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History of the Oral History Project

An oral history program was proposed in 1977 to provide history of American medical librarianship and the Medical Library Association by recording in their own voices the memories, reminiscences, and experiences of medical librarians. In 1980 a three-year grant from the National Library of Medicine provided funds to further support the project. MLA has continued to provide financial support of this ongoing project with funding for audio-taping equipment, travel support for the interviewers, and the cost of printing and distributing the completed histories.

Victoria Pifalo and Diane McKenzie, FMLA, prepared summaries of forty-three interviews completed prior to 1998; these were published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association.

A retrospective indexing project, coordinated by Dee Jones was completed in 2011. New indexes were prepared for thirty-seven oral histories published before 2009 that lacked any index or had an inadequate index. The project followed indexing standards and used controlled vocabulary. Carolyn Lipscomb, AHIP, FMLA, project director, continues this work.

Information on many individual interviewees was derived from a series of three articles authored by Pifalo and McKenzie and published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association during the 1998 centennial year, volume 86, numbers 2–4. The first part of article I (Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1998 Apr;86(2)166–77) also discusses the background of oral history and issues involved in the technique and examined the association’s program.