Transcribing Oral History

Transcription_using_cylinder_phonographShopes article highlights the significance of the transcription process within oral history (specifically focused on interviews). In her article, she raises one important issue regarding the preservation of cultural heritage. She argues that transcription translates “one form of communication into another” ultimately causing the loss of particular “nuances of embodied expression” (2012, n.p.).

What is particularly strong about Shopes’ argument is her description of various solutions to ensure the process of transcription is carried out effectively, even in different contexts. However, she is also aware that there is currently no common solution for transcription across oral history projects (2012, n.p.).

While Shopes appears to view transcription positively as an indispensable process within oral history preservation, the Minnesota Historical Society offers a balanced argument. They argue that transcription falls under two categories: word-for-word transcription (possibly emphasising a preference for transcribed documents complimenting the original audio files) or leniency within the transcription process (highlighting a preference for original audio files as source material) (2001, p.1).

Of course, transcription plays a paramount role in access for service users, the aims of which are ultimately to facilitate users in their pursuit of information. As well as ensuring universal access to content for users with auditory impairments, full transcriptions can be beneficial (over other solutions, such as transcribing a certain percentage or simply providing a summary).

Shopes asserts that there cannot be a common solution for all oral history projects, since each one will differ greatly (2012, n.p.). The Minnesota Historical Society add to this argument stating that when it comes to transcribing specifically, each person (or even organisation) is fundamentally different (2001, p.1). These are notions that many practitioners in the field would be fully aware of.

As the argument proceeds, more issues regularly emerge, prompting in depth discussion and thought. Ultimately, there are three questions that will prompt this discussion: Should common standards be set across organisations to ensure that transcription fully compliments the original audio, while still allowing the original audio to stand on its own? Should we assert the authority that oral history should remain as so and only be heard, not read? If so, how do we allow universal access?

What do you think about the role of transcription? Let us know.

Minnesota Historical Society/Oral History Office. (2001). Transcribing, Editing and Processing Guidelines. Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved 7th June, 2015, from

Shopes, L. (2012). Transcribing Oral History in the Digital Age. Oral History in the Digital Age. Retrieved 7th June, 2015, from

Image Downloaded 2008-02-03 from John Clark Ridpath, ed. (1897) The Standard American Encyclopedia, Vol.3, The Encyclopedia Publishing Co., New York, USA, p.1199, fig.1on Google Books

Andrea Bellamonte – LinkedIn

IL In An Information Literate World


The reading which I decided to focus on for this post is Susanna  M. Cowan’s  2014 article Information Literacy: The Battle We Won That We Lost? in which Cowan discusses the future of information literacy (IL) and also its history as a programmatic concept created, coveted, and disseminated in libraries, by librarians. The article is formulated around the question posited in its title, have librarians lost the battle for IL?

Cowan’s article is inspired by the work of Sharon A. Weiner who calls for the institutionalization of information literacy, with a strategy of integration into the organizational structure of the educational institution. After comprehensively outlining the history of IL dating back to Paul Zurkowskis formative work in the 1970s, Cowan precedes to explore the outdated nature of these original theories, and the current issues surrounding the libraries possessiveness of IL. Zurkowski emphasised the programmatic nature of IL along with the necessity of the library at its core. While this theory was perfectly salient in the era in which it was first present, over 40 years on we are still clinging to this original definition.  Cowen goes on to outline the impact of technology on IL with the wider dissemination of information quickly leaving this original idea of IL behind until the establishment of the ACRL Competency Standards in 2000.

The velocity at which technology has continued to develop since the millennium has played no small part in the current ‘battle’ of IL. With access to almost unlimited information at a young age, research has become a daily activity, no longer confined to the library where beneath the watchful eye of the library it could be ensured that correct research methods were used. With the development of bibliographic instruction, and the pervasive nature of technology, the instruction of IL seems almost to be an interruption in the continuous research of our daily lives. Is there in fact a need for IL to be taught at university level or is it already too late to instil good research methods?

It has become increasingly apparent through personal experience and conversation with colleagues that the need for IL instruction must take place at a far earlier stage of a student’s academic career. At the age of 18 or 19 a student has already been involved in research for at least 4 years with Googling a topic, item, food, or event, more natural than opening a book to some. If IL is to remain current it is necessary for its instruction to be carried out at a second level institution, not third, where the foundations can be built upon. However the elephant in the room is the unwillingness of the library to give up this grand icon of purpose that is IL tuition, if the library hands over the reins, will it be able to continue to prove its viability in a practical and visible way? Is the departure of IL from the domain of the library a precursor to that of the teaching librarian?

Cowen quotes the TED prize winner Zugata Mitra  who challenged librarians and educators to “let it happen”, in response to which Cowen posits the notion of standing back and, to me however, this conjures an image of the traditional librarian, cowering and quaking, no longer able to validate its purpose in this new information literate world.

Cowan, S. M. (2014). Information literacy: The battle we won that we lost?.portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(1), 23-32.
Image Credit: Brenau University

Julie O’Connor – LinkedIn

Spotlight on Cregan Library, St. Patrick’s College

st_pats_library_collageSt. Patrick’s College opened in 1875 to meet the teacher training needs of a denominational primary school system but over the years it has grown to include post-graduate and doctoral programmes and established humanities programmes which have led to a holistic approach to education.

The library has existed in some form or another as far back as 1884! The last version of the library was built in the 1980s and was in need of a revamp for some years before we moved into a new four-story library building earlier this year. Lots of planning and work went into the move – for example we integrated the collections of our ‘Resource Centre’ into the library and RFID tagged over 160,000 items in preparation for self-issue kiosks.

In February of 2015 the new, improved library opened and currently provides seating to just under 400 people.


Flexible library space

I work in the information service and moving into the bright, colourful new building has been a great boost for staff morale, as students and College staff have given lots of positive feedback about what a nice place the library is to study and meet in. It provides a variety of seating to facilitate various types of learners; from a bookable group study room, egg-shaped lounge-chairs in the lobby, and individual study booths, to (of course) bean-bags for relaxing in! There are quiet areas and louder areas so that people can have a chat and coffee on the ground floor, but must engage in silent study on the top floor.

Archive room

We have several special collections which are now housed in a purpose-built, temperature-controlled archive room. These special collections have been built up over the long history of the library, and reflect a rich tradition in education and Irish children’s literature, as well as Irish history. They include (but are not limited to!): a schools text book collection, Junior special collections (Padraic Colum, Patricia Lynch) and P.W.Joyce and Henry Morris collections.

Accessing the Library

The library is open to staff and students of the College during term-time from 9am- 10pm Mon-Thurs & 5pm on Fri. We open from 10am- 1pm on Saturdays. During the Summer months we open office hours Mon-Fri.

The ground floor of the library is open to the public, and tours for interested groups/individuals can be arranged on request (email This year on Culture Night (Friday 18th September) the entire Library will be open to the public and feature special events and exhibitions.  For more info keep an eye on the Culture Night website and our own website/social media accounts, below.

Location: Drumcondra Road, Dublin 9.
Twitter: @LibraryStPats

About the Author

Genevieve Larkin @Genevievelagen

Library assistant (Síol information and research support/distance service co-ordinator)

Genevieve started working in St. Patrick’s College Library in 2008 while studying in DCU and later completed an M.LIS from RGU. Prior to joining the College she worked for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown co/co in public libraries. Genevieve is currently the secretary of the LAI Career Development Group and her professional interests include the use of emerging technologies in libraries and archives, continuing professional development for librarians, information and digital literacies, and library advocacy.

Bridging the Gap Between Research & Practice

In this article Haddow and Klobas identified eleven different factors that contribute to the growing gap between research and practice in the LIS field. Based on current literature this article identified and defined those eleven factors, the authors then went on to offer suggestions on how these gaps could be bridged. However, it recognised that there has not been enough research done on this topic in order to lessen these gaps. Thus, it has highlighted a research area that both practitioners and researchers could collaborate on.

One of the key issues raised at a recent LAI seminar organised by the Career Development Committee highlighted the need for a forum where practitioners could discuss research but it also acknowledged that access to research was a key issue for those not working in academic libraries. This blog will try to address these issues by regularly posting discussion questions related to current literature.

The Haddow and Klobas article failed to mention where students fall into this gap. Some become researchers others practitioners and as the job market becomes more competitive, some find it difficult to find work in the LIS field due to lack of opportunities or gaps in their skill set. The idea for this blog came about after reading a lot of literature for a MLIS assignment and realising that there was no avenue to discuss the research we did. It is hoped that this blog will act as a platform for postgraduate LIS students to discuss their research interests or individual articles that raised points that they agreed or disagreed with. By engaging with the wider LIS community in these discussions it is hoped that we can make a small contribution to reducing the gap at least between students and practitioners.

The question that we are raising here is what do you think could lessen the gap between students/recent graduates and practitioners?

Share your views on Twitter using #SLIPIreland

Haddow, G., & Klobas, J. E. (2004). Communication of research to practice in library and information science: Closing the gap. Library & Information Science Research, 26(1), 26-43.

Jane Burns Guest Post


Communication is at the heart of everything a LIS student or professional engages in. We like connecting people to content that helps them develop new ideas and support the research they are investigating.

Understanding the first question is never really the “question” users are seeking answers to is a part of this skill set. As students you are learning a combination of theory and applications of LIS principles. The more tacit knowledge you will obtain from guest speakers, conference attendance and work experience. This kind of knowledge is life long and it will evolve on a constant basis.

By creating this Student LIS centred blog you are well on your way to further developing your communication skills. Sharing your ideas and skills in this format will allow you to engage with the wider LIS community in Ireland and beyond, will keep you anchored to each other no matter where your paths take you and you will in a very real way be contributing to the body of knowledge of our profession.

As someone who has had the pleasure to be your teacher, I know what each you individually and collectively can achieve. From a professional point of view I am delighted that this initiative is emerging- it will benefit us all.

For all your current and future readers I offer this advice…”Watch this space- you will be amazed at what you will learn!”

All the best wishes for success with this endeavour!

Jane Burns

11292807_10153296212485155_957898825_nJane Burns, MBA,MLIS, MPhil, FLAI is a Library and Information Services professional with over 20 years’ experience developing and managing a range of knowledge solutions in different environments, including Universities, Government, Educational, Science, Digital Media and Medical Education. Jane serves on the LAI Executive Council and the CPD Group. She is the Research Officer in the Health Professions Education Centre at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and is an Occasional Lecturer in the School of Information Studies at UCD.