It’s no secret that StoryCorps loves working with libraries. We understand the importance of libraries as critical community anchors, and appreciate the valuable services that libraries provide to their patrons. That’s why, in 2011, we partnered with the American Library Association to create a unique program that put tools and resources to create oral history programming directly in the hands of librarians–StoryCorps @ your library (SCL).
In creating the program, we began with the premise that the people who work at public libraries know their communities better than anyone else. We decided to create a national project that would provide StoryKits–portable sets of professional recording equipment–to librarians and library volunteers and allow them the opportunity to record and celebrate the unique stories of their patrons and others. During the pilot year, we received over 200 applications for ten program slots, and we chose–through a peer-review process moderated by the American Library Association–a cohort of libraries that included small, rural libraries; large, multi-branch library systems; and everything in between. Over the course of a year, we traveled the country to visit these libraries, delivering intensive two-day trainings and providing programmatic guidance. Then, following the trainings, we worked closely with the pilot libraries to provide them with technical and outreach support as they began to record the voices and stories not often included or represented in mainstream media.
At the end of the program, our library partners had collected over 420 stories collectively, from Greensboro, NC all the way to Gallup, NM. At the Nashville Public Library, Andrea Blackman recruited community college studies to record stories with their classmates, and those stories are now housed in the NPL’s Special Collections Division. In Chicago, students at DePaul University recorded interviews with a variety of Chicagoans; some interview participants spoke of taking part in the Great Migration; others described arriving in Chicago from Eastern Europe, and still others, patrons at the CPL’s Talking Book Center, discussed their experiences as visually-impaired individuals. In Tampa, FL, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library System created a program, “Our Lives, Our Legacies: The Hillsborough Black Experience,” in which each month a specific theme was celebrated. The Multnomah County Library collected interviews from library patrons in celebration of its centennial year, and in Smithville, TX, the Smithville Public Library recorded stories with veterans and others that will eventually become a walking tour of the town of Smithville.
Now, we are delighted to announce the next call for applications for the StoryCorps @ your library program. As in the pilot program, StoryCorps will select ten libraries to train and support, and also enhance our suite of freely available tools and resources. StoryCorps will enhance existing web-based resources, present at the annual ALA and Association for Small and Rural Libraries conferences, and support the development of DIY tools to ensure that all libraries can create programs to celebrate the unique stories of their communities.
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