ASIS&T Presents ...  

Doing Oral History Interviews: The Basics
Original Broadcast Date:  March 7, 2012

One of the goals of the ASIST 75th anniversary Task Force is to conduct oral histories of some of our distinguished members who have been active for many years in the Society. Very few oral histories have been done that focused on the history of information science and technology. We hope to play a role in partially correcting that situation. However, because funding resources for such a project are limited we are asking ASIST members (and anyone else with an interest) to help us do this by taking the Webinar and then volunteering to conduct interviews or assist in other ways, such as transcribing interviews or doing background research. 

The purpose of an oral history is to supplement the existing documentary record on individuals, organizations, events, and developments. This means that the oral history interviewer must be familiar with what has been documented about the interviewee and use the interview to fill in the undocumented gaps. Since the oral history interview is the legal property (equivalent to author) of the interviewee, the interviewer must know how to create and maintain the record, prepare adequate background information, and, following the requirements of the interviewee, make it available for research. 

This Webinar will cover all of the basics needed for conducting, recording, transcribing, and preserving an oral history interview. You will not be required to conduct an oral history interview for the 75th Task Force but we hope you will be enticed to do that at some time in the future after you have completed the Webinar.


Kathryn La Barre is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and Chair of the Special Interest Group for History and Foundations of Information Science. (SIG HFIS). Her research interests focus upon knowledge organization and access systems (historical and contemporary) with a special focus on the interactions between theoretical and practical approaches to information discovery and access. She has conducted a number of oral history interviews. 

Robert V. Williams is Distinguished Prof., Emeritus at the School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina. He has conducted more than 50 oral history interviews over the past 30 years in the areas of library and information science history. He has written extensively on these topics, was the Garfield Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and created and maintains a large Website on the History of Information Science and Technology at: 

Webinar and Slides

Click to view Slides
PDF Slides

Principles and best Practices for Oral History (2009) and available in full text at: 

75th Anniversary Preconference website: 

Audacity software (free) for digital recording with external microphone: