Over the summer of 2017, I had the unique pleasure of documenting the workflow of a retiring serials technician who had been at Oregon State University’s (OSU) Valley Library in Corvallis for nearly 37 years. During her tenure, she took part in no fewer than seven online database system transitions and created a one-of-a-kind serials check-in workflow for each new system with her magic red binder. She once told me that, with that binder, she could navigate any new system because the basics of serials were always the same; it was just a matter of learning the new language and finding how those basics fit into the new system.
Now, as you can imagine, being in a job for over three decades leaves one with quite a bit of institutional knowledge. From my perspective, I knew that it would be easy to get the basics down onto paper. What concerned me was losing the historic memory and organizational culture of this long-term staff member—the kind of knowledge that collected files and documentation just don’t cover. It’s important for new employees to know why certain processes are followed, the history of the technical services department, and how things came to be in their current state. I’m not saying that libraries have to keep doing things the same way. But there is certainly something to be said about having a bit of narrative and contextual history when a fresh set of eyes looks at traditional practices and procedures.
Supplementing Traditional Documentation with Oral History: Capturing Institutional Knowledge at Oregon State University Libraries.
© 2018 Rachael Davis
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