Publishing alumni content is clearly strategic for the success of Langston University’s IR, Digital Commons @ Langston, allowing Bettye Black, Director of Library Services, to make a strong case for the value of the repository. Alumni content is a perfect fit for Langston because it captures the close relationship between the University and the larger community which is part of the institutional mission. Langston is a small campus with an especially active alumni community, partly due to being the only HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in Oklahoma. The IR’s explicit goal is “Encouraging the development, conservation, and promotion of Langston University scholarship and history.” The rich history and thriving culture of Langston can thus be reflected in the repository in book and image galleries (of bands, choirs, glee clubs, Homecoming), journals, special collections and archival material.
When Jameka Lewis, Head of Special Collections at Langston University, posted their yearbooks in the IR, she reported that “the response was incredible!” The Director of Library Services and IR team intentionally chose Alumni collections as seed content for the repository due to frequent requests for information from these materials. The Libraries intended that this valuable content would be central in supporting the campus mission of developing leaders and partnering with the local community, and indeed it has come to serve as a powerful community hub for the African American community in Oklahoma today. Langston has a vibrant extended community of alumni including African American dignitaries, local luminaries, and legacy students who are now using the IR. Showcasing these leaders furthers the mission that “Langston University strives to educate individuals to become the leaders of tomorrow.”
The importance of these alumni collections to the Langston community cannot be overstated, as the overwhelmingly positive responses attest. Jameka shared a touching story of a community member who lost rare family photos in a fire and ultimately found a picture of his mother in the yearbook online, tearfully thanking the library, saying “you don’t know what this means to me.” Jameka also gets great feedback when promoting the IR on various Facebook pages, in lectures, and at community events.
As Jameka put it, she knew the faculty and student scholarship would come (honors theses are popular), but the alumni archives were the first priority for the community and the campus. These include the yearbooks, The LU Gazette Newspaper, student handbooks, The Langston Letter, course catalogues, and alumni research to come soon. Future projects include local oral histories which document the first African American library in 1904 in Oklahoma (a partnership with the Logan County Historical Society), and the 1940’s Southwestern Journal, an archival journal documenting the educational and social issues affecting African Americans primarily in the Southern United States.
The IR team is currently reaching out to faculty, staff and students to include their research, using the alumni seed content to demonstrate benefits which raise their profiles as well as the profile of the University. We can’t wait to see these collections come to life and we applaud Jameka’s outstanding work with Langston’s IR serving the larger community!
Interested in alumni scholarship at your school? Check out the Spotlight on Alumni Outreach for more ideas.