Alongside written records, photographs, and publications, the American Library Association Archives also holds over 150 interviews of individual librarians and library workers. These oral histories and interviews provide a vital resource of librarian recollections that may not be otherwise found in administrative records, photographs, and correspondence. These stories told by librarians and library workers provide context to their lives and career, how their experiences and education shaped their librarianship, and how certain events shaped their personal and professional lives.
While the ALA Archives does not currently have its own active oral history program, the Archives collects and supports projects that capture the voices of librarians and library workers as part of its mission to preserve the history of librarianship. Here is a small selection the oral history projects and interviews that the Archives holds: Continue reading “Oral Histories at the ALA Archives”→
Festschrifts are a common way to honor someone in academia, and line the shelves of many academic libraries. They typically contain academic essays related to the person’s life work, contributed traditionally by the person’s former doctoral students and colleagues. But what about a Festschrift that’s instead full of nothing but praise for the person being honored gathered from common workers in their field, and furthermore isn’t for an academic, but instead for a public-service librarian? This is the final issue of Libraries magazine, honoring one Mary Eileen Ahern. Continue reading “Miss “Public Libraries” Mary Eileen Ahern”→
People go to librarians when they need help researching, but where do librarians go when they need help with their own research? This post will explore the history of the Library Science Library at the University of Illinois, one of a few dedicated library science collections in the United States.
In the mid-1930s, the American Library Association formed a Committee on the Libraries of the American Prison Association. Found in Record Series 23/40/5, this collection contains the Committee’s surveys from 1936-38 of prison libraries across the nation; reports on prison librarianship which include historical information on recommended book titles and magazine subscriptions, cataloging, circulation protocols, staffing, readership habits, and testimony from prisoners; correspondence of librarians, prison administrators, and prisoners; and a selection of prison newsletters and newspaper clippings. Continue reading “Library Service to Prisoners, 1936-39”→
The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so you will think when you look at this laundry list of key considerations Katherine L. Sharp outlines for someone setting up a library in her writing “Catechism for Librarians.” Unlike a religious Catechism, she outlines not what to believe but a series of questions a librarian must answer for herself. Despite being only 3 by 5 inches in size, 24 pages long, and never published, these 180 questions still provide a reasonable guide to someone setting up a library today. And their relevance is still more interesting when you consider that this was written in 1891, with no knowledge of the sweeping changes in librarianship and technology that were to come. A few of the more prescient questions are presented here in their modern context: Continue reading “Have you a card catalog? Katharine L. Sharp’s Catechism for Librarians”→
As part of her 2007-08 presidential term, Loriene Roy initiated an oral history program for retiring librarians, “Capturing Our Stories.” So far this program, which is still on-going, has produced 35 recordings with full transcripts, which have now been added to the ALA Digital Archives and made available to researchers online.
Librarians interviewed range from school librarians to public library directors to catalogers, from California to New York. One librarian of note interviewed is Sanford Berman, author of Prejudices and Antipathies, famous criticism of the sexism and racism inherent in the Library of Congress subject headings of the 1970s. Berman’s personal papers are also held in the ALA Archives.