Live from Prairie Lights Recordings in Special Collections

On June 14, 1990 Mary Swander and Jane Anne Straw read from their book Parsnips in the Snow at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. This was the first broadcast of “Live from Prairie Lights” on Iowa Public Radio. Today Swander is Iowa’s poet laureate, and this recording, and thousands of others like it, is now at the University of Iowa Libraries.

Iowa Public Radio has donated all of the original recordings of Live from Prairie Lights to the UI Libraries. Eighteen years and 1,800 programs were captured on CD, mini disc and reel-to-reel. Stewardship of these materials is part of the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to record and make accessible the intellectual output of the University.

“These recordings document an outstanding series of readings,” said Greg Prickman, Assistant Head of Special Collections. “We are grateful to Iowa Public Radio for ensuring their long-term preservation by making this donation.”

Special Collections is already home to the Julie Englander Collection of Contemporary Literature, which contains books inscribed by authors interviewed by the programs’ host, Julie Englander. “It’s wonderful that the series will be available for the public to enjoy in perpetuity,” Englander said.

“We are proud to partner with the University Libraries on this project,” said Joan Kjaer, Iowa Public Radio Director of Communications. “This partnership provides an exceptional opportunity for all kinds of people – scholars, writers, readers, fans of the show – to have permanent access to conversations with the world’s best authors.”

Currently 250 of these recordings, including the first reading with Mary Swander and Jane Anne Straw, are available online in the Iowa Digital Library ( and the Virtual Writing University ( Eventually the entire series will be digitized and freely available via the Iowa Digital Library.