Library Week brings archivists work to light

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A researcher from Kurume, Japan recently made a trip to Delta College’s Goleman Library looking for information on George Shima. Shima came to America from Kurume, Fukuoka, Japan and became one of the most successful businessmen in the history of California agriculture.

Delta’s Goleman Library played a key role in the visitor’s research, taking him through the archives and ultimately helping him in his quest for information about a local hero.

Sunday, April 7 marked the start of National Library Week. Libraries and the people who work within them provide valuable assistance and resources to the communities they operate within. 

One such group of people who play key roles in aiding the public’s quests for information include archivists.

Mary Weppler-Van Diver is a certified archivist for the Goleman Library, working as one at U.C. Merced prior to arriving here. She currently works as a public services librarian and is an associate professor on campus. This semester she is also teaching an online art history class.

While she isn’t a full-time archivist here, she enjoys every moment she’s able to spend archiving the school’s records. One such task she enjoys is cataloguing and describing documents, along with making them easily accessible online for the public.

“When I first came on board, we didn’t have an archivist. So I had to inventory the collection to see what we had,” said Weppler-Van Diver. 

Since arriving at Delta she has been able to create a system for digitizing and managing documents from Delta’s past, dating back to the Stockton College years. Many documents she works with are more than half a century old, some even around 100 years. Such records include: faculty, geographic descriptions, building plans, board meetings and yearbooks.

“Digitization is very important to me because it’s a way to share out what we have in the archives rather than keeping it hidden away. People like to have a lot of information immediately … The more we can make available online, the better we can serve the needs of people who want information on the campus’ history.”

Campus history is an important topic for libraries and the public alike but archives hold more than that.

The McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz is one of such with unique works and collections in archives. The most well-known collection on the school’s campus is of the Grateful Dead.

“…Over 45,000 digitized items from the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz are shared alongside digital content submitted by the worldwide community of Grateful Dead fans,” according to the university library’s online site.

In late 2018, the school became the new home of another unique and expansive collection.

Eric C. Shoaf, after finishing and publishing his bibliography on prolific writer and journalist Hunter S. Thompson, gave the university his extensive collection of the author’s works and paraphernalia.

Thompson is most well-known for the creation of Gonzo-style journalism.

Gonzo journalism is a type of writing style where the author becomes involved with the story and tells it through a first-person account.

“The reason we were on his radar to begin with was because of The Grateful Dead…He [Shoaf] saw a lot of correlation between those two figures…in terms of the concepts of counterculture,”  said Teresa Mora, the school’s Head of Special Collections and Archives. 

Mora is responsible for tasks such as acquiring new materials, providing descriptions of said material, and making them available for research.

Originally a pre-veterinary student, she became interested in history during her college years. 

However, as the head, she has not done much archiving but has been on hand to see all of the pieces coming through.

“I had seen an inventory of what we would be getting, but it wasn’t until I started unpacking the boxes. That’s when I really realized the breadth of what we had … It really hit me how prolific Thompson was in his lifetime.”

Mora, along with the library’s Special Collections & Archives, still have much work to do in cataloging the extensive works.

The amount of periodicals donated that featured Thompson’s writings, Mora estimated, could be in the thousands and are currently open on campus for the public to view. 

Copies of books by the author are still in the process of being catalogued and range from first editions to publications in many different languages. She even reported pirated copies in the donated works.