(Our fifth entry in an ongoing series on preserving memories of loved ones…)
Last week, I interviewed Joe Da Rold, Director of the Plainfield (NJ) Public Library, on his experience with developing effective community-based oral history programs. These programs are wonderful. They record information that could easily be lost forever, preserve it, and provide ongoing access to a rich body of material capable of offering new insights and perspectives into our past.
Here’s Joe’s description of his experience with oral history programs in
: Plainfield, New Jersey
“Prior to 2007 Plainfield Public Library had no oral history program. Frankly, with several huge local history projects on our plate, I did not feel we had the time, funding, or personnel to begin an oral history program.
“Within the 25 Latino oral histories, we have uncovered dramatic, interesting stories, which we have since been able to share at library conferences, ESL workshops, and community presentations. Within a two-day period, I personally interviewed seven of the 13 participants. I was exhausted, but totally exhilarated by their stories and their trust in me. We are excited about continuing to work in this field, integrating oral history into our Local History program.
“The most important resource a library can bring to an oral history project is to transcribe the tapes. We have outsourced all of our transcriptions, funding the expense with local grants, and we have been very pleased with the results. These days you will end up with an electronic file, from which you can print a text document for your files. Having a transcription significantly increases a researcher’s access to the content of the oral history subject.”