Resource Radar: American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

I have so much to write about, but I’ll have to start with a fascinating JSTOR webinar I attended about a project to digitize American prison newspapers. The project is led by Reveal Digital, which has been part of ITHAKA since 2012. Their mission is to publish Open Access primary sources from historically excluded groups. Currently, the prison newspaper project is about 45 percent funded, and as the collection is being digitized, only those libraries who have contributed to the fund can access the content via JSTOR. Once the project is fully funded, it will be open access!

Merced College offers courses to students who are incarcerated. These classes are taught in person, but, because of COVID-19, they are correspondence courses this semester. I think this will be a particularly exciting collection for our faculty who teach in the surrounding state prisons and those who teach about mass incarceration on campus.

(If you’re an academic librarian, you may also be interested in the Merced College Library’s correspondence reference service for these students. My colleague Karrie Bullock serves as the lead for this service. It was partially modeled after San Francisco Public Library’s prison reference service. Karrie and I attended a presentation led by SFPL librarians Jeanie Austin and Rachel Kinnon and intern Rosa Hall called “What If Patrons Can’t Access the Internet?: Reference by Mail for Patrons Who Are Incarcerated” during the CLA Conference in 2019, and she got lots of great ideas from the session.)

During the JSTOR webinar I attended, which I discovered was the last of a three-part series, I also learned about the Prison Journalism Project (PJP), which provides an online platform and journalism education to help”incarcerated and incarceration-impacted writers tell stories about their communities.” The original vision was to establish journalism education programs in prisons, but when COVID-19 hit, the founders began an online publication on Medium asking for submissions from those in prison. With the help of the American Prison Writing Archive, they received a substantial number of submissions on a variety of topics. In April, the Prison Journalism Project migrated to their own website where they publish writing and artwork by prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, and friends and family who have been impacted by incarceration.

The organization offers submission guidelines, FAQs, writing prompts, and handouts to guide writers. While these are available online, physical copies are also sent to prisons. Submissions can be emailed or sent through JPay or through the US mail. Stories are scanned and then transcribed and edited by volunteers. (The PJP is currently seeking volunteers to help transcribe or edit stories!) PJP publishes about 10 stories a week. Writers retain copyright of their work, and every writer also gets a portfolio page. On the website, stories are tagged by state and topics. The co-founders are also working to develop a toolkit for educators, which will include a textbook in comic book format.

I also learned about the San Quentin News and the podcast Ear Hustle in this webinar. One of the co-hosts of the podcast is actually inside San Quentin. I had never heard of either of these before, but I’m glad to have more resources to learn from those who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated. These resources are also potentially very valuable for reference work!

You can find all three of the JSTOR webinar recordings related to the American Prison Newspaper project below. I will need to watch the others soon.

You do have to share your name and email to watch the recordings.

Read If Organizing Work Things Sparks Joy

Image of assorted color markers in a glass jar next to a blank notebookPhoto by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

I couldn’t help the Marie Kondo reference. (I really enjoyed Season 1 of “Tidying Up.” I go through purging periods every so often, so I am here for it.)

The longer I am at my job, the better I am getting at figuring out a system to keep track of what I work on. Who knew that some simple templates and a planner could help me feel better during those moments of one-shot instruction fatigue? As I’m not involved with meaningful assessment, it’s challenging for me to see the long-term effects of the work I do, so documenting my activities helps keep me motivated.

After I received the final documentation for my first review, I created a template in Google Docs for the documentation that I am responsible for turning in (visit “UC Librarian Review Process“), and I’ll be in much better shape for my next review in January 2020 as I have been filling it out with more significant projects and partnerships as I go along.

For instruction, I typically put all of my classes into Outlook because our research appointment calendar syncs with Outlook, but I learned that it is miserable to go back into your calendar to figure out how many classes and workshops you taught during a particular semester. Our research instruction request forms are also connected to the system we use for submitting post-class statistics. The library’s programmer was able to enhance our system so that we can see which classes have not had statistics submitted, but once you submit, it’s clunky to run a query.

I created yet another template to help me out in Google Sheets: bit.ly/class_stats_template It has a tab for classes and a tab for workshops. The Guide column is the URL to the class LibGuide. Students refers to the number of students. The Stats Recorded column is just a note for myself as I submit statistics into our system because I sometimes let it pile up. The Google Folder column is the key to what I actually did in class, as it links to a folder in Google Drive that contains the class syllabus, research assignment, and my lesson plan. In Google Drive, I have a 2018-2019 folder with subfolders for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. My basic folder structure looks like the following: Semester > Instructor Name > Course. It’s now super simple for me to find all the corresponding documentation for each class I taught. If you’re interested, I also started using a new lesson plan template that I adapted from another librarian: bit.ly/lesson_plan_template I’m bummed to say that I don’t remember who shared it, but I need to comb through some librarian listserv archives to find out because I really need to thank them!

Seeing some of my work reflected in my Classes & Workshops spreadsheet this past semester has made me feel a lot better.

When I worked at the community college, one of my librarian mentors suggested that I get a paper planner that has both a monthly and weekly format, so that I take brief notes about what I work on within the planner. This semester, I’m going to utilize a planner to reflect on my teaching. While I print my lesson plans and write on them during class, they can look pretty cruddy. I need to do a better job about writing down what worked, what didn’t, observations, etc. (On that note, I do plan to finally finish reading char booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literature for Library Educators, though I think char is working on a new edition.)

I also feel like this could be a fun workshop at conference–sharing instructional planning materials and tools and methods for keeping track of work. Like New Year library programming but for academic librarians.

La Biblioteca Podcast

In 2010, I had a summer fellowship in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. An interesting collection I came across was the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT), which contains recordings of authors from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, as well as U.S. Latino authors. At the time, none of it was digitized. In 2015, some of the recordings were put online, but I somehow missed that memo. I rediscovered the collection just recently via Reforma‘s listserv because two of the Hispanic Division’s librarians, Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González, posted a message about a new podcast related to the collection called La Biblioteca. You can find the podcast at the LOC podcast site or on iTunes. (I included the episode descriptions below.)

I’m really excited to listen to all of the episodes and also plan to share this resource with our Spanish and Latin American history and literature professors. Although none of us in the library are subject specialists, we made the attempt to divide up liaison duties based on interest and/or past partnerships. I am happy that some of my work now includes communicating with faculty in the Spanish and Latin American Studies programs.

SEASON 1:  The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape

  • Episode 1: “The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape: An Introduction”
    The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) is one of the Library of Congress most unique literary collections. Founded in 1943, this audio archive has captured the voices of more than 750 poets and prose writers from the Luso-Hispanic world reading from their works. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán González speak with Georgette Dorn, who has been the curator of the collection since the 1970s.
  • Episode 2: “Listening to Mario Vargas Llosa”
    Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1977. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with professor of Spanish Charlotte Rogers (University of Virginia) and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of other events with Vargas Llosa at the Library, including his interview with writer and journalist Marie Arana during the Library of Congress’ Living Legend Award ceremony in April 2016.
  • Episode 3: “Listening to Carlos Drummond de Andrade”
    Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1974. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with the director of the Portuguese program at Georgetown University, Vivaldo Andrade dos Santos, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Drummond’s recording for our archive, as well as some translations of his poems.
  • Episode 4: “Listening to Álvaro Mutis”
    Colombian poet and author Álvaro Mutis recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1976. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with professor of Spanish, Charlotte Rogers (University of Virginia), and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Mutis’ recording for our archive, as well as an excerpt from the lecture “The Literary Legacy of Álvaro Mutis,” delivered by Dr. Rogers on May 13, 2016 here at the Library.
  • Episode 5: “Listening to Raúl Zurita”
    Chilean poet Raúl Zurita recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1985. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with Literary critic and translator Dr. Anna Deeny, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Zurita’s recording for our archive, as well as some translations of his poem
  • Episode 6: “Listening to Octavio Paz”
    Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1961 Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Paz’s recording for our collection.
  • Episode 7: “Listening to Pablo Neruda”
    Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1966 Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with writer an editor Mark Eisner, and poet Marjorie Agosín and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Neruda’s recording for our collection.
  • Episode 8: “Listening to Gabriel García Márquez”
    Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1977. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with writer an journalist María Arana and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of García Marquez’s recording for our collection.

#WeNeedMixedBooks

Today is Father’s Day, and just last week, it was the 50th anniversary of the Loving decision. The anniversary gave me some time reflect on my mixed heritage. My dad is white and originally from Arkansas (he moved to CA in the 1970s), and my mom came to the U.S. from Mexico as a young adult. (My mom has been a citizen since the 1980s.) My parents got married in 1979. Here is one of their wedding photos.

Parents' wedding photo

Growing up, I didn’t know many mixed families, just mine, but that appears to be changing! It dawned on me recently that I have several friends raising children who are of mixed heritage. Here are some relevant articles on Loving, as well as the growing numbers of Americans who are mixed:

My sister and I started our school experience as Spanish-speakers; as the youngest, my brother didn’t have the same challenge. I didn’t realize we were “different” until elementary school, when kids didn’t believe some of my first cousins and I were related. Or worse, this woman who asked my mom if I was adopted. There is nothing wrong with adoption, but the question was to point out difference, and it was a terrible position to put her in, as well as for her child who was old enough to understand. I’ve seen and heard a lot from folks who are comfortable in addressing their fellow white person, as well as those who are comfortable speaking in Spanish as though I’m not there or can understand, not to mention the feeling that you don’t fit into neatly arranged categories. (This is just meant as a summary, and I’m also not going to get into my privilege as a very white and now graduate-educated Latina; I’m well aware.)

Books would have definitely helped with my identity issues, and, fortunately, times seem to be changing a bit. Prior to becoming an academic librarian, I worked as a bilingual (Spanish/English) library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library, and I about cried when I came across a picture called Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. With the Loving anniversary, a friend of mine tagged all her friends in interracial marriages and partnerships, which prompted a very cool string of comments and photos. Our mutual friend made a special tribute about her marriage and family, and, from our exchange,  I found out that she had shown photos of my family to her daughter who is also half-Latina and half-white. I mentioned the Marisol McDonald book, and I let my friend know I would do a search for some more kids’ books. Although there is a disparity in representing children from a variety of backgrounds in children’s books in general (see the #weneediversebooks campaign), The Washington Post‘s “Where Are All the Interracial Children’s Books? points out that there aren’t many picture books that feature mixed children. I started doing some searching for pictures books about mixed families and children, and I was surprised to find a small but growing body of books (note that the lists below often share titles).

Now, this is somewhat of a side note, but I think Mixed Remixed, which is “a film, book & performance festival celebrating stories of the mixed-race and multiracial experience,” is so interesting! I had never heard of it before. I took a peek at some resources, I found this really cool list of TED Talks linked on the Mixed Remixed website, “6 TED Talks, By, For, and About Biracial and Mixed-Race Folks.”

I’m also glad to have found an online community of librarians who identify as POC that I can reach out to thanks to a librarian friend. Some members of the group mentioned that I ought to listen to The Mash-Up Americans podcast and the  Other: Mixed Race in America podcast. Code Switch also recently had an episode called A Prescription for ‘Racial Imposter Syndrome,'” which another librarian mentioned that she really identified with as a mixed person who grew up with her white parent. It has been great to hear about the multicultural families some of these librarians are raising, as well.