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.

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.

Women’s March on Washington Archives Project

This post does eventually relate to archives.

I live in California’s Central Valley, just 90 miles away from San Francisco. The Valley is a conservative part of the state. This weekend, I was amazed by our hometown. My husband and I had planned to march in Sacramento, but he got off work very late on Friday, so we opted to go to the march in our own city. The march was sponsored by The Progressive Voice and the Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus County. My good friend Joey from Merced joined us with her two teenage daughters, and when we got there, we met with other friends and family members. I did not expect 1,000 people to participate. I did not expect the huge show of support from people in cars as we walked down one of the busiest streets in town. Here is an article from our local paper, “Signs, Chants, Honks, and Cheers Mark Large, Upbeat Women’s March Modesto.”

When I got home from the march, I spent some time looking at photographs people were posting of marchers and their posters. Here are some interesting articles related to posters from marchers and photographs round the world and within the United States.

The Society of American Archivists’ Women Archivists Section is interested in archiving materials, including posters, photographs, and oral histories from the women’s marches. Their project is called the Women’s March on Washington Archives Project. Click here to find the Project’s Facebook group and here for their Twitter account.

I plan to contribute photos. Some friends also gave me their posters. I just have to find out if California has a repository for the physical materials. Please feel free to share about this archival project. This could be a potentially rich source of primary material for those studying about the marches in the future.

Here are some photos I took this weekend.

Yosemite Research Library

Yosemite National Park is 2.5-3 hours from where I live. I know, I’m pretty lucky, but I don’t go very often. Before this past Friday, the last time I went was in 2009!

UC Merced is the closest university to Yosemite National Park. The university does some research at the park and also has a partnership with the park for the Yosemite Leadership Program. In the spring, before I actually began working at the UC Merced Library, the park’s librarian, Virginia Sanchez, visited the library for input on modernizing the park’s library. It was a reciprocal visit, so we got to visit the Yosemite Research Library last Friday!

We toured the library and museum at the park, and we also visited the archives, which are located off-site. I had no idea how varied the collections are in Yosemite–baskets, dry and wet specimen, photographs, books, paintings and other artwork, etc. I was also glad to learn that the park works with the seven federally recognized native groups from the area, as well as some of the unrecognized native groups.

The library is at the very top of the park’s museum. It’s a small space that is in need of modernization in order to make the collections more accessible. The library is currently working on moving to the Library of Congress Classification system. There are some cabinets that need to be cleaned out, some items that need to be stored properly,  and there are some things that would make great candidates to be digitized and put online. There is actually a campaign going on right now to raise money to modernize the library.

This year, the national park system turned 100, and Yosemite celebrated 90 years as a park. There is a treasure trove of materials waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. I think this is definitely a worthy cause.

yosemite