Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Thomas Weissinger Interviewed: African American Studies Librarian, Philosophy Bibliographer and Professor Emeritus

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Thomas Weissinger Interviewed: African American Studies Librarian, Philosophy Bibliographer and Professor Emeritus

Article excerpt

Thomas Weissinger has a solid record in African American Studies and librarianship as Librarian, African American Research Center (a unit within the History, Philosophy, and Newspapers Library), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2002-2016); Head Librarian, John Henrik Clarke Africana Library, Cornell University (1985-2001); Coordinator, Library Instruction, Kilmer Area Library, Rutgers University (1982-1985); and City Hall Librarian, Newark Public Library, Newark, NJ (1980-1982). He holds a M.L.S. from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1980), a M.A. from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh (1978), and a B.A. from the School of Arts and Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo (1973). He has a special interest in Black heritage book collectors and Black Studies scholarly communication; and he has taught 'Researching the African American Experience' in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And notwithstanding, he is a former editorial board member of The Journal of Pan African Studies, author of The Book Collecting Practices of Black Magazine Editors (Litwin Books, 2014), co-author with Joseph Wilson of Black Labor in America, 1865-1983: A Selected Annotated Bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1986), and author of articles on the African American experience ("Black Studies Journal Assessment: Two Possibilities." Journal of Pan African Studies, 8(4) (2015): 97-116; "The Core Journal Concept in Black Studies." Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(2) (2010): 119-124; "Black Power Movement Book Publishing: Trends and Issues." Collection Management, 31(4) (2007): 5-18; "Black Studies Scholarly Communication: A Citation Analysis of Periodical Literature." Collection Management, 27 (2002): 45-56; and "Defining Black Studies on the World Wide Web." Journal of Academic Librarianship, 25(4) (1999): 288-293.

Zulu: Thank you for this interview and congratulations on your career in African American Studies and librarianship since 1980.

Weissinger:

Thank you. I am honored. Perhaps these thoughts will inspire future librarians to take on this valuable work.

Zulu: In your book The Book Collecting Practices of Black Magazine Editors you focused on the collecting habits and personal libraries of three Black magazine editors (Ben Burns, Era Bell Thompson, Tom Dent) to understand why they sought to assemble personal libraries that was often based on their ideological perspectives. For those who have not read the book, what were the collecting habits of the editors, and how does their experience echo the overall African American experience in the U.S? And last, how may their collecting habits help in structuring or configuring functional African American (or generally, African centered) personal libraries?

Weissinger:

In writing about the personal libraries of the three editors I wanted to emphasize the connection between collection building and their ideas about identity and race. I think this emphasis is important because their goal was not to simply amass a lot of books about African Americans, but to build a collection that reflects a certain perspective? One of Tom Dent's letters makes the point about perspective. Commenting about William Styron's portrayal of Nat Turner, Dent says "It's the wildest thing. Such a violent polarity between what the black cats are saying and what the white literary establishment is saying.... I mean there's just no meeting ground anywhere between what these people are saying."

Burns, Thompson, and Dent had different ideas about identity and race. These ideas were reflected in their book collections as well as the serials they edited (Chicago Defender, Ebony, Jet, Negro Digest, Umbra). Ben Burns' book collection emphasizes themes of race mixture, interracial dating, intermarriage, and miscegenation. …

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