Oral History in Your Library

Create Shelf Space for Community Voice

by Cyns Nelson with contributions by Adam Speirs
Foreword by R. David Lankes


Harness the power of oral history and maximize community engagement at your library.

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Cover image for Oral History in Your Library

July 2018

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 116
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Archives and Records Management/Special Collections, Rare Books
  Archives and Records Management/Preservation and Curation

Discover the true value and exciting possibilities of oral history in the library: learn new and compelling ways to engage your patrons by sharing personal and community history with them.

Have you thought about creating a collection to capture the experiences of your community? Perhaps you already have an oral history collection, but it's gathering dust. In either case, this book can help. After outlining what it means to effectively create oral history content, the author discusses how to establish public access to your collection, how to promote the content to your community, and how to use oral history in your library programs. Collaborating with other organizations, working with volunteers, and funding initiatives are a few of the other topics covered.

Brimming with ideas and practical advice, the guide is meant to inspire and empower, taking the hassle out of oral history and replacing it with embracing oral history's power and the tools to bring it into your library. If you have an oral history collection, this book will help you to maximize its potential. If you don't have one, this book will show you how your library could benefit from one, what it can help your library to accomplish, and how to get started. If you're seeking a path to community engagement, start here.


  • Shows librarians how to realize the potential of oral history collections
  • Goes beyond content creation to cover creating access to and promoting oral history as well as using it to enhance library programming
  • Provides public librarians a targeted way to engage with their communities
Author Info

Cynthia "Cyns" Nelson manages the Maria Rogers Oral History Program (MROHP) at Boulder Public Library's Carnegie Branch for Local History. She has more than 10 years of experience contributing to oral history projects throughout the state and for the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project. She presents to regional and national associations of librarians, archivists, museum professionals, and public histories and has been a guest lecturer at San Joe State University. She is also part of a task force that is exploring metadata standards for oral history, and she previously worked as a writer/editor for Bloomsbury Review.

Adam Speirs manages the oral history collection for Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. He has worked in academic, private, and public archives since 2007, and he currently serves on the board of the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists, developing educational opportunities for working professionals in the region. He has presented at state and national conferences on the intersection of oral history and public libraries and on other topics.



"This comprehensive guide covers every aspect of oral history, from getting started to disseminating the final project out to the community. . . . This clearly written guide will help librarians put oral-history projects in their libraries."Booklist

"In championing the value of an underappreciated category of primary information, Nelson provides a resource that will appeal to library, museum, and historical society staff who recognize the importance of individual voices in preserving and celebrating cultural heritage."Library Journal

Look Inside

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