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

Local History

I had an epic struggle choosing a major when I was in college. I started off  as a sociology major, then social science (sociology, history, and criminal justice), but all the while I was also taking English classes. Eventually, I realized having essentially three minors as a social science major was probably not the best idea. At the end of the day, how I decided to mark the paperwork as history is that I had one more class done than in English. The reality is that I thought everything was interesting–no wonder LIS was so appealing!

However, before library school, I was in a history MA program for a week…until I found out I’d be able to go to library school. Ultimately, I think I would have stayed on if I had found my little history niche. I was surrounded by people who were really into specific areas–Latin American protest art, Civil War, etc. It’s only now that I have worked in public and college libraries that I realize my little history place is actually local history, and I think it’s more because I know it can be a big challenge to actually do effective history research at the local level. There is so much that is forgotten or boxed up. (Recently, I read a really neat article by history professor Peter Knupfer and his experience in developing and guiding students through a project-centered study on a nearby community’s grapple with desegregation; students in his class were able to appreciate that local history research is difficult because the sources are not readily available.  A service-learning style project like this would be such a cool way to apply the Framework, don’t you think? My librarian heart swoons at the possibilities.)

In the summer of 2009, I volunteered at the Merced County Courthouse Museum and at the UC Merced Library. At the museum, I researched the building of the Japanese Assembly Center during World War II in Merced. My research was used in a documentary called Merced Assembly Center: Injustice Immortalized and in the Densho Encyclopedia. Here is a Merced Sun-Star article that references my research. I also wrote an article eliciting more information from the community in the Merced County Courthouse Museum’s column in the Merced Sun-Star, but there isn’t a digital copy–this is another difficult thing about small local papers and doing local history research. (Speaking of UC Merced and hidden collections, I discovered that UC’s Calisphere collections contain WWII Japanase American Assembly Center newsletters and the beginnings of a Merced Local History collection. Pretty cool!)

While writing up the laundry list of stuff for the new librarian coming on board to know, I began drafting a section about things I didn’t get a chance to do but would have loved to see through at the Los Banos Campus Library at Merced College. One of the things I really wanted to do was create a local history area. Here’s a little write up from American Libraries magazine, “What To Collect?,” from last summer that outlines the kinds of resources a public library might think about collecting to create a Local History Reference Collection (LHRC).

At the Los Banos Campus Library, there is a mishmash of items in the 300s, 500s, 900s, and in reference that deal with Los Banos and Merced County, but I would love for these things to be housed together. I have asked off and on for approval to do this from the main library, but I haven’t ever gotten an answer to any requests. Honestly, it just requires us to make changes in the catalog for location and call number–all we need to do is put a letter in front, like we have R for reference–and redo a few stickers. We don’t have tons and tons since we’re such a small library. The question is what letter should go in front? SC for special collections? LR for local reference? LHRC is just way too long.

Another thing related to this would be to work with the public library and the little local museum to compile some kind of pathfinder for researching local history. The museum is barely functional from what I understand (I never got a chance to visit–working and living in different counties is rough), so I am pretty curious what kind of resources are housed there.

Aerial view of Merced Assembly Center, California, c. 1942. (2015, July 17). Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 5, 2016 from http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i224-00004-1/

Knupfer, P. Consultants in the classroom: Student/teacher collaborations in community history. The Journal of American History, 99(4), 1161-1175. doi:10.1093/jahist/jas602

 

Participatory Culture & Vernacular Collections at the Library

I have a bad habit of collecting links through the save feature on Facebook. However, I seem to notice a penchant for public art. Consider this Colossal post about an artist who bought billboard and this NPR article about kids’ art taking over billboards in Times Square. I love members of communities being able to take part in their communities. Participatory culture is something I have been trying to cultivate in the community college library.

In Fall 2013, I did half of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC through San José State University, my MLIS alma mater. It allowed me to explore a little more about user experience, and it really got my excited about the possibilities for participatory culture in libraries. In one class discussion, I shared about the display space kids in the community are able to use to display collections of all kinds in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library (I worked as a bilingual Spanish/English library assistant in the children’s department for a couple of years). Kids ages 4 and up can sign up for either a display table or display case to show off rocks, soap, dolls, books, trains, cars, PEZ dispensers, LEGO creations, etc. The collections were very unique and customers of all ages love looking at new arrrivals. The collections stay in a locked case or table for two weeks. It truly is one of the coolest things that allow kids in our community to really feel that the library is theirs. (As it turns out, the idea of displaying everyday items is a thing. I did a little research, and these are called vernacular museums. I have to do a little more reading about them, but I did contact a professor from Pine Manor College about her work last year.)

I also think this idea would work well in even an academic library if locked displays cases are available. The University Library at my undergraduate alma mater, California State University Stanislaus, sort of has this with their Warrior Book Contest, which is essentially a topical bibliography students can submit. Winners can have some of their books put on display, and it’s always really interesting to see the winners’ lists and displays. I have a friend from college who won one year. I have tried a similar tactic to have individual students sign up to do book and online resource displays at the community college library, but it hasn’t worked out so far. We only have one student club on campus, so I am going to check with them this semester. But the idea of displaying collections doesn’t have to just be books and online resources. It could be action figures or Hello Kitty memorabilia. College can be fun.