The University of Texas-Pan American Library added to its prestige recently after being selected the only library in Texas to receive the Soul of a People grant sponsored by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In response to the grant, the University library hosted a presentation by Dr. Don Graham, J. Frank Dobie regent's professor of American Literature from The University of Texas at Austin, on Sept. 17 at the Student Union Theater.
"We are so excited to have received this grant," said Virginia Haynie Gause, UTPA web and marketing librarian. "The goals of the presentation are to educate UTPA students, faculty, staff and the local community of writer's careers and legacies."
Graham's visit was the second of five presentations in the Soul of a People series. Graham's discussion was titled, "Texas Writers from the Great Depression of the 1930s: Their careers and Legacies." He presented books by authors starting from 1929-1942, such as, "Somebody in Boots" by Nelson Algren, "The Texas Rangers" by Walter P. Webb, "The Flavor of Texas" by J. Frank Dobie, and "The Workers Progress Administration (WPA) Guide to Texas." In fact, Graham wrote the introduction to the 1986 reprint of the "WPA Guide to Texas," which he read verbatim to kick off his presentation.
"I am delighted to be here in South Texas and spreading awareness about the role the Great Depression played on the lives and works of writers," said Graham. "It's important to increase knowledge on literature, especially for students, and I thank UTPA for giving me the opportunity."
Graham ended his presentation with a question and answer session.
Among the audience were UTPA sophomores, Tracie Cruz and Iizul Ortega.
"I had never been exposed to anything like this before," Cruz said. "It was so interesting learning about how different cultures were affected during the Great Depression."
"UTPA should keep holding events like this," said Ortega. "It was great learning about authors of the era and being exposed to their views on the Great Depression through their literature instead of text books."
The $2,500 Soul of a People grant allowed the UTPA Library to bring speakers to the University such as Graham, to speak on the subjects of famous American writers during the 1930's Great Depression. Soul of a People promotes the Federal Writer's Project of the 1930s and introduces the progression of the culture in that era.
The grant funds also assist in promoting the series and will help library officials pay for a trip to the Texas State University library in San Marcos, to conduct research on Southwest writer collections.
"I am always on the lookout for grants that university libraries are eligible for," said Gause. "The moment I find them, I apply, because each allow us to implement different programs and help us conduct research on materials that will be beneficial to the University."
The University library partnered with the Museum of South Texas History and the Edinburg Public Library for this grant.
"We partnered with outside institutions to receive wide community support," said Gause. "Our presentations and goals for this grant compliment those of the museum and public library, therefore, we hope to repeat our programs at their locations."
The grant will be used through April 2010 to organize other presentations, as well as to show the film, "Soul of a People," which premiered on the Smithsonian Channel HD, cable channel 897.
Gause said programs are still in development but would like to invite students, faculty, staff and the local community to participate in future Soul of a People events with dates soon to be announced.
For information on Soul of a People, contact Gause at 956/381-2303.