New LibGuide showcases the history of the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford

October 19, 2020
Josh Schneider
Contributors to the 1976 issue of Asian American Women (SC0487)

Image: Contributors to the 1976 issue of Asian American Women, Stanford University, Asian American Activities Center records (SC0487). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

The University Archives is pleased to announce the publication of a new LibGuide to support research into the history of the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford. This time we enlisted Jessica Cebra, Metadata Management Librarian, who works on metadata projects for content in the Stanford Digital Repository. Read on to learn about Jessica's experience compiling content for the guide:

Jessica Cebra, Stanford LibrariesWhile my work supports research, my position is not student-facing, and I only work with faculty on digital projects occasionally, so I can easily feel disconnected from student and academic life on campus, and even more so now that I’m working away from campus. Creating a LibGuide for researching the history of the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford was a perfect opportunity to delve deeper into student and campus history through our library collections. Additionally, having grown up in southern California as an Asian American, I’ve been exposed to the ongoing history of immigration and discrimination in our state, but feeling relatively new to the Bay Area I’ve still only scratched the surface of local history and events. Needless to say, I had a lot of research to do just to get started with the guide.

As a metadata librarian, I knew a simple search for “Asian American” in the catalog and the Online Archive of California would not suffice, and since the guide is meant to focus principally on the Stanford community, I would have to sift through the vast resources across campus relating to Asian American history more broadly. Thankfully, the Asian American Activities Center (A3C) on campus has developed a historical timeline that pointed me to specific names, organizations, dates and events to search for in our discovery platforms. This was a great help and was key in composing the text on the FAQ page of the guide.

During the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad last year, I had learned a lot about the Chinese railworkers and the Big Four, but I didn’t know the Stanford family employed Chinese workers on their properties, like the Palo Alto Stock Farm, and in the creation and maintenance of Stanford University’s iconic historic landscapes: the Arboretum, Palm Drive, the Oval, and the gardens of the Main Quadrangle. The history of Asians at Stanford goes back to the beginning of the university. There were students of Asian ancestry enrolled in the 1890s, but anti-Asian racism in the United States and on campus resulted in separate clubs and housing for their safety. I also learned about Stanford’s first Asian professor Yamato Ichihashi, who was relocated to internment camps at Santa Anita, Tule Lake, and Amache during WWII. Students were also relocated, and their letters to Stanford President Ray Lyman Wilbur reside in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

The solidarity and liberation movements of the 1960s inspired critical student movements on campus, but minority students, as well as faculty and staff, remained unsatisfied with the services and support from the university administration. I learned about the Students of Color Coalition and their Rainbow Agenda, and the University Committee on Minority Issues that was formed in 1987 to address the agenda, but the outcomes of the committee were still not enough. On May 15, 1989, members of the student coalition gathered for the “Takeover of the President’s Office” and presented their demands to President Donald Kennedy. The list of demands included the immediate hiring of a tenure track faculty person to teach Asian American History, and did result in the hiring of Gordon Chang and David Palumbo-Liu as professors of Asian American Studies courses, and other policies and programs for shaping a more multicultural institution.

I think I was most engaged with the publications and productions created by the students. Looking back, I wouldn’t say I’ve actively been part of any Asian American community, but I’ve always checked the ‘Asian’ and ‘White’ boxes on surveys, and having a mixed background, I’ve continuously dealt with many of the same identity and stereotype issues. I can relate to many of the voices in the oral histories section of the guide, and also those in the student radio show “A Grain of Sand,” and in student serial publications like Asian American Women (later the Asian American Women’s Journal) and Expressions. I discovered many more digital serial publications that can be remediated and released to SearchWorks in the digital serials model, a project I’ve been working on for the past couple of years, so I’m very excited about that!

A big thank you to Josh Schneider and Presley Hubschmitt for giving me this opportunity and for guiding me along the way. Many thanks to library staff and external friends of the library who have pointed me to resources and have taken their time to share feedback in the review process, including: Ben Stone in Special Collections; Emma Frothingham, Charlotte Glasser, and Natalie Marine-Street at the Stanford Historical Society; Gordon Chang and William Gow in the History Department and American Studies Program respectively; and Cindy Ng, Director of the Asian American Activities Center. I’d also like to thank Ali Krogman and Zac Painter for introducing me to LibGuides, and Mario Pamplona whose template for the LibGuides Black students at Stanford and Chicana/o-Latina/o-Latinx community at Stanford I was able to reuse. In the Metadata Department, I am grateful to Hervé David who has helped me tremendously in the ongoing digital serials remediation work, and to Arcadia Falcone and Nancy Lorimer for allowing me to spend time on this LibGuide project!