The Quaker Campus

Writing history: A look at Whittier with the librarians

The Quaker Campus

Leah Boynton
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

“The genesis for the Whittier book started when I was ordering some local history for our collection here,” Garabedian said. “I noticed that there were some surrounding communities that had these books, so that got me wondering, where’s our book? I called up the publisher and I asked, ‘Do you guys have any plans to do a Whittier book?’ There was a beat and they said, ‘No, do you want to do it?’”

Collections Management Librarian Mike Garabedian and Becky Ruud’s book (pictured right) Whittier from the Images of America series was published by Arcadia Publishing on April 4. On April 14, the Wardman Library hosted the two authors to talk about the process of creating the book as well as to sell signed copies over refreshments.

The evening began with an introduction from Library Director Laurel Crump who spoke with excitement and praise for Whittier. “There are a lot of books in this series, the Images of America, but I’d like to tell you, I think this one is the best,” Crump said smiling at Garabedian and Ruud, as the audience laughed at her charming remark. “I couldn’t put it down.”

“We’re going to keep this casual, I think. We didn’t practice this, but that’s okay,” Garabedian said, giggling. Regaining his composure and looking over at counterpart Ruud, Garabedian began explaining the lengthy process of creating the book.

Once Garabedian agreed with Arcadia Publishing that he’d take on the project, he realized how much he had on his plate. At the time, Ruud was working downstairs in the archives as the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, so he asked her to join him in his endeavor. They both approached the task with confidence, not realizing how many conflicts they would encounter over their six-month journey writing the book.

They began by researching the history of the town of Whittier, relying on published works from the Wardman Library, the Whittier Historical Society and Whittier Public Library. Some of these sources dated back to the beginning of the 1900s. Next they collected photos, many of which are digitized at the Whittier Public Library or at the Wardman Library archives. They also found primary sources a bit farther from Whittier, such as at the Los Angeles Public Library and the University of Southern California Library. Ruud commented that one of her favorite elements of working on the book was meeting other local librarians while researching.

They also turned to social media for photos by consulting a few local Whittier Facebook pages. “We let people know we were doing this book and a lot of people came forward with ideas and photos,” Garabedian said. “A lot of [those] ideas we used,” Ruud added.

It was then that they realized they were not only collecting the history and the photos of the town but also identifying what pieces were going to be interesting to readers.

The book covers the years 1887 to 1987 and includes two interludes about Whittier College and Richard Nixon. Ruud shared that the Nixon portion almost didn’t make the cut but acknowleged it was essential to include.

They wanted to document the earliest history of Whittier and the industries that made it a bustling town. “We had a thousand photos, so we had to put context around it to be able to pick which ones,” Ruud said. To meet this end, Garabedian and Rudd set one rule for all their photos, “There had to be people in the picture and they had to be doing something interesting,” Ruud said.

A few pieces of information about the old photographs were written on the back of the physical photos, but other vague captions lead to a lot of questions. Ruud and Garabedian had to dig for answers in specialized sources. Some of these sources include directories, phone books, newspapers such as the Whittier Daily News (many of which were digitized by the Whittier Public Library), early real estate publications and chamber of commerce publications.

The audience looked on in awe as Garabedian clicked from photo to photo showing them the many different primary sources used. They also noted that the Acropolis — which used to be a literary review — and the Quaker Campus were also incredibly important in their research since the College and the town of Whittier are so tightly intertwined.

One example that Garabedian and Ruud showed the audience was the final cover photo of the book. The photo showed a group of college-aged women in front of a building all wearing the same outfit. Their outfits lead Ruud to wonder if they were a part of a group connected to the College, and after much scouring of the Whittier College yearbooks and matching of faces, she determined that they were in fact the Girl’s Glee Club from 1925.

The two authors had many experiences with photos just like that one and used all of the sources they had access to in order to try and find as much detailed information as possible while they put the clues together. “There are some books in this series that aren’t very descriptive,” Garabedian said. “What we really wanted to do was make something between a scholarly and a popular book. We wanted to pack those captions with as much information as we could.”

With strict guidelines from the publishing company, many photos and captions had to be cut. The book was only allowed to have 18,000 words total and 70 words per individual photo caption. For the authors, cutting photos was not only challenging but painful after all the work they had put in and the attachment they had built toward the project.

“We had to sit down until two or three in the morning at the DigLibArts to take photos out of chapters that were too long in order for them all to fit in there,” Garabedian said sighing, as a photo of Ruud surrounded by paper in the library appeared on their Powerpoint presentation.

“There was a lot of arguing. There was so much good that could have been in it, but there wasn’t enough space,” Ruud added. Both agreed that cutting down content was the most difficult part of the process. They then shared with the eager audience some of the photos that didn’t make it to the book.

Garabedian concluded with a quote he found incredibly fitting to their experience of retelling the stories of a place. “Charles Burns once said, ‘An institution without a memory is an institution without a future.’ I’m not going to argue that this institution doesn’t have a future without a memory or that the town itself doesn’t,” Garbedian said. “But I think it’s a less robust future.”

“We were thinking about how there’s a very clear sign of the future across campus right now with the science building. There are ways to find out and ask questions about what’s going on over there, what  went before,” Garabedian said pulling up old photographs of the brand new Science and Learning Center’s location. “There’s a reason, for example, why the science building is about 100 yards long. This was the original location of the Hadley [Football] Field. We saw it coming apart. Well, here it is going up.” Together the audience sighed with nostalgia, as they looked into the past of the 1968 John Stauffer Science Center that originally cost 3.4 million dollars.

“[I realized] that you can ask questions about anything and figure out answers via research. there’s really nothing off limits when it comes to finding information,” Garabedian said. “That was the thing that was so cool.”

When the talk concluded, audience members lingered by a table stacked with copies of Whittier that Ruud and Garabedian sold and signed. In the group of people lingering behind were some familiar friends of the library, such as former Librarian David Moore, who worked in the Wardman library from 1963 to 1969.

Moore was happy to return to the building where he worked many years ago and see so many photos of changes he witnessed first-hand. “It brought back a lot of memories of earlier years here and it was fascinating to hear more about the college that I didn’t know,” Moore said. “How they went about doing the book and where they found all the information was my favorite thing.”

In the audience was also former Whittier College English Professor Ann Kiley. “For one thing, I’m always glad to see what your students do after they’ve been your students. Mike [Garabedian] was a past student of mine some time ago,” Kiley said. “Memories are part of the institution, I like to know where we’ve been and who we are. It’s interesting hearing about their process and the research they’ve done and the way they did it. It’s the puzzle that’s fun.”

Professor of History Laura McEnaney described the importance of books such as Whittier and acknowledging the history of a place.

“This is an incredibly difficult project because photographs offer depictions but they don’t speak and they don’t analyze. That’s up to the viewer. What these authors did was not only find these treasures but help us make sense of what we’re seeing and construct a history that is useful for all of us,” McEnaney said. “When you are rooted in place you make meaning, connections, relationships and you both build a past and a future together. Part of being together is trying to find not only our differences but our common language that holds us together. As Mike [Garabedian] said, it helped us see a little bit of where we could go because we’ve seen how far we’ve come. It reminds us that the memory we think we have has a longer history. We have to embrace the curiosity that this book represents.”

The book is backordered on Amazon.com, but Poets can still purchase copies at the bookstore, and maybe with a little persuasion, Garabedian might grant a signature.

“The genesis for the Whittier book started when I was ordering some local history for our collection here,” Garabedian said. “I noticed that there were some surrounding communities that had these books, so that got me wondering, where’s our book? I called up the publisher and I asked, ‘Do you guys have any plans to do a Whittier book?’ There was a beat and they said, ‘No, do you want to do it?’”

Collections Management Librarian Mike Garabedian and Becky Ruud’s book Whittier from the Images of America series was published by Arcadia Publishing on April 4. On April 14, the Wardman Library hosted the two authors to talk about the process of creating the book, as well as to sell signed copies over refreshments.

The evening began with an introduction from Library Director Laurel Crump who spoke with excitement and praise for Whittier. “There are a lot of books in this series, the Images of America, but I’d like to tell you, I think this one is the best,” Crump said smiling at Garabedian and Ruud, as the audience laughed at her charming remark. “I couldn’t put it down.”

“We’re going to keep this casual, I think. We didn’t practice this but that’s okay,” Garabedian said giggling. Regaining his composure and looking over at counterpart Ruud, Garabedian began explaining the lengthy process of creating the book.

Once Garabedian agreed with Arcadia Publishing that he’d take on the project, he realized how much he had on his plate. At the time, Ruud was working downstairs in the archives as the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, so he asked her to join him in his endeavor. They both approached the task with confidence, not realizing how many conflicts they would encounter over their six-month journey writing the book.

They began by researching the history of the town of Whittier, relying on published works from the Wardman Library, the Whittier Historical Society and Whittier Public Library. Some of these sources dated back to the beginning of the 1900s. Next they collected photos, many of which are digitized at the Whittier Public Library or at the Wardman Library archives. They also found primary sources a bit farther from Whittier, such as at the Los Angeles Public Library and the University of Southern California Library. Ruud commented that one of her favorite elements of working on the book was meeting other local librarians while researching.

They also turned to social media for photos by consulting a few local Whittier Facebook pages. “We let people know we were doing this book and a lot of people came forward with ideas and photos,” Garabedian said. “A lot of [those] ideas we used,” Ruud added.

It was then that they realized they were not only collecting the history and the photos of the town, but also identifying what pieces were going to be interesting to readers.

The book covers the years 1887 to 1987 and includes two interludes about Whittier College and Richard Nixon. Ruud shared that the Nixon portion almost didn’t make the cut, but acknowleged it was essential to include.

They wanted to document the earliest history of Whittier and the industries that made it a bustling town. “We had a thousand photos, so we had to put context around it to be able to pick which ones,” Ruud said. To meet this end, Garabedian and Rudd set one rule for all their photos, “There had to be people in the picture and they had to be doing something interesting,” Ruud said.

A few pieces of information about the old photographs were written on the back of the physical photos, but other vague captions lead to a lot of questions. Ruud and Garabedian had to dig for answers in specialized sources. Some of these sources include directories, phone books, newspapers such as the Whittier Daily News (many of which were digitized by the Whittier Public Library), early real estate publications and chamber of commerce publications.

The audience looked on in awe as Garabedian clicked from photo to photo showing them the many different primary sources used. They also noted that the Acropolis — which used to be a literary review — and the Quaker Campus were also incredibly important in their research, since the College and the town of Whittier are so tightly intertwined.

One example that Garabedian and Ruud showed the audience was the final cover photo of the book. The photo showed a group of college-aged women in front of a building all wearing the same outfit. Their outfits lead Ruud to wonder if they were a part of a group connected to the College, and after much scouring of the Whittier College yearbooks and matching of faces, she determined that they were in fact the Girl’s Glee Club from 1925.

The two authors had many experiences with photos just like that one and used all of the sources they had access to in order to try and find as much detailed information as possible while they put the clues together. “There are some books in this series that aren’t very descriptive,” Garabedian said. “What we really wanted to do was make something between a scholarly and a popular book. We wanted to pack those captions with as much information as we could.”

With strict guidelines from the publishing company, many photos and captions had to be cut. The book was only allowed to have 18,000 words total and 70 words per individual photo caption. For the authors, cutting photos was not only challenging but painful after all the work they had put in and the attachment they had built toward the project.

“We had to sit down until two or three in the morning at the DigLibArts to take photos out of chapters that were too long in order for them all to fit in there,” Garabedian said sighing, as a photo of Ruud surrounded by paper in the library appeared on their Powerpoint presentation.

“There was a lot of arguing. There was so much good that could have been in it, but there wasn’t enough space,” Ruud added. Both agreed that cutting down content was the most difficult part of the process. They then shared with the eager audience some of the photos that didn’t make it to the book.

Garabedian concluded with a quote he found incredibly fitting to their experience of retelling the stories of a place. “Charles Burns once said, ‘An institution without a memory is an institution without a future.’ I’m not going to argue that this institution doesn’t have a future without a memory or that the town itself doesn’t,” Garbedian said. “But I think it’s a less robust future.”

“We were thinking about how there’s a very clear sign of the future across campus right now with the science building. There are ways to find out and ask questions about what’s going on over there, what  went before,” Garabedian said pulling up old photographs of the brand new Science and Learning Center’s location. “There’s a reason, for example, why the science building is about 100 yards long. This was the original location of the Hadley [Football] Field. We saw it coming apart. Well, here it is going up.” Together the audience sighed with nostalgia, as they looked into the past of the 1968 John Stauffer Science Center that originally cost 3.4 million dollars.

“[I realized] that you can ask questions about anything and figure out answers via research. there’s really nothing off limits when it comes to finding information,” Garabedian said. “That was the thing that was so cool.”

When the talk concluded, audience members lingered by a table stacked with copies of Whittier that Ruud and Garabedian sold and signed. In the group of people lingering behind were some familiar friends of the library, such as former Librarian David Moore, who worked in the Wardman library from 1963 to 1969.

Moore was happy to return to the building where he worked many years ago and see so many photos of changes he witnessed first-hand. “It brought back a lot of memories of earlier years here and it was fascinating to hear more about the college that I didn’t know,” Moore said. “How they went about doing the book and where they found all the information was my favorite thing.”

In the audience was also former Whittier College English Professor Ann Kiley. “For one thing, I’m always glad to see what your students do after they’ve been your students. Mike [Garabedian] was a past student of mine some time ago,” Kiley said. “Memories are part of the institution, I like to know where we’ve been and who we are. It’s interesting hearing about their process and the research they’ve done and the way they did it. It’s the puzzle that’s fun.”

Professor of History Laura McEnaney described the importance of books such as Whittier and acknowledging the history of a place.

“This is an incredibly difficult project because photographs offer depictions but they don’t speak and they don’t analyze. That’s up to the viewer. What these authors did was not only find these treasures but help us make sense of what we’re seeing and construct a history that is useful for all of us,” McEnaney said. “When you are rooted in place you make meaning, connections, relationships and you both build a past and a future together. Part of being together is trying to find not only our differences but our common language that holds us together. As Mike [Garabedian] said, it helped us see a little bit of where we could go because we’ve seen how far we’ve come. It reminds us that the memory we think we have has a longer history. We have to embrace the curiosity that this book represents.”

The book is backordered on Amazon.com, but Poets can still purchase copies at the bookstore, and maybe with a little persuasion, Garabedian might grant a signature.