Cataloging Oral Histories: Creating MARC Records for Individual Oral History Interviews

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of North Texas]On: 26 November 2014, At: 09:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Cataloging & Classification QuarterlyPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wccq20

    Cataloging Oral Histories: Creating MARCRecords for Individual Oral HistoryInterviewsSusan C. Wynne aa University of Wyoming , Laramie, Wyoming, USAPublished online: 18 Jun 2009.

    To cite this article: Susan C. Wynne (2009) Cataloging Oral Histories: Creating MARC Recordsfor Individual Oral History Interviews, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 47:6, 561-582, DOI:10.1080/01639370902935471

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  • Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 47:561582, 2009Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0163-9374 print / 1544-4554 onlineDOI: 10.1080/01639370902935471

    Cataloging Oral Histories: Creating MARCRecords for Individual Oral History Interviews

    SUSAN C. WYNNEUniversity of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA

    Cataloging oral histories presents many difficulties, especially forcatalogers who have primarily worked with published materialsand for institutions without funds or staff dedicated to managingoral history collections. Methods for cataloging oral histories canvary widely among institutions. In this article I examine the is-sues and considerations involved in providing intellectual accessto oral history interviews and offer a possible cataloging methodto libraries holding unprocessed oral history materials. The cata-loging procedures discussed here have worked well from a workflowstandpoint as one of the initial steps to create access to oral historiesat Columbus State University, a medium-sized academic library.

    KEYWORDS oral histories, cataloging, MARC records, ColumbusState University Libraries

    INTRODUCTION

    Providing access to oral histories may be a major challenge for libraries lack-ing funding or staff dedicated to oral histories or for catalogers accustomed tohandling published materials. Despite the great advances made following thepublication of the Oral History Cataloging Manual (OHCM) in 1995, accessto oral histories in libraries still suffers from a lack of consensus and standard-ization. This article explores some of the issues surrounding the cataloging oforal history interviews. I also present an in-depth, although not exhaustive,discussion of the cataloging procedures for individual oral history interviewsdeveloped at Columbus State University (CSU), a medium-sized academiclibrary in Columbus, Georgia. These procedures are one component of alarger project to make oral histories at CSU more visible and accessible.

    Received October 2008; revised February 2009; accepted March 2009.Address correspondence to Susan C. Wynne, Catalog Librarian, University of Wyoming,

    1000 East University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071. E-mail: swynne@uwyo.edu

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    DEFINITION OF ORAL HISTORY AND ITS VALUE

    Oral history is the process of deliberately eliciting and preserving, usuallyin audio or audio and visual recording media, a persons spoken recollec-tions of events and experiences based on first-hand knowledge.1 An oralhistory interview is a specific type of interview covering a subject of his-torical interest, conducted by an interviewer who has some understandingof the subject with a knowledgeable interviewee. Interviews are interactiveand in question-and-answer format. The purpose is not merely to recordinformation but to make it available to researchers.2

    Oral history can help fill gaps in the historical record by preservingthe viewpoints and experiences of persons and groups who may be un-derrepresented in published works. Further, as information exchange andcorrespondence increasingly occur in the digital arena, oral history will con-tinue to serve as a tool for supplementing and understanding the historicalrecord.3 Oral history on the World Wide Web also affords an opportunity toincrease the visibility of archives and participation in documenting historyfor users who may not be likely to visit archives or libraries in person.4

    One of the recommendations of the Library of Congress Working Group onthe Future of Bibliographic Control concerns enhancing access to hidden,rare, or unique special collections.5 As many institutions rely more heavilyon outsourcing and sharing catalog data, focusing less on in-house localcustomization of records for widely held published materials, there maybe a shift of local cataloging expertise to unique collections such as oralhistories.

    LACK OF CONSENSUS IN ACCESS METHODS

    Although oral histories are intended for use by researchers, many institutionsstruggle to provide avenues for access. There are various reasons for inade-quate access, including funding and staffing issues, preservation difficulties,and a lack of consensus or standardization in cataloging methods. A majoradvance in standardizing cataloging methods for oral histories occurred in1995 with the publication of the Oral History Cataloging Manual (OHCM).However, access to oral histories still remains less standardized than accessto other types of materials. In 2004, respondents to MacKays survey of oralhistory programs in several types of institutions were fairly evenly dividedamong those who create finding aids, those who create MARC records, andthose who dont catalog at all.6

    Unlike published materials, which may be collected by many libraries,oral history interviews are usually unique to a particular institution. Mostlibrarians would find it unacceptable to collect published materials without

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 563

    providing adequate access, but oral histories and other unpublished materialsoften linger in a backlog limbo, uncataloged and essentially unavailable toresearchers. However, oral histories deserve attention precisely because theyare unique to a particular institution and often cover topics or viewpointsthat may be underrepresented in published works.

    THE LOCAL PROBLEM: INVISIBLE ORAL HISTORIES

    Columbus State University (CSU), located in Columbus, Georgia, is an insti-tution within the University System of Georgia with an enrollment of 7,600students. The CSU Libraries have a collection of 240,000 volumes. The CSUArchives, which is physically and administratively part of the Libraries, holdsapproximately five hundred oral history interviews in a variety of formatscovering several subjects of local and regional interest, such as textile mills,school desegregation, and the cleanup of corruption and vice in Phenix City,Alabama. However, until 2004 these materials were essentially invisible, be-cause the only existing method of access was an incomplete in-house printfinding aid. Before the current project, researchers not only needed to haveprior knowledge that the interviews existed, they also needed to come tothe Archives in person to learn what was available and to use the material.Creating MARC records for selected individual interviews is only one com-ponent of a project currently underway to make these materials accessibleon a broader scale. Other initiatives include digitizing selected oral historytypescripts, providing a Web-based finding aid for oral histories, and creatingnew policies for future acquisitions.

    The author, who was the sole professional cataloger at CSU, and thearchivist knew that staffing and workflow considerations would limit the timethat could be devoted to oral histories. Although we sought to improve accessin several ways, competing priorities and the inability to hire additional staffmeant that working through the backlog of oral histories would likely bean ongoing project for some time; we could not always work on themsteadily when other higher priority demands arose. Some oral history taskswere eventually delegated to the one paraprofessional cataloger as well asstudent workers in the Archives, but these individuals also faced competingdemands on their time, many of which took precedence over the oral historybacklog. Also, the Archives plans to add new oral history materials to thecollection. Although making oral histories accessible was important to theinstitution, the fact remained that resources could not always be stretched toaccommodate them. Despite these limitations, we made progress in workingthrough the backlog, and now have policies and procedures in place whichshould decrease the amount of time required to process new acquisitions.

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    CHALLENGES AND ISSUES IN CATALOGING ORAL HISTORIES

    The archives of the AUTOCAT electronic discussion list mention many ofthe issues and questions that arise when catalogers face an oral historycataloging project. Some of the questions that list members have asked since1995 include:

    What should the main entry be for a group of interviews or an individualinterview?

    What level of staffing is appropriate for an oral history cataloging project? How should fixed fields be coded? Should oral histories be classified as biographies, local history, or some-

    thing else? Are any form subdivisions appropriate for oral histories? What genre heading(s) are correct, if any? General inquiries for advice from catalogers that have worked with oral

    histories.7

    The chief difficulty in cataloging oral histories is that they do not conformwell to accepted standards for either published materials or archival ma-terials. Oral histories are neither fish nor fowl.8 Until the publication ofOHCM , oral histories were often treated more like published library materi-als (when they were cataloged at all), even though they do not necessarilyfit established cataloging standards for books and other more traditional li-brary materials.9 OHCM is based more on the archival approach to catalogingthan the library approach. Like traditional archival cataloging, OHCM focuseson the context surrounding the creation of the material and on describinggroups of materials that share the same provenance.

    Although oral histories resemble archival materials in some ways, beingunpublished and deriving at least some of their meaning from the context oftheir creation, they do not accrue as the result of a person or organizationsnormal activities as manuscript collections do.10 Rather, an oral history comesinto being via interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee.11 Thestandard manual for description of archival materials, Describing Archives:A Content Standard (DACS), does not directly address oral histories otherthan referring to the Oral History Cataloging Manual in its appendix entitledCompanion Standards.12

    Oral histories are also similar to published sound recordings, videorecordings, and books in some ways, sharing more physical characteristicswith these materials than with manuscript collections. An individual inter-view may be able to stand alone. The standard guide for published materials,Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2), also does not di-rectly address oral histories.13 Even though they do not specifically refer tooral histories, both DACS and AACR2 can be helpful in several aspects of

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 565

    cataloging oral histories. For example, both standards include guidelines forconstructing personal and corporate name headings that can assist the cat-aloger in creating headings that distinguish similar names from each otherand are consistent with other headings in the catalog or finding aid. Oral his-tory interviews often concern local individuals and organizations that maynot be established in existing authority files, so catalogers routinely need toconstruct new headings for the bibliographic records, even if they do notcreate new authority records.

    Often each individual interview or project exists in multiple formats.In addition to the well-known difficulties of preserving multiple analog anddigital formats over the long term, varying forms of media present catalogingissues as well. For example, should all formats be described if only one for-mat is available for use? Cataloging multiple formats is more time consuming,which makes them more likely to sit on a shelf awaiting attention. As newdigital formats continue to emerge, preserving and cataloging different oralhistory formats will likely become more difficult and costly.

    OHCM has admirably filled a need for cataloging standards for oralhistories, and has improved accessibility to oral history materials for thoseinstitutions that use it.14 It is the only cataloging manual to address oral histo-ries specifically, and it provides helpful examples, especially for fields suchas biographical sketch and summary/abstract, as applicable to oral histories.However, not all of its rules suited the local situation and preferences atCSU. OHCM is also more than thirteen years old. It was based on Archives,Personal Papers and Manuscripts, 2nd edition,15 which has been supersededby DACS, and the 1988 revision of AACR2.

    SURVEY METHODOLOGY AND GENERAL RESULTS

    During the spring of 2007, CSU Archivist Reagan Grimsley and I conducteda Web-based survey of Georgia academic libraries concerning several issuesrelated to providing access to oral histories. Although the survey was brief,we attempted to address access issues as broadly as possible, and addressedcataloging in only three questions. This article presents the results fromselected survey questions that are particularly relevant to catalogers, namely,the cataloging standards employed and the level of authority work appliedto oral histories.

    We limited the survey to Georgia so that we could attempt to targetindividuals who would be the most knowledgeable about oral histories ateach institution. In some cases, these individuals were not necessarily cata-logers or simply may not have chosen to answer the more specific catalogingquestions. Georgia includes a wide variety of academic institutions in termsof size. Survey respondents ranged from institutions with an enrollment of

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    1,500 or under to institutions with an enrollment over 28,000. Oral historycollections ranged in size from 25 or fewer to more than 500.

    The survey was distributed to two electronic discussion lists, the Societyof Georgia Archivists list and the Georgia Library Association list. The surveywas also sent directly via e-mail to individuals identified as likely contactsfor oral history materials at fifty-six of Georgias seventy-three four-year aca-demic institutions. Individuals were identified based on institutional Websites. (Several Web sites did not include names or contact information forindividuals.) The survey was available for just over one month in 2007.

    Thirty-one usable responses were received. Duplicate responses, ob-viously incomplete responses, one response from an institution outside ofGeorgia, and responses lacking an institution name were eliminated. Of thethirty-one respondents, twenty currently hold oral histories. Access methodsvary, with the three most common being print finding aids, online findingaids, and full or brief MARC records, respectively. Four out of twenty respon-dents that hold oral histories indicated no method of access, and only threereported that they include oral history holdings in OCLC WorldCat. However,several institutions in this study do provide more than one method of accessto oral histories.

    SELECTED SURVEY RESULTS: CATALOGING STANDARDSAND AUTHORITY CONTROL AS APPLIED TO ORAL HISTORIES

    IN GEORGIA

    The survey did not indicate that OHCM had wide uptake, at least in Geor-gia academic libraries. Only one institution reported using OHCM as part ofthe basis for local cataloging procedures. AACR2 was the most frequentlymentioned cataloging standard in this survey, as shown in Table 1. Someinstitutions may employ more than one standard or procedure. Eight re-spondents did not answer the question at all, so it is difficult to draw aconclusion from these responses.

    A second question of particular interest to catalogers concerned thelevel of authority control applied to names and subjects related to oral his-tory materials. Very few respondents indicated that they use establishedsubject headings or check personal and corporate names in authority files.Only two institutions reported creating authority records in the local system

    TABLE 1 Cataloging Standards or Procedures

    Dublin Local Other NoAACR2 APPM DACS Core OHCM Procedures Other Metadata Answer

    6 0 3 0 1 4 1 1 8

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 567

    when conflicts or variants exist. Problems with the survey itself may partiallyexplain this result. For example, this question lacked an Other responseoption. Also, if the person completing the survey was not a cataloger, he orshe may not have been as familiar with the authority control procedures thatapply to oral histories in the institution.

    CHOOSING A METHOD OR METHODS OF INTELLECTUAL ACCESS

    It was apparent at the 2000 Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis conference thata fundamental cleft exists between those who wanted to solve the problemof access by dumping things online and those who hold that bibliographicaccess, while not exciting, is still the only way to build a sustainable net-work of access for all.16 Having established that oral histories can be difficultto shoehorn into cataloging rules intended for either published or archivalformats, why not select some other method of access, especially consider-ing CSUs plans to digitize many typescripts? The CSU Archivist has in factelected to provide multiple pathways to oral histories. In addition to digi-tized typescripts, records for CSUs oral histories may be found in AlexanderStreet Press In the First Person database as well as the Digital Library ofGeorgia.17 Current work also includes use of the Streetprint Engine to en-hance Web access to oral histories. Other available options that CSU doesnot currently employ include Dublin Core and Encoded Archival Descrip-tion (EAD), which can be a looser, more narrative, and adaptable format forinventorying collections18 than traditional cataloging. An institutional repos-itory may also be an appropriate place to provide access to oral historiesproduced by groups or individuals connected to the institution.

    A Web presence is not only popular, but can be an effective way toprovide access to oral histories. The benefits of the Web for oral historiesinclude global reach, multimedia capabilities, hyperlinks to related materials,tiered access privileges, and retrieval capabilities. There are certainly issuesinvolved, including interviewees privacy rights, the costs of developing andmaintaining a Web presence, and technical expertise, but the Web offersexcellent opportunities to make oral histories available.19

    Despite the undeniable benefits of a Web presence outside the librarycatalog, creating MARC records for inclusion in the library catalog and OCLCWorldCat remains an important avenue for providing intellectual access.In discussing issues related to access of archival audio collections, Daniel-son stressed the need for databases and library catalogs that present userswith familiar formats and familiar mechanisms for finding out what exists.20

    Searchers using the online catalog do not need to refer to a separate sourceto locate oral history materials. Subject headings and other access points helpusers navigate between oral histories and related items in other formats. En-tering records in WorldCat increases visibility outside the local library catalog

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    just as OCLC WorldCat.org is making bibliographic records more accessibleon the open Web.21

    Even if a cataloger is unfamiliar with the process of oral history and theunique needs and challenges of these materials, using MARC may requireless training than some other methods of access. One of the respondentsto MacKays 2004 survey described full MARC records as a relatively low-tech, underrated method of providing access.22 For the present, CSU createsfull MARC records for individual interviews. Other institutions may find thatcollection- or project-level records are more appropriate for their oral histo-ries. When funds, staff, and time are scarce, even brief records are preferableto no access at all.

    COLLABORATION BETWEEN ARCHIVISTS, LIBRARIANS,AND ORAL HISTORIANS

    One of the positive aspects of the oddities of oral histories is the opportunityfor increased collaboration and understanding between librarians, archivists,and oral historians.23 This was our experience at CSU during the project.Although the archivist bore primary responsibility for creating acquisitionsand collecting policies, the cataloger contributed input regarding the de-velopment of a standardized form used to gather basic details about thecreation and content of the interview, that then aids the cataloging pro-cess. The archivist and cataloger also worked closely together to developcataloging procedures, with the archivist educating the cataloger about oralhistories and the cataloger explaining the relevant cataloging issues. Due tothe age of the oral history materials currently in CSUs collection, there arefew opportunities to consult the interviewers or project planners responsiblefor existing materials, but improved acquisitions and collecting policies offerincreased opportunities for the archivist to interact with oral historians andinterviewers in the future. Archivists and librarians can benefit by learningabout historical trends, while they help to educate oral historians and inter-viewers about the need to preserve oral histories in libraries or archives andmake them accessible to researchers.24

    DETERMINING CATALOGING PRIORITIES

    The archivist created criteria for prioritizing the oral histories for cataloging.Because many interviews in the collections had been recorded in the 1970sor 1980s, and the only access tool prior to the project was a rudimentaryin-house print finding aid, the presence of a typescript was a significantconcern in selecting interviews for cataloging. Few individuals who had

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 569

    been involved with the original projects were available for consultation,some interviews had little or no accompanying documentation, and time andequipment limitations meant that listening to the recordings was not feasible.This problem illustrates the importance of creating a standardized form forrecording various pieces of information about the interview, especially ifthere are no plans to catalog the materials in the near future.25 A formallowing the interviewer to note the details of the interview, such as date andlocation; the name of the oral history project; the subjects, places, people, ororganizations discussed; biographical information about the interviewee; andother pertinent information facilitates cataloging at any time, but especiallysome years after the interview, and also ensures that details surrounding theproject and interviews are not lost over time.

    BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF ORAL HISTORIES FOR A CATALOGER

    Catalogers who have never worked with oral histories need an understandingof the differences between cataloging oral histories and cataloging publishedmaterials. Compared to published materials, creating a catalog record for oralhistories depends much more heavily on context, both the historical contextof the events, persons, organizations, places, or other topics discussed in theinterview and the context surrounding the interview itselfthe setting, theinteraction between the interviewer and interviewee, whether a third partyis present, and other factors.26

    Very little information is transcribed directly from the resource itself.Unpublished materials typically do not have title pages or an authoritativechief source of information, as is common for most published materials.27 Allof the information in the record must be supplied by the cataloger (squarebrackets are not required).28 Information for the description and the accesspoints can come from the recording or transcript/typescript itself as wellas accompanying materials, such as release forms, information forms com-pleted by the interviewer or interviewee at the time of the interview, andexisting finding aids. Often these sources do not provide all the informationdesired for the description. OHCM notes that accepted practice requires onlyinformation that is readily available, but each institution must determinewhether to look for information in external sources when it could be usefuland how much time and effort to expend.29

    LOCAL ISSUES AND DECISIONS

    Competing Priorities and Lack of Experience

    Time constraints and lack of prior experience with oral histories in the cata-loging department were key challenges from the beginning. At CSU the sole

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    professional cataloger is responsible for all cataloging functions, serves asliaison to one or more academic departments, and oversees most periodicalsmanagement functions. It is a generalist position and no particular expertisein archival materials is assumed. Therefore, the challenge would be imple-menting a procedure for creating the most accurate and informative recordspossible given competing priorities and limited previous experience.

    Level of Authority Work

    The appropriate level of authority work for oral histories required earlyattention and is still an ongoing issue at CSU. Most of the personal andcorporate names related to the interviews are unlikely to be in existingauthority files. Time does not permit creating authority records for everypersonal and corporate name used. CSU is not a Name Authority Cooperative(NACO) member. When variant names for a person or corporate body appearin the typescript or in resources consulted during the process of creatingthe record, authority records created are entered only in the local catalog.The cataloger uses established headings when available. If a conflict witha previously established name is found, the cataloger makes an effort todistinguish the name with birth and/or death dates or other information, ifavailable, but does not necessarily make a local authority record. For subjects,the cataloger applies Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) for topicsand places discussed in order to ensure consistency with other records in thecatalog and allow for linking to and from published materials on the sametopics. LCSH may not be ideal for very specialized collections and otherinstitutions may choose to use keywords, a subject specific thesaurus, or alocally developed system for subject access.

    Classification

    Some issues to consider when determining a local approach to classifica-tion include the physical location(s) where oral histories will be housed,the browsing behaviors of patrons within the catalog and in the stacks,and the time available to spend choosing classification numbers for eachinterview. These considerations will vary by institution depending on localpreferences and the subject(s) covered by the interviews in the collection. AtCSU, we chose to classify oral histories in the applicable local history Libraryof Congress classification number. A notable exception was one of CSUssignature collections, the Mill Worker Oral History Collection, for which wechose a class number in the HDs reflecting the textile industry, subarrangedby name of the mill, and then by the interviewee. For most other oral histo-ries, the cataloger applies the appropriate local history number representing

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 571

    individual biography in that city, county, or other area. Oral history type-scripts are housed in their own location within the Archives; patrons maybrowse these shelves in the Archives, but no oral history interviews are avail-able in the circulating collection where they might be discovered by morecasual browsers. For this reason, we chose not to classify each individual in-terview according to its specific subject matter. CSUs approach also reducesthe time required for classifying individual interviews.

    Project or Collection-Level Descriptions Versus IndividualInterview Descriptions

    OHCM requires a collective description for an oral history collection orproject if applicable.30 Oral histories are typically collected in groups. Anoral history project is a series of interviews focused on documenting atopic, theme, era, place, organization, event, or group of people, conductedaccording to a plan, usually under the auspices of an institution or group ofcooperating institutions.31 The interviews within a project are related to eachother and take on added meaning in light of these relationships.32 The argu-ment for collective description of oral histories is its focus on provenance, theactivities that created the materials rather than the materials themselvesakey principle of archival description and arrangement.33 Optionally, recordsfor each individual interview within a project or collection may be created inaddition to the collection/project level record. In contrast to OHCM , MacKaynotes that modern cataloging practices typically have preferred item-leveldescription for more detailed access and that collection-level description fororal histories is most helpful when a group of interviews cover the sameevent or share some other kind of significant link.34 Sanners survey foundthat academic and public libraries and historical societies were more likely tocatalog at the item level, while special libraries and government repositorieswere more likely to catalog at the collection level.35

    Many of the interviews in CSUs holdings are not part of a specificproject, or the collection or project is somewhat artificially constructed. Thecontext of the creation of the materials is not very accessible, because mostof the interviews were conducted twenty or more years prior to the timeof cataloging. Although many interviews have been transcribed, in mostcases the details surrounding them are no longer available. Also, most ofthe oral histories in the collection mention the Chattahoochee Valley OralHistory Project. This is only a very loosely organized project that cov-ers many subjects and so is of limited usefulness for a collective descrip-tion. It is given in a note in the record for each individual interview as itapplies.

    For these reasons we felt that collection-level descriptions would gen-erally not be appropriate for the majority of oral histories in our collections.

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    CSU does hold some interviews that form a cohesive collection, such as theMill Worker Oral History Project, covering various Georgia and Alabama tex-tile mills. Therefore, the archivist and cataloger decided to represent theseprojects with series statements and added corporate name entries, despiteOHCMs rule against series statements.36 For CSU, series seemed to be auseful way to collocate particular projects or collections in lieu of collection-level descriptions. Future acquisitions of oral history materials will includebetter documentation, which will make the cataloging process easier andprovide better opportunities to address context and possibly facilitate thecreation of meaningful project or collection-level descriptions.

    Although CSU decided against collection- or project-level descriptions atthis time, there are many benefits to this approach, aside from following thearchival principle of provenance. While Nichols does not specifically addressoral histories in her discussion of Cornells use of collection-level catalogingfor their French Revolution Collection, she does discuss several advantagesof this approach. In an era of shrinking budgets and overburdened staff,some collections may be too large to catalog individual items. For very largecollections of ephemeral material, a collection-level description providingan overview is better than no description at all, and may be preferableto individual records, as users may find thousands of individual recordsas useless as no record.37 Some collections may also be more meaningfulas a group than each item individually. Another advantage is the ability tonote how a collection or group of items is organized or show relationships orconnections between different materials in the collection.38 A collection-levelrecord does not prevent the repository from also creating descriptions forindividual items.39 When creating both collective and individual descriptions,MARC field 773 is used in the record for individual interviews to link to thecollective description.

    Example. 773 08 $i Forms part of: $a Wisconsin Agriculturalists OralHistory Project. $t Oral histories of the Wisconsin Agricultu-ralists Oral History Project $w (OCoLC) 5062846540

    The most important consideration in developing guidelines or proceduresfor describing oral histories, regardless of which standards are chosen, isadmirably and succinctly stated in the OHCM : who, what, when, where,why.41 OHCM and other standards have many rules to assist in this process.Although adhering to standards enables shared cataloging and has manyother benefits, departing from individual rules that do not meet a localcollections needs may be justifiable for oral histories, given their unusualcharacteristics and the consideration that these records are unlikely to beused for copy cataloging by another institution.

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 573

    CSUS CATALOGING PROCEDURES

    The discussion that follows highlights the most important aspects of CSUscataloging procedures, but is not a comprehensive presentation of all proce-dures. Although these procedures refer to MARC fields, the general principlesand elements involved in description of oral histories may be helpful in for-mulating procedures for non-MARC metadata, finding aids, or other accessmethods. The cataloging procedures presented here are offered to encour-age smaller institutions that wish to improve access to oral histories, but maynot be able to afford the time or resources to add all the bells and whistlesthat may be desired or to develop a cataloging procedure from scratch.42

    Workflow

    Student assistants in the Archives photocopy the typescript onto acid-freepaper. This copy of the typescript is intended to be the primary format foruse. It is commercially bound and sent to the Cataloging Department, wherethe cataloger creates a bibliographic record for the typescript and any audioor other formats held, as well as a holdings record and an item record forthe bound typescript. The cataloging assistant performs minimal physicalprocessing of the bound typescript and returns it to the Archives, where alloral history formats are housed.

    Describing Oral Histories: OHCM s Fundamental Elements

    According to OHCM , the following elements should be included in descrip-tions of individual interviews:

    Indication of form (i.e., oral history interview) Name(s) of interviewee(s) Date(s) of interview Statement of quantity or extent, including physical format Name(s) of interviewer(s) Language of interview, if other than English Summary of the nature, content, and scope of the interview Restrictions on access and/or use, if applicable Name of the project or collection, if applicable43

    Fixed Fields

    Most oral history interviews at CSU exist as audio tapes and typescripts.The majority of the audio recordings are either reel-to-reel tapes or standard

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  • 574 S. C. Wynne

    audio cassettes. Some 3.5 inch floppy disks accompany audio recordingsand typescripts. Recently implemented acquisition policies specify severaldigital formats that are also acceptable. Whenever multiple formats are in-volved, the cataloger uses the mixed materials workform in OCLC Connex-ion Client (Type p). In some cases, only the typescript is available, in whichcases the Type code is t (manuscript language material). When only theaudio recording is being cataloged, Type i (nonmusical sound recording) isappropriate.

    Although CSU has chosen not to create project or collection-level de-scriptions at this point, the Bibliographic Level (BLvl) code m (monograph)cannot be used with the mixed materials format, so interviews existing inmultiple formats receive BLvl code c (collection). Typescripts alone receiveBLvl code m. The country code is xx[blank] to indicate the material is unpub-lished. An 006 (Fixed-length data elementsAdditional material) is input foreach format, and an 007 (Physical description fixed field) is added for eachnon-print format being described.

    Title

    In creating procedures for binding and cataloging oral history typescripts, westandardized as much as possible. For example, during the process of pho-tocopying typescripts for binding, student assistants create an artificial titlepage for each typescript, using a standard format for the title proper, state-ment of responsibility, and series statement for the project or collection. Thisexpedites the cataloging process by making key elements of the descriptionreadily available to the cataloger in such a way that they may be easily tran-scribed. In developing the standard format for the title proper, we followedOHCM practice of [form element] [name element], [date element].44 A localexception to OHCM practice is the inclusion of a statement of responsibility,which is proscribed by OHCM .45

    Example. 245 10 Oral history interview with Brenda Mollett and MariaMeltzer, $f 1988 Feb. 8 / $c conducted by Mike Regnier.

    Physical Description

    For the physical description area, OHCM instructs to describe the formatsavailable for use, using separate statements of extent for each physicalformat (when applicable), with an option to also describe the originalrecordings.46 Each physical format available for use should be given its ownphysical description in MARC field 300, which is repeatable.47 CSU providesa physical description for the bound copy of the typescript as well as anysound recordings and/or other media held, even the original recordings.

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 575

    Entering only one holdings record with the location and call number forthe bound typescript directs users to the preferred format for use. Eachformat receives its own physical description in MARC field 300, with theexception of digitized typescripts available on the Internet. When a digitizedtypescript exists, the cataloger follows the optional OHCM instruction togive the electronic version in an Additional physical form available (MARCfield 530) note.48 The URL for the digitized typescript is given in MARC field856. For sound recordings, OHCM requires the specific material designationand number of units, with optional additions of elements such as playingtime, type of recording (analog or digital), playing speed, and dimensions.49

    Although playing time is useful to include, CSU generally does not havethis information readily available and has elected not to time recordingsat the point of cataloging. For some interviews, CSU does not hold thesound recording and therefore, there is only one physical description for thetypescript.

    Example. 300 $3 Typescript : $a 24 leaves, bound ; $c 29 cm.300 $3 Sound recording : $a 1 sound cassette : $b analog.

    Series Statements

    Although OHCM practice does not allow the use of series statements for oralhistories, CSU employs series statements in lieu of a collective descriptionin order to collocate oral histories. A standard series statement is appliedto all oral histories whether they form part of a project or not: ColumbusState University oral history collection. If the interview is part of a particularproject such as the Mill Worker Oral History Project, an additional seriesstatement is assigned. Series statements are hyperlinked in the CSU catalog,allowing users to click on the series title to find all oral histories in thatcollection. Two respondents to my 2005 AUTOCAT electronic discussion listinquiry about oral history procedures noted that they may use series state-ments for oral history project names.50 Another way to collocate collectionswithout using collective descriptions is to input a note as follows: Formspart of: [name of project, program, or collection], and input an added entryfor the name of the project or collection.

    Notes

    Some of the following elements of the description may be the most unfamiliarto catalogers, but they are extremely useful in records for archival materialsin general and oral histories in particular. OHCM requires only two notes:interview details and scope/content/abstract.51 However, many other noteswill be applicable and useful.

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  • 576 S. C. Wynne

    Biographical Sketch (MARC Field 545)

    Biographical elements that are likely to be of interest to researchers in-clude place and year of birth, race, ethnicity, place of upbringing, familybackground, education, occupation, marriage and children, political or or-ganizational affiliations, among others.52 It is unusual for the cataloger tohave all of these elements readily available, so judgment is required in deter-mining what is most important for a particular person and whether to seekinformation from external sources. CSU provides a brief biographical sketchof the interviewee with any pertinent information found in the typescriptand/or any accompanying documentation. Occasionally, the cataloger per-forms an Internet search or consults locally available reference sources forbiographical information, but devotes minimal time to external sources. Inthe future, it would be helpful to solicit biographical information from theinterviewee at the time of the interview by using a standard form includingselected elements from the list contained in OHCM .

    Example. Brenda Mollett and Maria Meltzers parents all worked intextile mills in Columbus or Bibb City, Ga. Brenda and Marianever worked in the mills, but grew up in and around themill villages, taking part in social, educational, and churchactivities.

    Interview Details (MARC Field 518)

    Details of the interview help provide context. OHCM requires, at a minimum,the date(s) of the interview, name of interviewer, and language (if otherthan English), with an option to include where the interview took place,names of any other persons present, sponsorship (if applicable), and anyother circumstances surrounding the interview.53 CSU typically provides thedate(s), interviewers name, and place. Further information may be added,when available. This is another area where an information form completedat the time of the interview can streamline and provide additional details forthe cataloging process.

    Example. Interview conducted by Mike Regnier for the Mill WorkerOral History Project, 8 February 1988.

    Summary or Abstract (MARC Field 520)

    Another important element for the bibliographic description is the abstractor summary of the nature, scope, and content of the interview. CSU focuseson places, geographic areas, time period(s), prominent persons, events, andactivities discussed. When time permits, or when the typescript lacks enough

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 577

    information about an organization, place, or event to make a note meaning-ful to a researcher, the cataloger may choose to consult outside referencesources to clarify. Information forms can also aid the writing of a summaryor abstract.

    Example. Brenda Mollett and Maria Meltzer talk about their experiencesas children of textile mill workers: growing up in a millvillage, social activities, their parents jobs and working con-ditions, and schools they attended in Columbus.

    Additional Notes

    CSU also includes the following notes whenever applicable.

    Additional physical form available (MARC field 530) for digitized type-scripts and corresponding URL (MARC field 856 $u).

    Restrictions on access (MARC field 506). CSUs standard note is Availablefor use only in the Columbus State University Archives Reading Room.

    Restrictions on use and reproduction (MARC field 540). CSUs standard noteis Permission to publish material from the Columbus State University OralHistory Collection must be obtained from the Columbus State UniversityArchives.

    Other notes may be applicable or especially important in particular cases,for example, provenance, immediate source of acquisition, or location oforiginals or duplicate copies. OHCM provides guidance on these and severalother possible notes. It also emphasizes that its rules cannot cover everysituation and any additional information deemed necessary should be givenas an institution so chooses.54

    Access Points

    Choice of main entry depends on the unit of description. Basically, the mainentry should reflect the person or corporate body chiefly responsible for thecreation of the material and its intellectual content.55 For CSU, the unit ofdescription is an individual interview; therefore, the main entry is the headingfor the name of the interviewee. If two or more individuals are interviewed,the predominant or first listed interviewee is the main entry and any otherinterviewees will be given as added entries. The interviewer receives anadded entry. CSU uses the relator terms interviewee and interviewer asdirected in OHCM .56

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  • 578 S. C. Wynne

    When the unit of description is a project or collection, the main entryis either the name of the project, the name of the collector, the name of therepository, or occasionally, the title.57

    Other important access points include:

    Any corporate bodies associated with the interview, project, or collection For individual interviews, name of the oral history project, if applicable

    (given in MARC field 710) Alternate titles (Some typescripts include a title supplied by the interviewer

    and/or transcriber)58

    All access points should be justified somewhere in the description.

    Subject Access

    OHCM , DACS, and AACR2 do not cover subject access. CSU provides topi-cal, geographic, corporate, and personal name subject headings to provideadequate access to the persons, organizations, places, and topics that aresignificant in the interview. CSU uses LCSH and established corporate andpersonal names whenever available. If a corporate or personal name doesnot exist in the authority file, we construct a heading according to AACR2and may create a local authority record in the situations described earlier.The interviewee is not only the main entry, but is also given a subject accesspoint with the form ($v) subdivision Interviews. Organizations and othercorporate bodies that figure prominently in the interview content or contextare also given as subject headings. CSU also adds the following form/genreheadings in MARC field 655: Oral histories and Transcripts.

    LCSH may not be appropriate or meaningful for all oral history collec-tions. For example, in the University of Southern Mississippis (USM) CivilRights in Mississippi Digital Archive, which includes oral histories, LCSH aloneis not specific enough for the materials. Therefore, USM uses an in-housethesaurus combining LCSH terms with locally developed terms that fit thespecialized nature of the collection.59

    Constant Data as a Work and Time Saver

    Because the archivist and cataloger decided to standardize as many elementsas possible, and because most sound recordings in the collections are eitherstandard audio cassettes or reel-to-reel recordings of the same size, speed,and so on, constant data records in OCLC Connexion Client provide anideal way to save cataloging time and reduce errors. Constant data allowsthe cataloger to apply a template including information common to each

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 579

    interview, and then input only the information (such as personal names,summaries, biographical sketches, and subject headings) unique to that par-ticular interview. Constant data saves time in repetitively coding fixed fields,typing portions of the title, and typing several notes. Saving time means moreinterviews can be made accessible to users in less time.

    How Long Does it Take to Catalog an Oral History Interview?

    Cataloging an individual interview under the procedures described earliernormally takes thirty minutes or less, not counting time for bindery prepa-ration, minimal physical processing, and tasks performed in the Archivesdepartment such as creating the title page. Most typescripts are fifteen totwenty pages long and may be skimmed quickly for biographical informa-tion and the content of the interview. The cataloging process took longerduring the early phases of the project when the procedures were still underdevelopment. Even after some of the major issues were resolved and someearly records revised according to lessons learned during the initial stages,the process could be more time-consuming when research into the persons,places, or events was necessary to supply meaningful headings.

    FURTHER EXPLORATION

    Both our 2007 survey of Georgia academic institutions and MacKays 2004survey addressed multiple issues related to managing oral histories in li-braries. Future studies could examine cataloging issues more specifically,and like MacKays survey, could encompass different types of libraries andshould not be limited to a particular geographic area. For example, howwidely used is OHCM among Anglo-American institutions? Are there com-mon local modifications made to its instructions that may be useful in cre-ating an updated or new oral history cataloging guide? How do differentinstitutions approach multiple formats in their descriptions? When and whydo institutions choose to employ collection or project-level descriptions? Ifcataloging priorities shift toward uniquely held materials such as oral his-tories, examining these and other questions may provide more guidance tolibraries that are either struggling to provide access to a backlog or beginningto acquire oral histories for the first time.

    Several questions related to authority control arose from the 2007 surveyresults. Given the apparent low level of authority control according to theresponses to this question, how important is authority control of names,corporate bodies, places, and subjects associated with oral histories? Whenrecords for oral histories are incorporated into the larger library catalog,standardization of headings improves collocation and reduces confusion.

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  • 580 S. C. Wynne

    But if access to oral histories comes from a Web site or other resourceoutside the library catalog, should controlled vocabularies be used? If so,should that vocabulary be LCSH is another one more appropriate?

    Because there are many possible methods to provide access to oral histo-ries, and choices to be made in terms of level of description, an investigationinto the use of oral history materials may help indicate the most effectivepathways to oral histories. Swain cites the University of AlaskaFairbanksas an example of improved access to oral histories. When AlaskaFairbanksadded MARC records for their oral histories to the librarys database andimplemented interlibrary loan access to transcripts and tapes, the circula-tion statistics for the oral history collection increased significantly.60 CSUArchivist Reagan Grimsley indicates that usage of the Mill Worker Oral His-tory Collection, the first collection to be partially digitized, had increasedfrom two in-house uses in 20012002 to over fifty online uses of digitizedtypescripts in 2007.61 One possible method of assessing CSUs efforts maybe to survey patrons who use oral histories (either in-house or by includ-ing a brief survey attached to the online finding aid or digitized typescript)inquiring about how they discovered the material. More simply, statistics onin-house use of oral histories may aid in the assessment of the effectivenessof the access methods as a whole.

    SUMMARY

    Applying traditional cataloging standards to oral histories can be similar tofitting a square peg in a round hole, because they are like published materialsin some ways but resemble archival materials in other ways. There are othersignificant reasons why oral history materials often languish in a backlog, butit is possible to create access despite the obstacles. Because oral historiesare unique, it is important to find at least one way to make them visible toresearchers. There are benefits and drawbacks to various access methods,so it is preferable to implement multiple pathways whenever possible. Theuse of MARC records may require less training for technical services staffand also has the advantage of integrating oral histories into the catalog forthe larger library collection. Although MARC records do not provide all ofthe benefits of full-text searching of typescripts, in combination with onlinefinding aids and/or digitized typescripts with metadata, they can form animportant component of a strategy to expose oral history collections to users.

    NOTES

    1. Marion Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual (Chicago: Society of American Archivists,1995), 7.

    2. Ibid.

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  • Cataloging Oral Histories 581

    3. Ellen D. Swain, Oral History in the Archives: Its Documentary Role in the Twenty-first Century,The American Archivist 66 (Spring/Summer 2003): 148.

    4. Robert B. Perks, Bringing New Life to Archives: Oral History, Sound Archives and Accessibil-ity, International Association of Sound Archives Journal 13 (July 1999): 24.

    5. Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. On the Record:Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, (January9, 2008), 22, http://www.loc.gov/bibliographic-future/news/lcwg-ontherecord-jan08-final.pdf (accessedJuly 30, 2008).

    6. Nancy MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive (Walnut Creek, Calif.: LeftCoast Press, 2007), 58.

    7. Archives of AUTOCAT@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU, http://listserv.syr.edu/archives/autocat.html (ac-cessed May 30, 2008).

    8. MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive, 58.9. James E. Fogerty, Oral History and Archives: Documenting Context, in Handbook of Oral

    History, ed. Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press,2006), 230.

    10. Perks, Bringing New Life to Archives, 21.11. Fogerty, Oral History and Archives, 207.12. Society of American Archivists, Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Chicago, Ill.: Society

    of American Archivists, 2004), 210.13. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed., 2002 rev. (Chicago: American Library Association,

    2002).14. Fogerty, Oral History and Archives, 231.15. Steven L. Hensen, comp., Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts: A Cataloging Manual

    for Archival Repositories, Historical Societies, and Manuscript Libraries, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Society ofAmerican Archivists, 1990).

    16. Virginia Danielson. Access: Summary, Responses, and Discussion, in Folk heritage collec-tions in crisis (Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2001), http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub96/access.html (accessed July 30, 2008).

    17. In the First Person, http://www.inthefirstperson.com/firp/index.shtml (accessed May 30, 2008);Digital Library of Georgia, http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/ (accessed May 30, 2008).

    18. Virginia Danielson, Stating the Obvious: Lessons Learned Attempting Access to Archival AudioCollections. Paper presented at Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.,December 12, 2000, http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub96/access.html (accessed July 30, 2008).

    19. MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive, 7375.20. Danielson, Stating the Obvious.21. WorldCat.org, http://www.worldcat.org/ (accessed July 30, 2008).22. Nancy MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: Survey Results, NancyMacKay.net, http://

    nancymackay.net/curating/finalSurveyResults.htm (accessed July 23, 2008).23. Swain, Oral History in the Archives, 154156.24. Ibid., 156.25. MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive, 62.26. Jean-Pierre Wallot and Normand Fortier, Archival Science and Oral Sources, in The Oral

    History Reader, ed. Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (New York: Routledge, 1998), 371372.27. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 12.28. Marsha Maguire, Cataloging Unpublished Oral History Interviews and Collections. Presen-

    tation, OLAC Conference: Expanding Access: Connecting the Global Community to a Multitude of For-mats, Montreal, Canada, October 13, 2004, http://www.olacinc.org/drupal/conference/2004.htmlmaguire(accessed May 20, 2009).

    29. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 1718.30. Ibid., 1415.31. Ibid., 7.32. Fogerty, Oral History and Archives, 210.33. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 14.34. MacKay, Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive, 59.35. J. E. Sanner, Processing Methods and Bibliographic Access to Oral History Materials. Masters

    paper, University of North CarolinaChapel Hill, 1993, 20.

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  • 582 S. C. Wynne

    36. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 38.37. Margaret F. Nichols, Finding the Forest Among the Trees: The Potential of Collection-Level

    Cataloging, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 23 (1996): 63.38. Ibid., 61.39. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 15; Nichols, Finding the Forest Among the Trees,

    65.40. Maguire, slide 38.41. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 17.42. See OCLC control number 68042446 or http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/68042446 for a sample

    record from CSUs collection.43. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 16.44. Ibid., 21.45. Ibid., 27.46. Ibid., 2829.47. Maguire, slides 2026.48. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 46.49. Ibid., 32.50. Elaine Wedeking, e-mail message to AUTOCAT listserv, July 6, 2005; J. McRee Elrod, e-mail

    message to author, July 6, 2005.51. Matters, Oral History Cataloging Manual, 38.52. Ibid., 39.53. Ibid., 40.54. Ibid., 4849, 55.55. Ibid., 57.56. Ibid., 63.57. Ibid., 5961.58. Ibid., 6465.59. Suzanne R. Graham and Diane DeCesare Ross, Metadata and Authority Control in the

    Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive, Journal of Internet Cataloging 6 (2003): 3738, doi:10.1300/J141v06n01 05, http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J141v06n01 05

    60. Swain, Oral History in the Archives, 154.61. Reagan L. Grimsley, e-mail message to author, June 11, 2008.

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