Digitization of historical WGLT program guides informs broadcast history research
Mental Health Matters, Speaking of Feminism, Black Studies Journal, Seniors Speak Up, The Mexican-American Experience…does this sound like programming you might have heard on your National Public Radio station this morning? Well, if you were in central Illinois about 50 years ago, it was!
These recurring features aired on WGLT in the mid-1970s—and most were locally produced by Illinois State University undergraduates. Founded in 1966 as a student-run radio station, WGLT (the call letters originally stood for We Gladly Learn Teach) has been producing independent content and local journalism for over half a century. Users may now explore this rich history through a new digital collection available from ISU ReD, Milner Library’s institutional repository for the research, scholarship, and creative activities of the Illinois State University community.
In total, 291 program guides were digitized for a classroom research project. Clocking in at close to 4,000 pages, the guides would have been mailed to WGLT listeners on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. They provided a breakdown of the weekly programming schedule and in later years featured recurring columns and short articles by station staff. Dr. Lauren Bratslavsky of the ISU School of Communication requested that the guides that were preserved in the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives be digitized as an opportunity for her students “to participate in producing knowledge by telling stories based on what they learn from primary sources instead of only interacting with history via textbooks, documentaries, and so on. The digitized guides are a way for students to learn about both local radio history and see how it fits in to the broader contexts of public and educational broadcast histories.”
WGLT General Manager R.C. McBride also sees the digitization project as an opportunity for providing insight into this history of the station and McLean County as a whole. “Because of the nature of the medium,” he said. “It has traditionally been a challenge for radio stations to save and share their histories. These program guides and annual reports provide a fascinating glimpse into not only WGLT’s history, but also that of the Illinois State and Bloomington-Normal communities we serve. These are fun to peruse, and learning from past successes (and failures) is important as WGLT and public media move into the future.”
Scanning, project management, and image processing for this initiative was undertaken by Milner Library’s Digitization Center. ISU ReD and the Digitization Center welcome opportunities to expand the library’s digital collections in response to classroom projects or other pedagogical applications; faculty wishing to propose a digitization project should contact Digitization Coordinator Karmen Beecroft or Scholarly Communications Librarian Anne Shelley to arrange a consultation.