Starting an interview collection project, based on the StoryCorps model, can help your organization forge new local partnerships, engage new audiences, and even attract additional sources of funding. Here are some ways an interview collection project can support your organization’s work:
Community Engagement—Preserve the life stories of your community members, and facilitate meaningful interactions between community members. We have found that listening to interviews can be just as valuable as participating.
Partnerships with Community Organizations—Forge meaningful connections with partner organizations on a shared project goal.
Public Programming—Bring new participants to your organization by having them participate in recordings, or in listening events.
Archiving —Develop your organization’s archive. Add voices and perspectives that are currently missing but should be represented.
Here are some examples of organizations that have created interview projects based on the StoryCorps model:
The Greensboro Public Library (NC) designed a program around the theme “Leaving Home” that targeted a wide range of participants including immigrants, African Americans with ties to the Great Migration, older adults leaving home to move into care facilities, and college students, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college. Greensboro’s Project Director, Steve Sumerford, reported that recruiting diverse audiences under a central theme resulted in a citywide dialogue, engaging different groups in conversation with one another like never before.
The San Francisco Public Library (CA) invited patrons and community members to share their experiences participating in social justice movements and activism in the Bay Area as part of their “One City, One Book” selection, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Story collection programs at each branch library enabled SFPL to build connections with local volunteers who helped to facilitate much of the outreach and interview collection.
The Providence Community Library (RI) designed a program around the theme “Stories Unite Us/Las Historias nos Unen” to recognize the great sense of community between patrons and librarians across the various branches. The library trained staff and volunteers at all nine of its branches how to use the StoryCorps model to record their diverse patrons and honor their successful efforts to keep the branches open after severe budget cuts threatened their closure. The library is currently partnering with local public television station WSBE/RI-PBS, the University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication, and Media, and Providence Comics Consortium to seek grant funding from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH) to create video clips using the locally collected interview content.
The Flint Public Library (MI) invited teenagers from the Flint Summer Youth Initiative, which provides high school students with employment and professional development opportunities, to record their hopes for their own futures and that of the broader Flint community. The library also worked with a local college student to teach interested youth how to edit interviews. The resulting interviews, edited by Flint youth and library staff, are showcased on the library’s SoundCloud and featured in an on-site library exhibit, Imagine Flint: Our Voices Together, that celebrates local voices.
Chattahoochee Valley Libraries (GA) recorded over 120 interviews with current and former patrons of the Mildred L. Terry Public Library, which was the first public library for African Americans during segregation. Of the 268 participants who recorded with the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, 86% self identified as Black and/or African American. Many interviewees spoke explicitly about how their racial identity informed their experience living in Georgia and beyond. In this way, the project supported the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries’ effort to remember and address their community’s segregated past and honor the voices of those who experienced segregation and fought to change it.
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