deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] deborah
My office at work in the most pleasant of locations (notwithstanding its windowless and freezing environments). Situated in the stacks, surrounded on all sides by LOC E-P, so practically every nonfiction book I decide I want to read is right there around me.

My favorite walk to my workspace ("favorite" here meaning "I only have to use my hands once") goes right to government documents, and because our government documents section uses compact shelving, my route is slightly different every day. When I see an interesting looking book or pamphlet, I often grab it to bring back to my desk.

Some of my recent perusals:

Bulletin of the Department Of Labor: Volume VI, 1901. It's absolutely falling to bits.

I randomly flipped it open to "No. 35 -- July, 1901" in order to read the first section: "Cooperative communities in the United States, by Rev. Alexander Kent". It was generally quite interesting, in a "my computer takes forever to boot so I have plenty of time to skim" kind of way, but I thought it would share a quotation about The Harmony Society. The article is discussing a religious revival in the society during which the members "determined to live a strictly celibate life." After some discussion of the effect on the community, the article continues: "Another change in habits of the members was voluntarily made at the same time, which is scarcely less remarkable. The whole community abandoned the use of tobacco in every form -- a sacrifice to the average adult male of the society scarcely less than that of his conjugal pleasures." (596)

(All in all, it's a strange little section, mixing together descriptions of lots of those little 19th century celibate Christian communities with descriptions of nascent trade unions and organizations such as The Industrial Brotherhood.)

Report on the Introduction of Domestic Reindeer into Alaska, with Illustrations, by Sheldon Jackson D.D., General Agent of Education in Alaska. 1896.

Usually when I look through these documents I am mostly amused by the style of writing, but in this one my efforts to gain context made me so uneasy that it sapped a lot of the humor out of the prose. Apparently, after Jackson noticed that white whalers, walrus hunters, and fishermen were destroying the local food supply, he decided to bring in reindeer from Siberia, along with Saami herders as teachers. That way, he decided, he would be making up for the absent food removed by the colonists, and simultaneously civilizing the local population by turning them to a property-owning class. Yes, I know. The more I learn about this man the more difficult it is to remind myself that he meant well ("... let us... note how disastrous to the poor natives have proved the encroachments of the white men", page 127). Because I know enough to understand how vile the effects of his well-meaning efforts, and those of other missionaries, were.

The photographs in this volume are fascinating, despite their sheer irrelevance to the report as a whole. Several of them portray classroom photographs of either Native or white children, and in a few cases, I'm fairly sure, mixed groups. Knowing the history of these schools makes the images exceedingly discomforting barring any historically-aware context. They look like standard period schoolroom photos, but I know the context of Indian schools in the United States, and I know they aren't standard at all. The Sheldon Jackson manuscript collection finding aid explains that Jackson was not only a missionary but a government agent who gathered children to the infamous Indian School at Carlisle. Context, perforce, only increases my unease about the images.

Wow. Sayeth Wikipedia: "... Jackson was a humanitarian. Convinced that Americanization was the key to their future, Jackson actively discouraged the use of indigenous languages, traditional cultures and spiritualities. Because he was worried that Native cultures would vanish with no records of their past (a process which ironically his own educational efforts would accelerate), he collected artifacts from those cultures on his many trips throughout the region." I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. I've had to cleanse my palate with " Sheldon Jackson in Historical Perspective", a vastly superior article at, although even that article is still focused on Jackson and the schools and not the people affected by them.

(According to this finding aid from the Sheldon Jackson manuscript collection at Princeton theological seminary library , these reports continued until 1906. The 1894 and 1895 editions are online at and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Google Books actually has several other years, but given that they tag some of them "juvenile fiction" I utterly refuse to link.)

Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Northern Ross Ice Shelf area, Antarctica: 1962-2004, Geological Investigations Series Map I-2600-H, 2007.

Okay, I admit I am not scientific enough to understand this, and I was afraid to read the accompanying seven-page pamphlet because I was afraid it was going to be excessively depressing. The pictures were pretty, though.

It is available online if my complete lack of a summary makes you want to take a look at it.

US Support for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The Secretary Of State. April 11, 1979.The Secretary Of State. April 11, 1979.

"... in concluding this treaty both Egypt and Israel are taking a step into the unknown. The unknown in an area as volatile as the Middle East carries its own risks. In order for both governments to lead their people through these uncharted waters, they must be confident that they can deal effectively with threats to their continued security." (2)

In all of the dire news that continually comes out of the Middle East, it's worth remembering that Egypt and Israel have been at peace for 31 years. I remember when the accords were signed. I was in kindergarten, and even at that age it was important to our elders that we understand something momentous had happened -- something they saw as not precisely fair, but as vital.

The report continues "The Egyptian-Israeli Treaty has permitted us, for the first time in more than three decades of conflict, to turn attention to the practical solution of a central issue of the conflict -- the Palestinian issue.

It is evident that the issues involved in the Palestinian question are far too complex to be dealt with all at once.


These negotiations provide a means -- indeed the only practical means now available -- by which Palestinians can participate in determining their own future. They will be able to participate throughout the process, from the establishment of the self-governing authority to the final resolution of the status of the West Bank and Gaza.


For the first time, in the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, a practical beginning has been made toward a just and lasting peace in this troubled region, and a realistic opportunity exists to complete the task."

It took 31 years from the founding of the state of Israel to get to the Camp David Accords. It's been 31 years since those accords were signed. Perhaps it's about time we can get to step two.
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