in the Midwest, I would definitely give this collection a look (another good one on Quakers and Abolition is the Lewis Savage collection). Ellen Mather was the matriarch of the family, who moved to Iowa from Illinois to marry her husband Samuel (he and his siblings moved here by covered wagon, and his sister left an immaculately detailed diary of their journey day by day.) The reason I felt so attracted to her story was that she strongly believed in education for her daughters and in educating her community (for example, she brought professors from the University of Iowa to give talks in her home for her and her neighbors). She was also an active participant in Chautauqua (sort of an adult continuing education movement that swept the nation in the late 19th/early 20th century.) I can see her being someone who would get really excited (like I do!) about the potentials of the Internet for sharing and for education, and I can see her taking an avid interest in the way it's impacting education (she was a teacher in a one room schoolhouse for a while, apparently as a teenager she was the only teacher who could keep the whole class in line). Because of her passion for learning, all her daughters grew up to be successful, intelligent, and well-educated. Love it!

Another person we all know and love is John Cotton Dana. Most readers of this blog will be aware of his wide-ranging achievements in improving public library services, making materials more available through browsing, and reaching out to immigrant populations. Another reason to love JCD? He took a stand against censorship at a time when that wasn't entirely popular or common. If you read Wayne Wiegand's An Active Instrument for Propaganda (pgs 96-99) there's a great couple of pages in there describing a pro-war group during World War I that found some of the books in the Newark library (where Dana was Director) to be 'seditious.' Most libraries removed materials to support the war effort (this was before the Library Bill of Rights), but Dana did not. His response instead? "I came to the conclusion (which I still hold) many years ago, that liberty of thought is a very desirable thing for the world and that liberty of thought can only be maintained by those who have free access to opinion." (Wiegand, 96). The group that challenged the books, called the Vigilantes, was in a tizzy and called national media attention to the case, but Dana refused to back down (even though he didn't see much support from the library community) and did not remove the books. I was so excited to learn about this part of his past, and it made me respect JCD all the more (he's another one who I think would be thrilled by the possibilities for sharing and education that digital technologies provide us).

And at last we have Hugo Munsterberg. Most people today probably have never heard of him, but during his life Munsterberg was a well-respected psychologist and professor. He was passionate about his work, and passionate about fostering a positive relationship between the country of his birth (Germany) and his adopted country (the US). While there are a few things we probably wouldn't agree on (he didn't think women could handle the demands of graduate work, for example), I have a lot of respect for his desire to foster understanding during a time when tensions were running high. Munsterberg published a couple short books on American-German relations during neutrality (after the war started in Europe but before the U.S. entered), and these would be withdrawn from libraries for being 'pro-German' after the we entered the war. This is ironic as Munsterberg wrote an essay praising American libraries and their forward-thinking ways only a decade or two earlier. His story is a sad one, largely because of a rising tide of anti-German sentiment that was felt even before the U.S. declared war. He lost his job at Harvard, was thrown out of social clubs, and ostracized by friends and his community because he supported Germany. Munsterberg's views in this regard are interesting because he did not support either country in the war (i.e. he didn't want one side to 'win') but instead he wanted both sides to stop fighting and set aside their differences. His writing was removed from some of the libraries I looked at, so I got curious and looked up his books (you can download them to your Kindle from Open Library, if anyone's interested). I was impressed by the tone: his writing is sad about current events, but optimistic for the future, and as time goes on he seems almost to be pleading for peace and understanding. He died in 1916 at the lectern while giving a talk at Radcliffe. I think the reason I feel so drawn to Munsterberg's story is because he believed so strongly in peace and understanding, and still loved both his countries even when he was being shut out of social and professional circles. I always admire people who hold to their beliefs even when it would be easier to just go with the status quo, and part of me wonders if Munsterberg's death was due in part to the stress of fighting for peace when the rest of the country was preparing to go to war. Reading his story helped me to remember that, as historians, we have a duty to share a variety of stories to remind modern readers that past times were as complex and diverse as the modern day.

I would love to hear what historical characters other folks have encountered during research and how they have shaped your understanding. There were so many others that I've learned about but didn't include here (like the librarians at the Iowa libraries I studied) and I am looking forward to meeting more!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Some Great Sites for Book Artists

Readers, this has been a wonderful week or so for serendipity in my life. I have stumbled upon a lot of great resources (some recent, some that I've rediscovered while transferring my tags to Google) that made me realize my blog posts have been a bit neglectful of the book arts side of my work (and of my book arts friends around the world!) In an attempt to remedy this, let me share with you some of what I've been getting excited about in book arts land recently:

Graphic novels: I love them (who doesn't?) and there are some exciting folks both who are creating art and exploiting digital content (there's a whole section of them in the Kindle bookstore, for example, including V for Vendetta, one of my all time favorites. Fair warning: if you search graphic novels in the Kindle store some adults-only Manga comes up). I've been thinking about jumping into the graphic novel world after feeling inspired making conference zines, but haven't made definitive plans yet. I was excited though when a friend directed me to this site because she thought I would like the art. The art (and the name) are reminiscent of a *hugely* inspiring high school teacher I had (small world, eh?), and if you click on the goodies under 'graphic novel concepts' you will find some really fun concepts that make my artist self dance with excitement. I'm excited to see where these go in the future, especially as developers create both content and programs tailored to reading on digital platforms.

Book Artists: Some folks I'm excited about right now: I got to meet Alycia at Library History Seminar XII this year, but the reason I am directing book arts friends in her direction is because she makes an *awesome* zine (about her experiences as an NYC library worker!) and blogs about issues relevant to book lovers and creators. Other people to keep an eye on: the Center for the Book (we just added a new MA program, plus the website has gotten a major facelift making it all the more pleasurable to browse), and the Miniature Book Society (the tiny books I wish I could make!).

Digital content: I've mentioned before how excited digital forms make me because of their potential for artists (see my post on circular texts for more), and one artist I've run across who's really embracing the medium can be found at Ocotillo Arts. This site inspires me because the artist creates tangible versions of the works before posting images of his work online (which he allows you to copy, although not for commercial purposes--a way of approaching licensing that is very similar to my own!) I also am curious to know if any of my book arts friends are using Prezi as a platform for creating art--I think there's a lot of potential there, but I haven't had a flash of inspiration yet on how to harness it.

Ok, and I need to put this in here too: I know you have probably read my Modernizing Markham project blog, and I wouldn't think to include it in this list except that some exciting changes are taking place--I'm almost done with the recipe recreation portion of the project, and am moving toward fleshing out the 17th century cookery/book history portion before moving on to calligraphy and binding. So for those looking to learn more about the context surrounding Markham, get excited, because more historical posts are coming your way!
Artist/historian friends: what sites are you recommending right now? I have many more great sites for calligraphy, etc that I want to post, but I'll save them to keep this post from reaching epic proportions. I want to start compiling some great lists both for library research and for book arts (and research), so definitely feel free to post any suggestions in the comments!