The University of Alabama
Project Narrative
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1. The purpose of the project and its goals

This proposed project between the University of Alabama Libraries and the Tuskegee University Libraries has multiple, complementary goals. The two libraries are committed to organizing and providing access to historically significant African American collections at both institutions, while drawing on the expertise of the archival faculty and staff at The University of Alabama to strengthen the capabilities of, and further develop the archival program at Tuskegee University. The collections at both institutions, which consist of archival material from the 1850s to the 1970s, have been in need of arrangement and description for many years. Current academic emphasis on, and awareness of, the value and significance of African American materials and resources, make it vitally important for both schools to make every effort to make these materials known and available to scholars, students, and educators. Other beneficiaries of this project will be the staff, faculty, librarians, and media in both communities and across the state. The Center for Public Television at The University of Alabama, which has produced many award-winning documentaries on African American history and culture, is also expected to benefit greatly from this partnership.

The University of Alabama Libraries and Tuskegee University Libraries have enthusiastically agreed to demonstrate the first collaborative effort between the academic libraries of a historically Black, and a historically White university in the state of Alabama. While this may seem strange in 2005, it requires bridging invisible barriers and longtime feelings of mistrust. Both libraries are eager to learn from and use the experience from this project as a model for an infinite number of future collaborative ventures in the state of Alabama and far beyond. The participants bring commitment, enthusiasm, and current interests and skills on which to build a solid partnership. NHPRC funding would insure not only access to the exceptional African American materials in question, but also the success of a new model embodying total cooperation and the sharing of mutually beneficial resources that could be easily and successfully replicated by other libraries in Alabama, especially members of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Library Alliance.

The earliest discussions about a potential joint project between the University of Alabama Libraries and Tuskegee University Libraries resulted in agreement that the project should focus on African Americans in Alabama, as both institutions hold valuable collections that need to be made available to researchers. The UA Libraries were already interested in following one of the Association of Research Libraries' current priorities; to expose hidden, inaccessible collections and bring them to the user. This grant will enable the UA Libraries to realize both a local goal and a national goal for research libraries.

In 2002, the Tuskegee Libraries applied for and received an NEH Preservation Assessment Grant to gather information, assess archival preservation needs, and seek professional recommendations. The reviewer of the proposal noted that "Tuskegee has the unusual good fortune of having records of all five of its former presidents. The archives also boast additional notable collections that document African Americans' accomplishments in science, agriculture, and other areas. Tuskegee's history is one of the richest of any of the HBCUs and it would be shameful to allow the records to perish." Since that assessment took place, Tuskegee has focused on the importance of building and maintaining their archives, and the result has taken the form of renovated space in a new location, which includes a research/reading room, offices, workspace, and stacks; as well as the commitment to create and fill a full-time permanent archivist and museum curator position. The move of the archival collections to their new location is imminent, and the search for the new position is in process. However, limited funding and staffing in the past have prevented the Libraries and Archives from making progress in processing and providing access to their archival collections.

This project is based, therefore, on common goals that remain unchanged today, and are in line with both universities' missions of research and teaching. In summary, the two libraries have as their joint goals: to organize and make accessible the selected African American collections to all users, especially students of all ages; to model successful collaboration between the libraries of a historically Black and a historically White institution; to increase the visibility of the two libraries and their unique, currently hidden, collections; to develop additional expertise in archival control and program planning at Tuskegee so that the staff are equipped with the requisite skills to plan for the future of their archives; and to create the prototype for a statewide finding aid Web site at the University of Alabama Libraries, with the commitment from the institution to develop and maintain this invaluable tool into the future.

The University of Alabama Libraries, and in particular, the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, has extensive and successful experience in collaborative work with other academic libraries in the state of Alabama and in the United States. Recent grants for digital products from the Institute of Museum and Library Services have resulted in excellent working relationships and top quality products; most recently with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Libraries - Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930; The Art of Books (PBO) (http://bindings.lib.ua.edu); and in the past five years with Auburn University Libraries and the Alabama Department of Archives and History -Alabama Mosaic (http://www.alabamamosaic.org). As a result, the Hoole Library is now a digitization center for the state, and is very well-equipped in the form of expertise and physical resources for projects of all kinds.

Tuskegee University Libraries is led by an exceptional director, Mrs. Juanita Roberts, and although the staff is small, excellence is a goal and a priority. The Libraries has a long-standing collaborative relationship with the 1890 Library Deans/Directors Association, a land-grant organization, and with the National Agricultural Library. Both Alabama and Tuskegee have been active participants in the many collaborative programs and projects undertaken by the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries over the past years, and in statewide library projects such as the Alabama Virtual Library (www.avl.lib.al.us), which was one of the earliest of its kind in the nation, and remains a very valuable and sophisticated educational resource.

It should be noted that the two universities have collaborated very successfully in another field; through a project titled "Reducing Health Disparities in Alabama's Black Belt" or Project EXPORT, (http://irhr.ua.edu/projectExport.html), short for Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training. The project was funded in 2003 by a $7.5 million grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, a division of the National Institutes of Health.