Friday, December 20, 2013

Booknote: Fundamentals of Library Instruction

Monty L. McAdoo, Fundamentals of Library Instruction. Chicago; ALA, 2012. ISBN: 9780838911419.

Overall, I found this book to be a very basic overview and how-to for library instruction. If you are experienced in library instruction, much of what this book has will be material  you already know (or should know), and it will seem basic and simple. If on the other hand, you come to library instruction with no experience, as many academic librarians often do, this book will provide some help. I can certainly see this book being used in one of the few library instruction classes available in library schools. In a nutshell, it is a good book, but I did not think it was a great book. I am willing to admit that in my case I come to this topic as an experienced librarian, so much of the book was just going back to very basics for me. As I said, if you do not have that experience, this may be good place to start learning.

The book is organized into 11 chapters after the preface. Some of the topics featured are:
  • Historical overview of library instruction. 
  • How students learn.
  • What to teach. 
  • Characteristics of effective instructors.
  • Characteristics of effective instruction.

If you want to skip the rest of my notes below, and if you ask me, I would give this 3 out of 5 stars. I "liked it," but I did not "really like it." It is still a book I would keep on my professional shelf as it does have some nice reminders. I did order it for our library so my instruction team has access to it.

Some initial reading notes and comments:

"Simply  put, despite growing demands for instruction, library science programs with an instruction track are virtually non-existent. Worse, many programs do not have even a single course dealing with instruction in the library context. As a result, the only exposure and 'training' that many instruction librarians ever receive is on the job" (Preface, X).

Let's be honest. If you want to be an instruction librarian, or you are thrust into the position, your options are very limited. You either come to library school with a teaching degree, or once in librarianship, you apply and hope you get accepted into ACRL's Immersion Program (this option does have implications such as membership in ALA issues and other costs, but we won't go into those here. If you look into the blog's tag for "professional development," you can find my notes on my experience). At this point in my career, I have both: a teaching degree, and I am a two-time Immersion graduate (I have completed the teaching and program tracks; sucker that I am for pain, I would like to complete the assessment track or maybe their teaching with tech track. However, those fall under "would be nice to do" at this point. The two tracks I have done I feel have prepared me well). I do recognize that I am fortunate in that regard (to an extent. It was not just fortune. I had to work very hard to gain the experience and credentials I have. You do have to put work in to be a good instruction librarian). Otherwise, if you are coming into librarianship without teaching experience, you are in for a very steep learning curve. Teaching is a serious endeavor, and I have learned a thing or two along the way (even if I try not to brag much about it in public). I also know that I need to keep on learning and reflecting, tasks that I strive to do regularly. This blog is one of the small ways in which I do my reflections.

This book is designed to help out librarians with instruction responsibilities who may lack pedagogy and/or instructional design experience. It's intended as a book for librarians, and I think that is important to point out. Majority of books on teaching and/or instructional design are not made for us. We can get things out of them and learn from them, but at the end of the day, what happens in a K-12 classroom or a college professor's classroom is different than what we do (there are similarities as well, but again, another conversation for another time). This is a book for us. The author admits that it is not meant to be comprehensive, but it is more like a primer. I say that if you come to this line of work with no experience, this is a book to get.

"In an age when the relevance of libraries is often questioned, bringing effective meaningful instructional opportunities to library users is more critical than ever" (Preface X). 

As I've always said, as long as people need help learning resources, good research, and the skills of information literacy (even if they are not called that at times), I'll have a job. 

Reading along, in the second chapter, the author discusses who teaches and goes over the fact, which I have mentioned already, that very few librarians come to the profession with either a teaching degree or any teaching experience. According to the author, many librarians, most in fact, cobble their instruction experience by trial and error, a small workshop here, a conference there, so on. He points out it may be years, if ever, "before this rather piecemeal approach enables an individual to become effective at developing and administering instruction" (8). This is certainly nothing new; we teachers certainly know this. In fact, the literature in education mentions how time and experience do make a better teacher. Having studied pedagogy also helps. No, teaching is not just "those who can do, those who can't teach" pablum. Those can't teach who end up in our ranks are either lousy professionals (the ones that certain librarian bloggers love to decry), slackers, or worse (they manage to climb into management to make everyone else's lives a living hell).

Other notes:

  • On instruction and nontraditional venues. In my time, I have learned and come to appreciate that to be a good instruction librarian you need to be involved with those who use your library and your services. For me, being involved with students as much as possible is a core function of what I do. It helps create rapport and makes me more approachable. For some, this may sound like outreach. I have learned that at times outreach and instruction get put together. I have held positions where I was primarily an instruction librarian and was given outreach duties, and I have been in positions with the actual title of outreach librarian. This could make a topic for a blog post down the road. My point for now is that as an instruction librarian you need to be involved with the people you work with. Some ways to get involved listed in the book include (see page 49): 
    • speaking at nonlibrary departmental meetings on behalf of the library.
    • making in-service presentations to instructors (you often have skills. Offer to share them with others). 
    • serving as advisor to a student group (this is one I have done. Often, it is not as difficult as it may seem on the surface). 
    • attending school-sponsored activities (e.g., sporting events) where students and instructors are likely to be present (for me, this is part of being out there and being the face of the library. But it is also a good thing. I will grant that I am not a big sports fan, so I rarely make sports events. But everything else-- talks, lectures, concerts, convocations, plays, etc., I try to make as much as possible. Besides, very often this is good cultural entertainment for free, and it builds some goodwill). 
    • having an active presence at events like orientation, alumni weekend, homecoming, and parents' weekend. 
    • communicating through library publications-- printed and electronic. 
  • Follow up to the above: "participating in these sorts of activities does not mean teaching. Just being a positive, personable advocate for the library is often sufficient" (49). Yes, advocacy skill does help in this line of work. So does being positive and enthusiastic as well as truly caring for your students. Now, if anyone asks, what about faculty? a small maxim helps me out: I am there to provide good service; I am not their servant. 
  • Some traits of effective instructors: 
    • "Genuine desire to teach. Everyone has off days. But if you do not care about what you are teaching, how can you expect students to care?" (70). I will be blunt here: if you do not want to teach as a librarian, find yourself a niche or area of librarianship that requires minimal to no teaching. Go into cataloging (not to pick on catalogers, but I assuming you get a job in a big cataloging cube farm like the one in the library school I went to where all you do is pretty much process records all day in a terminal) or other area that allows less public interaction. Being a lousy teacher because you do not care for it is a disservice to the students. Better yet, don't become a librarian. Nowadays, odds are good you will do some level of teaching be it training a colleague, reference work, or full library instruction.
    • "Knowledge of effective teaching and pedagogy" (70). Whether you get this by reading books, going to workshops, a class, so on, get some solid pedagogy training. In order to teach, you have to know how to teach and how students learn.
    • "Rapport with students and colleagues. Establishing rapport helps keep students engaged, facilitates learning, and generates positive feelings for students and instructors alike" (70). To me, this one is crucial. Again, if you lack things like empathy, caring and respect for your students and faculty, and you feel icky about being honest with them, find another line of work. Personally, being able to build good rapport is a major part of my philosophy as an instruction librarian. Besides, this helps to get students to come back and see you when they actually need help. They may not remember everything from a BI session, but if they remember you, and remember that you can help them, so they come see you, that is a victory.
    • "High expectations of their students. Students typically do more and do better if they are expected to so from the beginning. It is difficult to raise the bad midstream. . . " (71). This is a basic rule any good teacher knows. It is one of the first lessons I learned when I was learning to be a school teacher. It was lesson I was learning back when I took TESA training as a school teacher.  Some lessons just have staying power. 
    • "Openness to criticism. Instructors need to be open to critiques of their work and of their instruction" (71).
    •  "Patience.... Instructors need to be patient and work with students at their own pace and level" (71). I think this is self-explanatory.
    • "Sense of humor. Telling jokes or trying to be funny should not be confused with having a sense of humor. Having a sense of humor means being positive and optimistic, remaining upbeat, and not taking things personally" (72).
    • "Value as positive role model. Be a good example and live what you teach" (72). Again, self-explanatory I think, and it is also a huge part of my philosophy as an educator and as an instruction librarian.
  • Do you worry about dealing with absent instructors or disruptive behavior? There are some good tips in the book on chapter nine. If you have an absent instructor, do carry out your class session. You are already prepared for one. Two, way I see, canceling penalizes the students who need the information. I like the idea of, after teaching the class, contacting the instructor. To make it constructive, you can share questions the students may have had that you could not answer (questions the instructor can and should answer, for instance) and any student reactions to the instructor's absence. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Article Note: On Measuring Library Value to Campus Culture of Learning

Citation for the article:

Hufford, Jon R., "Can the Library Contribute Value to the Campus Culture of Learning?"  The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 288-296.

Read via ScienceDirect.

This short article does pack quite a bit of information. The author argues that it is possible to assess the influence of a particular campus institution, including the library, on the culture of learning (288). The article then goes on to provide some ways in which to do just that. Given my director's strong interest in assessment (not to mention the director being a self-admitted "data junkie"), this is the kind of information I need to work on. In addition, some of the questions the author suggests we should be asking would provide answers that can be helpful for our instruction program as well. The article describes the problem, provides some guidance questions, and then goes over some solutions. I did mark some articles cited in the literature review to read and review down the road. In the end, the author implies or suggests the answer to the title question is yes, but it does fall on each of us to measure and find those answers. Yes, there is some work involved.

Notes to remember:

  • "The purpose of an undergraduate college education should not be restricted to a specific field of study but instead should focus on developing the student as a self-motivated learner" (291). This topic was actually in the conversations I had when I was interviewing for my current position here, and it something we strive for in our library instruction program as well as the college. As we planned instruction, one of the question we ask is how will they use what they learn when they leave the college. 
  • Some attributes of self-motivated learning: ". . . a broad knowledge of the wider world in all its complexities; knowledge of science, cultures, and society; and the study of global interdependence." Also included on the list: written and oral communication skills, information and computer literacy skills (some would say this is part of multiple literacies), ability to solve complex problems, sense of personal and social responsibility, and applying knowledge to real world problems (291).
  • Some of the questions for outlining library role in campus culture (see pg. 292): 
    • "What kinds of engaged learning experiences (e.g., service learning, learning communities, undergraduate research, collaborative assignments and projects, community-based learning, internships, writing intensive courses) requiring use of library resources and services are offered on campus?" I can tell you off the top of my head we do have quite a few of those examples here. Now, we do need to market ourselves better and do a better job of letting faculty know exactly what it is we offer and what we can do for their classes and students at different levels and beyond one-shots and even some repeat sessions. Consulting should be our next frontier, so to speak. 
    • "What percent of each freshman class has successfully completed courses requiring significant research using library resources and services for writing and/or critical thinking?" I certainly would love to seek out the answer to this one, even if it means doing a case study as the author suggests when there is a lack of standard methods of measurement. 
  • Author realizes very few libraries would be able to collect data on all the questions he suggests. He argues that we should attempt to get as much information as possible in a regular and consistent way, which can then be placed in a database for further analysis (293). Locally, I am hoping the HEDS survey we are running would help with some of this. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013: Tour Day 4, with a brief note on Tour Day 5, the final day of the tour

I continue the blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on my journey in the Berea College Civil Rights Seminar and Tour 2013. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others.Today I am covering the fourth day of the seminar and tour, which is the second actual touring day. This took place on August 6, 2013.

Reminder that, as I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

# # #

Today is our last day of activity. Tomorrow (August 7, 2013) we will make the journey back home to Berea. Time has gone fast, and I have learned so much. Listening to Ms. Joanne yesterday, I felt like I saw living history. A question came up: what will happen when those of her generation are gone? Will the story be told? I would like to think yes. Will young generations pick up the baton and run with it? I am not as optimistic about that. I think our Berea College graduates likely will given their education, but elsewhere, I am honestly not so sure.

People like Joanne were so young when they marched and took action. We call them heroes now, deservedly so, but back then they just saw injustice, felt it, lived it, and acted. They were very afraid, but they took fear head on.

  • We travel next to Memphis, Tennessee.
    • On the way to Memphis, we watch the documentary "Roads to Memphis." Keep in mind that Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. The killing speaks to how dangerous the U.S. was at the time. 
    • In 1967, George Wallace ran a 3rd party campaign for the U.S. Presidency. On a curious historical note, James Earl Ray volunteered to work for the campaign. 
    • By the late 1960s, Dr. King was taking on systemic poverty. He was planning a new march to Washington D.C. in 1967 to call for work on poverty. This kind of talk was clearly a threat to whites and the privileged. Even J. Edgar Hoover had a vendetta against Dr. King, directing FBI surveillance and harassment.
    • In 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis to help sanitation workers striking for better work conditions and pay. 
  • Today was my day to do journaling in the group journal. This gave me a moment to reflect and share some thoughts on this experience with the group (aside from this blog, which I have no idea who besides my four readers would be reading). Over the journey, we have taken turns writing our thoughts and reflections in a group journal, which will serve as a record of the group's journey. 
  • There is so much evidence of poverty in Memphis as we ride through the town. (If I recall, Jesus had some line about the poor always being with us. Turns out the line people often use is Matthew 26:11. But Jesus also had a lot to say, tasking his believers to help the poor like Luke 12: 23; Luke 6: 20-23 among other verses. As a heathen myself, I wonder how people call themselves Christian and so easily dismiss the poor and show no sense of compassion and social justice. Religion and churches may have inspired the movement, but people still had to have the basic decency, empathy, and compassion to act. If nothing else, as a heathen, I can see, even in this journey, how both folks like Dr. King and George Wallace could take their positions and call themselves "Christian." You need more than a book of scripture to be a decent human being. It comes from inside, and it comes from education and eradicating ignorance. So many ills come from ignorance and fear.)

  •  Our tour of Memphis. There, Ms. Elaine Turner is our hostess to guide us in the city. (As before, I have photos with additional notes which I will try to share later.)
    • We begin from Clayborn Temple, the place from where Dr. King led his last march in Memphis.
    • Residents of Memphis might wonder why Dr. King was killed here. We come to realize it could have happened anywhere. 
    • Churches serve as places of refuge for the movement. 
    • Other landmarks we see: 
      • R.S. Lewis Funeral Home, where Dr. King was laid in estate. 
      • Robert Church Park, the first park in the city for blacks. 
      • First Baptist Beale Street Church, which was built by former slaves. 
      • W.C. Handy's home. He is known as "Father of the Blues." The Blues is the first documented music art of the United States. Handy did not claim to invent it; he wrote the notes down and documented it. See the film St. Louis Blues about his life with Nat King Cole portraying Mr. Handy.
      • Beale Street. This was the economic center of the black community. It was also a political base: news, political organizations, classes for literacy, churches that often paid the poll taxes for blacks to vote. It was also a cultural center: food, music, the churches, so on. On this street, blacks could do what they could not do on main street. 
      • Adams Avenue: where the slave markets were located. Factoid: Nathan Bedford Forrest made his fortune selling slaves here. 
    • Burkle House: Undergound Railroad Museum
      • The museum addresses slavery as a topic as well as the slave history of the city. 
      • The Atlantic Ocean is the largest cemetery in the world due to the Middle Passage. 
      • Memphis was a big cotton trading center. "King Cotton." 
      • The slaves, being illiterate, learned various codes for escaping. Quilts from friendly homes gave hints and signals of safety for slaves running away. Slaves also learned to listen. For them, music was a way to communicate. The spirituals served as coded messages to help slaves escape. When the slaves in a plantation sang, the master thought often they were "happy." Often, the slaves were using the music and lyrics to send coded messages for those running away. 
    • Memphis was a segregated city. One library for blacks and the rest of the city's libraries (and other services) for whites. There were book reading sit-ins in the public libraries here (this is something I ought to check on). 

  • The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. This complex includes the locale of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was killed.
    • We saw the documentary "The Witness" featuring Reverend Kyles, who was a witness to Dr. King's killing. 
    • King knew that economics was the next level in the movement: wealth redistribution, closing tax loopholes, etc. (gee, that sounds familiar. Much like today. We've come far, but not far enough. Dr. King would probably have much to say today. As the Rude Pundit writes--bluntly-- Dr. King would fuck conservatives' shit up. He writes that Dr. King-- and I can see this is accurately so--"was an openly socialistic, confrontational radical whose 'I Have a Dream' speech asked for nothing less than a complete elimination of white privilege and the destruction of racial and economic hierarchies."  I believe some of his followers living today would concur. A bit of language, but worth reading it in this context. Also go ahead and read Dr. King's speeches. It's all there if you are willing to read it, see it, and learn it.)
    • King was working on a national poverty campaign at this point in his life. He knew thus that he had to stop in Memphis to help the sanitation workers. 
    • Reverend Kyles on why God put him there as a witness: "a crucifixion has to have a witness." To him, this would be revealed later. King died to help the sanitation workers. "You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream. The dream is still alive." (Or to quote a film and graphic novel I admire, "...and ideas are bulletproof.") 
    • "The greatest evil in our country today is not racism, but ignorance. . . We need to be taught to study rather than to believe." -- Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), South Carolina school teacher and civil rights worker. 
    • "We must educate the white people out of their 250 years of slave history." -- Ida. B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), journalist and co-founder of the NAACP 
    • We get to see the view that James Earl Ray saw when he shot Dr. King. The guy did have a very clear view. 
    • Key reason Dr. King stayed at the Lorraine: it was a "black friendly" hotel. (I am referring to this, see Negro Motorist Green Book.)
    • By the way, (in the interest of capturing all I saw) outside the museum there was a protester who held a sign seeing the museum as a memorial to the killer. The protester is Jacqueline Smith, and she has a website here. According to the site, she was the last tenant of the Lorraine. 
  • End of day reflection: 
    • Poverty is a striking theme in the cities we visited. 
    • (On our way back, on the bus, there was some conversation/commentary going on the topic of bullying, bullying needing to be addressed in relation to  youth. They, whoever it was as I do not recall who now,  brought up Columbine as an example of bullying. At that point, I wanted to toss at them a copy of Dave Cullen's book, Columbine, which clearly debunks that idea that the shooters were bullied. Link to my review of the book. Anyhow, it was not a good time to say anything, but I did want to make the note.)
    • As a librarian, I wondered what kind of programs and support the library can provide to keep this work alive when we get back to Berea. Outreach?
# # #

Brief note on the 5th and final day. This was August 7, 2013. This was our day of travel back to Berea. On the way back, we listened to Dr. King's last speech, which he gave in Memphis.  It was a proper way to reflect one more time as we departed to Berea.

(In the end, there are a couple of additional observations that are not making it into the blog but remain in my personal journal that did give me reasons to think and ponder further. With this, this stage of the journey comes to an end. But the journey and the lucha-- struggle-- do continue. The work is not done.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013; Tour Day 3

I continue the blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on my journey in the Berea College Civil Rights Seminar and Tour 2013. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others.Today I am covering the fourth day of the seminar and tour, which is the second actual touring day. This took place on August 5, 2013.

Reminder that, as I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

# # # 

 It is morning in Montgomery, Alabama. We have dinner last night at a place called Dreamland BBQ. Definitely remembering that so if I ever make it back, to bring the Better Half along. At this point, we are ready to begin a new day.

We had a spontaneous encounter this morning as a man, Rev. Moses William, who was part of the movement, met and knew Dr. King and his wife, met with us at the bus right before we took off. He took some time to give us some inspiration. "When people stay together, we'll  change things. Love one another, feed one another." The fellow was at the same hotel we stayed in; he was there for a family reunion, and took a moment to speak to us. This is becoming a common occurrence now of people approaching us during the journey with encouragement when they see us and learn what we are doing.

A small side note for introverts who may be reading this: This is not an easy journey for introverts like us. We are always "on" in this kind of setting, and there is no real downtime. I could use a bit of quiet time to truly reflect, but that may have to wait until after the journey. In the meantime, I am trying to write down as much as I can, seeking to remember lest I forget (and not everything will make it to the blog). I do this for the students I serve and myself.

  • Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. This church was the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. Notice that it is next to the Alabama State Capitol, which is the birthplace of the Confederacy; Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy at the capitol. 
    • An amazing fact: this church has never been been vandalized or bombed (as of this writing, and let us hope it remains that way). Why? Some say it may be divine protection. Others say it is the proximity to the state capitol. Who knows? 
    • Fact: This is the only church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was the senior pastor. From here, he left to lead the movement. Today, the church has about 180 people in its membership rolls, but less than that attend services on Sunday. Yes, it is an active church. 
    • Fact: The baptismal font is under the pulpit. To use it, it requires four men to move the pulpit, then the font is filled with water. 
    • We also visit the parsonage. Our hostess, Ms. Shirley Cherry, there reminds us to keep history authentic. She never wants to forget that she was called "nigger." We should not sterilize history. 
      • Have the courage to stand alone. 
      • Fact: the man who arrested Rosa Parks has visited the parsonage. 
      • The house was bombed during the bus boycott in 1956. 
      • The movement really began with Rev. Vernon Johns, Dr. King's predecessor at the church. Rev. Johns believed that black economic power and autonomy were important for the path to freedom. 
      • Dr. King took over the church next, then moved on to lead the bus boycott.
      • Small side lesson, on picking a mate, based on Martin and Coretta King: Character, personality, and beauty. Of those three, character is the most important. 
      • Quote: "Everyone is significant on God's keyboard." 
      • According to Martin Luther King, Jr., to be free, you must learn to forgive and then lose your fear of death in order to be free. 
      • When threatening calls came to the house, Dr. King would tell them he would pray for them. 
      • On January 27, 1965, Dr. King had an epiphany at midnight in the house kitchen. He was praying after getting a threatening call telling him to leave town in 3 days. He went on with the ministry and boycott anyhow. 
      • Themes from the garden behind the parsonage: forgiveness, equality, hope, peace, understanding, unity. These are what Rev. Johns and Rev. King preached on. 
    • After leaving the parsonage, Rev. Bowman urges us to tell others. This tour was worth fighting for; I could not agree more. 
  •  After lunch at Martha's, we arrive at the Southern Poverty Law Center.   
    • At SPLC, we do have to go through security, empty our pockets, so on. Given that the center is a target of hate groups, this is understandable. Since 1983, 30 individuals have been sent to jail for attempting to blow up the SPLC. 
    • Our speaker, Mark Potok, senior fellow at the center.  He works for the center's Intelligence Project, among other tasks. 
      • The center made its reputation suing the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups in civil court. This is based on the crimes of the hate groups' members. The main purpose of the suits is to destroy the groups by draining the them and/or take out their resources and finances. In essence, marginalizing the hate groups. 
      • However, suits over time have lost some effectiveness. This is due to the fact that the leadership of hate groups has learned to keep its violent members, who commit the crimes, at arm's length. The hate groups have gotten smarter and keep violent statements more vague. 
      • Intelligence Project uses journalism, research, and information to go after hate groups. 
      • In fact, by now, racists and hate groups are reading the SPCL magazine. After all, SPCL information is always accurate (this was possibly the best line of his presentation).
      • The SPCL also collects information, including various publications-- print and electronic--, collects artifacts, of hate groups. This is not only for preservation but also to learn more. Information is power. 
      • The scene now. The SPCL analyzes the radical right and is counting groups; counting individuals is hard given groups often lie about their membership numbers, so counting by groups works better.
      • Since 2000, there has been growth in hate groups. They dropped some of their other rhetoric to focus on illegal immigration. This is something that has resonated with more racists and bigots. 
      • In 2008, the center (and the nation) started seeing growth of militia and "patriot groups." Those groups have done more violence than other hate groups. McVeigh came from one of these militia groups. What caused the dramatic rise in these groups in 2008? Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States. This event has given hate groups a lot of motivation. 
      • The designation as "hate group" is based on ideology, if they say other groups of people are subhuman, inferior, to be hated, etc. This is part of the SPCL's criteria for their lists. 
      • Another source of information for the SCPL is often hate group members who leave the hate movements. To learn more, see also the documentary Erasing Hate.

  • We head to Selma, Alabama on the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway. The historic Selma to Montgomery March took place along this highway.
    • At Selma, Ms. Joanne Bland is our hostess and guide. At the National Park Service interpretive center, we watch the video "Never Lose Sight of Freedom." We return to the theme of younger people not voting, let alone remembering. 
    • It is important for young people to learn the history. 
    • Bloody Sunday did not just stop at the bridge. The police did follow and beat up marchers right up to their churches. 
    • The 1965 Voting Rights Act was bought with the blood of martyrs. 
    • (I am not afraid people will forget. I fear people will not care, that they will become complacent). "Each generation needs to be committed to the concept of freedom." The struggle is not over yet. (Yet I fear whether new generations will pick it up or not)
    • Selma has changed. There are various successful black people here, but there is still so much more work to do. 
    • Joanne: we need crisis. Without crisis, voting turn outs are low. We need to find ways to get young people to the polls. Somehow folks got away from organizing. Also, issues today are not so black and white. Without youth involvement, organizations die. We need to teach our children. 
    • We tour various locations in Selma (I have various photos, which I hope to share later with notes as soon as I figure out how to do it best). 
    • We visit the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma.
    • After our visit to the museum, Ms. Joanne spends some more time with us. Tells us the story of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was killed while he led protests for voting rights in Selma. She also remembers Bloody Sunday, saying she remembers the screams the most. People could not be helped if they fell, or those people trying to help would get beat up as well by the police and thugs. But even in fear, Ms. Joanne did march with Dr. King. That march took 5 days. In Selma, since then, it took 36 years to get rid of a corrupt mayor and finally elect the first black mayor of Selma. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013: Tour Day 2

I continue the blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on my journey in the Berea College Civil Rights Seminar and Tour 2013. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others.Today I am covering the fourth day of the seminar and tour, which is the second actual touring day. This took place on August 4, 2013.

Reminder that, as I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

# # # 

It is Sunday morning in Birmingham, Alabama.  It is partly cloudy, but it may not rain just yet I hope. I am dressed nicely because later this morning they are taking us to church. After touring Ingram Park, we'll attend service at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This is the second day of our Civil Rights Tour.

Thought: Every student we work with and helped to graduate is a drop in a pond that ripples in the community.

Note: Dr. Alicestyne Turley, our tour director, is Buddhist. Buddhists did have a role in the Civil Rights Movement (I will have to try to find out more about this later).

Now, I will also note that I am not religious. I do not identify as anything other than heathen when asked. However, if you must know, I was raised Roman Catholic (I am the product of Catholic schooling going between Lasallian Brothers and Benedictine monks. The Lasallians in particular are renowned for their pedagogy, and I got a pretty solid base for lifelong learning from them). Yet I can feel the power of church and religion in black culture and the Civil Rights Movement. (Though in retrospect, given how radical some Christian churches are today in the U.S., I do wonder if they could have had the same role in the movement if they had been as they are today. Thus I wonder what if anything has changed that so many Christians behave pretty much in a very not so Christian fashion, or were they always that way but the issues of the time big enough to put aside their bad behavior for the cause? Then again, Christians do come in different stripes, and I have seen this over time where some can be very liberal and oriented to good works and others use their religion to justify just about every form of oppression imaginable. Back then I suppose it was not that much different: black churches and some white ones fought for civil rights while many other white ones did their best to keep justifying racist oppression.)

  • Our first stop today is at Kelly Ingram Park.
    • The black civil rights movement was not monolithic. There were other movements and efforts such as the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. For Dr. King, nonviolence was crucial, and to work with him, you had to prove your commitment to nonviolence. Churches like 16th Street Baptist provided nonviolence training. 
    • One of the events remembered in the park is what became known later as the Children's Crusade. At least 3,000 kids were arrested, jailed, attacked by police dogs, so on for protesting for freedom. 
    • Ms. Laquita Middleton was our host and guide at the park. Tara Walton, a city of Birmingham tourism official greeted us there as well. 

  •  Worship service at 16th Street Baptist Church. 
    • The sermon topic is on being fruitful. Refer to John 15: 1-14.
    • I note how the music reinforces the preacher's words, moving then into song and bringing many in the congregation to their feet. Warming up to the sermon. 
    • Every day is a day of Thanksgiving. Don't wait for dignitaries. (The church's anniversary is coming up) Praise is something you do, not something you manufacture. 
    • (Naturally, as the preacher comments he also provides motivation to contribute to the collection. No, I am not saying that to just be cynical. You hear it in the words and the rhetoric, which I do find interesting. There is a certain use of various rhetorical devices by the minister.)
    • Ushers come by, and the collection plate is passed. Most people use the envelope provided for the donation.  (And for the record, I did put a little something. I may be heathen, but I am also polite, and I am sure it will go to a good cause even if I don't agree with everything. Keep reading)
    • Observation: they are using a PowerPoint set of slides to signal transitions and points in the worship. (A nod to modernity perhaps? A little something for those like us who, not being regulars, are not familiar with how the service is structured?) 
    • Observation: much of the singing does presume a prior knowledge. The congregation can pretty much sing on cue (I would not even know where to look in the hymnal that nobody seems to be using). There is enough repetition in the songs that you can pick some of it up to at least try to follow along if so moved. 
    • The sermon itself. The minister tells us to "always have a Bible. Don't just believe the preacher." Note there are also Bibles provided in the pews, although the more dedicated members do bring their own, well-worn copies. 
      • The topic: "What's all the fuss about fruit?" 
      • There is a disconnect from God; you get the sense of a lack of discipline and disruption. Wounds and the worldly pursuits can cause that disconnect. 
      • So, the question is, how to have a vital connection with Jesus? 
      • (He starts soft, then works up a rhythm in the sermon's oratory.)
      • To have that vital relation, one must seek knowledge. 
      • The minister refers to previous sermons, where he looked at John 14.
      • Jesus will show up to his appointments, but he does keep his own calendar (I have to admit, this was a good, interesting line, but I do wonder. As heathen, my initial reaction was, "oh really?"). Idea: Jesus is your life producer, so he breaks "into commercials" to teach truth, he "breaks into" your program in life. 
      • As a believer, Jesus is the true vine and source (and there is no room here for Buddha, Mohammed, so on. This is where we start to part ways in this sermon).
      • Minister takes it back to the theme of bearing fruit, urging Christians (defined here as those who are "saved") to be fruitful. Believers must show fruit in their lives. 
      • The three reminders for the sermon (notice there is a structure overall, which blends between keeping it simple and really going a bit in depth in terms of metaphors).
        • Vine is attached to the vine. See verses 1-3. The central vine is Jesus, and believers are branches of the vine. The branches are pruned as needed. This is a cut, which can be painful (think a purge). Image: word of God as pesticide to remove pests in the believer's life. 
        • The branch must abide in the vine. See verses 4-6. The fruitful branch produces for others, if connected to the vine. 
        • The branch must be available to the vine. See verses 7-11. 
      • (Since we are on a schedule, we did not stay for the complete service, but this overall gives you the gist of it)

  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Lunch period. During our lunch, two Berea alums spoke to us about their experiences at Berea College. 
    • Ms. Mary Palmer, '72. She mentioned that she herself was not as inclusive of others at Berea, on not giving an opportunity to white students. This from a woman who struggled to integrate her high school before coming to Berea. The lesson: don't be quick to have a perception of someone. And why do we still talk of color in 2013? (magnificent question)
    • Mr. Masey, '72. As a youth, he went to a "training school." He was then accepted at Berea. 
    • The alums raise a question: why hasn't the college had a black president yet? In our tour with us is Dr. Linda Strong-Leek is Associate Vice-President of Academic Affairs. The issue (if I am understanding correctly, and do keep in mind, I am still new to the college myself) is that aside from a couple other people in assistant administrative positions like Dr. Linda, there have been no black administrators at the college. (And this is certainly a question and conversation that rises up every so often)
  • Visiting the Institute after lunch. I had visited before, years ago when I was in Birmingham for an academic conference. It does remain a moving experience. You still can't truly see it all in one visit, especially when you are on schedule.  The institute does great work as an interpretive museum in bringing the Civil Rights era to life. It does offer a lot to take in about this city that was so central to the Civil Rights struggle locally and nationally. 
We head out towards Montgomery, Alabama next. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Article Note: On Consumers Information Seeking at the Supermarket

This is the kind of article I like to read that combines something interesting or curious I did not consider before with a small history lesson. In addition, my interest was further piqued given that I recently read the book Breakfast: A History (link to my review).

The authors begin by outlining some common themes in supermarkets: the use of labels on products, government standards being imposed on food production, processes, and marketing, and the role of advertising to convey information and shape consumer behavior. The article looks at the information-seeking behaviors of supermarket shoppers within stores, but it may mention government actions and/or other consumer behaviors outside of the stores as necessary. The article is organized into three parts: a historical overview, a discussion of information-seeking behaviors and theories (think of this a bit as a primer as well as a demonstration of applicability to supermarket shoppers. This is the "meat" of the article.), and the conclusion.

Some notes from the article I would like to remember:

  • On women in the 1900s U.S.: "At that time, women were primarily responsible for their families' baking and felt that buying baked bread would reflect poorly on their reputations as industrious homemakers" (179). Clearly women have come quite a ways when it comes to using sliced bread. On a more serious note, the reason this caught my attention is because it is also mentioned in the Breakfast book.
  • That thing about learning which days to shop for what deals? It goes back to at least the 1930s: "Common newspaper advertisements during the 1930s featured select items for sale at reduced prices on specific days of the week. Informed customers were able to plan which days they would shop in order to save money" (182-183). Keep in mind, this was during the Great Depression, and stores were responding to the times, as well as maintaining their customers.
  • A little trivia: "Between 1954 and 1964 the number of supermarkets in America rose from 11,140 to 16,000" (185). Other stuff that happened in the meantime and earlier: 
  • Advertisements now, when it comes to supermarkets, focus mostly on low prices and getting you the better deal. It was not always the case. For example: "Advertisements in the early 1940s and 1950s tended to focus on the experience of shopping and highlighted customer service and personal attention instead of promoting products or prices" (185). This was the era when amenities like a butcher clerk (someone to handle questions about meat while the other butchers focused on their work) were added in stores. 
  • The rise of coupons, which today have pretty much declined somewhat due to supermarket loyalty cards: "The economic crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States reflected in rising grocery prices. Coupons became popular in this era of inflation" (186). 
  • Later we go shelf labeling and barcodes, which for a time were resisted by consumers fearful they could not see a price on a can or product. 
  • In 1990, we got the National Labeling and Education Act (Wikipedia link).
  • Now we have supermarkets using websites along with loyalty cards to convey information and move consumer behavior. 
  • The Thomas D. Wilson model of information seeking involves an active demand for information and exchange of information between people. "Thus, information seeking involves deliberate inquiry, whether satisfied or not, and subsequently results in the using, exchanging, or both of learned knowledge" (190). See Journal of Documentation, vol. 55, 1999.
  • Diane H. Sonnenwald, described information horizons. "Information sources 'may include social networks, documents, information retrieval tools, and experimentation and observation in the world'. Individuals construct their own unique information horizons, yet individuals' horizons may intersect and share any number of commonalities" (190). See New Review of Information Behavior Research, vol. 2, 2001. The information horizon of a grocery shopper can include any number of sources: family and relatives, trusted store clerks, product labels, and advertisements.
  • More on the information horizon: "While an individual builds an information horizon with sources found within his or her own circles of influence, communities can develop information horizons as multiple people become connected through shared information resources. When the information found within these shared sources is displeasing to the population affected, social change soon occurs" (191-192). The skeptic or cynic in me thinks this may be ideal condition. What happens when the community shares bad information (c'mon, would you really trust a bunch of Fox News viewers, for example?). 
  • "Finally, the rise of technology in the 1990s and early twenty-first century provided new resources in information horizons. Websites and applications on mobile smartphones put the world of information into the hands of consumers" (192). We need to add the usual caveat most librarians and infotech enthusiasts tend to conveniently forget: as long as the consumers could afford the technology and the internet connection. 
  • The idea of "warm experts," usually friends and acquaintances you seek out for knowledge and assistance. These can often be more effective than print or media. To an extent, your local librarian could fill this role for people. "Additionally, the term 'warm' impliles that the source being questioned is known, familiar, and trusted" (193). 
  • On information gathering: "For grocery shoppers, information was often transmitted from food manufacturers, the supermarket industry, the media, or the government. The information was typically impersonal or may have even been biased toward the transmitter's interests; however, the shopper was able to make each piece of information personally meaningful by gathering from various sources and adding to the base of orienting information" (195). Interesting to note now that with things like loyalty cards, which track people's actual purchases and then (depending on the program) may generate coupons or offers "relevant" to the consumer, that there is some illusion of being more "personal."
  • On Marcia Bates idea of "berrypicking." The authors argue that grocery shoppers "regularly employed the berrypicking search method to satisfy some information needs during the shopping experience" (196). Consumers modified their strategies and techniques as the supermarket landscape changed. 
  • See Catherine Ross article in Information Processing and Management vol. 35, 1999 on information seeking and reading for pleasure for idea of behind-the-eyes knowledge. According to the authors', Ross' model applies to grocery shoppers as they do price comparison shopping. According to the authors, "shoppers' memories were not like infallible databases that allowed them to accurately recall the price of any items and compare it to the one at hand. Instead, they relied on a wealth of relative information they had gathered over the years" (198). Additionally, note that Ms. Ross is author of Reading Matters, a book that I read (link to my review).
  • On information acquisition: "...information acquisition is potentially unending; a user may encounter information anywhere at any time. Second, acquired information may satisfy past or current queries or may be stored for use in undefined future queries" (198). Further on, "if information can be infinitely acquired and applied at any time to an infinite number of potential queries, the challenge for the information user is in filtering the cloud of information to identify the useful nuggets" (199). 

Note: Book cited in the article I may want to look up later: Aspray and Hayes, Everyday Information: the Evolution of Information Seeking in America.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013: Tour Day 1

I continue the blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on my journey in the Berea College Civil Rights Seminar and Tour 2013. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others.Today I am covering the third day of the seminar and tour, which is the first actual touring day. This took place on August 3, 2013.

Reminder that, as I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

# # # 

Tour Day One Notes: August 3, 2013

  • As we leave from Boone Tavern, Dr. Turley reminds us to consider that the journey we are staring now, traveling together blacks and whites, would have been illegal back in the 1960s. With Reverend Bowman's prayer and blessing, we depart. (And I have so much to think and ponder.)

  • On the way to Haley Farm, our first stop on the journey, we watch the video Once Upon a Vision, which is a history of Berea College. 
    • The college was founded during the time of slavery, where custom, law, society, and religion all supported slavery. What Reverend Fee and Cassius M. Clay did was a revolutionary social experiment in hostile territory, the land that would become the town of Berea. Clay and Fee did have their differences (something I did not realize since often it seems that since Clay invited Fee that they would get along fine). Fee advocated for civil disobedience. Clay did not, and he withdrew his support of Fee and Fee's work. 
    • Fee then called on other abolitionists. Many came from Oberlin College in Ohio. Fee's vision was for a school for blacks and whites, and the poor, who could not afford an education. Opponents described Fee's work as nefarious in 1854. For a while, Fee and his people were exiled, but they kept coming back. With the Civil War, once the confederates invaded Kentucky, Fee and the others had to stay out. However, Fee went on to volunteer at Camp Nelson (I have to add this to my list of places I would like to see) where the Union Army in Kentucky recruited black soldiers; he served as a missionary and teacher.
    • When the war ended, Fee returned to his mission at Berea. By setting policies of buying land, which he then sold to blacks and whites allied to the cause, he helped create a racial buffer in Berea. Things were not easy, but the door was left open to all. The school did grow and succeed, and it drew support from reformers. 
    • Berea College's third president, William Goodell Frost (link to essay about Frost from our Special Collections and Archives), brought the mountain people vision to the college. He also did reverse previous college policies that allowed for interracial dating. Black enrollment reduced as Frost worked to bring in more whites. Was Frost racist or misguided? (or something else. What I have learned so far is that Frost's vision is still debated today. In part, what he did was to be able to keep attracting supporters and donors to the college. Frost also had to deal with the effects of the Day Law, which forced segregation). Yet, without blacks, there would be no Berea College per se. Frost did raise overall recruitment and the financial worth of the college. Fee, who was very aged by now, urged Frost and the college not to get away from the original mission of remaining open to all regardless of color. (I have observed it is a very delicate balance here to maintain the interracial mission as well as serve the youth of Appalachia. The fact we manage to keep those two missions, part of the Great Commitments, does speak highly of this college. It is not perfect; there could be some better balance in terms of diversity, but from what I see people here overall do care about the college being open to all)
    • By 1903, the college had about 800 whites and 100 blacks (serious imbalance here). Social segregation came, and by now, Plessy v. Ferguson was in place. The college remained open to both races until the Day Law was passed. Berea College fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S., but it lost the case in 1908. To get around the Day Law, the college divided itself into Berea College and the Lincoln Institute, a vocational school for blacks in Louisville.
    • Yet, in spite of the obstacles, Berea's black graduates have gone on to great works and achievements. 

  • Clinton, Tennessee: Alex Haley Farm (Home of the Children's Defense Fund training facility). 
    • Ms. Theresa Venable was our hostess here, member of CDF. 
    • The farm, bought by CDF from the family of Alex Haley, serves as a training facility for CDF leadership and activist development. 
    • The hope today is for the facility to become an incubator to other activists to help end child poverty and violence against children. They also hope to bring in scholars to teach graduate courses in nonviolence and peace. 
    • We must note that we had 3 Berea College students participating in training programs here recently. Part of the Y.A.L.T. program.  The center is also working on a relationship with Berea College's Carter G. Woodson Center. 
    • We took a walk around the farm. The main building, as well as other building porches, have rocking chairs in them; sitting on the porch was a Haley family tradition that lives on today. Note that many of the rocking chairs do have small plaques commemorating various important figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers.
    • (I took various photos at the farm, along with various photos throughout the journey I will try to share online later)
    • The farm's chapel was designed by Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A concrete part, a shed next to the chapel, is part of the building. It represents a dock to repair a ship or boat. The chapel itself has the shape of a boat. The structure of the boat signifies carrying children to safety. Inside, it is a beautiful open space, with a high ceiling, as if reaching to heaven. It's a relatively secular space (to my heathen view) with no decorations other than some portraits of people instrumental to the Civil Rights Movement on the side walls; these portraits were done by Elizabeth Scism. The chapel is used for worship as well as meeting space.
    • We also visited their library. The library contains the following types of materials: 
      • Books by black authors. 
      • Books on the black experience. 
      • Books on the Civil Rights Movement. 
      • Books and materials on the African-American culture, tradition, and heritage. 
      • Books from the Freedom School.
      • Children's books are also collected.
      • The archives and documents of the CDF as well as relevant government and NGO documents and reports. 
      • Yes, they have a card catalog (it's empty since the records are electronic). 
    • After the tour of the farm, we break bread with a nice simple lunch back at the main building. And after that, we are off on the road once more. 

  •  Chattanooga, Tennessee: Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
    • The museum is self-guided. It documents the work of Bessie Smith as well as the African American history of Chattanooga. The city was a major Civil War site as well for blacks. The area is also part of Appalachia. For both reasons, it is part of Berea's commitment to the region. We had a Berea grad as a local speaker. The city, much like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was known for its "industrial slavery." 
  • We are back on the road.
    • Small moment of humor. On the road lessons in African-American culture: Luther Vandross (official site link) music is good baby making music. Aretha Franklin (link to official site) music not so much. It's not impossible, just not as likely. 
    •  On the road, we watched chapter from Eyes on the Prize. The segment No Easy Walk. We are on our way to Birmingham, Alabama.
  • End of the road for the first day. We arrive in Birmingham, Alabama. 
    • Mr. Carl Thoma, alumnus of the college and Birmingham resident, arranged for us to tour parts of the city, showing us various key sites as we arrived. He then arranged for us to have dinner at his church. 
    • Dinner and learning at Trinity AME Zion Church. Our bodies were fed by some very generous people, but so were our minds. We met ten Berea College alumni, successful men and women who have returned to work in their communities. For us faculty and staff, this is the fruit of our work. For me, and I am sure others, meeting and listening to them was a moving and inspiring moment. This is what we are here for. My mission becomes clear. We also had a live performer being to life a colored woman of the 1960s telling us her story (and we will meet her later in the journey again). This added context and helped bring the history to life. 

  • End of the road reflection for this day. I admit that writing these notes, often here and there, on the run when I can get a moment feels a bit like a journalist writing on the run. I try to imagine what it would be like covering events in a place like Birmingham at the time, being a witness for the world to see but not really being able to take part. I think of the contrast to that with today's journalists and bloggers who may well be in the middle of the action and even actively involved as they document it.  I don't know if I could have just stood still while watching with a camera or a notebook. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013: Seminar Day Two

I continue the blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on my journey in the Berea College Civil Rights Seminar and Tour 2013. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others. Today I am covering the second seminar day.

Reminder that, as I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

# # # # # 

Day Two Seminar Notes: August 2, 2013:

  • (We open with introductions; we kind of forgot to do this on the first day. Indeed we have a very diverse group of people from those who lived it themselves as adults or children to those, like me, not alive then, seeking to learn more. Some want to learn more given stories they heard from locals or their parents. We are coming together as community for this journey. At least, in one case, one man is going because his father would not want him to go. He tells us that his father, who lived during those times, was very angry with white people in that era. I think for us, in common, the Great Commitments bring us together. I feel so fortunate to be in such great company of learners and those who have walked in history.)

  • For the morning meditation, we listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Address at the End of the Selma to Montgomery March" (link to text of the speech. Option to listen to the speech available as well). The speech was given on March 16, 1965. 
    • "Our feet are tired, but our souls are rested." 
    • (On hearing this speech, I see how much we still have to go, how some things have not changed. We need to stay on the move. We need to march on.)
    • (Dr. King was a master of the parallel structure, good for teaching and preaching, keeping a strong rhythm of march.)
    • "It is normalcy all over the country which leaves the negro perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity." 
    • "The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all God's children" (we still have a ton of work to get anywhere close to this). 

  • Panel. We have two Berea alumni who were civil rights activist and marchers with us this morning. Ms. Ann Grundy, '68 and Mr. George Giffin, '66. Ms. Grundy "was an organizer and participant in the travel from Berea College to Montgomery, AL to participate in the final days of the Selma to Montgomery March." Mr. Giffin "was a lead organizer of the group that traveled to Montgomery, AL to participate in the final days of the Selma to Montgomery March with Dr. King." 
    • Mr. Giffin: 
      • Discusses the path of white supremacy and apartheid. This was often supported by non-authentic Christians who forgot Jesus was among the first to refute scripture. 
      • Speaking about Bloody Sunday.  They headed down to Alabama, not even packing a few things for the journey and very mindful as they crossed the state line into Alabama. They got there after Bloody Sunday, but they decided to stay. After seeing a state trooper, who he knew wanted to beat him to death, he lost his fear of death. The following Tuesday known as Turnaround Tuesday, which was a wise move for Dr. King as it avoided violence and help would arrive later. 
      • Berea College administration officially opposed students going to marches, but the students and (some) faculty raised funds and went to marches anyhow. President Hutchins did quietly offer his car to the marchers. 58 Bereans marched in Montgomery for civil rights. 
    • Ms. Grundy:  
      • Tells us stories, how Selma to Montgomery happened to her. 
      • African Americans have suffered from integration.  At Berea, we need more faculty to speak to what students see and know; diversity. 
      • We need to remember history and use it. 
      • Who you are and where you are makes a difference when you are wounded and who is there for you. That is race. 
      • Growing up in an era where what her parents and others did had an impact on their black children. 
      • The black teachers in Birmingham, AL were often overqualified to teach in public schools given their great credentials, but they were often left underemployed or unemployed. On the other hand, white teachers were barely qualified by comparison assuming they even had a bachelor's degree. 
      • We need to ask some serious questions about Christianity. Fine Christian schools, when desegregation came, preferred to close down. White parents preferred then to take their kids to private schools and abandon the black kids behind rather than integrate. (We probably should be asking some of those serious questions and more to Christians and Christianity today as well.)
      • Music had a role in the movement as well. Blacks made songs and spirituals, and we need to keep singing them lest we forget. 
      • Often, it seems only blacks truly believe in democracy. When the time came at Berea, she knew that she had to march and go, even if the college administration objected. 
      • How can a school [referring to Berea College] that started as interracial, in essence an "HBCU," before it became an Appalachian school, have a predominantly white faculty and staff? There is much white privilege still in 2013. What are we fighting for now? What are we not doing as descendants of those black and white folk? We need to change the structure. 
      • They may have been isolated at Berea College, but they had connections to a critical thinking world. 
      • Need to check out the scholarly work of Frances Cress Welsing, African-American psychiatrist.  She asked questions on black men being lynched and castrated by white people; white behavior setting the stage for the rest of the insanity. 
      • Examining spirituals helps us examine U.S. history. When Grundy was a student, black music, including spirituals, was not really respected. See work of John Wesley Work III.
    • Question from the audience to panelists: they marched 48 years ago. Was it worth it? Has our generation today failed, dropped the ball?
      • Mr. Giffin: We have to go through hell. There was progress, but we've had setbacks as well. There is still a long way to go. It is a shame that many folks have lost their focus and energy. 
    • Question from the audience, to Ms. Grundy: On the lack of balance in diversity. 
      • Ms. Grundy: Malcolm X may have an answer: "just because a cat has biscuits in the oven does not make them biscuits." Be happy with the position you have now and what you have accomplished. In Grundy's day, only two black men on campus: a cook and a janitor, and black students turned to them. 
      • The word "comfortable" is loaded and coded. Black, and other minorities, are hired to do a job but also to not make whites "uncomfortable." Plus, black and other minorities (often) can't express their diversity and have to "act white." 
      • Idea proposed: For Berea College to partner with some HBCU's, to track students interested in higher education, bring some good graduates then to work here. 
      • We all need to network, share information with each other. 
    • Question from the audience to Mr. Giffin: on being a white male who "took the flag."
      • He also spoke against the war in Vietnam, so this got others, mostly whites, to peg him as a radical. 
      • In terms of issues, he sees a serious lack of willpower. We can at least do what we can in our communities, not give up. 
      • Today, he continues his activism back in Dearborn, MI (his current residence) with Arab Americans. 
      • There are times he bites his tongue, but there are also times he speaks out. A sample snappy comeback to whites on the topic of immigration: if you do not speak a First Nations language, then you are a descendant of illegal immigrants. 
    •  Further remarks from Ms. Grundy: 
      • We don't really know what enslavement did to black psychologically; neither do we know what it did to whites psychologically. In essence, the racist system was go get blacks to hate themselves. See the work of Na'im Akbar in Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery to learn more. Slavery does continue to have an influence on the psychology of African Americans. Also of interest, see article of Akbar in Grist: Journal of African American Studies 31.2 (Fall 2012).
      • Grundy observes that black women are the most unpartnered women, yet they have sustained the black community so much.
      • Grundy also remarks that the Trayvon Martin case sends a clear message that blacks are not wanted, except for entertainment. 
      • We need to remember: Blacks were the only "immigrants" forced to come to the Americas. All others chose to come here. (that is one big difference)
      • In America (i.e. the United States), we have not reconciled the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 
      • We need to tell the truth upfront, admit it. We then need to talk and reconcile.
    • Mr. Giffin adds:  America is in such deep denial of its history it does not know itself. 
      • White supremacy is a white problem. Much work is to be done on what whites have done and perpetrated. We can't reconcile and heal until we acknowledge and do the work. 
    • Dr. Turley adds: Immigrants to the U.S. of all colors are told they need to "be white." But not all can "be white." There is always going to be a color line; race is a fluid and dynamic concept. 

(Overall, the discussion and question/answer session was very spirited and moving at times)

  •  For the lunch period, we watched a segment from Eyes on the Prize, the episode on "Bridge to Freedom (March 1965)."
    • Martin Luther King wins the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, showing the success of nonviolence. But in America, other young militants challenged this path or tried to maintain it. Some also challenged based on the idea and presence of local movements versus just relying on a national charismatic leader. 
    • (On a retrospective observation, we did not speak as much about some of the other movements or challenges to the nonviolent path, say Malcolm X for instance. Not sure if this was due to a choice of emphasis, just that nonviolence falls more in place with our college, the geography of the area-- some other movements that were more radical in their outlook were based in the East or out West, so on. At any rate, for me at least, it is something I may want to read further about later on. We did get some pretty good perspective on the role and importance of local movements, but there is still much more to learn. Overall, I think we knew were only seeing a part, albeit a big part, of the movement as a whole. And that was good.)
    • Note how whites wanted to keep their racism and oppression, yet they feared to be seen as oppressive racists by the press and the world. (Even back then, racists oppressors were not big fans of transparency)
    • In his 1965 State of the Union Address, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for voting rights legislation, even as members of his own party were doubtful. 
    • The movement meant intolerance against evil and oppression. 
    • Members of the press covering the marches were often harassed, ordered not to film, so on. They often were beaten up as well by local police and thugs (who were often one and the same). 
    • Dr. King points out the contrast and hypocrisy of the American government: it can afford to send millions of dollars and soldiers to Vietnam, but it cannot "afford" to protect American citizens seeking their right to vote on American soil. (Again, how little things have changed given recent setbacks to voting rights. Then again, we can also point out the hypocrisy and contrast of the American government today affording to send millions of dollars and soldiers around the world to "protect democracy" while not being able to "afford" taking care of problems at home such as poverty, education, infrastructure, etc. Makes one think)
  • Post-film Q&A: 
    • The 1965 Voting Rights Act came out of the Selma to Montgomery March. Today, in 2013, the VRA has been attacked and gutted (link to New York Times article). The work is far from over. 
    • There was a side note on the "Mountain Youth" sign at the entrance to the college (near the Boone Tavern and across the street from Fairchild Hall. I had no idea there was an issue, but that is just evidence of my lack of knowledge as a newcomer). The sign used to say, "for Negroes and Poor Mountain Whites." There is a desire to change it back to something like what it used to say. At least, our current college president is willing to discuss this we are told. On an update note, the sign will be remove, and a committee is working on revising it to put a new one in place. 
  • A note on the trip: there is a going to be a group journal book kept throughout the trip, and we all will take turns writing on it throughout the trip. (I was assigned to write on the fourth day of the journey). The journal will then be placed in the library of the Carter G. Woodson Center. 
  •  Finally for this day, Reverend Bowman prays and gives us the group commission: May we join the tour as an act of faith. We seek to understand each other, to bring the best of us. We commit ourselves to the tour. (I think even I, as a heathen, can get behind that sentiment)

Friday, August 09, 2013

Berea College Civil Rights Tour 2013: Seminar Day One

For the first time, Berea College, through the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education, provided the opportunity for faculty and staff to participate in a Civil Rights Seminar and Tour program. The event was directed by Dr. Alicestyne Turley, Director of the Woodson Center. I had the opportunity to participate as one of the first group to go on this important and moving journey. Over the next two weeks or so, I will have a blog series here at The Gypsy Librarian with my notes, observations, reflections, and thoughts on the journey. This is a way for me to preserve some of what I learned as well as a step in sharing it with others. When the call out for participants went out, I knew that I had to take the journey. For one, it would give me a deeper sense and appreciation of the history and mission of my new workplace (as of this writing, I have almost completed my first year here). Two, it was a good chance to get to know some of my colleagues and other people better. Little did I know how touching and moving this journey would be, nor did I know how fortunate I would be to have people who lived through the Movement tell their stories. But we will get to that.

At any rate, as my four readers know, I try to keep any blogging directly related to work to a minimum (there are reasons for that), but this is too important not to share. As I often do, I will try to type out notes directly. Any additional comments I make I will put in parenthesis (or try to distinguish from just straight notes). Quotes will be in quotation marks with attribution (if I managed to catch the name of source or it was available). If any other participants read this and wish to add or make corrections, etc., their comments are welcome. So are comments from anyone else (as long as you follow my usual rules of good behavior. I will not tolerate any form of bullying, intimidation, rudeness, etc. Such will simply be deleted). I will also add links from various sources as needed to expand on my notes or add further information that may not be clear from just my notes, or just for my own reference.

Before we go on with my notes, in order to set up some context, allow me to quote Dr. Turley's words from her introduction in the seminar's guide. She writes:

"This tour is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that African Americans did not gain their civil rights as something natural, due and owning at birth, rather through countless legal, political and physical struggles, victories and defeats. This Sankofa journey of recovery, remembrance, and reconciliation is meant to give each of us an opportunity to reflect upon these many struggles and victories, as well as the application of social and political policies resulting from our shared history. It is also hoped production of this event will present an opportunity for each of us to engage in discussion on personal and professional levels regarding the mission of interracial education at Berea College and the enduring goals of equality pursued during the Civil Rights Movement which, as a society, we have not  yet achieved."
I should add the definition of "sankofa." As follows:

"Sankofa: An Akan language of Ghana that translates in English to 'reach back and get it' (san-to return; ko- to go; fa- to look, to seek and take) or the Asante Adinkra symbols of a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. It is often associated with the proverb, 'Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi' which translates "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten'"

-- W. Bruce Willis, Pyramid Complex (1998). 

Our journey was truly a journey of recovery, the recovery of a past that some have forgotten and that many others need to learn. For me, while I have read a bit on this history, the journey brought it to life. Recovery, remembrance, and reconciliation were themes during this journey, and they will come up as I keep on blogging my notes. 

The seminar and tour ran from Thursday, August 1, 2013 to Wednesday August 7th, 2013.

# # # # # 

Day One Seminar Notes: Thursday August 1, 2013:

  • Berea College is the "holiest of holies" of education for African-Americans.  

  • Dr. Chad Berry, Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty, delivered some opening remarks: 
    • This tour is a follow-up of the college's Appalachian Tour (this is another program the college offers for faculty and staff. I hope to attend it next summer. The idea now for the college is to do these two tours on alternating years. Thus, 2015 should be the next date for the Civil Rights Tour to take place). This tour draws upon our interracial education commitment. (The college lives and abides by The Great Commitments, which are basically the principles we stand for. Dr. Berry is mainly referring here to the fifth commitment on the list I am linking.).
    • The tour is made possible by funding from a charitable foundation (which by the way is generous enough that we could bring our spouses along as well, whether they work for the college or not. Some folks did take advantage of this. Only reason the Better Half was not able to make this time is because she could not get time off. Having your spouse along, in addition to having that person be a participant, is that you both then go through the experience. It is not too easy coming back from something as immersive and intense as this and then talk about it at home if your spouse has no point of reference).
    • We must be mindful as we visit these places. 
    • We'll be making community on the journey. We might even sing. 

  •  Dr. Turley speaks to us briefly: 
    • She asks us to think about humanity. 
    • We must keep in mind that this trip would have been impossible and even illegal in the 1960s. We would not have been able to travel together. 

  • The program then begins with a meditation on words. For this meditation, we listen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize." The speech took place December 10, 1964.  (The Nobel Prize site provides links to both a video and a transcript).
    • Dr. King asks why the movement received a prize for it is a movement that has not won peace yet. 
    • The prize recognizes that nonviolence is an answer. Nonviolence is not passivity; it is a moral force. 
    • Refuse to accept despair. Refuse to accept the cynical notion that nations have to sink into war and nuclear annihilation. 
    • What self-centered men have torn down, centered men will build up. 

(Dr. Gerald Smith, the first presenter, arrived late, so the presentations of the day were done in different order. My notes reflect the order in which they actually took place)

  • Dr. Dwayne Mack, Associate Professor of History at Berea College and Carter G. Woodson Chair in African American History presented on "Berea College and the Civil Rights Movement."  (By the way, Dr. Mack can be found on Twitter. His handle there is @MFCBook).  He gives some preliminary observations and then moves into the topic.
    • He reminds us and himself that he is a man, a son. (This is referential too to the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee; link goes to King Papers project out of Stanford. More on this later as Memphis is a stop on this tour. Additional link to a photo of the strike. Additionally, this online exhibit on the strike may be of interest as well, out of Wayne State).
    • He speaks about the search of identity and overcoming obstacles as a faculty member of color. 
    •  Building relationships is important. As a young man, Dr. Mack socialized with black and brown people. Then, he went to Pullman, Washington for graduate school. "Talk about being the only black person." It was a growth experience. Coming to Berea was and is a time of growth and adjustment. Faculty of color don't network as other white people do; it is often informal networking. 
    • So why does a guy from New York City projects stay in a place like Berea, Kentucky? He is growing as a human being. You take each person individually for any person can become your brother or sister. You develop relationships with people. (For me, as, most likely, the only Puerto Rican in our faculty, this is a valuable lesson and reminder as well. I also continue to grow as a human being in my professional and personal journey). 
    • Dr. Mack has faith that we can all grow and learn from each other. If we learn more about history, how people came together to overcome injustice and oppression, then we can grow together. 
    • Building relationships sustains. 
    • He invites us to ask ourselves why are taking this trip? It is important not just to engage the past to also engage with those who went with us and were engaged then. 
    • Note that the Civil Rights Movement was full of black women. In fact, it was often led by brave black women. 
    • Berea College was on the wrong side of history when it did not go to the South in 1964. The college has been in the right and wrong side of history, but concern and support for the Civil Rights Movement would grow as student activists would organize to go to the South anyhow. This was triggered by events like Bloody Sunday.  Students and faculty did go to Alabama anyhow, even if the administration officially opposed their going. 
    • To be connected, you need to engage with people not like you. You can't grow otherwise. We need to think for ourselves, embrace history, and do our own research as faculty and staff. 
    • The singing of freedom songs energized the activists. 
    • In March of 2005, Berea College celebrated the 40th anniversary of its students' participation in the Civil Rights March for Voting Rights from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL. 

  •  Dr. Gerald Smith, of the University of Kentucky, presented an "Overview of the American Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985." 
    • See the book I Shared the Dream: the Pride, Passion, and Politics of the First Black Woman Senator from Kentucky by Georgia Davis Powers. (Hutchins Library does have this book.)
    • See the book The Hidden Wound by Wendell Berry. (We also have this book in Hutchins Library.)
    • The period of 1954 to 1968 has pretty much been the master narrative when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, also known as the Black Freedom Movement. Around the 1970s, scholars debated this and no longer see that period as a master narrative.These scholars pushed the dates back, and we now see a "Long Movement" from the late 1940s to the 1970s. However, some have said the movement never really died. The arguments now consider whether the movement really ended or not. Also, in addition to the national scope, the scholarship now looks at the many local movements. 
    • A question to ask: "When I think of Civil Rights Movement, I think of _____ ."
      • What? 
      • Where? 
      • Who? 
      • Why? 
    • We have memories of the movement even if we were not born in it or lived through it. Memories are shaped by what we have seen and heard. That then, as we share, becomes part of our collective memory. 
    • Every site we will visit is based on a design. There is a collective memory on those sites. As visitors, we then interpret that memory. Think how the site was constructed based on the memories of the designer and others. 
    • Initially scholars kept a national focus. From the 1980s onward, they started looking more at local movements and grassroots efforts. These are the folks who never made the front pages but were important to the movement as well (in other words, my kind of people). 
    • Kentucky did have a history of segregation and violence against blacks. 
      • 1896: Plessy v. Ferguson decision (Separate but equal doctrine. Some information with a small video about it at PBS here. The text of the case out of Cornell's Legal Information Institute over here). This then led to local segregation laws like Kentucky's Day Law of 1904 (which by the way Berea College fought).
      • Racial violence. In Kentucky, 61 blacks were lynched between 1900-1940. 
    • Memphis, TN; Birmingham, AL, and other cities and towns were violent places for blacks. Blacks were constantly dehumanized, and white children were socialized to accept this and carry it on. (I don't think has changed much in some areas of the United States). 
    • Cemeteries teach about the past. See the tombstones of slaves and servants set by the masters (when they bothered to do so) designating them as "loyal servants," so on. 
    •  African-American response to Jim Crow: 
    •  See the book At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L. McGuire. Among other topics, it does discuss black women being raped by white men, then those rapists being declared not guilty. (As of this post, we do not have the book in Hutchins Library, a deficit I plan to remedy soon). 
    • Some NAACP early legal victories: 
    • See also: Smith, Gerald, "Direct-Action Protests in the Upper South: Kentucky Chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality." Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 109.3/4 (Summer/Autumn 2011): 351-393.  (We have this volume in print at Hutchins Library, in the Mountain Collection, which is part of Special Collections and Archives. I have photocopied the article to read, and I will likely feature it in a future "Article Note" post here on the blog).

  • During our lunch, we would watch a chapter from the PBS American Experience series Eyes on the Prize.  We watched the chapter "Mississippi: Is this America? (1962-1964)." 
    • Noted in our seminar book, themes to consider here: black duality; white liberal charity versus human respect; federal versus states' rights; institutional racism. 
    • Other themes: 
      • White resistance: society, police, political parties. 
      • Black duality of participants versus those who chose not to participate or could not participate. Note: Blacks were taught survival skills for an all-white world, so many of those blacks would tell the civil rights workers just what they wanted to hear to get the workers to go away. In their classrooms today, faculty (and this can certainly include me as librarian), may see this as well, so building trust is important. 
      • For whites in the struggle, their skin color was not going to save them in Mississippi. 
      • Note the role of black women as activists and leaders. Also note the regular people, the field workers, and others not getting on the press. 
      • Politicians often sidestepping not to take a stand.