Saturday, November 28, 2009

Going to Carolina in My Mind

Eileen L. McGrath oversees a marvelous collection of books at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A colleague of hers started Read North Carolina Novels as a website in about 2004. He envisioned the site serving as a place where readers could find out about novels set in North Carolina that were readily available—the kind of novels that would be in any airport bookstore.

From there, Eileen picks up the story:

When I assumed responsibility for the site in 2008, I had a different vision. I wanted a site that would be more inclusive—not just the widely distributed books, but novels that might be just as good but that had fewer publisher resources supporting them. I also wanted to showcase our collection by adding older novels in addition to just-published titles. It seemed like a good idea to make the site more interactive, so a blog seemed the way to go. Jenny McElroy, a talented graduated student here at UNC, converted the website to a blog. Jenny also wrote a lot of the reviews in 2008 and 2009.

We've been building the new Read North Carolina Novels site for about a year. As of the beginning of 2009 November, the blog has write ups for about 500 books. This is a fraction of the number of novels in the North Carolina Collection. I don't have an exact count on the number of novels that we have here (we've been in business since the 19th century), but it's in the range of 3,500-5,000 titles.We have almost all the novels set in North Carolina, but I would guess that there are hundreds that we've missed.

The criteria for being included in the collection is that it is a work of fiction, set in North Carolina, no matter where the author may be from or now resides.

We’re still finding our way through the process for adding new books to the collection. I try to post at least twice a week, two novels each, for a total of four novels a week. That would be about 200 books a year added to the list. That's a minimum, and that won't keep up with the need. Right now I have 20 novels in my office waiting to be written up.

In addition to the on-line information, the collection forms a reference library. We also lend books out of the collection. In general, we'll have circulating copies of newer novels, those published in 2000 or afterwards. For older novels, it's hit or miss if we'll have an extra copy to circulate. If someone is interested in a particular book and thinks it might be in our collection, she or he can certainly contact us.

We’ve learned several things from managing this collection.

First, North Carolina is an attractive setting for certain genres, particularly mystery and romance. A woman on the run often lands up in the North Carolina mountains or on our coast.

Second, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when an out-of-state novelist used North Carolina as a setting, the "local color" elements could be a bit too generic. Writers today seem better at getting the details right. I think a lot of authors, if they don’t live in North Carolina already, come here to do research before they write their books. Who could blame them; it’s a great place to visit.

Third, the past is an attractive setting for many authors. The Civil War era is still number one as an historic time period, but we get in a steady trickle of novels set in the colonial period. Just this year we've gotten in a couple of books that are set in the early 20th century and present that as an historic period. This last development would be a shock to my mother-in-law and others of her generation.

Finally, we have a strong literary tradition in North Carolina. We've always had a lot of authors relative to the size of the population. Also, as a state we're getting larger—we're now the 10th most populous state. So, we're an attractive setting to outsiders and we've got a large, active resident writing community.

Some, but not many, university libraries have state-focused collections. University collections tend to focus on faculty authors and authors whose works are taught in classes rather than casting a wider net that covers the whole state. Large public libraries often do lists like this, and almost every public library has a section for local authors or books with local settings. This website has a nice listing of sites.

Eileen’s contact information:

Eileen L. McGrath, Assistant Curator

North Carolina Collection

Campus Box 3930

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27514-8890

The North Carolina Collection houses a huge amount of research and information about the state. To find the book list, go to the above link and click on Find a North Carolina Novel to read.


We must remember that North Carolina is more than a collection of regions and people. We are one state, one people, one family, bound by a common concern for each other.

~Michael F. Easley, Governor of North Carolina, 2001-2009


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for the information, Sharon. I'll have to check out the site/blog. I wonder if fictional towns in North Carolina qualify.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Eileen McGrath said...

Yes, we add novels set in fictional North Carolina towns. We even have a category for "Novels Set in Fictional Places." Right now I am preparing a post for Jane Tesh's Hard Bargain, set in the fictional North Carolina town of Celosia.

Anonymous said...

[b]microsoft oem software ms office, [url=]quarkxpress project viewer[/url]
[url=]photoshop illustrator & indesign version cs3 for mac[/url] photoshop demo for mac filemaker pro 10 torrent
nero torrent [url=]free coreldraw 6 download[/url] quarkxpress tutorial
[url=]microsoft office word 2003 cd key[/url] kaspersky key
[url=]software to purchase[/url] adobe photoshop cs4 + crack
wholesale software [url=]Creative Suite 4[/url][/b]