Greater Los Angeles Radical Reference Collective

Four people attended the group's first meeting at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, a library known for its archival sources on Left groups and individuals in the Los Angeles area. Early next year we hope to have recruited more members and hold a workshop for community-organizers on research strategies.
Hopefully, our varied library and political interests will be a useful addition to the greater Los Angeles area.

January 26 meeting update!

The Greater Los Angeles Collective met this past weekend, after a lull of many, many months. Five of us from Los Angeles and one from Santa Ana discussed possible projects:

1) Working with a charter school in South Los Angeles that teaches 16-24 year olds who are working towards their high-school diplomas or GED. This school also has social justice curriculum and is run out of a building that houses Critical Resistance, among other projects. They are in need of library supplies, and some ideas on appropriate materials for their students.

2) Those of us with archivist skills have decided to hold workshops on archiving at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. These workshops will be open to local library/archives students as well as community members who are interested in working with the materials because they relate to their activist work. Getting library students exposed to this library is also a way to broaden the view of what kinds of institutions can exist

Given the geography of Southern California, meeting up with folks from outside Los Angeles is proving to be difficult. Our member from Santa Ana means to keep in contact with us, and us with her, but her own activism is more local to her, and the drive in either direction is not fun. DESPITE THAT, we hope to figure out what we might set up for the RadReffers when they get to Southern California for this year's ALA annual conference. Folks from San Diego have also expressed interested in working on this.

Looking forward to seeing you folks this summer!

Community Archives Workshop

This past Saturday, March 1st, Los Angeles Radical Reference held a workshop for library students at the Southern California Library for Social Studies & Research (SCL) on the top of community archives. Additionally, students had the opportunity to work with actual archival documents, something which is sorely lacking from curricula that tend to be theoretical. The response of gratification at being given the space to actually work with a finding aid, actually look at boxes, can't be overstated.

The workshop started with some basic archival definitions, along with introducing our workshop participants to some of the history of Radical Reference and the SCL (if you are interested in the details of where this library came from, you can read my paper that is at the bottom of this webpage in PDF form. Introducing the library was important, as it was no mistake that RR had our workshop there, as opposed to another institution. The SCL is committed to archiving the Left history of Los Angeles, and supporting the work of present day activists and organizers. By holding this history in an accessible space, people have a place to go to learn the political history of Los Angeles, and to know what work preceded us.

To see more of the collections held at the SCL, please go here at the Online Archive of California.

One of the resources we used at for the workshop was developed by the Lesbian & Gay Archives Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists: their introduction to community archives.

Discussion at the workshop deepened our understanding of the idea of what community archives can be, as opposed to the "special collections" of universities or other institutions. The comparison is important, because "special collections" may have a mission statement that calls for them to collect materials from the local community. Hopefully this list is helpful.

Some ideas thrown out on community archives:
-They will have a specific relationship/responsibility to a political/culturally-marginalized/oppressed group of people.
-They will be committed to social change for those groups, and supporting such political work.
-Encourages people to communicate on these political issues, in a culturally diverse environment, with a variety of materials.
-& similarly, encourages and values collective knowledge and exploration of ideas and materials, which is in opposition to the very competitive kind of environment that is normal to academia.
-Tools for searching (finding-aids or other materials) will be culturally relevant for the groups that are the target audience; the experiences of oppressed people will not be hidden by vague language or ignorance, and those creating searching tools will be expected to have the knowledge/capacity/humility to do this in a principled manner. This work can be done collectively as well.

The workshop facilitators hope to communicate with the SCL to actually find some materials that we might begin processing. Another goal is to have discussions with LA groups about preserving their own organizational papers.

Questions/comments on the workshop and the discussion on community archives are welcomed.