Reading Room Now Open by Appointment

Starting on September 1, 2020, the Southwest Collection reopened to all patrons. For the last month or so, we have been open to the Texas Tech research community, but we are happy to expand our operations to encompass all researchers needing access to our collections in person. However, our Reading Room procedures have slight modifications that we wanted to make everyone aware of: 

Entering our Reading Room.
  • All visits must be scheduled in advance. Walk-ins are discouraged due to limited staffing. Please contact Weston Marshall at or (806) 742-9070 to schedule your visit.   
  • We have a small number of reference staff members working at any given time. Please have patience, be as precise with your request as possible, and contact as far in advance as possible to allow time for your materials to be pulled.  
  • Masks are required and must cover the nose and mouth at all times while in the building.  
  • Each service desk has a plexiglass partition installed. Please respect our staff’s space and observe social distancing! 
  • We will be spacing researchers out in our Reading Room to encourage social distancing.  
  • All surfaces and computers are sanitized daily.  
  • Please take note of all signs and notices. Our reception area and Coronelli Rotunda remains closed at this time to the public. Once in our building, please enter our reading room area on the east side (see picture) and exit through the west doors. 
Reference staff member Weston Marshall, hard at work to assist you with all your research needs!

If you requested research materials or duplications in the last six months but have not heard back from the Southwest Collection, please feel free to contact us again. Our staff have been working diligently to fulfill all requests, and we continue daily to tackle our immense backlog. We are looking forward to having you in our building once again. 

Reference staff will assign you a table and chair to ensure social distancing measures are observed.

Update on Reference Services During COVID-19 Times

This week, Archival Associate Weston Marshall is providing us reflections on handling reference requests for the past few months from home, as well as an update on operations as our Texas Tech campus shifts to Phase III services.


My job as an archival associate for the SWC Reference Department revolves around patron interaction. I am used to visiting with researchers, discovering their interests, evaluating their needs, and providing the necessary materials. With social distancing continuing to be a priority, the way that I help patrons with their research needs has drastically changed. Thankfully, the digital age has allowed us to continue communications and retain a bit of normalcy in our daily operations. I continue to receive reference requests on a regular basis and learn a little about what people are currently researching. Some interesting trends have emerged as people are remaining safely indoors.

Generally, I believe people have utilized this time of self-isolation to reflect on the parts of life that matter most. The majority of pending requests have to do with topics involving communities and family. While we are not able to fulfill every request at this time, our reference staff is committed to helping find as many available resources as possible. Whether patrons are interested in community events or family history, the SWC has some wonderful online resources at

The website can be browsed by collection or resource type. These categories are listed on the homepage and include topics such as maps, newspapers, oral history transcripts, photographs, etc.

For more specific topic results, patrons can utilize the search feature on the right-hand side of the DSpace homepage. Results can then be filtered as indicated by the below visual. Use the dropdown menu on the left to specify collection or material type. The filters located to the right allow users to narrow search results by topic and date.


Our digital collection is a fantastic way for patrons to interact with archival material on their own. Not all of the SWC’s materials are available in digital form, but our reference staff is happy to help with inquiries. For assistance, please contact the SWC Reference Department at (806) 742-9070 or via email.


Our building may remain closed, but many of our resources are still accessible online!


I would also like to provide you with an update to the Southwest Collection’s COVID-19 operations. This week, the university has entered Phase III of operations and some of our employees will begin returning to work. A limited number of faculty and staff will follow a modified work schedule.

We want to let researchers know what we are currently able to do this month and what requests we are still unable to fulfill during Phase III.

Please note that our Reading Room will remain closed to researchers at this time. However, some of our reference staff (myself included) will return to the building for a few days a week where we will be able to access our holdings and answer some researcher questions. If you contacted us between March and May, please be patient. We will be working through requests in the order in which they were received. Any new requests will go to the end of the queue.

In Phase III, duplications will not be mailed out. We cannot process duplication payments at this time as some of our archival staff remains at home. For example, oral histories for family members require an audiovisual staff member to burn audio discs. Please be assured that our reference staff will pull your materials and get them ready. We hope to fulfill your request when we enter Phase II. More information on that will be forthecoming.

If you are a donor, our registrar will be on limited duty to begin catching up on deeds of gift and other paperwork.

Our employees remain available as they continue to work from home and can answer questions to the best of their abilities remotely. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time in our organization’s history.

Quarantine blog – Manuscript Department 

This week’s blog is written by Robert Weaver, assistant archivist of the Southwest Collection, and provides an update on what the manuscript department has been working on while at home.

Six weeks of working from home, with two weeks to go. Can an archive do real, legitimate work in such an environment? Of course it can, and shame on you for asking. Even without our physical archival materials close at hand, the Southwest Collection has been churning out archival goodies!

Take for example our nearly 1,000 finding aids on Texas Archival Resources Online ( The Southwest Collection curates nearly 500 of these, with our fellow TTU archives (The Sowell Collection in Literature, Community and the Natural World; the Texas Tech University Archives; and the Crossroads of Music Archive) maintaining the remainder. And of the SWC’s 500, 421 required extensive revision in order to ensure that researchers like you can more easily discover them online. And now, after years of having this on our plate, and weeks of work-from-home effort, those changes have been uploaded. You’re welcome!

Screenshot 2020-05-18 10.47.18

Browsing the SWC’s TARO website.

Now, you may not know this, but the Southwest Collection has been around since the founding of Texas Tech University and was officially designated a campus entity in the 1950s. Decades of labor have led to just shy of 2,500 manuscript collections available for public research. “But Robert!” you might exclaim. “You said you only have 500 finding aids!” Calm down! I did say that. But through the efforts of two amazing student employees—Alison Pruitt and JoHanna Haiduk—who worked daily through the Fall and Spring semesters (right up until the campus closed and, fingers crossed, once the University re-opens), we are flying through that backlog. Those two were able to inventory over 600 collections, putting us over a quarter of the way there! Told you they were amazing.

However, making a finding aid isn’t simply a matter of uploading an inventory. From the moment a collection gets dollied into our stacks we document who created it, why they created it, how it relates to other collections, and a wealth of other information. This “metadata” gets organized and input into the XML code of an online finding aid, where its presence ensures that researchers can determine whether the collection is useful to them. The finding aid for the papers of Texas Governor Coke Stevenson are a good example of such metadata done right:

Screenshot 2020-05-18 10.48.12

Governor Coke R. and Marguerite King Heap Stevenson TARO Finding Aid

That part of the job is time consuming. Archival Associate Sarah Stephenson, who recently left us for the urban sprawl of Austin, Texas; Zach Hernandez, added to the staff mere days before TTU closed its doors; and myself have since last October slowly worked one finding aid at a time, piecing together this data. And we’re making progress! Over the work from home weeks, Zach alone has finished up over 200 finding aids that I will absolutely upload as soon as I can get the FTP program to work properly through my home firewall.

And there you have it. A manuscript archive run from the comfort of pajamas, home-ground coffee, and music turned up as loud as we want because we’re not at the office. And always remember, we’re doing this for you, the researcher. If you need something, contact our ever-helpful Reference Staff ( and they’ll get these things into your hands.

Stay safe and healthy out there, y’all!

Newspapers Update

Note: This week’s blog is written by Austin Allison, Section Supervisor of our Cataloging and Technical Processing department. Like last week’s blog on oral history remote work, he provides us an update on newspaper preservation efforts from home.

Newspaper digitization still trudges along during the COVID-19 pandemic! Even though being unable to work from the office and limiting social contact has temporarily halted new digitization of historic newspapers, we are slogging through our backlog of already digitized newspapers that had been awaiting online publication. Over the past few weeks, we have been processing and uploading newspapers to several collections including The Big Spring Herald, The Midland Reporter-Telegram, The Floyd County Hesperian, and others.

Working from home to keep the newspapers rolling has been a relatively easy transition. The only thing we need is computers with Adobe Photoshop capabilities and a connection to the internet to transfer files and access our work computers to process the completed files. The bulk of newspapers being processed and uploaded these days are microfilmed newspapers, since we cannot scan physical, hard copies in the office. Fortunately, microfilm yields the largest volume of newspapers, so we are still making great progress on many of the projects we have been working on.

Of course, this remote arrangement presents new challenges to preserving West Texas history. Occasional slow connections, problems with monitoring remote processes, and other intermittent distractions top the list of things plaguing the current state of the project, but the transition to a work-from-home environment has proven to be effective at reminding us of the importance of West Texas newspapers. While we still are making a lot of progress on the projects we are focused on, being able to take a step back and actually read some of the newspapers is beneficial to understanding the context of their place in West Texas history.

While processing pages of The Floyd County Hesperian from the 1930s through the 1970s, I took note of the annual “Old Settler’s Reunions” that took place in Floydada, among other communities, to celebrate the history and residents of the county. Floydada often associated this celebration with the yearly rodeo, but these particular newspaper issues contain the names of many early residents of the county along with many local businesses that sponsored events. The May 25th, 1966 issue of The Floyd County Hesperian, soon to be available online, urges residents to adopt a “Western mode of dress” to get into the spirit, and the succeeding issue reported the winners of contests for Best Antique Window, Best Old Fiddler, and Oldest Man and Oldest Woman at the celebration. One of these issues is a great resource for researchers; a year-after-year collection of them available freely online is a treasure trove that documents not only the Old Settler’s Reunion celebrations but the history of the county through time.


The Floyd County Hesperian, May 25, 1966 issue

About the Project

From Spearman, Stratford and Pampa in the northern Texas Panhandle to Sonora, Ozona and Brackettville near the U.S.-Mexico border, the Southwest Collection digital newspaper project covers over 60 counties across Texas and includes over 120 different newspaper titles. Each of these individual, text-searchable newspaper issues is available to download in PDF format for free from the collection’s website, As of April 2020, the project contains over 266,000 issues of newspapers with more becoming available online every week.


Our newspapers can be found on the SWC’s digital repository. Visit

Southwest Collection Digital Remote Resources Overview

Since our Reading Room is closed, we wanted to take a moment to provide an anchoring blog post for researchers interested in continuing their work remotely. Below are some links and general guidelines for accessing Southwest Collection materials from the comfort of your home.


Though our Reading Room may be closed, many archival materials can still be accessed on our digital repository.

Digital Collections:

Our digital repository contains materials from all special collections in our building: Southwest, University Archives, Crossroads of Music, Rare Books, the Sowell Family Collection, and Oral History. Click on any “community” to browse collections generally, and then there is the option to browse “sub-communities.”

Specifically regarding newspapers: Our dspace contains over 126 different newspaper titles from across West Texas that encompasses 264,000 text-searchable issues, with more added daily. The direct link for these newspapers is: (click the community “newspapers” for a full list of titles).

Tips for navigating dspace:

  • Each community will display the most recent submissions first at the bottom.
  • Sub-communities allow our departments to group archival material by collection or topic. They are incredibly helpful if you are trying to find specific thematic materials.
  • For more general research, the search bar on the right side allows you to search the entire digital repository. Once you click on any community, you can further narrow your search to the specific community you are currently browsing.
  • The search function crawls titles of files, as well as any text-searchable documents.
  • Further, the tool bar on the right allows you to filter or narrow the material you are viewing by author, subject, and date within the community.
  • Because of the variety of ways to describe archival materials, we highly recommend searching utilizing different keywords and terms. Alternative phrases might allow you to find information in multiple collections that you would not have anticipated. Also, sometimes it is helpful to just browse entire collections—with extra time at home, you never know what gems may be lurking in our digital repository!
  • Once you click on an item, click on the “view/open” link below the thumbnail to access the file. Most materials are either .pdf or .jpg format, and your browser setting will determine if the file opens in a new window or if you are prompted to download.
  • For more information and metadata on each file, scroll down on the page and click on “show full item record.”
  • The URI link on each item page provides a permanent web link if you need to access the file again. We recommend you use that link for any research citations.


Many empty tables await researchers for when our building reopens!

Digital Resources for Collections Accessible Only In-Person

If you want to jump-start your next research trip to Lubbock, here are a few places you’ll want to check out to get started.

TARO Finding Aids

The Texas Archival Resources Online provides finding aids for collections throughout the SWC/SCL. These materials will not necessarily have been digitized, but they do provide detailed inventories and general information on collections housed in our building.

More information on how to use finding aids can be found in this previous blog post.

Manuscript Guide

The Southwest Collection also has many collections without TARO finding aids at this time. More general information about those collections can be found here.

Reference Files

The Reading Room has over 14,000 files with general information about West Texas and the greater Southwest region. These reference files contain news clippings, brochures, inventories, and oral history information. They can normally be photocopied in-house, and provide an excellent starting point for researchers.

Oral Histories

More information on the Southwest Collection’s prodigious oral history collection of over 6,500 interviews can be found on our oral history wiki. These recordings have traditionally been abstracted, which are included on this site. If an interview has been transcribed, it will be housed on dspace.

The SWC also has donated oral history collections (with thousands of recordings); a preliminary list is found here. Any links to finding aids or other information are given when available.

Catalog Generally

If a more traditional card catalog is your preferred method of research, here is the direct link to the Texas Tech University Libraries online catalog.

Tip: if you want to search for just SWC/SCL materials, click the “advanced search” link to the right of the search bar. It will allow you to limit the scope of your search, and from there you can choose either “Southwest Collection/Special Collections” which focuses on physical materials in house (books, collections, oral histories) or “Southwest/Special Collections Digital Content” which focuses on our dspace holdings.


As always, our Reference Staff is a phone call or email away with any questions researchers have. Feel free to reach out to them, as well as any employee of the Southwest Collection. Our contact information can be found here.

WFH [Work from Home] Archives Edition

We hope this blog finds you feeling safe and healthy. We have broken into our already-scheduled social media posts to bring this update from the Southwest Collection regarding how our archive is continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SWC/SCL tulips

The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library on a sunny spring day, March 26, 2020.

The South Plains of Texas was operating under cautious but somewhat normal circumstances in early March. A handful of our Southwest Collection employees judged area schools’ history day projects on March 7th. However, the next week, with conditions worsening across the United States, our administration began to ask department heads to prepare contingency plans for working from home. All of this was done in hypotheticals until late on Monday March 16th. We received an email from the President of Texas Tech University, who told all employees that starting at the end of the day March 17, as many employees as possible should start working from home. This was implementing Phase III of the university’s COVID-19 response plan (for more on this, see ). The rest of the week was spent methodically ensuring that all of our full-time employees had plenty of work to do at home and the resources with which they could work successfully. Friday March 20th was always a staff holiday, but it was also a time for us to catch our breath. The vast majority of our building was now working remotely.

We write this on the week of March 30; our archive is now officially closed. On the week of March 23, only a skeleton crew remained at the Southwest Collection. Our registrar worked fervently to get all accessions and paperwork sent out. Our Associate Dean, along with our reference staff, remained on duty to handle last minute patrons to our Reading Room by appointment only. A few of our staff popped in and out of the building as needed for technical support that could not be done remotely. Phase IV of the university’s plans began Friday March 27. And so we will begin the month of April with our entire building working from home.

With that in mind, we wanted to make our patrons, donors, and virtual community aware of some of the projects we’ll be working on while we are home. We will be posting photos our staff members share of their home office set up (and, of course, highlighting their furry coworkers).

A few of the projects we are currently working on remotely (and that our staff will explain more about in future posts):

  • Uploading EAD finding aids to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO).
  • Categorizing reference file materials and updating comprehensive lists.
  • Transcribing oral history interviews and uploading transcripts to dspace.
  • Cataloging books.
  • Expanding metadata on our dspace holdings.
  • Cleaning up and organizing our digital file systems.

A couple of housekeeping notes for interested individuals:

  • The Reading Room will be closed to researchers until the campus reopens. Phase IV of Texas Tech’s operational phases designates our department (and the main library) as non-essential.
  • Our reference department can still field queries and requests, but no duplications can be completed at this time (since we lack an infrastructure for payment or physical copies to be made and mailed). Please be aware that our reference staff has very limited digital resources and does not have ready access to any physical manuscript materials. They will keep a running list of duplication requests to complete when we return to campus. Patrons should feel free to email regarding our digital holdings, finding aids, or oral history abstracts. Contact information can be found here:
  • The West Texas Historical Association annual conference (April 4-5) has been cancelled, as well as the 50th anniversary Lubbock tornado symposium (May 8-9).
  • Our exhibit commemorating Texas Tech and the 1970 Lubbock tornado has been delayed but will be completed and on display once we return to campus.
  • We are still available to connect with researchers remotely—you can still call or email individuals directly with questions. Fortunately, our phone systems are tied to our computers now, and so even working on laptops and at home, staff members can answer calls as needed. If you are unsure who to contact, our main lines are 806-742-3749 and 806-742-9070.

We thank you for your continued support during this time of uncertainty. We will be here virtually and back physically whenever it is safe to do so. In this time, we look forward to slowing down and expanding our digital offerings for our remote patrons. So look to this space as we update you on new developments from the Southwest Collection!


The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library Reading Room is closed for the foreseeable future. Please contact us for further information.

What’s New at the Southwest Collection?


Rather than just spin a yarn about a single collection this week, we’re going to catch you up on some exciting things that happened in only the first couple of months of 2015!

For example, a couple weeks back the Southwest Collection was excited to host a research visit by the recipient of the Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Award, associate professor Greg Stephens of Kansas State University-Salina.

Professor Stephens’ focused his attention on our American Agricultural Movement (AAM) Records and related oral histories (which you may remember we hosted an entire exhibit about last spring!) Stephens is gathering information on farmers in Kansas to try to explain how the stories that individuals told about their involvement shaped the AAM’s leadership and goals, and how that reciprocally may have then changed the stories themselves. The AAM wasn’t the only organization he was looking at: the National Farmers’ Organization (NFO), Grange, Farmers’ Union, and the Farm Bureau also used specific narratives to define their missions. He even found that the AAM was stronger in the South Plains region (home of the Southwest Collection) than he had initially thought!


Here you see our purveyor of oral histories (and gif creation expert) Elissa Stroman assisting Stephens with finding oral histories and similar items among our digital collections. She agrees that Stephens’ project is definitely interesting, and we were thrilled to be able aid it with our collections. If the Ag Movement strikes your fancy, too, then give our spectacular Reference Staff a call and they’d be happy to set up for you a look at it.

Underwwod POW card

Digital Collections Update!

Did you know that the Southwest Collection has added nearly a dozen digitized collections to our digital holdings? True story. Some of them are pretty spectacular, including the Boss Tweed Family Papers (the tale of which you can find right here!); the Charles Underwood Papers that contain some incredible images of World War II Pacific POW letters, one of which can be seen above; and the complete roster and late-19th-century war recollections of the United Confederate Veterans’ Fort Worth chapter  just in time for the anniversary of the final year of the Civil War. mastheads

One huge digital project we’ve had going on for several years is the digitization of numerous newspapers from around West Texas. There are far too many titles to name (seriously, check out this list of 28 different area newspapers totaling over 52,000 individual issues!), but some of the most recent include the State Line Tribune from the town of Farwell (or Texico, depending on what side of the Texas/New Mexico border you’re on), the Castro County News, and the Matador Tribune/Motley County Tribune (and assorted other names.) If you need west Texas news from the past 100 or so years, we’ve probably got it. Oh, and we’re always and forever adding more issues of Texas Tech’s own Daily Toreador (or University Daily, depending on the vintage) or whatever else the world will give us. (For example, we’ve been looking for papers to fill gaps in dates from many of the collections above, and in particular from our newspaper from Ropesivlle, Texas in the mid-twentieth-century for a while now. Got any lying around you might make available to us?)

Need, or want, to lay eyes on some of this stuff in person? Look no further than our ever-helpful Reference Staff to make that happen.

Reference Services!

Did you know that the Southwest Collection’s reference staff has created several bibliographies and research guides? One of the most robust examples of this is our African American Bibliography. It describes many of the materials in our collections relating to African American history, including books, manuscripts, oral histories, photograph collections, and newspapers. Such bibliographies are often essential to navigating the thousands of linear feet and many millions of individual documents in our archives


Although we have many digitized collections as well published finding aids housed on Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) and our own website, the guidance of experienced reference staff highly familiar with our holdings is also of invaluable use to researchers. Fortunately, the Southwest Collection’s Randy Vance and Nicci Hester, with the assistance of our many subject archivists and librarians, are able to provide that assistance. One way in which they accomplish this is through our Reference Files. Containing over 18,000 folders of information about West Texas (Lubbock and the South Plains in particular), Texas Tech University, and the Southwestern United States in general (Arizona, New Mexico, and other states), our Reference Files cover topics such as ranching, agriculture, oil, towns and counties in Texas, and a wide assortment of other subjects. Materials in the files include newspaper clippings, brochures, programs, tourist/travel information, biographies, oral history abstracts, and inventories of SWC manuscript collections.


The Holden Reading Room

Our reference desk is located in the Holden Reading Room. Reading room hours are Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. During the Fall and Spring semesters, Tuesdays and Thursdays see the doors remaining open until 7pm.

Reference requests may be made by email, phone (806-742-9070), mail (MS41041, TTU, Lubbock, TX 79409), or fax (806-742-0496). Please note that some materials may require 1-2 days for retrieval. Copies of materials may be made, but with an associated cost. Details can be found here. Please allow up to three weeks for replies and duplication orders, particularly of photographs and oral history interviews.