ESS 2018 Emerging Leader Report
This year, I was honored to be chosen as part of the 2018 cohort of ALA Emerging Leaders, sponsored by the European Studies Section of ACRL. Convening for the first time at ALA Midwinter in Denver, the Emerging Leaders were introduced to our teammates and began to lay the ground work for our projects that would need to be finished in time to present at ALA Annual in New Orleans. My team, consisting of Joanna Chen Cham, Ashleigh Coren, Hailley Fargo, Kenya Flash, and myself, was tasked with investigating the process for collecting oral histories, including technical, ethical and legal aspects, of current and past participants in library residencies for ALA’s Residency Interest Group (RIG). The goals of this project were to preserve history, document the variety of experiences that impact the success and failure of residencies, and provide potential material for marketing purposes.
By project’s end, we were tasked with producing a roadmap or toolkit for RIG to begin collecting oral histories at little to no cost — RIG’s budget for this project was nonexistent. Keeping in mind that residency programs vary by institution, we first crafted a survey that was distributed by RIG and ACRL’s Diversity Alliance, hoping to get an idea of the sorts of questions we need to be asking, and to source potential interview subjects. In the span of a few months, we had received 30 responses to our survey from both current and former residents from mostly academic libraries, many of whom agreed to be interviewed.
As we were awaiting survey results, we dove into research on best practices for oral history collection. We focused on recruitment methods, release forms, interview questions, recording methods, transcription, preservation, and metadata. We provided a script for conducting the interview, including questions, links to best practices for conducting interviews, a comprehensive release form giving our subjects several options to protect their privacy, metadata standard options, and free options for recording, editing, transcription, and storage. We also did fairly extensive research on funding opportunities that RIG could potentially use to give this volunteer-driven project some sustainability.
Once we had our survey results, we were able to really dive in to testing our toolkit before we handed it off to RIG. We identified two residents to interview: one interviewee who didn’t mind her name or institution being shared and another who preferred to remain anonymous. One interview was conducted in person at the LOEX Conference, and the other was conducted using Zoom. These sample interviews allowed our team to test our release form, interview questions, and recording options, and we were able to test out some editing and transcription options.
We hope this project has given RIG the resources it needs to continue the work of collecting these important stories. Talking about resident experiences in an open and honest way is an important step in examining the ways residencies are currently conducted and formulating improvements for the future. As a former resident we spoke with put it, “your experience is important, your concerns are important, and your success is important.” We hope the work we’ve done reflects that, and we look forward to seeing where the project goes from here.
Ashley Howell Gates, MLIS
George Mason University