Starting early this fall, as the ALA Archives Graduate Assistant, I had the privilege of transcribing the oral history of Eldon Ray James, retired librarian, formerly incarcerated person, and advocate for the rights of incarcerated people. After transcribing over three hours of dialogue between Ray James and Deputy County Librarian at the Alameda County Library, Deb Sica, I believe I just got paid to listen to the most interesting story I’ve ever heard.
Ray James, before becoming a figurehead in the movement to secure information access for incarcerated people in the United States, served in Germany during the Vietnam War, ran for office in the Colorado House of Representatives, won awards for his amazing journalism in multiple publications, and was reportedly a part of the (unconfirmed) first interracial double date in Baylor University history. He did all of this before being sentenced to 70 months in prison for aiding in the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamines. Continue reading “Eldon Ray James Oral History”→
For Veteran’s Day, the ALA Archives wanted to share how books can sometimes take us to strange and wonderful places. James Whittaker’s We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing (a book about soldiers during WWII who survived a plane crash over the Pacific and were stranded on a life raft for weeks) took Suzanne Kelley and her students on a pursuit of knowledge that connected them with the WWII veterans from the book. These veterans became a part of the students’ lives for years to come. This is Ms. Kelley’s letter to the American Library Association from this past September: Continue reading “We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing”→
“[T]he blind soldier is the spirit of war, of the battlefront, of France,” said Jerry O’Connor, a blinded Cantigny veteran from World War I, during his award-winning speech titled The Duty of the Blind Soldier to the Blind Civilian at the Red Cross Institute for the Blind’s Public Speaking Contest in 1920. “We have the mud of the trenches upon our feet, gold chevrons upon our sleeves, and the scars of War upon our faces. Whether we deserve it or not, people stare at us, send us gifts, invite us to their homes, give us sympathy. Such circumstances place the blind soldier in a position where, when he speaks, he can be heard. Consequently, if the conditions of the blind can be improved, the blind soldier should speak – and be heard.” Identifying two major obstacles for blind people as “the habit of the public to look upon the blind man as incapable, sensitive, and helpless” and the lack of educational opportunities for the adult blind person, O’Connor called for public programs to address these obstacles for the blind. One of the institutions responding to this call for action would be the American Library Association. Continue reading “Library Service for the Blind”→