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Chesterfield Listening Group

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An oral history project

What was the project about?

In 2009, with funding from English Heritage and Derbyshire County Council, the Chesterfield Listening Group at Chesterfield Library started an oral history project. Members of the Listening Group interviewed each other about their experiences of the Group, of using libraries, of reading with impaired vision, and of using audio books.

Photo of Chesterfield Listening Group

Photo of members of Chesterfield Listening Group

How was it done?

The Group bought two Marantz PMD660 recorders and Audio Technica PRO70 microphones. While this is the recommended kit for high quality oral history recordings, setting up the kit proved to be fiddly for visually impaired people and sighted library staff were usually in attendance to ensure that the equipment was working properly. In retrospect a simpler recorder may have been easier to use even if the quality of the sound recording might not have been quite as good.

How did the interviews go?

There were some fascinating stories recorded and clips from some of the recordings can be heard at the bottom of the page. Like all oral history projects there was a learning curve for the interviewers, but the main differences due to visual impairment were that the interviewers sometimes had to take a while to read the questions and there was an occasional noise from a guide dog...


Photo of member of Chesterfield Listening Group

Photo of launch party for project

What was produced?

Twenty two interviews were carried out and detailed summaries made of all. These were copied onto archival CDs and a hard drive. An edited CD was created by Colin Hyde at EMOHA from selections made by librarian Sandra Rollinson in consultation with members of the Listening Group.

A launch event was held at the Library on 17th November 2010.


Below and to the right are examples of devices used to listen to audio books and read text.

Photo of RNIB sound player

Photo of computer reading aid

What have we learnt from the project?

From the interviews we have gained an insight into the importance of libraries, and Chesterfield Library particularly, to the members of the Listening Group. It is clear that without the Library it would be more difficult for visually impaired people to find and read books.

The interviews illustrated that there are various means of reading or listening to books and, as technology develops, some of these are now obsolete while others continue to be useful. The importance of the reader to the success of an audio book is clear, although the story has to be involving in the first place.

Being visually impaired doesn't mean that you can't be an oral history interviewer. The best interviews are interesting to listen to, have been conducted well, and are recorded at high quality.

Photo of members of Chesterfield Listening Group

The project CD is called 'Listen to Us. The story of how a group of Visually Impaired People came together to form a popular Listening Group at Chesterfield Library'. It is divided into sections and the following are short clips from each of these sections (either right click and 'save target as' or do whatever your computer demands):

1. Early years, reading.mp3

2. Using libraries and Chesterfield Library.mp3

3. Reading methods.mp3

4. Audio Books.mp3

5. Listening Group.mp3

For Windows Media Player information see our technical statement.

The full interviews are available to be listened to at Chesterfield Library (contact Sandra Rollinson) or at the East Midlands Oral History Archive.

Link to Chesterfield Library website: http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/find_your_local_library/chesterfield/default.asp

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Last updated: 14/02/2011
East Midlands Oral History Archive Web maintainer
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.

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