A. Arro Smith. Capturing Our Stories: An Oral History of Librarianship in Transition, with preface by Loriene Roy. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, imprint of American Library Association. 2017. 202p. Paper, $45.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1461-8).

Richard M. Mikulski


This work grew out of “Capturing Our Stories: Developing a National Oral History Program for Retiring/Retired Librarians,” a project organized by 2007/2008 ALA President Loriene Roy, who also wrote the preface to this work. The aim of this oral history project, which can be viewed at https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~stories/, was to collect and record interviews from retired librarians in an effort to preserve their stories, experiences, and remembrances, all of which reflect the collective social memories of the library profession. A. Arro Smith, who was involved in organizing and implementing the project, continues supporting Roy’s mission through this book. In this work, which serves to supplement and analyze the oral history project, Smith offers a qualitative study that identifies trends and repeated themes addressed by the thirty-five interviewees, all of whom are retirees from the profession. Smith, through the use of oral history theories and methodologies, sets out to present and explore the “unique stories of the everyday lives of librarians” (ix) and “the story of librarianship in the last half of the twentieth century [as] told by thirty-five individuals” (xvii). Through doing so, Smith argues, a “‘social memory’ of librarianship” (2) can be constructed. Much like the oral history project itself, Smith argues that it is vital to capture and examine the stories and experiences of this now-retired generation of librarians, as their careers spanned an era of significant change within the library profession. From typewriter to computer, card catalog to OPAC, phone to chat reference, this generation of librarians lived through a defining transitional moment in librarianship.

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