January 22, 2020

Listen to Interviews with Over 700 Authors: Ohio University Libraries Digitizes and Preserves Nationally Syndicated CBS Radio Program ‘Book Beat’

From Ohio University:

The Ohio University Libraries’ Don Swaim Collection, featuring over 700 audio interviews of well-known authors from “Book Beat,” the nationally produced CBS Radio News program, is now digitally available online — including digital transcripts of the syndicated news program.

From 1982 through 1993, “Book Beat,” hosted by OHIO alumnus Don Swaim (1959), ran daily snippets of the candid taped interviews of famous authors such as Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, John Irving, Ray Bradbury and many others.

“‘Book Beat’ was two- or three-minute broadcasts that would come on five days a week that included interviews with authors, as well as comments from Swaim’s perspective,” Stacey Lavender, special collections librarian and curator of the Swaim Collection, said. “Swaim would take a couple of little snippets from the interview and intersperse those with his thoughts and commentary about the book. They were really polished and radio-quality professionally produced.”

The full-length interviews, from which “Book Beat” broadcasts were created, are longer in length and much more free flowing in nature. Swaim’s journalistic interviewing technique of casual conversation brought out a broad range of topics from his celebrity authors, editors and people in the publishing world.

Their conversations ranged from current-day world politics, music and the arts, which rippled across the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, to the author’s writing style, specifics about characters or themes in their books, to even as far as what they ate for breakfast that morning. His discerning questioning brought out the unique personalities of each of his featured guests.

With the support of Swaim, the Ohio University Libraries began a two-part preservation and accessibility project in order to make this collection playable online, since the original magnetic tapes degrade and will not play forever. The two phases included professionally reformatting and transcribing the “Book Beat” tapes to meet audio preservation standards (Phase One, completed in 2018), and to digitize the full-length interviews to join the Don Swaim Digital Collection (Phase Two, completed in 2019).

According to Erin Wilson, digital imaging specialist and lab manager within digital initiatives, the digital collection should draw the interest of people interested in podcasts, a medium that has become increasingly popular.

Wilson also reasons that the collection has a broad interdisciplinary appeal to students and other scholars interested not only in literature, but also in journalism.

“Many people who are interested in journalism can also benefit from looking at Swaim’s process,” Wilson explains. “It was a craft for him to distill those, sometimes hour-long, interviews into succinct segments, but what makes me happy is just knowing that it is accessible online now.”

Listen Online: Direct to Don Swaim Digital Collection

See Also: Interviews with Authors: Nashville Public Television (NPT) Digitizes 901 Episodes of John Seigenthaler’s ‘A Word on Words’ Series

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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