Friday, June 12, 2015

Finding it first : the almost lost John R. Steelman dissertation

Back in 2008 I received a grant from the University of Montevallo to research John R. Steelman.  From 1928 - 1934, Dr. Steelman taught at Alabama College for Women, now known as the University of Montevallo.  I was curious about why he came to Montevallo to teach sociology and how did he go from professor to become the first modern day Chief of Staff to President Truman?

One of the first steps in my research was to attempt to locate a copy of his dissertation. The  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's library appeared to be the only library with a record for his dissertation.  When I requested the dissertation through interlibrary loan, I received a message from Chapel Hill that  only one copy was in existence and they did not want to lend the copy. Instead, the library volunteered to digitize the entire dissertation and make it available on the Internet Archive site.

My interlibrary loan request for Dr. Steelman's dissertation written in 1928, 'A Study of Mob Action in the South' prompted the library to digitize the sole remaining print copy in existence.  What an exciting moment for a librarian!

You can read about my request in the blog entry by Harry McKown called 'Hobo to Presidential Advisor.'

As of today, 2098 researchers have viewed Dr. Steelman's dissertation on the Internet Archive.

The University of Montevallo offers a new course, Digital History.  The students in the course create digital projects using primary sources from the University of Montevallo's Annie Crawford Milner Archives.  One of the digital projects  'The Remarkable Rise of John R. Steelman'  provides details from primary source material in our archives, about Dr. Steelman's career in education, politics and his role in race relations in Alabama.  

I hope you will enjoy viewing the students work.

Kathleen Lowe
Director of Carmichael Library

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