StoryCorps is known for the stories we collect from the public. Anyone is welcome to make an appointment at one of our three permanent StoryBooths in Atlanta, Chicago, or San Francisco, or at our MobileBooth if they are fortunate enough to live near one of the ten locations our Airstream trailer visits annually. What you may not know is that last year, 62% of the almost 6,000 interviews we collected came through partnerships with libraries, museums, nonprofits, hospitals, educational institutions, advocacy/aid groups, and other organizations that wished to record and archive stories. Typically, a partnership is designed around a particular institutional goal. StoryCorps’ role is to organize the event and oversee the recordings by providing equipment and trained facilitators.
Organizations that partner with StoryCorps often choose to invite members, honor funders, record with employees, or reach out to other local groups for ideas. No matter their strategy, StoryCorps always encourages them to use this opportunity to include the stories of those who may be underrepresented in local histories. After recording, it is up to each organization to use their StoryCorps materials in ways that best fit their needs. This can include sharing them online, working with local radio stations to broadcast them, holding listening events, or other creative ideas they come up with. One of our favorite ways for organizations to use their StoryCorps materials is for community engagement and continued outreach.
In 2015, the Embudo Valley Public Library in Dixon, New Mexico was awarded three StoryCorps recording days as part of the prestigious Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Medal Award. Under the guidance of Library Director Felicity Fonseca, the library was able to draw on many of its existing resources and community expertise to transform this opportunity into a multifaceted community engagement project.
The library began by developing an outreach strategy that attracted a variety of participants with a range of backgrounds to the recording sessions. According to Felicity, “I truly wanted the StoryCorps visit to be a gift to our community. To everyone in the community, not just those who use the library. Our town has seen a lot of changes, and still is changing a lot, and we tried to ensure that interviews could represent many different points of view.”
This conscientious approach resulted in a collection of stories from a cross-section of the community, including farmers, bus drivers, and artists, covering topics that range from family and food to religion. Following each interview, the participants received an audio copy to take home. At the end of the three-day event, the library received a comprehensive archive of all of the interviews. A copy of each conversation was also preserved in the StoryCorps Archive and at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
After the event, Felicity actively sought ways to put the archive to use and to continue to engage the town and community though a number of initiatives. First, she sought to edit the pieces into shorter clips, like the broadcast pieces by StoryCorps that air weekly on NPR. To that end, she found producer and educator Judy Goldberg, who led an audio editing workshop for interview participants. Library staff attended the workshop as well, which enabled the skills Judy taught to remain within the organization. According to Felicity, “I knew from the beginning that the way to make the interviews accessible was to edit them; really, I was seeing the community workshop as a means to an end — that if we could build community capacity in learning this technology, then we could get more edited interviews to share.”
Once the editing was complete, the focus turned to sharing the produced audio with the wider community. The library hosted a potluck and listening event featuring the edited interviews. It was a huge success with 50 attendees, many of whom first-time library visitors. The collection was also made accessible to the public on the library’s website. Judy contacted local public radio station KSFR, which joined in by featuring some of the recordings on-air and sponsoring the editing of the remaining interviews. According to Felicity, “In the end, the whole process brought many community members into our library who had never been there before, and helped us develop a relationship with them. It has been great. I think many locals truly feel the edited sessions are beautiful, moving, funny, and have helped us share and remember.”
Listen to the Embudo Valley Public Library’s complete collection of edited interviews.
Learn more here about how to being StoryCorps to your community.