Black Womxn Authors, Library of Congress and MarcXML (Part 1)

This adventure started innocently enough with the 2017 Womxn of Color Reading Challenge by Der Vang. As an “older” White male Southerner working in technology, I don’t encounter works by womxn of color unless it is intentional.

The first book, “A book that became a movie,” was easy. I read the deeply moving Beloved by Toni Morrison. I recommend reading a non-critical edition before you read a critical one. Let Morrison speak for herself before you read others offering their views on the story.

The second book, “A book that came out the year you were born,” have proven to be more difficult. Far more difficult. You see I think Der Vang was assuming a reading audience younger than I am, for which womxn of color authors would not be difficult to find. That hasn’t proven to be the case for me.

I searched the usual places but likely collections did not denote an author’s gender or race. The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library reference service came riding to the rescue after I had exhausted my talents with this message:

‘Attached is a “List of Books Published by Negro Writers in 1954 and Late 1953” (pp. 10-12) by Blyden Jackson, IN β€œThe Blithe Newcomers: Resume of Negro Literature in 1954: Part I,” Phylon v.16, no.1 (1st Quarter 1955): 5-12, which has been annotated with classifications (Biography) or subjects (Poetry). Thirteen are written by women; however, just two are fiction. The brief article preceding the list does not mention the books by the women novelists–Elsie Jordan (Strange Sinner) or Elizabeth West Wallace (Scandal at Daybreak). No Part II has been identified. And AARL does not own these two. Searching AARL holdings in Classic Catalog by year yields seventeen by women but no fiction. Most are biographies. Two is better than none but not exactly a list.

A Celebration of Women Writers – African American Writers (http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/_generate/
AFRICAN%20AMERICAN.html
) seems to have numerous [More Information] links which would possibly allow the requestor to determine the 1954 novelists among them.’
(emphasis in original)

Using those two authors/titles as leads, I found in the Library of Congress online catalog:

https://lccn.loc.gov/54007603
Jordan, Elsie. Strange sinner / Elsie Jordan. 1st ed. New York : Pageant, c1954.
172 p. ; 21 cm.
PZ4.J818 St

https://lccn.loc.gov/54012342
Wallace, Elizabeth West. [from old catalog] Scandal at daybreak. [1st ed.] New York, Pageant Press [1954]
167 p. 21 cm.
PZ4.W187 Sc

Checking elsewhere, both titles are out of print, although I did see one (1) copy of Elise Jordan’s Strange Sinner for $100. I think I have located a university with a digital scan but will have to report back on that later.

Since both Jordan and Wallace published with Pageant Press the same year, I reasoned that other womxn of color may have also published with them and that could lead me to more accessible works.

Experienced librarians are no doubt already grinning because if you search for “Pageant Press,” with the Library of Congress online catalog, you get 961 “hits,” displayed 25 “hits” at a time. Yes, you can set the page to return 100 “hits at a time, but not while you have sort by date of publication selected. πŸ™

That is you can display 100 “hits” per page in no particular order, or, you can display the “hits” in date of publication order, but only 25 “hits” at a time. (Or at least that was my experience, please correct me if that’s wrong.)

But, with the 100 “hits” per page, you can “save as,” but only as Marc records, Unicode (UTF-8) or not. No MarcXML format.

In the response to my query about the same, the response from the Library of Congress reads:

At the moment we have no plans to provide an option to save search results as MARCXML. We will consider it for future development projects.

I can understand that in the current climate in Washington but a way to convert Marc records to the easier (in my view) to manipulate MarcXMLformat, would be a real benefit to readers and researchers alike.

Fortunately there is a solution, MarcEdit.

From the webpage:

This LibGuide attempts to document the features of MarcEdit, which was developed by Terry Reese. It is open source software designed to facilitate the harvesting, editing, and creation of MARC records. This LibGuide was adapted from a standalone document, and while the structure of the original document has been preserved in this LibGuide, it is also available in PDF form at the link below. The original documentation and this LibGuide were written with the idea that it would be consulted on an as-needed basis. As a result, the beginning steps of many processes may be repeated within the same page or across the LibGuide as a whole so that users would be able to understand the entire process of implementing a function within MarcEdit without having to consult other guides to know where to begin. There are also screenshots that are repeated throughout, which may provide a faster reference for users to understand what steps they may already be familiar with.

Of course, installing MarcEdit on Ubuntu, isn’t a straightforward task. But I have 961 Marc records and possibly more that would be very useful in MarcXML. Tomorrow I will document the installation steps I followed with Ubuntu 16.04.

PS: I’m not ignoring the suggested A Celebration of Women Writers – African American Writers (http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/_generate/
AFRICAN%20AMERICAN.html)
. But I have gotten distracted by the technical issue of how to convert all the holdings at the Library of Congress for a publisher into MarcXML. Suggestions on how to best use this resource?

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