May 19, 2014
The Baylor University Institute for Oral History (BUIOH) partnered with both the Baylor University Libraries and the Waco-McLennan County Library to assist their participation in oral history projects for Preservation Week 2014. Observed this year during the week of April 27 through May 2, Preservation Week is a time set aside by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association, for projects “to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.”
For 2014, the Baylor University Libraries initiated an interview-gathering project to document the story of the university’s Moody and Jones Libraries in anticipation of upcoming anniversaries for both buildings. Central Libraries Associate Director Beth Farwell, joined by Eric Ames and Steven Bolech, received interview training at BUIOH and planned a project to collect the story of the Moody and Jones Libraries from librarians, teaching faculty, and students. Beth Farwell reported that a major theme in the interviews so far has been the swift impact of technological change on writing and research. “Even though the building has a similar shell,” she said, “the work happening inside is significantly different.” The Moody Library foyer was once a mostly vacant passageway but now hosts a Starbucks and gathering areas for students to visit and work together around tables or in easy chairs. Before, the entire library was quiet space, but now quiet space is relegated to certain areas and the rest of the library is busy and active. The project launched during Preservation Week will continue as more stories are gathered by library faculty and staff and preserved and made accessible by BUIOH.
The Waco-McLennan County Library titled their Preservation Week oral history project “I Remember When . . . McLennan County before 1960.” Genealogy Center manager Bill Buckner stated, “Preservation Week was the driving force to kick the project off the ground. However, the sense of overwhelming urgency to record as many stories as possible, before we lost this value opportunity, provided extra momentum to kept us focused day by day." The project paired volunteer interviewers with community citizens to preserve personal memories of life in Waco and the surrounding area during the crucial historic period of 1935 through 1960.
Members of the Central Texas Genealogical Society (CTGS) assisted with the project, furnishing contacts for potential narrators and participating as both interviewers and narrators. CTGS also devoted its April 25th meeting to oral history, hosting BUIOH’s Steven Sielaff as speaker, and creating an oral history exhibit for display at the West Waco Library and Genealogy Center, which furnished rooms and oversight for the week-long interview marathon. Project planners from the library were Bill Buckner, Ruben Salazar, Sean Sutcliffe, Barbara Frank, and Bob Kelley. BUIOH’s Lois Myers provided consultation for the project planners and training for the interviewers. Methods used by the library staff to locate potential narrators, schedule interviews, gather biographical data, pair narrators with appropriate interviewers, manage equipment usage, and duplicate recordings and deposit them with BUIOH were models of best oral history practice.
With equipment on loan from BUIOH, thirteen volunteer interviewers conducted twenty-nine interviews with thirty individuals. Their stories, which cover the four corners of Waco and stretch into the small towns and rural areas of McLennan County, represent much of the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of our community. Memories preserved through the project highlight a simpler time when home, play, school, and church occupied central places for family life and community and reveal individual and communal strengths during hard times, including legalized racial segregation, World War II, and the 1953 Waco tornado. BUIOH will process the recordings, transcribe them, and make them accessible online in the Baylor digital library.
BUIOH is grateful for the contributions made to our oral history collection by the Baylor Libraries and Waco-McLennan County Library Preservation Week projects. The mutual goals and values of oral historians and librarians made our cooperation an ideal choice for connecting with our local community to preserve and share memories of Baylor and Waco past with future generations.