Many of DJ Lee’s stories in Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots embody the powerful force of the Selway River that carves out a portion of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho and Montana, the spiritual home Lee discovered in midlife. Lee’s 2020 memoir is also the culmination of research into her family history with the wilderness area, as well as a tribute to her missing friend and retired wilderness ranger, Connie Saylor Johnson.
“My family has been connected to the Selway-Bitterroot for nearly a century, but I never set foot there until I was almost forty-five years old,” wrote Lee, WSU Regents Professor of Literature and Creative Writing. “I’ve spent the past 15 years trying to piece together the history of the wilderness and of my grandparents, who lived there for decades. The memory of those years is like the Selway River itself. What seems to be a singular waterway is actually hundreds of streams and creeks, each with its own course, its own confluence.”
Lee and other WSU authors in the past year would have normally been honored in person during the WSU Libraries’ Crimson Reads, but this and other WSU Showcase events this year will be held virtually. For more information on all WSU authors who published in 2020, visit the Crimson Reads library guide. More author spotlights can be read this week on the WSU Libraries Facebook page.
New to wilderness
In 1999, when Lee’s grandmother, Esther, was on her deathbed, she gave her granddaughter a box of mysterious items that led her to Moose Creek Ranger Station in the rugged Bitterroots. The items also pointed to a secret family history Lee had wondered about.
At first, the Bitterroots terrified Lee: the high granite peaks, deep valleys, raging rivers and wild animals—bears, cougars, wolves, moose.
“I had no idea how to exist in such a place,” she said. “Since the land is protected wilderness, you have to go on foot or by horse and mule, which leaves you vulnerable. I did eventually learn how to survive the difficulties of traveling such a landscape.”
Lee also came to learn about the trauma of her family history—Esther’s mental health issues, her grandfather George’s flaws, their connections to indigenous communities and the violence that occurred to preserve the wilderness as public land.
“The difficulties of the place, the family saga and the larger wilderness story were balanced by a sense of acceptance as I started to feel at home in this land of my ancestors, and at home with their troubled history,” she said.
The lessons of nature
As Lee became familiar with the wilderness she visited, she was rewarded with breath-taking moments: the sight of Chinook salmon returning from the ocean to spawn in the place on the upper Selway where they were born; a silent communion with a reclusive pine marten at George’s original homestead property. Her encounter with the marten unexpectedly brought her closer to her grandfather, who died when she was an infant.
“I think it’s because I learned that martens were persecuted animals, hunted almost to extinction at the same time I realized that George sympathized with persecuted people and may have felt maltreated himself…,” Lee wrote.
“I saw how, just as every time I came to the wilderness, the trees and rivers and creeks and animals put you in your place…George’s tangled identity—his love of image and narrative, his willingness to rush into fire for a friend, and his effort to defend the persecuted and take care of those who, like me, my mother, my grandmother, struggled with disordered mind states, moods that betrayed us or gave us power—was growing on me. I felt a separation, a self moving into George’s experience, then back into my own skin, but changed.”
Honoring a defender of wilderness
Remote also follows Lee as she tries to piece together what happened to Johnson, her wilderness mentor and friend. Johnson was last seen on Oct. 2, 2018, at a hunting camp 15 miles from the Moose Creek Ranger Station.
Johnson was a founder of the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation and played a large role in developing a wilderness ranger intern program. She also brought high school students from Iowa to Idaho during the summer to learn about the Selway-Bitterroot, enlisting their help to pull weeds and repair trails. She readily shared her love of the wilderness to all who visited.
“The magnitude of the place widens the imagination; that’s what Connie had been getting at all these years, what she pointed to and partially expressed…,” Lee wrote. “If you’re able to define wilderness, to pin it down, then that isn’t wilderness.
“Connie had a mind big enough to help people understand that their relationship to that undefinable thing was the most important one they would ever have.”
‘A magical place’
Lee said she loves being able to share her journey with readers, but more than that, she feels “a true sense of gratitude to be able to tell the story of this incredible wilderness.
“The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is one of the largest and most remote places in the lower 48 states, and it really is not that far from Moscow-Pullman—a three-hour drive,” she said. “I feel an instant connection with people who know and love those mountains.
“The other day, I talked with someone on campus, and though we knew one another’s names, we’d never spoken or corresponded,” she added. “He said he had looked up my webpage and saw I had a book about the Bitterroots. When he said, ‘The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is a magical place,’ I felt like we were old friends.”
WSU Libraries are seeking undergraduate and graduate students and student-workers to serve on their new Library Student Advisory Board. The board exists as a direct channel for students to give input about the physical and digital experience of the WSU Libraries, including websites, online services, collections, in‑person services and physical spaces. The LSAB also helps determine best practices for measuring awareness around Libraries’ services, including communication and campus-wide messaging.
Advisers will represent a diverse cross section of the WSU Pullman and Global Campus population. The board will be made up of:
Assessment (such as coordinating pilot test surveys, assisting in distribution/promotion of surveys, recruiting students to participate, evaluating spaces and prioritizing services);
Coordinating events/programs (such as helping to plan events and promoting student participation); and
Outreach (such as speaking to student groups, engaging in library advocacy to student government, conducting focus groups and getting other student feedback)
Recruitment for advisers will start with the beginning of WSU spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 19. To submit a nomination or for more information, apply for the board or contact Erica Nicol at email@example.com.
With walk-in reference help shuttered at academic libraries around the country because of COVID-19, helping patrons virtually is more critical than before. WSU humanities librarian Erin Hvizdak learned this recently when a professor in San Francisco contacted her to check a footnote in a book at the last minute for her research. All nearby libraries that held a copy were closed. WSU Libraries carried an electronic version of the book, and Hvizdak accessed the eBook and worked with the professor to check the footnote and get the information she needed.
“She was so appreciative,” Hvizdak said. “I think that in times like these, we are addressing so many questions about how to get information quickly when physical access is not possible. Getting more information from patrons about what they really need and coming up with workarounds are crucial.”
Online reference for WSU Libraries’ patrons is available 24/7. Pullman librarians and staff are online Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Staff at other libraries will help during other hours. See the Ask Us page for available reference methods. For subject-specific reference, please contact a liaison librarian.
Students and faculty from all WSU campuses can use virtual reference. For contact information and assistance from the Spokane Academic Library, please visit the WSU Spokane website. Contacts for email reference service are available for the Tri Cities’ Max E. Benitz Memorial Library at the WSU Tri-Cities website. The WSU Vancouver Library is offering chat reference and other services, which are outlined at the WSU Vancouver website.
Reference sessions are often integrated with Zoom, Hvizdak said. While libraries’ staff use Zoom for scheduled research consultations with students and faculty, she finds herself relying more on her personal Zoom room during virtual reference.
“It makes it easy to just hop on and have the student share their screen with you so that they can show you what issues they are experiencing, or so you can more visually walk them through how to find resources,” she said.
WSU online learning librarian Jen Saulnier said she was answering many questions about how to get library resources remotely, such as using the new locker pickup system and mailing books to home addresses. She has also been helping many beginning researchers find sources for papers and projects in online databases.
“We get questions from such a wide variety of people—undergraduate students, graduate students, professors, community members, researchers from across the world—covering so many different topics that our virtual reference system has been really helpful in referring questions to the right people,” she said. “Libraries are complicated systems during normal operations, but add in a pandemic and it becomes even more crucial for us to work together and make sure people are getting the information they need. Not only is our chat and email system easy to use for those that need help, but it’s easy for us to make sure people are getting help as quickly as possible.”
If WSU researchers have a specialized research question, they frequently work with a liaison librarian like David Luftig, who serves as the point of contact for agricultural sciences. Since all WSU librarians are both subject specialists and generalists, Luftig said, they can answer many reference questions that are outside of a particular subject area.
He also emphasized the importance of 24/7 reference coverage to patrons wherever they are.
“The WSU Libraries provide not just reference assistance to WSU students; we provide such assistance to a consortium of libraries worldwide,” Luftig said. “This means that even when a WSU librarian might not be online, such as in the middle of the night, another trained librarian from around the world will always be online to assist. Additionally, if there are questions that a librarian can’t answer, those questions will get tagged for a WSU librarian to follow up with as soon as possible. It’s a good system that ensures that there is always a knowledgeable librarian providing online assistance.”
WSU students are also answering virtual reference questions—and gaining valuable knowledge at the same time.
“As an undergraduate senior, working on virtual reference enhances my student experience because it allows me to have an idea of what my peers at WSU are researching, what types of questions they generally have and also how they communicate,” said Samantha Hage, a human development major from Upland, Calif.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, WSU Libraries planned to switch over to a new chat system, with more streamlined abilities to forward and tag chats that need referral and follow-up, as well as better integration into the libraries’ larger reference transaction database, Hvizdak said. The switch was made in May, with no disruption on the patron end.
“Who knew that this would become so crucial,” she said. “This helps us to design better services and guides. But overall, having the new chat system be more streamlined and integrated has helped us to track and respond much more easily and quickly than before.”
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WSU Libraries’ patrons now have access to a new video database, ProQuest’s Academic Video Online (AVON), offering 71,000 titles spanning such subject areas as anthropology, business, counseling, film, health, history, music and more. The database was recently made available to member institutions of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, which includes WSU.
AVON provides a variety of video material with curricular relevance: documentaries, interviews, feature films, performances, news programs and newsreels, demonstrations and raw footage. The database features award-winning films, including Academy®, Emmy® and Peabody® winners. Academic institutions will find the most frequently used films for classroom instruction, plus newly released films and previously unavailable archival material.
“The WSU Libraries are excited that faculty and students will have access to this large video-streaming database,” said WSU Head of Collection Development Joel Cummings. “It will provide a tremendous variety of video materials that faculty have shown great interest in. This database also will be a much more affordable method of providing large amounts of video materials to the WSU community.”
Due to COVID-19, Open Access Week 2020 at WSU will not be marked by in-person events, though the Libraries hope to bring further awareness of OA publishing options and policies, said WSU Business and Economics Librarian Gabriella Reznowski.
Over the last decade, WSU Libraries recognized Open Access Week with a variety of events, from invited speakers, to faculty panels, receptions and workshops involving the Research Exchange, the digital repository that facilitates free circulation of research and educational materials and the centerpiece of WSU Libraries’ efforts to support open-access publishing.
The circumstances brought by COVID-19 demonstrated why it is essential for universities to support online access to scholarly materials without the barriers often posed by cost and inadequate web accessibility, said WSU Scholarly Communications Librarian Talea Anderson.
“Over the past decade, the WSU Libraries have grappled with publisher subscription fees that increase each year well beyond the inflation rate,” she said. “OA seeks to provide other options for publishing and thus remove barriers to scholarly research posed by publisher subscription licensing.”
“Within a traditional publishing ecosystem, only institutions with sufficient resources can provide access to research for affiliated students, staff and academics,” Anderson said. “This model does not foster equitability, and WSU Libraries is committed to seeking other solutions alongside other not-for-profits and universities throughout the world.”
COVID-19 brings true open access to light
As faculty planned fall instruction, the importance of identifying electronic resources for remote learning was elevated as access now shifted to the digital realm. With course reserves only being offered electronically this semester, publisher restrictions to online content have become a greater issue. For example, when eBooks are purchased, the licensing that accompanies them dictates the number of users who can access the item at one time.
Librarians are working with faculty to identify alternatives and suitable replacements for course materials when access is limited by publisher licensing, Reznowski said. As faculty shift their in-person course delivery to online, the issues surrounding OA have been brought to the surface.
“Perhaps never before has the rationale for true open access to peer-reviewed articles and open educational resources been more apparent,” she said.
In recent years, Anderson has worked on expanding awareness of the need for open access and open educational resources (OER), partnering with the Provost’s Office and Academic Outreach and Innovation.
To alleviate the impact of the digital shift, many vendors reached out to libraries last March with offers of complimentary access during COVID-19. Terms and conditions varied greatly, but many were billed as providing “temporarily free” access through the end of the spring semester. By May, many of these offers were extended to accommodate the summer months.
As the pandemic continues, there is also much variation between which publishers have further extended complimentary access and which have ended their programs, Reznowski said. ExLibris Group, a ProQuest company that offers library automation solutions, maintains a list of COVID-19 and temporarily free resources. Some are offering access for a limited time, while others are expanding their license agreements and identifying COVID-19 research. Berghahn Journals, for example, have created a special access page where COVID-19 research published on their platform is flagged.
Reznowski points to an April 2020 article in the New England Journal of Higher Education by Roger Williams University’s Lindsey Gumb on the future predicament for open access. Gumb writes, “These materials, even if offered free of charge by the publisher right now during the pandemic, will inevitably shuffle back behind a paywall at the end of the semester, disproportionately harming students affected by conditions out of their control brought on by COVID-19 (displacement, illness, caretaking responsibilities, etc.) and who may need to retake courses and need access to the materials again.”
“While academic libraries and their users have enjoyed publishers’ complimentary ‘open access,’ long-term solutions are needed,” Reznowski said. “True open access allows for the reuse and retention of materials free of limitations and restriction.”
A recent grant from the Center for Research Libraries’ Project CERES will allow Washington State University Libraries to digitize some 41,000 documents of early Washington State College Extension home economics publications as well as reports of the then-named Tree Fruit Experiment Station, today’s WSU Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.
The digital collection will be of interest to farmers, nutritionists, historians and cultural studies researchers looking for Extension material from the first half of the 20th century.
“These materials provide not only a wealth of agricultural scientific knowledge, but they also provide a window into what life was like over the last century in the state of Washington,” said David Luftig, WSU agricultural sciences librarian and principal investigator of the digitization project. “Furthermore, we are also pleased that this collection will include most, if not all, of the early 20th-century home economics and gardening publications that have yet to be digitized.”
“Although the early Extension publications often provide a homogeneous voice, the home economics publications were typically written and edited by women and provide a unique voice regarding life in Washington that is seldom heard,” he added.
The project is a continuation of two previous Project CERES-WSU collaborations in 2013 and 2014. The result of these digitization efforts is housed in the WSU Extension Publications Archive. WSU Extension materials are currently cataloged and located within locked library storage due to the fragility of the items, Luftig said.
“It is expected these items will be more widely utilized once they are more accessible and have the appropriate metadata assigned,” he said.
Along with Luftig, the digitization project will be managed by Gayle O’Hara, manuscripts librarian in Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC). Other staff from MASC and WSU’s Owen Science and Engineering Library have contributed efforts as well.
In 2012, the Center for Research Libraries formed Project CERES with the U.S. Agriculture Information Network and the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative to support the ongoing preservation and digitization of collections in agriculture. Project CERES has two primary goals: to sustain consensus-based, cooperative archiving of primary serial collections in agriculture and to expand electronic access to digital and print resources from all world regions to support agricultural research.
It started with a search for a newspaper photo of an uncle with former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, taken at the Green Giant plant in Grandview, Wash., in the early 1970s. Laura Solis knew the history of her uncle, that he, her father and their family traveled from south Texas every year to do agricultural work in Washington. The photo was somehow tied to farm worker housing, her dad recalled. Solis wanted to find this meaningful piece of family history.
Her search led to an even more important find: the images of a Seattle photographer who documented the life of Latinx farm laborers in the Yakima Valley from 1965-1975, a time when dismal working conditions and meager wages for the country’s migrant workers featured prominently in national news. The Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection is housed in Washington State University’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC).
Only a fraction of Nash’s 12,500 photos is digitized, but what they revealed to Solis was enough. The mission to find a family photo became one of preserving Nash’s images of regional and cultural history. She, her husband Mike Fong, both of Seattle, and other community members are donating funds to support digitizing the full collection, matching an $8,000 digitization grant WSU Libraries recently received. The Washington Digital Heritage grant is supported with Library Services and Technology Act funding provided by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Washington State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
“We both know how much these photographs would mean to the families of the people depicted in them and how important they are to preserving the history of farm workers in the Yakima Valley,” Solis said.
Lipi Turner-Rahman, manager of the Kimble Digitization Center in WSU Libraries, will direct the digitization of the Nash photos with Mark O’English, university archivist in MASC, and Suzanne James-Bacon, electronic resources and MASC technical coordinator. Turner-Rahman sees the project as an extension of WSU’s land-grant mission.
“WSU is committed to preservation and worldwide open access to materials that document the lives of oppressed and neglected communities,” she said. “By digitizing and freely making this collection available online, WSU Libraries intend to augment the narrative of Washington’s largest minority group and add their stories, voices and images to the complex narrative of Washington’s common heritage.”
The invisibility of agricultural workers
Before finding the Nash collection, Solis and Fong searched through microfiche databases at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library for back issues of the Yakima Herald. The couple went through three years of the newspaper starting in 1969 looking for Solis’s uncle’s photo and accompanying story. They found neither. Then COVID-19 forced the library to close.
Solis, who grew up in the small town of Granger in Yakima County, was disheartened by the absence of stories about the area’s farm workers as she combed through the Yakima Herald accounts. It hit close to home: Like her father, Solis’s mother and family members also worked the Yakima Valley fields. The pair met and married in the valley in the early 1970s.
“There were sections of the paper devoted to personal and community stories, but they never featured the lives of the people who came to Washington to work in the fields,” she said. “Looking through that lens, it was surprising and sad to me that agricultural workers were not seen as being part of the community because I knew the other story.
“Agricultural laborers weren’t merely present; they were living and thriving and creating communities of their own that are the basis of the communities that are there now,” Solis added. “The focus on agricultural workers as a problem to be solved had the effect of making them invisible as people.”
‘They give me back the truth’
The partially digitized Nash collection, which Fong found when the couple’s search turned to online resources, filled in the missing pieces. Photos of weddings, dances, theater productions, rural women and agricultural labor revealed the rich and complex social, cultural, political and economic life of the Yakima Valley migrant laborers, according to Turner-Rahman.
Nash had also captured the rise of justice for migrant farm workers and labor movements within the Yakima farm and migrant worker community, she added. He photographed farm worker rallies, the urban Chicano youth movement at UW and the collaboration between Latinos and black student unions picketing at UW and at grape protests. Of particular interest to researchers are photographs of visits by United Farm Workers (UFW) founder Cesar Chavez to farm worker rallies and Washington community organizers Guadalupe Gamboa and Tomas Villanueva.
“Here were the people that were missing from the newspaper articles,” Solis said. “Here were the experiences I remembered with my parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. The people in the photographs might even be members of my family. Above all, the photos show the humanity that had always been there. They give me back the truth about the place and the people I came from. They are beautiful and touching beyond words to me.”
Solis and Fong have since created a Facebook page to preserve the history depicted in Nash’s photos. Their goal is to link to stories as well as the images and follow up with anyone who comments to document a fuller backstory of the people in the pictures.
The couple also teamed up with Turner-Rahman, O’English and WSU Libraries’ development director, Dawn Butler, as well as Gamboa, to support the digitization of the remaining 12,400 Nash photos so others can see the complete picture of Yakima Valley farm workers. Visit the WSU online giving page to join Solis, Fong and others who donated gifts for the digitization project.
“I did not know about these stories growing up in Granger in the late 1970s and 1980s,” Solis said. “I did not know about Lupe Gamboa, Tomas Villanueva or the others involved in the events in these pictures, or even that my relatives may have been involved. The location of La Escuelita [the school for migrant children during those decades] is now the Granger Public Library, which is across the street from my grandmother’s house. There is a tiny museum about Granger within the library, but to my knowledge this history is not preserved there or anywhere else.”
Recollections of a future organizer
Nash photographed Gamboa handing out leaflets in 1968. In a video interview for the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, Gamboa recalled growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, working in the dusty fields of the Yakima Valley and hearing the stories of other farm workers engaged in the hard business of harvesting the nation’s food. Asparagus proved an especially difficult crop; work started at dawn because asparagus had to be cut early, and the backbreaking toil continued under an unforgiving sun with no cover until dusk.
For all that monumental effort, farm workers received poor wages—they weren’t covered by minimum wage requirements, unemployment insurance or benefits. They were also vulnerable to individuals who cheated the workers, the fraud running unchecked by the absence of regulation. The seasonal nature of the work forced farm families to go where the crops were, moving through a circuit of other farms and other states to bring in sugar beets, mint, green beans, and cotton.
“We would work as a family unit, and everybody would get the same wage,” Gamboa said. “My father, who had been working as a farm worker for 30 or 40 years and was very good would get the same wage as myself who was 13 or 14 years old. There was no differentiation. That’s why everybody had to work. Working together, you’d make a living wage.”
Organizing in the Yakima Valley
Fast forward to 1970, when Gamboa helped coordinate a series of strikes for higher wages on hop operations in Granger and the surrounding area. Men were paid $1.50 an hour, while women earned $1.25 doing the same job. The local farm workers seeking better conditions took their lead from the UFW in California. Eventually, the Yakima Valley strikes would disrupt the operations of between 14 and 16 hop ranches. More importantly, they laid the foundation for an organized farm workers movement in the region and state.
“This hadn’t happened before,” he said. “The growers had been used to very docile Mexicans.”
Despite that early success, organizing efforts in the Yakima Valley took more than a decade to coalesce when the newly formed UFW of Washington State held its first strike at Pyramid Orchards in early 1987. During that hiatus, Gamboa worked for the national UFW in urban U.S. cities and Canada before returning to eastern Washington in 1977. He served as a paralegal helping farm laborers with workers’ compensation reform and finished his law degree from UW.
But the farm workers’ continued plight and the need for a UFW presence in the Yakima Valley re-energized Gamboa and other activists in rallying support for farm workers’ rights.
“Culture played a very important part,” he said. “We had corridos [popular narrative and poetry that form a ballad] on the Mexican radio stations across the border talking about the benefits of the union and appealing to the culture and history of the workers, identifying how they were similar to Benito Juárez, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, who had fought for their rights. So we did utilize the cultural element.”
‘I just went in there to show what was going on’
A commercial photographer and Seattle native, Nash received his undergraduate degree at UW. His first trip to the Yakima Valley was to the Ahtanum Labor Camp, where he photographed the Latinxs and the conditions that they lived in. He also went to the Crewport Labor Camp near Zillah, Wash., and made several subsequent return trips to the Yakima area.
When asked in a 1989 oral history interview why he wanted to do these types of projects, Nash replied, “I just went in there to show what was going on. To try and illustrate what was happening to a segment of the population that at best might have heard about it third hand, that’s all.”
Digitization and publication of Nash’s photographs will make them available to scholars and students at any time and from anywhere, Turner-Rahman said.
“The digitized collection will be of vital scholarly interest worldwide and give scholars access to formerly unavailable material on Washington’s Chicano populations’ everyday life, as well as their political, social and financial aspirations,” she said. “It will foster new research and research questions from a variety of disciplines and fields on converging issues, including social and political movements, migration, Diasporas and history.”
The U.S. Constitution is a living document—come be a part of it on Constitution Day from 3-4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) Tuesday, Sept. 17, by joining other members of the WSU community to read the Constitution out loud via Zoom.
The annual WSU Libraries’ event, organized by Social Sciences and Government Information Librarian Lorena O’English, celebrates the signing of the Constitution in 1787.
“For a few years now, I have held a live reading of the Constitution and its amendments on this day, with people taking turns reading the text,” she said. “It is a surprisingly moving experience.”
A library orientation for new WSU faculty and staff is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2, through the Human Resource Services’ Skillsoft online learning system.
The one-hour course, taught by WSU Animal Health Sciences Librarian Suzanne Fricke, will assist new and returning faculty and staff in gaining full-text access to electronic journal articles, eBooks and physical resources through WSU Libraries. Topics include on- and off-campus electronic access, interlibrary loan, library accounts and renewals, tools for browsing current journals, new browser extensions for more rapid access to PDF copies of articles, and resources for reference management.