“Alright! Welcome back,” says Jesse Sawyer, his voice rolling out over the Macalester campus on the radio waves of 91.7 WMCN Macalester College Radio. “I’m DeWitt Wallace.” “I’m Janet Wallace,” says Ginny Heinrich; “I’m Variety Hour,” follows Dave Collins. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and The DeWitt Wallace Variety Hour is on air.
The DeWitt Wallace Variety Hour is hosted by Sawyer, a Library Specialist; Heinrich, a Reference and Instruction Librarian; and Collins, also a Reference and Instruction Librarian, who work in the DeWitt Wallace Library. All three are Macalester graduates, and all were WMCN enthusiasts during their college years.
The DeWitt Wallace Variety Hour show started fall semester of 2012 as outreach from the DeWitt Wallace Library that was “not necessarily associated with librarianship,” Sawyer said. The show usually has several themes, each with a playlist developed by library staff during the week. Collins said that they usually play three songs, then talk about each theme. “I’d say we try to keep it mostly music,” Sawyer said, and they often highlight local bands.
The show features a variety of music and information. Collins said that themes are inspired by events on campus, library events and services, and faculty and their research. The show during the International Round Table week focused on health. During Open Access week, the show was based on music that had been challenged at some point in history. The Variety Hour also hosts different faculty members who talk about their research and play music to accompany it.
Sawyer, who graduated in 2011, had a jazz show, a noise rock show, and an indie rock show during his time as Macalester student. Collins, a 1985 graduate, had several shows including “The Air Guitar Pogo” (heavy metal and punk) and “The Green Jello Show” (alternative and new wave). Heinrich, a 1990 graduate, spent time at the station with her friends who had radio shows. “I didn’t actually have a radio show in college, I just pretended I did,” she said.
The hosts say their radio personas (DeWitt Wallace, Janet Wallace, and Variety Hour) came about “because we just thought it was funny,” Heinrich said. Sawyer added that another reason why the names have stuck is because the show represents the DeWitt Wallace Library, and it allows other library staff to fill in if hosts can’t make it to a broadcast.
The November 5 show had four themes: freedom of the press, elections and voting, study away and crunch time (during the last part of the semester). Before playing “Electioneering” by Radiohead, DeWitt, Janet and Variety talked about voting and election day. “So if you haven’t voted yet, you should get out and do that,” Variety said. “I voted!” Janet chimed in.
During the study away segment, the hosts discussed what the library can do for students who are on study away. For example, students are still able to take advantage of Interlibrary Loan. Library staff can also scan resources and email them to students abroad. “So if you can find your way to an internet cafe, we can help you out with your research no matter where you are in the world,” Janet said.
“We do want to make sure you know that the library is here to be your research therapist,” DeWitt said during the crunch time segment. The hosts discussed ways to find resources, library hours, and mentioned the research support exchange program, in which librarians are available 24 hours a day online to answer questions. This segment was followed by “King of the All-Nighter” by The High Strung.
Of the show, Sawyer said “It’s really cool that we’ll have the opportunity to continue the show for many years.” There is an opportunity to grow, and “this show has the potential to be kind of an institution after a while,” he said. He added that there is probably not another library in the country that has a radio show.
Collins said in the future he would like to have more faculty on the show to play music. Heinrich said that past shows in this format have been some some of her favorites; once they interviewed assistant professor Victoria Malawey from the music department about her research on cover songs and played a list of cover songs that she provided.
The DeWitt Wallace Variety Hour plays music from many genres. The hosts particularly enjoy playing local bands such as Hüsker Dü and the Replacements.
“Being former DJs we have a lot of musical history to draw on,” said Collins, although other library staff help to make playlists and some research is done during shows. “We like to play jarring contrasts, in a sense,” he said, such as Nancy Sinatra followed by Miles Davis and more.
“I think we like to surprise people with what comes after what,” he added.
The Dewitt Wallace Radio Hour is on Macalester College Radio 91.7 FM on Tuesdays from 3-4 PM.