Live blogging at ACRL2009

OK.  This is the first time I ever have attempted to live blog a conference session, but with my new net book and the short commute,  I suppose the conditions are as favorable they’ll ever be for this experiment.  Even so, I feel as if my leg is starting to cramp up holding my tiny (2.8 pound) computer on my lap.  But that’s enough about me.

I am waiting for the last session in the contributed papers time slot to begin on the next to last day of the 2009 ACRL conference in Seattle. The paper I am waiting for, “From Babine to Yakima: Academic Libraries and Endangered Language Preservation”  will be given by Gabriella Reznowski of Washington State University.  This is the first session at the ACRL conference I have encountered with a direct Pacific Northwest Collection interest (although perhaps my colleagues have discovered others).  OK, it’s starting now:

WSU does not have a formal Linguistics department.  Reznowski came upon this role by accident through a weeding project which first opened up endangered languages as a topic of interest to her.

Spoken Here was one of the first books she encountered that really grabbed her interest.  She makes the great point that passion may be more important than expertise as a starting point in becoming an advocate for language preservation/reclamation.

She next cites  When Languages Die as having identified the Pacific Northwest as a hot spot of language diversity.  54 language units identified; 9 extinct languages.  Which institutions hold materials in these languages?

How well are these languages documented?  Linguists developed a rating system.

Communities are taking steps to do more than document their language, but to keep it alive.  What role should holding institutions play in supporting these efforts?  Libraries should not underestimate their usefulness as collaborators in language revitalization projects.

She has been trying to contact communities actively engaged in creating tools to preserve the language (for example, grammars, textbooks, recordings, dual language materials) and explored the Breath of Life workshops, pioneered by UC-Berkeley (but also presented at the UW).

The one endangered Pacific Northwest language taught at WSU is Nez Perce.  Because enrollment is not robust, a lack of support is perceived.  WSU developed a film series on endangered languages, a wiki to promote language material, class visits, and collaborate dwith faculty to develop workshops in the archives similar to the “Breath of Life” model.  The WSU archivist (sorry, didn’t get her name) also has been particularly helpful and has encouraged investigation of the materials in WSU special collections.

Types of materials: missionary dictionaries, sound recordings by elders, ethnomusicology collections, storybooks, religious materials, grammars, dictionaries.  Online dissemination of language materials requires consultation with the communities involved.

Other institutions with significant collections:  Evergreen State College.

What’s next?

Develop a collections document for the Pacific Northwest, based on the Yinka Dene Language Institute model.

  • Continue with online dissemination.
  • Continue workshops along the “Breath of Life” model.
  • Seek further opportunities for collaboration with campus language classes.

Excellent presentation.   WSU is clearly lucky to have a language librarian with Ms. Reznowski’s commitment.

(Note:  Perfectionist that I am I tried to clean this up as best I could after the conference, although all in all, my spelling wasn’t too bad)