This is a letter that Larry Lihosit, who served in Honduras, is sending around to congress and the senate seeking to establish at the Library of Congress a Special Collection of Peace Corps books. He is particularly interested in books that are self-published and have limited circulation.

This is a very good idea, I think. We need ‘places’ where researchers someday might turn to find out who, what, where, when and how of  the Peace Corps. With the disappearance of books in our world, the Library of Congress is a good location. Or as Hemingway said, “a clear, well lighted place.”

Larry wrote me: ”I am taking this opportunity to continue my campaign to cajole for the creation of a Peace Corps Experience Collection at the Library of Congress. I sent the attached letter to my congressman, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer,  Dianne Feinstein, and Barack Obama. I intend to resend it each month. Maybe someone will actually read it! If the letter could serve as some sort of example, feel free to use it on your blog.

“I also sent a shorter version to about a dozen newspapers. If you are also interested in a Library of Congress Special Collection, you might want to consider encouraging people to write to their elected officials. The library has 5,000 employees! There are more special collections then I would have guessed! This would not strain resources nor would it cost much to start since the books would be donated.”

Here’s Larry’s letter to the President and Congress. Feel free to edit and send to your person in Congress.

             As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Honduras, 1975-1977), I request your help to create a new Special Collection at the Library of Congress, the Peace Corps Experience Collection. This would include published memoirs, letters, essays, novels, short stories and poetry inspired by service. By creating such a repository, the Library of Congress would become a historical guardian for the Peace Corps’ collective memory and promote understanding (the Peace Corps’ third goal).

            Currently, there is no such treasure. The Kennedy Library only accepts original material. Tragically, even the Peace Corps Resource Library in Washington D.C. does not keep published work written by its own volunteers, the salt of the earth. As the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps’ inception approaches, let us correct this.

            As you know, hundreds of thousands of Americans have heard the call and hundreds have returned to fulfill that pledge to share their experience through literature. Since commercial publishers have historically shown little interest in Peace Corps Volunteer’s literature, ninety percent of these books are self-published. The Library of Congress currently will not accept any book unless at least 500 copies were printed. In today’s Print-On-Demand publishing world, this excludes almost all Peace Corps’ books.

            Popular government sponsored programs are rare. During the first half of the twentieth century only the W.P.A. and the C.C.C. caught America’s imagination. During the second half of the twentieth century, only N.A.S.A. and the Peace Corps have been equally popular. Yet, like the W.P.A. and the C.C.C., first-hand experience books about the Peace Corps are hard to find and our collective memory fades.  

            The Library of Congress has a great set of special collections, several of which include twentieth century work. There is even a collection of “Amateur Publications” by early twentieth century journalists! The addition of Peace Corps literature will serve our nation well at no cost to the tax payer. The books will be donated. Web sites related to the Peace Corps are numerous. 

            Most wise leaders are remembered for supporting the arts and learning. This is an opportunity. The fiftieth anniversary is the perfect time to announce the creation of a Peace Corps Experience Collection within the Library of Congress. Thanking you in advance for your kind consideration.