CHICAGO — Just as it did for society at large, the second half of the 20th century brought monumental upheaval to librarianship, affecting every aspect of what it means to be a part of the information services profession. But as the librarians who worked during this tumultuous period end their careers, the social memory of their extraordinary generation is at risk of being forgotten. Encompassing a full spectrum of institutions and roles, A. Arro Smith’s new book “Capturing Our Stories: An Oral History of Librarianship in Transition,” published by ALA Editions, draws from the professional life stories of dozens of librarians to chronicle this period. Captured in stories sure to resonate are the regret and nostalgia for the librarianship practiced at the beginning of their careers, excitement and wonder about how technology has fundamentally changed the profession, and perspectives on the stereotypes associated with librarians. The result is a book as entertaining as it is instructive, offering a primer of oral history theory and methodology for those studying the form. Featuring a foreword by Dr. Loriene Roy, it explores such themes as
- becoming librarians, both consciously and accidentally;
- memories of library school and training;
- clichés and stereotypes, both inside and outside the profession;
- what it was like to experience the beginning of the technology revolution, spanning the card catalog era through the age of online database searching, OPACs, and beyond;
- wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of changing technology and obsolescence;
- professional challenges such as sexism and the struggles for promotion, funding, and compensation; and
- inspiring stories of helping patrons, performing outreach, and serving the community.
Smith, PhD, is technical services manager at the San Marcos (Texas) Public Library and has been a practicing librarian for more than 25 years. He is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, including the widely read essay “Cataloging Heresy,” which appeared in “Radical Cataloging,” by K. R. Roberto. He worked with former ALA president Dr. Loriene Roy, in a partnership between the American Library Association and the School of Information at the University of Texas, to create a national oral history program for retired and retiring librarians.
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