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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oral Histories

It's important for libraries to have different types of materials, but I think we need to look beyond the traditional ones--books, newspapers, DVDs, etc...

I think there's a real need for hearing voices of the past (and present) in communities today. The University of Kentucky has an impressive program, as does a public library in New Zealand and most of the presidential libraries.

However, I had a hard time finding any oral history collections in average American public libraries (not to mention school libraries).

What an incredibly valuable resource this would be!

Imagine if the Tuscaloosa Public Library kept an oral history collection. We could not only find primary source material about George Wallace's stand in the schoolhouse door (why can't we LISTEN to it through that link?), but patrons could also hear a first-hand account from someone who was standing right there in the crowd.

Or, we could listen online (once the Tuscumbia library gets an online catalog) and hear Helen Keller's nieces and nephews talk about her influence.

It's just an idea, a brainstorm. I was fortunate enough to participate in an interview this week that will ultimately be archived in the Library of Congress!

Why not give anyone who has access to a public library the same opportunity? Or what a great project that would be for a school, especially one that's been around for a number of years (with lots of alums still in the area).

So, keep listening (and talking), and definitely keep brainstorming!

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