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Naturals with a microphone: oral history and the librarian skillset

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As oral history has gained in popularity and acceptance since its origins at Columbia University in the late 1940s, librarians have predominantly contributed in the realm of technical services, as cataloguers of oral history interviews conducted by others. The aim of this study is to examine the skillset librarians possess as oral history interviewers. An autoethnographic approach was employed wherein the author, a librarian, recounted her experience as the principal investigator of an oral history project. This experience was examined in light of the reflections of Alessandro Portelli as an interviewer and Leah Rosenblum Emary’s work on librarian-ethnographers. Findings reveal that librarians’ ethos in collection work and training in reference are transferable to the context of oral history interviewing. Librarians status as insider-outsiders within the academy and our ability to create rapport are emphasized. The paper concludes with a call for librarians to engage more fully in oral history, and to initiate collaborations of important local digital collections such as oral histories.
Contributed paper for the 2017 Association of College and Research Libraries conference.
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Hendrigan, H. (2017). Naturals With a Microphone: Oral History and the Librarian Skillset. In ACRL 2017 Conference Proceedings (pp. 453–460). Baltimore: ALA. Retrieved from
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Naturals with a microphone: oral history and the librarian skillset
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