We all know libraries are great resources for writing. What isn’t always considered, however, is the intense power of archives for creative writers. What separates archives from the rest of the materials kept in libraries is that the vast majority of archival materials are unpublished. We can only truly know them, the stories they contain, the bits of brilliant light, by spending some time with them. Though we know archives as essential to the fact-finding part of research, not everyone sees them as essential to the creative part. But there are stories in archives, stories waiting to be told, and wading through the records for these gems is the tragically beautiful part of archival research.
Summer has come to “The Last Frontier” as well as the Lower 48. In Alaska, we’ve already begun the hurried rush of summer activities, sprinting against the onslaught of the coming winter, making the most of 24 hours of blessed daylight. The arriving summer solstice will be the longest span of daylight the whole year, and here it’s a cause for celebration. In the spirit of these wild things, I’d like to offer up a different idea of the word resource in terms of writing: mainly, the Wilderness as resource. It’s not a new concept. Thoreau went to the woods to live a very specific life. Bill Bryson took us on a walk in the green embrace of the Appalachians. It is ever more true across history. Even in a time of advancing technologies, we remain obsessed with our relationship to the natural world.
I love research. There, I said it. I can never take it back now because the Internet is forever, like memories of a bad boyfriend or your grandmother’s recipe for banana bread. As someone who works in both the English and Library worlds, I have a strong interest in making sure people understand their rights to access information, where information is located, and how to acquire the information they want. As much as I love classic literature and the old-fashioned ideal of a tortured, talented writer sitting alone in a garrett surrounded by piles of typed or handwritten sheets, I’m glad my days of romanticizing that lifestyle are over. For as much as I love solitary afternoons staring into the pine trees, I don’t know if I could ever fully give up the amazing amount of access to information we have these days.