In their own words: oral histories of Medical Library Association past presidents


  • Barbara A. Epstein Director, Middle Atlantic Region, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and Director, Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh, Falk Library of the Health Sciences, 200 Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261


Lectures, Medical Library Association


Objective: The purpose of this lecture was to review the development of the Medical Library Association (MLA) oral history program and to highlight the oral histories of thirty-seven past MLA presidents to identify themes of common interest and relevance to current MLA members.

Methods: The lecture focused on three main topics discussed in many of the interviews: the presidents’ backgrounds and how they came to be medical librarians, how MLA developed as an organization as a reflection of the growth of medical libraries, and the presidents’ predictions and advice about the future.

Results: MLA presidents came from varied backgrounds and locales. As MLA grew from a small, intimate group into a multifaceted organization with a professional management staff, the workload of the presidents changed in scope. One recurring theme in the presidential oral histories was the power differential between men and women in the organization and the profession. MLA presidents reminisced about notable annual meetings and praised the positive impact of the organization on members’ professional and personal lives.

Conclusions: The lecture concludes with recommendations to the organization to increase the availability of the oral histories by providing online access for future interviews and to pay careful attention to their long-term preservation.






Lectures and Awards