The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition has maintained a host of resources for scholars and others throughout its existence. Together with the Research Committee, members of UACC have always contributed to source for research and study. We have preserved books, articles, and material such as primary historical documents. For many years, these materials have been kept either in the archives at Berea College or in the Frank Foster Memorial Library. Until recently, to gain access to the Frank Foster Memorial Library meant scheduling an appointment and going to the Sanctuary in Lower Price Hill. We are happy to announce the Frank Foster Memorial Library is now fully digitized and available to the public.
In bringing the Frank Foster Memorial Library into the 21st Century, UACC can now offer its resource to scholars and to everyone who has an interest in the history and culture of Appalachia and urban Appalachians. Materials are organized by categories such as History, Appalachia, Culture, Community Organizing, Community Studies, Poetry, Children’s Books and Resources. While things are still “a little rough,” as Jeff Dey explained, “one of the reasons to let people start using it is so that they can give us feedback so that we can improve it.” In addition to providing another great resource to the public, UACC looks to continually improve upon this resource as people begin to use it.
Shannon Gillie was one of the people whose work has been instrumental in getting the library digitized. Shannon told me they “went through everything they had and recorded every volume in the library into the system.” This painstaking process reminds us that the simplicity of digital resources begins with the distinctly human hands that make it all happen. Shannon also said that “there is more work to be done, but it is now a much more accessible resource.” The public can now search the Frank Foster Memorial Library online.
The original purpose of the Frank Foster Memorial Library was to provide urban Appalachians with information on their history and culture and to provide access to that information for scholars, activists and the community at large. For more than 40 years, the books and papers provided visible evidence that we had a heritage and that we were careful to respect it.
Dr. Frank Foster was a Cincinnati-area Presbyterian minister and educator who had once run a missionary school in the North Carolina mountains and had been a professor of education at the University of Maine. Frank and his wife Mary were mentors to the Urban Appalachian Council’s first director, Michael Maloney, and was instrumental in forming that organization. When he died suddenly in 1973, his books became the foundation for UAC’s library which was named after him. More information about Dr. Foster and the history of the library can be found here: https://uacvoice.org/frank-foster-memorial-library/.
After the Urban Appalachian Council disbanded, many of its materials were transferred to the Berea College Archives, and Dr. Foster’s collection was put in storage at Education Matters in Lower Price Hill. There these materials remain, but with digital access, they are now open to just about anyone who has an interest in Appalachian history and culture as well as to the vast store of materials that pertain to the urban Appalachian experience that is at the core of UACC. The library has been open to the community, researchers, and the general public by appointment, but by digitizing the collection, access is now much more open for public use.
As one who spends much of my time on library resources and databases, I had to give it try. The new digitized collection is easily searchable. You can also browse the collection simple by following the icons for the books and resources available. A sample of things one can find on the system include select editions of The Journal of Appalachian Studies, Gurney Norman collections, and guides for things like writing grant proposals.
The Frank Foster Library is linked to wider resources like WorldCat, the online library system that connects libraires all over the world. There are also links to a variety of sources for things like e-books and other ways of accessing materials, including online retailers who sell copies of items listed in the library.
As Jeff Dey explained, “there is much left to do. We are investigating ways to expand our relationship with Berea College, for example.” As the Frank Foster Memorial Library increases its visibility and ease of access, it will continue to expand both its reach and the types of materials that are available to the public. Shannon Gillie has finished her time with UACC, and Jeff Dey and others are hoping to find someone to staff the library in an on-going capacity.
Research and archives are priorities for the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. To have a resource like the Frank Foster Memorial Library is something of a jewel in the crown for UACC, and we are excited about offering the resources of the library in the new digital format. It takes the hard work of some dedicated folks like Jeff Dey and Shannon Gillie to pull things together like digitizing the library, but bit by bit we are making these things happen. A link for the Frank Foster Memorial Library is below.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.