Monday, December 01, 2008

Give Us Your Ideas

Still in the glow of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Russell is embarking on a new way to get to know visitors and friends of the Library, using a widget called CrowdSound.

This tool allows anyone and everyone to post and respond to suggestions -- we hope to use it to better understand our the needs of our audience and to get feedback on the kinds of programs & exhibits you would most like to see. Please take a minute to post a suggestion, or make a comment about someone else's thoughts at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Highlander Exhibit Run Extended!

If you thought you’d missed your chance to see the Russell Library’s latest exhibit, Weaving the Threads of Justice: Highlander Center, 1932-2007, don’t worry -- you now have two more months to take in this wonderful overview of one of the most important centers for activism, community development, and social justice in the South. Due to continued public interest, the Russell Library has extended the stay of the exhibit until January 30, 2009. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 4:30 pm. Individuals, groups, and classes are all welcome. Exhibit curators Jan Levinson and Jill Severn are available for tours upon request at or 706-542-5788.

Songs, Actions, and Social Justice

Closing Event Goes Off Without a Hitch

All good things must come to an end. And so it was this past Sunday, November 16th, that the Russell Library hosted the sixth and final event in the Weaving the Threads of Justice program series. Featured guests included lifelong social activists & folk music icons Guy and Candie Carawan, documentary filmmaker Heather Carawan, and retired UGA professor Dr. Art Rosenbaum.

Guy and Candie Carawan were a vital part of the Highlander staff during the Civil Rights Movement. Guy, a folk musician and the center’s music director in the late 1950s and early 1960s, introduced, “We Shall Overcome” during a training camp for SNCC workers in 1960, after which it quickly emerged as the anthem of the Movement. They have traveled the world singing folk tunes, and have continued to live and work for justice throughout the South. Now retired and living in New Market, Tennessee, they remain active in the current activities at Highlander.

The program kicked off with brief introductions and a screening of the documentary film, The Telling Takes Me Home, a film which explores the lives of Guy & Candie, through the lens of the director, their daughter Heather Carawan. A question and answer session with all three Carawans followed, with ample time for the crowd to partake in a delicious reception in the lobby. Our afternoon concluded with an informal jam session featuring the musical styling of the elder Carawans and Dr. Rosenbaum. By the end, the whole audience was standing – arm in arm – to the tune of “We Shall Overcome”.

Our final event was jam packed – with more than 60 people in attendance! Both the quality film and performance, as well as the crowd gathered, ended this program series on a high note. We thank all of the individuals and sponsors who made these events possible, and look forward to upcoming events series in the spring of 2009 – stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nix the Quick Fix

Focusing on New Technologies and New Habits in Energy

Tuesday, October 28th marked the final community forum event in the Georgia Deliberations 2008 program series. Once again we tackled the topic, “The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future” this time in our home base, the auditorium of the Russell Library at UGA. Fifteen attendees -- a mixture of students, retired faculty, and members of the community – gathered on this chilly fall evening. A team of dedicated UGA student volunteers helped to lead the discussion: Kristen Tullos (moderator), Jessica Van Parys (moderator), and Ashley Bartlett (recorder).

The deliberation got off to an interesting start, as participants tackled all three approaches at once! But the crowd was quick to pick favorites, and Approach 1 (Reducing our Dependence on Foreign Energy) proved the least popular. Many spoke out about the limited supply of untapped oil in the US and the repercussions of moving to an isolated approach – namely, even if the US could stop buying oil from other countries what would those other countries stop buying from the US? In the end, most agreed that drilling for oil domestically is a temporary fix at best. Interestingly, few people focused on the possible damage to our environment inherent in this approach.

Approach 2, which suggests a focus on moving away from use of fossil fuels through investing in alternative sources of energy, received positive if skeptical reviews. While most of the crowd agreed that the research, development, and adoption of other renewable energy sources is an essential step, they also realized that this is an option that will take time. Can we last another 50 years living on oil and coal? Can average Americans afford expensive new technologies? One participant revisited Approach 1 during this conversation, suggesting that tapping US resources now might provide a crutch for Americans to bear down on while other options are investigated and implemented on a large scale. Only one participant seemed to take issue with the adoption of nuclear power as a viable and safe option for the future.

Nearly the entire group favored Approach 3 (Reduce our demand for energy), with a mixture of elements from Approach 2. Everyone recognized the wasteful nature of American culture and that until we find a way to change the habits of individuals, there isn’t much hope for solving the energy problem. Although slight mention was made of using government regulation to curb energy use, more people seemed to believe that the increasing price of gas and other commodities will force people to re-evaluate the way they live. Several older participants in the crowd, who made great contributions to the discussion, repeatedly suggested that solving the energy crisis is the responsibility of younger generations. Younger participants in this group seemed ready to take on this challenge, but also urged their elders to keep pushing for change as well – because it’s the future of their children and grandchildren that is at stake.

The turnout for this forum was solid and the discussion thought provoking – especially some shocking statistics about the size of the carbon footprint created by meat and dairy production alone. A good ending to our fall forum series – and hopefully, we’ll have some returning participants on the next go-round. Stay tuned for updates on other forums from the Russell by visiting our home page or joining our facebook group.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Alive & Well

Current Concerns and Initiatives of the Highlander Center

On Sunday, October 26th the Russell Library hosted, “The South and Appalachia – Linking to the World: The Current Concerns and Initiatives of the Highlander Research and Education Center,” at the Athens-Clarke County Public Library. This event, the fifth in the Weaving the Threads of Justice program series, reflected on Highlander’s legacy of social activism and examined the Center’s most recent projects.

Guest speaker Susan Williams, coordinator of Highlander’s Education Team as well as the Highlander Library and Resource Center, began the program with a custom from the institution itself – asking everyone in the audience to introduce themselves to the group. The initial exercise not only loosened the crowd up but also provided an interesting snapshot of the variety of people in the Athens area who gathered to learn more about strategies and approaches for effective activism and community empowerment employed at the Highlander Center. After introductions, Williams showed a short film, “Weaving Threads of Justice: Highlander Center at 75” – a look at where Highlander is now, produced in celebration of the Center’s 75th anniversary in 2007. The film interleaves footage of the huge crowds at the Center’s grounds for the anniversary celebration with interviews with individuals sharing the stories of how they came to Highlander and the ways that this place has influenced their paths in activism and community engagement.

Following the film Williams went on to tell the audience about the most recent developments at the Center, including the proposed acquisition of an apple orchard on neighboring property. Highlander is exploring ways to incorporate the orchard into the workshops and programs they offer. Williams noted that far too many people have never picked an apple or even seen one growing on the tree, so this orchard will be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the land. She opened the floor up to questions and used audience commentary as starting points for new areas of discussion: How can you make an activist group sustainable? How does a movement attract younger generations committed to the cause? How does a non-profit group build a donor base? In a short time, Williams was able to share just a few secrets of the long lasting success of this incredible institution.

In addition to the regular snacks and coffee offered at the reception, audience members were treated to handpicked apples from Highlander’s orchard! Audience members mingled till nearly 5:15 – a sign that a good time was had by all!

Time has flown by this fall – and our last program in the Weaving the Threads series is nearly upon us! Please join us at the Russell Library on Sunday, November 16th from 2-5pm for “Reflections on Songs, Actions, and Social Justice: Film, Lecture, and Music from Guy & Candi Carawan.” In true Highlander fashion, we will have music, film, discussion…and of course food, for what is sure to be a fantastic closing event. The exhibit gallery will be open to the public during this event. For more information please visit: or call (706) 542-5788.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coping with the Cost of Health Care in Tifton

Our team from the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia was on the road again this week -- traveling to meet with citizens in Tifton, Georgia on Wednesday, October 22nd for the third deliberation on the issue of health care. Our venue: the Leroy Rogers Senior Citizens’ Center, just a few blocks away from the heart of downtown. Jill Severn, who manages civic engagement and outreach work for the Russell Library, and Dr. Babafemi Elufiede, Chair of the History Department at Albany State University, served as moderators for the discussion. Retired UGA professor Dr. Margaret Holt served as observer, while Jan Levinson took on the role of recorder.

This marked both our third trip to Tifton this fall, as well as our third forum on the issue of health care. As in the two previous deliberations held on this topic, at the Carter Presidential Library (9/17/08) and the Russell Library in Athens (9/25/08) respectively, this discussion focused on three suggested approaches to resolving flaws in the current US health care system. This forum was enriched by the presence of two local physicians, who provided information from an insider’s perspective – as well as relevant statistics. Men and women were equally represented in the group, all participants were age 55 and above, and all actively engaged in the discussion.

Notable Moments in the Deliberation:

  • One of the physicians in the crowd described flu shots as something one does for the whole community – an individual action that prevents others from becoming ill. Another participant said that she had always considered flu shots something she did for herself and not for others – but rethought her commitment to the practice after the physicians comment.
  • In discussing measures that could be taken to reduce costs in health care, the entire group unanimously agreed that advertisements for prescription drugs should be banned on television. In the end, they felt that tax payer money is paying for these advertisements which only encourage people to self-diagnose and demand unnecessary drugs from their doctors.
  • In talks about rapidly advancing medical technology, the group discussed excessive (and expensive) testing that takes place during visits to the doctor. Participants felt that although extra tests are often unnecessary, doctors tend to test more to avoid malpractice suits.
  • Many in the crowd expressed that health care was both a right and a responsibility and were in favor of government intervention for changes to the system.

  • Several stressed the importance of a focus on end of life decisions that contribute significantly to the rising costs and felt that this was an issue that also needed attention.

  • As in other forums, people spoke to the escalating problems due to the shortage of doctors especially those in primary practice or internists. Questions were raised about what kind of incentives might encourage more doctors in this category to be trained, graduate and practice.

  • Some were distressed with the complexity of medical records and the difficulties in deciphering the medical paperwork from service providers, insurance companies and others in the system. They suggested a far greater need for clarity and transparency.
  • There was considerable understanding that the problems of so many uninsured Americans had consequences that were negative for all. “One way or another those who can pay, will pay.”

Although this was our final stop in Tifton for now, we hope to plan more forums in this part of the state AND to train people in the community to frame and moderate issues. More on that in the coming months.... Our next (and final!) community forum this fall, “The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future” will be held on next Tuesday, October 28th from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Richard Russell Library in Athens, GA. If you are in the Athens area we hope you'll join us for this deliberation. For more information on this, and other upcoming public forums, please visit Russell Library website or call (706) 542-5788.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Women of Highlander Live On...

On Sunday, 19th the Russell Library hosted, “The Untold Story of Women’s Leadership at Highlander Research and Education Center: 75 Years of Fighting for Freedom,” at the Demosthenian Hall on North Campus. In her presentation, guest speaker Colleen McDermott, a doctoral candidate in the program of Adult Education at UGA, spoke about the major contributions of the female staff members at this institution – how they shaped its direction, success, and ultimately its endurance. Dr. Tom Valentine provided brief but glowing introductions to the speaker, his longtime student.

During the last several years McDermott has conducted extensive interviews with current and former staff members at the Highlander Center for Research and Education, as well as conducted research in the institution’s archives. Her work has allowed for the identification of the vital leadership roles played by women at this important center for civil and human rights advancement. This topic – a labor of love for McDermott -- is both the focus of her dissertation and the centerpiece of a forthcoming book on which she is currently working.

The speaker used a short video describing Highlander’s history as a visual aid, pausing at various points to identify important women on the screen and to expound on the small and large ways that each contributed to the school’s development. They were fundraisers, teachers, and strike organizers. They introduced music and theatrical performance to the school’s regular activities. More than anything they succeeded in bringing a genuine hospitality to this place, contributing to an atmosphere of trust and comfort in tumultuous times. In discussing Highlander’s citizenship school initiative, an effort to promote literacy and therefore voter viability in the South Carolina Sea Islands, McDermott choked up for a moment when recalling the incredible achievements of this female-led education project. She moved from past to present seamlessly, ending with a few words about the current Director of Highlander, Pam McMichael, and the move towards a less hierarchical leadership model at the Center. Following the presentation, McDermott fielded questions from the audience and journeyed to the Russell Library for glimpse at the new exhibit.

The film screened during this presentation is currently on view at the Russell Library, as part of the exhibition Weaving the Threads of Justice: Highlander Center, 1932-2007 . The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, through November 30, 2008.

As we near the end of October, we have ONLY two more events in the Weaving program series: “The South and Appalachia – Linking to the World: The Current Concerns and Initiatives of the Highlander Research and Education Center(Sunday, October 26th 3-5 p.m., Athens-Clarke County Public Library) and “Reflections on Songs, Actions, & Social Justice: Film Lecture and Music from Guy and Candie Carwan” (Sunday, November 16th, 2-5 p.m., Russell Library). Be sure to catch these wonderful programs while you still can!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Forums

Updates From Tifton and Atlanta

On the road again…the Russell Forum for CivicLife in Georgia has hosted two forums since last we blogged. The first deliberation, “News Media and Society, How to Restore the Public Trust” took place on Thursday, October 9th at the Welcome Station in downtown Tifton, Georgia. A small but mighty crowd of participants gathered to consider the widespread mistrust of the modern media in America and the steps we must take to re-establish trust once placed in newspapers, reporters, and broadcasters. Co-moderating this forum were Dr. Margaret Holt, a retired professor from UGA, and Dr. Veronica Adams-Cooper, a professor of Sociology at Albany State University. Students Kelly Frizzell (UGA) and Stefon Plummer (Albany State University) tended to the duties of observing and recording the events of the deliberation, respectively.

The night’s discussion was varied, but continually turned back to the blurring of lines between news, media, and propaganda. Comments frequently expressed a fear that many Americans don’t differentiate between television personalities who express opinions versus viable newspapers and nightly news programs which report facts. Even then, the crowd drew distinctions between local and national news sources – feeling that they could count on their local newspaper much more than many national sources which tend to reflect left or right-leaning biases. Although this crowd had a lively discussion with differing perspectives, they expressed a shared concern for this problem, especially in light of the recent economic crisis – this is a time when Americans need to be able to trust in their new sources. They favored Approach 3 (get citizens involved), and the idea that it is up to citizens to “use the off button” and develop alternative news sources until the main stream media responds to an increasing demand for honest, solid reporting of events.

Then...On Monday, October 13th the venue was the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. The topic, “What is the 21st Century Mission for Public Schools.” A crowd of twenty men and women tore through this issue with passion, leaving barely a silent moment in the two hour deliberation. Dr. Marshalita Peterson, a professor of education at Spelman College, moderated this forum with introductions from Dr. Margaret Holt. Jill Severn ably returned to the role of recorder, while Jan Levinson served as an observer for this event. Of all the forums held this fall, the crowd in Atlanta on this occasion certainly proved to be the most lively and outspoken thus far.

A kick-off question from the moderator: Before reading any of the literature provided at the forum, what would you have said should be the mission of our public schools? Some responded that we should return to an emphasis on basic skills (reading, writing, and arithmetic) which serve as the building blocks for everything else. Others favored helping students to become good citizens, infusing the classroom with global perspective, or focusing on the skills that would prove useful in the workplace. The varied responses to this initial question set the tone for a great deliberation. Highlights from this discussion:

  • In discussing Approach 1 (preparing students for the workplace) many suggested that we can’t anticipate what the workplace will be forty years from now – so how would we decide what skills to teach now?
  • Some favored the idea of incorporating more technology and felt that this approach is a way of infusing what is learned inside the classroom with applicability to the real world – something that might help students stay focused and engaged.
  • Feelings on Approach 2 (preparing students to be thoughtful citizens) were mixed. While many expressed that they liked this model the best, they wrestled with how it could be implemented effectively into a curriculum without being too overt.
  • One very thoughtful comment was that teaching citizenship in schools doesn’t replace what is learned at home – but it does reinforce those ideas and shows kids other examples of respect and civic engagement in their teachers and peers.
  • When comments turned to the promises of presidential candidates, one participant relayed dismay that the refrain “the children are our future” has become nothing more than a good sound byte. Lightening the mood, another participant added that maybe can always just “drill baby drill” for more children. This exchange conveyed the frustration many people are feeling about a long presidential race and debates filled with unanswered questions.
  • Approach 3 (help students discover and develop individual talents) received mixed reviews – participants favored the notion of smaller class size and greater community involvement, but worried that public schools are not a place to specialize. Attendees suggested that it is important for a student to know what he or she is good at – but equally significant to know their weaknesses and learn to cope with more difficult subjects and concepts.

Two more successful forums for civic engagement! For those in Athens and the surrounding area, we hope to see you at the next public forum, “Making Ends Meet: Is There A Way to Help Working Americans?" this Thursday, October 16th at the Oconee County Public Library in Watkinsville. For more information please visit or call (706) 542-5788.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Standing Room Only!

Debate Watch 2008 at the Russell Library

Excitement was in the air last night as over 80 people
packed into every nook and cranny of the Russell Library’s auditorium to watch the second Presidential Debate. Dr. Paul Gurian, Professor of Political Science at UGA and an expert on campaign strategy, kicked off the program at 8:30 pm with a brief introduction to characteristics of the town hall style debate and an overview of the goals that he expected each candidate to set for their respective performances. Gurian also shared some statistics on the impact high-stakes presidential debates have made historically on potential voters. Just before 9:00pm everyone found a seat (in a chair, on the ground, or even in the lobby), grabbed drinks and snacks, and settled in for the night. Following the debate Dr. Gurian fielded general questions and comments from the crowd, many of whom suggested what sound bytes the media might focus on in the coming days.

Thanks to everyone who made this event such a success! We encourage you to tune in for the third Presidential debate, scheduled for next Wednesday, October 15th at 9:00pm (EST). And to all those in the Athens area, we hope to see you at the Russell’s next community forum, “Making Ends Meet: Is There a Way to Help Working Americans” on Thursday, October 16th from 7:00-9:00 PM at the Oconee Public Library, 1080 Experiment Station Road, Watkinsville, GA. This event is free and open to the public -- light snacks will be provided – thoughtful discussion expected!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Seeing Red in Black: A Lecture at Demosthenian Hall

On Sunday, October 5th the Russell Library hosted, “Seeing Red in Black: White Southern Leaders Fight Desegregation,” at the Demosthenian Hall on the UGA campus. Speakers at this event, the third in the Weaving the Threads of Justice program series, drew upon film, video, and documents from archival collections at the Russell Library to explore the tactics employed by key Georgia segregationists to discredit and undermine the Civil Rights Movement.

Demosthenian Hall, the fourth oldest building on the UGA campus (ca. 1824), provided a distinguished setting for this discussion of racial politics in the South. Jill Severn, head of access and outreach for the Russell Library, provided brief introductions to the topic and speaker and extended thanks to the audience of students and faculty for their attendance. Craig Breaden, head of Media and Oral History at the Russell Library, proceeded with a well-written talk in which he described they ways white segregationists used propaganda techniques to link the Civil Rights Movement to Communism, in the hopes of undermining the efforts of the former with the notorious reputation of the latter. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of was a film created by Ed Friend and produced by the Georgia Commission of Education, which depicts interracial activities at the Highlander Folk School on the occasion of the School’s 25th anniversary. Still images from this film were later used in the production of a broadside titled “Labor Day Weekend at Communist Training School, 1957,” which was disseminated to prominent politicians and citizens throughout the South. Breaden showed the silent film (a part of the Russell Library's permanent collection) and offered some commentary on the circumstances surrounding its creation and use.

The presentation concluded at 4:15, leaving ample time for attendees to partake of some delicious treats and reflective discussion in the downstairs hall. We look forward to seeing everyone at the next Weaving program, “The Untold Story of Women’s Leadership at the Highlander Research and Education Center on Sunday, October 19th at 3:00p.m. at the Demosthenian Hall. Thanks to the extra efforts of both Craig and one of our dedicated student workers, we were able to record the lecture and should have a podcast up on the website shortly!

Running Out of Steam: Considering the Energy Problem at the Carter Library

Thursday, October 2nd marked the second event in the Georgia Deliberations 2008 program series at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia. The topic of the afternoon’s deliberation, “The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future” brought out impassioned and informed commentary from an audience of nearly 40 attendees, as well as an appearance from the Carter Library’s Director, Jay Hakes. Jill Severn and Margaret Holt co-moderated this event, while Matt Garrett (Assistant Director, Emory University’s Center for Student Leadership and Engagement) recorded the happenings of the deliberation.

The deliberation got off to a fast start when moderators asked the crowd what came to into the mind of an average American when someone mentioned the “energy crisis”. High gas prices seemed to resonate with most people, though the majority of this group seemed far more concerned with the environmental impacts of drilling and the increased risks posed by global warming. Throughout the afternoon’s discussion, the audience voiced that although increasing costs are an important concern for all Americans, it is important to keep the big picture and long-term impact of our dependence on oil in the forefront of this discussion.

Notable Comments from this discussion:

  • Where is the breaking point? Several attendees mentioned that we don’t yet know what it will take to decrease oil consumption in the US. As prices continue to climb, people are cutting back, but what will it take for people to stop relying on gas?
  • The crowd found numerous problems with Approach 1 – which suggested a focus on reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. Most attendees agreed that even if the US tapped its oil reserves, this supply would go into a global market and could be exported to a higher bidder overseas – leaving Americans high and dry.
  • In discussion of Approach 2 – investigating alternative fuel sources – the point was made that there is no truly benign energy source available. Many took issue with the suggestion that nuclear power is a viable alternative and discussed the negative impacts of this energy source.
  • Partisan speech played a role in discussing Approach 3 – reducing energy consumption with government regulation. Some attendees looked forward, mentioning the proposed energy platforms of the current Presidential candidates. Others made frequent references to the policy decisions of the Cater and Reagan administrations. It seemed that no politicians have (or had) all the answers.
  • One great (and hopeful) comparison was drawn in a brief discussion of the drought in Georgia. Since residents have been forced to restrict their water usage during this period they have managed by employing various conservation measures. Now, people brag about the ways they save on water. If similar restrictions were placed on energy, might we see a similar result?
  • The final point made in the deliberation was this: when people are pushed to the edge, they will revert back to the basics to survive. But, as a culture we have to think more about each other and our environment and less about our own preferences and energy needs. We need to consider how we got to this place in our history and use that analysis as a starting point to make changes for the future.

The turnout in Atlanta was great – and the final comments from Director Hakes were a nice way to bring all the comments of the afternoon full circle. Our next forum, News Media and Society: How to Restore the Public Trust, will be held on this Thursday, October 9 from 7:00-9:00pm at the Tifton Welcome Station (Business Development Meeting Room, 502 Main Street, Tifton, GA). For more information on this, and other upcoming public forums, please visit Russell Library homepage or call (706) 542-5788.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Future Ain't What It Used to Be: Discussing Community Prosperity in Tifton

On Tuesday, September 30th the Russell Library hosted the first of three public forums in the community of Tifton, Georgia – a town located less than 200 miles south of Athens, Georgia. The topic, “Pathways to Prosperity: Choosing a Future for Your Community,” brought out 25 attendees, including several candidates for public office and individuals engaged in a diverse range of professions in the surrounding area. The discussion was lively and established that attendees have many shared goals for the future of their community.

Dedicated volunteers Dr. Margaret Holt and Sharon Gibson served as co-moderators for the forum. Holt, a retired UGA professor, is a longtime associate of the National Issues Forums Institute and has moderated numerous forums in communities across the country. This fall, she has comoderated several forums as part of the Georgia Deliberations initiative by the Russell Library, the Jimmy Carter Library, and partners around the state.. Meanwhile Gibson, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension family and consumer science educator, brought a special connection to this deliberation – she is a former resident of Tifton. Both moderators directed a smooth and impartial discussion, guiding attendees through three approaches to achieving greater prosperity. Russell Library staff members Jill Severn and Jan Levinson were on hand to record and observe the deliberation.

The topic of this forum hit close to home, especially in light of this week’s news from Wall Street, and inspired some great discussion. In recent decades the South has been transformed by increased wealth and population, but the region is still grappling with how to manage that growth and what these changes mean for the future of individual communities.

Notable moments in the deliberation with Tifton residents:

  • Moderators began by asking the group what, if anything made the South a distinct place. Responses ranged from descriptions of small-town living to comments about poverty, rural life, and the high rate of illiteracy
  • The crowd largely criticized Approach 1. Comments suggested that before employing a “trickle-down” approach by bringing more jobs to the area, you have to combat poverty and illiteracy in the region. You have to create a strong work force before attracting the right kind of businesses.
  • One citizen astutely commented that before you can pick out a path to prosperity, you have to decide what prosperity means to your community. He noted that it isn’t always about money, but about the quality of life in a place.
  • The crowd seemed to favor Approach 2, investing in people first. The suggestion was made to establish more informal, community-based education opportunities rather than depending solely on the public school system.

  • Everyone favored taking a smart approach to managing growth, citing the results of poorly managed growth in nearby cities and recognizing that good zoning and public-private partnerships would most benefit Tifton.

The next public forum, The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future,will be held on this Thursday, October 2nd from 3:00-5:00pm at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library For more information on this, and other upcoming public forums, please visit Russell Library homepage or call (706) 542-5788.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Southern Liberalism at the Public Library

On Sunday, September 28th the Russell Library hosted, “Highlander Folk School & the Southern Front: Worker Education and the Growth of the Civil Rights Movement,” at the Athens-Clarke County Public Library. Speakers at this event, the second in the Weaving the Threads of Justice program series, examined the roots of Highlander Folk School and its co-founders, Myles Horton and Don West.

Guest speaker Dr. Randy Patton, Professor of History at Kennesaw State University, began the program by setting the scene for the audience – describing the climate of southern liberalism from the decade of Highlander’s founding (1930s) and into the Civil Rights Movement.

Noted historian Dr. Jim Lorence followed, using Dr. Patton’s talk as the backdrop for a more focused discussion on Don West, the lesser-known co-founder of the Highlander School. Although Lorence’s talk remained centered on West’s role at Highlander and his tumutumultuous relationship with Myles Horton, the author’s most recent publication,
A Hard Journey: The Life of Don West, expounds on the long and varied life of West – a highly controversial social activist. Following the program, audience members mingled with the speakers at an informal reception and Dr. Lorence generously signed copies of his book.

Another successful event -- Thanks to everyone who attended! Next on the agenda, "Seeing Red in Black: White Southern Leaders Fight Desegregation" – a multimedia presentation by Jill Severn & Craig Breaden of the Russell Library – this coming Sunday, October 5th from 3-5pm at the Demosthenian Hall, North Campus, University of Georgia. Following what is sure to be a great presentation at a fantastic venue (with delicious snacks & drinks as always) .

Mingling at the Reception....

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coping with the Cost of Health Care

On Thursday, September 25th UGA students, staff, and faculty, together with citizens from the surrounding community turned out to discuss the rising cost of healthcare at the Russell Library. This event was the second forum in the Georgia Deliberations Fall Forum Series.

Jill Severn, who manages civic engagement and outreach work for the Russell Library, and UGA student Ellyn Echols served as moderators for the discussion. Echols said a few words about her involvement in the Roosevelt Institution, a student think-tank on campus devoted to researching and writing public policy, before laying out the ground rules for the discussion and helping the crowd to express their stakes in the issue at hand. Will Riley, a Georgia Tech student, commuted from Atlanta to serve as the scribe-recorder, while UGA students Matt Brandenbugh and Kelly Ann Frizzell served as official observers.

Like the forum at the Carter Library (9/17/08), this discussion focused on the pros and cons of three approaches to solving the problems of the current U.S. health care system. But the makeup of the attendees and their comments varied from the event in Atlanta. The group was split evenly between men and women -- the majority composed of students and a sprinkling of young professionals. Although several participants made frequent remarks, no one dominated the conversation and most everyone chimed in at least once.

Notable Moments in the Deliberation:

  • One returning participant, a retired government manager for unemployment insurance, suggested that businesses should play a larger role in coverage costs for employees.
  • An extended discussion regarding the need for increased preventative care led to a series of questions about the rising cost of medical services and the declining number of general practitioners. When asked why basic medical services cost so much, the crowd was largely silent and pensive.
  • Several participants heavily favored the approach championing universal health care, emphasizing that all Americans should have access to a basic level of health care.
  • At the evening’s conclusion a few attendees remarked that the current economic crisis will put health care on the back burner in the coming elections, but inevitably there will have to be changes in the system

The next public forum, “Pathways to Prosperity: Choosing a Future for Your Community” will be held on next Tuesday, September 30th from 7:00-9:00pm at the Agirama in Tifton, GA. For more information on this, and other upcoming public forums, please visit Russell Library homepage or call (706) 542-5788.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Healthcare Forum at Carter Library

On Wednesday, September 17th a dedicated contingent of students, faculty, and staff associated with the Russell Forum for Civil Life in Georgia traveled to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta to co-host the first forum in the statewide Georgia Deliberations Fall Forum Series. The forum focused on weighing strategies for coping with the rising costs of health care.

The forum at the Carter library drew a crowd of almost sixty people who turned out to deliberate this issue on a rainy Wednesday afternoon—a sure sign of the issue’s growing significance. Tony Clark, of the Jimmy Carter Library, welcomed the enthusiastic group and Jill Severn, who manages civic engagement and outreach work for the Russell Library shared some details about the national forum initiative and the nine upcoming forums in Atlanta, Athens, Albany, and Tifton. Dr. Margaret Holt, who is retired from the UGA faculty, and Matt Garrett, who works in student affairs at Emory, co-moderated the forum. Jill Severn served as the scribe-recorder for the event and Matt Brandenburgh, a senior physics major at UGA served as the official observer. Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist at the Russell Library also attended the forum and oriented participants as they arrived.

The forum focused on weighing the pros and cons and the tradeoffs and tensions associated with three approaches for addressing the problems associated with the current U.S. healthcare system. “Considering how divisive the issue of health care has been in the past and currently, the comments from forum participants were remarkably non-partisan,” commented moderator Margaret Holt. Participants expressed diverse opinions to the approaches, but invested great energy in listening to one another and remaining open to changing their perspectives. At the close of the meeting, many in the group remarked that they felt a real energy among the participants to begin to tackle component problems associated with health care as first steps in dealing with the issue as a whole. The tenor of the discussion and the great turnout also made many hopeful that civil civic life was alive and well in Atlanta. Indeed, many participants expressed plans to return to the Carter Library for the two upcoming forums (energy challenges, Thursday, October 2nd at 3 p.m. and the future mission of education, Monday, October 13th at 3 p.m.) or even to venture to one of the other forums that will be held in Athens and Tifton throughout this fall. After wrapping things up around 5:00 pm, the moderating team celebrated success with a good meal at Manuel’s Tavern – and then headed home to Athens just before dark.

The next public forum in the series, “Coping with the Cost of Healthcare” will be held at the Russell Library next Thursday, September 25th from 7:00-9:00pm. For more information on this, and other public forums, please visit or call (706) 542-5788.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Highlander Folk School Exhibit Opening

September 14th marked the opening of the Russell Library’s newest exhibit and program series, Weaving the Threads of Justice: The Highlander Center, 1932-2007. Guest speaker Dr. Helen Lewis captivated the audience with tales of the Highlander Folk School. Moving through the School’s history, Lewis reminded the crowd that society faces many of the same challenges today that existed at the time of Highlander’s founding in 1932. She spoke of her experiences as a staff member (1977-1997) and moved seamlessly into an introduction of the documentary film You Got to Move, which addressed Highlander’s role in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Following the film screening, visitors were treated to some Appalachian fare – ham biscuits, apple pie, and other light snacks – before touring the exhibit gallery.

The event was a great success! And we look forward to seeing everyone at our next program, Highlander Folk School & the Southern Front: Worker Education & the Civil Rights Movement on Sunday, September 28th at the Athens Regional Public Library.

Speaker Helen Lewis

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fall 2008 Research and Reference Hours

For the fall 2008 semester, the Russell Library will be open for research and reference from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. These hours will commence on August 18, 2008. Watch for special after-hours research events later in the fall. For more information, please contact Jill Severn 706-542-5766 or

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Russell Staff Member!

Name: Jan Levinson

Job Title: Assistant Outreach Archivist

Joined Russell Staff: July 2008

Job Description:
I coordinate the development of thematic exhibits and public programs that explore the mission and collections of the library.

Other work experience:
Curatorial Assistant, Historic Columbia Foundation, Columbia, SC

Research Assistant, Teaching American History in South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Intern, Office of Architectural History and Historic Preservation, Smithsonian Institution
Curatorial Assistant, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

B.A. in History, Clemson University, 2005

M.A. in Public History, University of South Carolina, 2008

Professional Memberships:
American Association of Museums
South Eastern Museums Conference
South Eastern Registrars Association

Most Enjoyable Aspect of Your Job:
The opportunity to think creatively. I think that public institutions have the opportunity and the obligation to act as agents of change in their surrounding communities. I'm excited to play a role in developing exhibit spaces and public programs that flesh out historical themes, connect those themes to current issues, and foster thoughtful discussions and activities.

Alternate Career Path if not in Museums or Archives:
I'd love to run a cool (and affordable!) vintage shop and call it "The Museum” or to explore work in the field of Historic Preservation.

Favorite Pastimes:
Listening to NPR's "This American Life", reading the newest installments of the Frugal Traveler on, checking out new bands at local shows.

Comments on the profession today:
Museums and Libraries are at a turning point and are constantly working to extend their levels of access and outreach while working with increasingly limited resources. These challenges make for an exciting time in the field when all institutions are pushed to think outside of the box. We're in for a time of change and lots of new and inventive strategies for reaching out to visitors and making them comfortable in museum and archive spaces.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Current Top 10 collections visited

Here's our Current top 10 collections visited online. What's your favorite collection? Visit our collection finding aids and boost their stats!

1. Walt Lardner Collection of Jimmy Carter Editorial Cartoons
2. Martin J. Hillenbrand Papers
3. Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection
4. Harold P. Henderson, Sr. Oral History Collection: Series I. Ellis Arnall
5. Clifford Baldowski Editorial Cartoons
6. Clifford Hodges Brewton Collection of Lester G. Maddox Speech/Press Files
7. Herman E. Talmadge Collection
8. Harold P. Henderson, Sr. Oral History Collection: Series II. Ernest Vandiver
9. Dean Rusk Personal Papers
10. Dean Rusk Oral History Project

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Researcher's Experience at the Russell Library...

"I found out about the extensive collections at the Russell Library when I began working here as a student researcher in December of 2006.

Since then, I have spent countless hours working with the collections as both an employee and as a student. I have based three papers off of the Russell collections. My experiences with the collection and staff have been top-notch. After doing extensive archival research across six states, I can genuinely say that the Russell Library is one of the best archives in the nation. It speaks to the friendliness and accessibility of the RBRL that undergraduate students regularly come here grudgingly for class assignments requiring primary source research and leave talking excitedly about their experiences."

-Sherri Sheu

Published in Beyond the Pages, Volume 7, Spring 2008