Geeta Halley is the Assistant Director of the Round Rock Public Library and writes a column for the Round Rock Leader.
Last week, I attended an online workshop taught by business librarians at the Library of Congress. It was one of the best learning experiences I have had. Among other things, it renewed my appreciation for the foundational role primary sources play in research.
In the study of history, primary sources are the documents, photographs, recordings and artifacts created by people who are participants or witnesses to historical events. These sources are crucial for developing a better, more accurate understanding of bygone events, cultures and eras.
In our present day, “fake news” and misleading, ideologically-driven reporting is everywhere. As front-line information professionals, librarians witness firsthand how this unfortunate trend transcends political opinion and influences our customers in their research projects. Much could be said of how the internet has fundamentally transformed research over the past 15 years. For all the positive aspects of this transformation, it is troubling to note that education in information literacy – in short, the ability to critically assess a source’s accuracy, authority, reliability and relevance – has not been able to keep pace. To help in this area, librarians seek to provide resources and guidance that help researchers find sources that meet those high standards of quality.
With February being Black History Month, I decided to use an online Round Rock Public Library resource created by ProQuest, a library vendor of research databases. One of its newest offerings is a website called “Black freedom struggle in the United States: Challenges and triumphs in the pursuit of equality.” The website contains approximately 1,600 primary source documents focused on six phases of Black Freedom: the slavery and the Abolitionist movement (1790-1860), the Civil War and the Reconstruction era (1861-1877), the Jim Crow era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932), the New Deal and World War II (1933-1945), the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975) and the Contemporary Era (1976-2000).
In addition to the Round Rock Public Library’s print and electronic holdings of primary sources, you can also find local history resources through the Portal to Texas History, a gateway to rare, historical and primary source materials from or about Texas. Created and maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries, the portal leverages the power of hundreds of content partners across the state to provide a vibrant, growing collection of resources.
Do you need help finding appropriate, high-quality resources for a research project? Call or visit the library, our librarians are here to help. Do you want to develop better information literacy skills? Again, our librarians can point you to helpful resources.
On another note: in honor of Black History Month, the Round Rock Public Library will celebrate Round Rock families with a month-long exhibit in our gallery area. The exhibit, a collection of photos by Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell, highlights the “contributions of many African-American families to the growth and success of Round Rock.” This year’s theme, selected by the Round Rock Black History Organization, is “Black Family: Faith, Hope and Love, the Backbone of Strength and Survival.”