Friday, August 24, 2012

Once Every Four Years

by Frank Boles

Among its many holdings, the Clarke Library has an extensive collection of presidential campaign biographies. Originally founded by the graduating class of 1967, in practice the presidential campaign collection means that once every four years, we gather the serious, less than serious, and sometimes clearly outrageous publications that purport to share with voters the story of the nation’s presidential candidates.

The publication of presidential campaign biographies for this election cycle actually began in 2010 and 2011. Although their candidacies may have evaporated like dew on the morning grass, nevertheless the Clarke obtained copies of books authored by virtually all of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, (whose book was published a bit earlier than most and, in an odd twist of fate, is introduced by Newt Gingrich) are all found in our catalog.

During the fast moving primary season, authors had little time to focus on “opposition” books regarding Republican hopefuls. But as spring turned to summer and the campaign narrowed, authors began to take aim at the two remaining candidates. Republican authors attacked President Obama’s record with titles such as, The Case Against Barack Obama, Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream, and The Amateur. As is traditional when an incumbent president is seeking re-election, the challenger has faced fewer book length critiques, although some have been published, like The Romney Files.

But if Mitt Romney’s political record has not been scrutinized by authors as closely as that of the incumbent president, Romney’s Mormon faith has generated an interesting number of books which suggest a subtext to the election that has gone largely unreported. Books like, The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney or Could I Vote for A Mormon for President? focus attention on a candidate’s faith in a way that has not been seen since 1960, when John Kennedy’s Catholic faith was the subject of many publications, such as A Roman Catholic in the White House.

As in 1960, the volume’s sometimes draw the conclusion that religious belief can make an individual unsuitable for the presidency. Titles such as Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?: the Mormon Church versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America clearly fall into this category. In a sidebar, a few books on the topic of a potential Mormon president appeared in 1968 when Mitt Romney’s father and Michigan’s then governor, George Romney, offered himself as a Republican presidential hopeful. The 1968 literature, however, was short-lived, reflecting George Romney’s short-lived candidacy. In 2012, it seems the discussion will be carried out at much greater length.

And finally there are the books with titles so outrageous that the author voluntarily surrenders any pretense to objective analysis. That’s a Crock Barack is not a title designed to attract those seeking carefully reasoned criticism of the Obama presidency. But this title seems generous when compared to, Why Mitt Romney is Going to Hell, which moves beyond contemporary politics to render eternal condemnation.

Whoever the voters select on the first Tuesday in November to lead the nation, part of the presidential campaign history will be found here, in the Clarke Library, as we carry forward the gift from the Class of ’64.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Summer Childrens Read in the Clarke

by Christa Clare

It’s summertime in Michigan and that means fresh berries are abundant and sweet. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries and all sorts of wild berries are there for the picking. Farmers markets make it easy for locals to come and buy freshly picked produce for eating, making pies and canning homemade jams and jellies. The Clarke Historical Library has purchased a delightful children’s book titled Jam and Jelly by Holly & Nellie written by Michigan native Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen.

The story is about a family who lives a simple life in Northern Michigan enjoying the bounty of the earth and very much aware of the changing seasons. Winter will be coming on, and Holly needs a new winter coat and boots, but money is tight. Holly and her mother, Nellie, work all summer long picking wild berries around their northern Michigan home and making homemade jams and jellies to sell on their roadside stand. The story and the illustrations are very attractive and make a nice read on a hot summer day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Expansion of Clarke's Digital Newspaper Holdings

The microfilming unit of the Clarke Historical Library has had a busy summer, which means that there are more digitized resources available to the public.

One project is the digitization of the historic Saline Observer. We are in the midst of uploading all of the available editions from 1880 through 1963 to the CMU Online Digital Object Repository (CONDOR). Currently, all of the editions that we hold on microfilm through 1926 have been uploaded to the Clarke Historical Library Newspaper Collection on CONDOR and we are adding more items every week. This is your source for historic Washtenaw County news.

Another project that is just starting is a National Digital Newspaper Program funded initiative to digitize 100,000 pages of local Michigan newspapers. To be a candidate for digitization, the newspaper run must date from before 1923, it must be a Michigan newspaper, and it cannot be currently digitized by another source. The final result will be the addition of the newspapers to the Library of Congress's Chronicling America site for historic American newspapers As this project kicks into high gear in the fall, we will keep you up to date with its progress.

As always, the Clarke Historical Library is working to improve the resources that we can provide to research the rich history of the State of Michigan and beyond. If you have any questions about any of our research resources, or if you would like further information about our digital newspaper initiatives, please contact us at