Capturing a Community's Resilience
Anyone interested in oral history will be thrilled to know about a new program at the Fort Myers Beach Library that combines reading with digital storytelling and promises to be a great way to preserve islanders' individual histories. Called 'Human Resilience: A Community Story', the program debuted this week under the leadership of Electronic Services Librarian Ronn Raszetnik and Intern Susan Maunz. We met with both of them this week to find out more about the program and to introduce folks to Maunz, who will be working at the Library until she completes her Masters Degree in December.
"This is a new project for us and is a big initiative,” said Raszetnik. "Susan came here to help us with it, and we are very excited.”
Participants in the program will read one of three books related to the theme of human resilience, then schedule an interview with library staff who will create a short video or audio recording of them sharing their thoughts about a character in the book and telling their own story of resilience. The videos will be made into a movie, which will be shown at a special screening party upon the project's completion and placed on the Library's website, YouTube and Facebook for all to see. Folks can even read all three books on the list, and each time they participate counts as one entry into a drawing for prizes that will be held at the end of the program - with the Grand Prize being a Kindle Fire HD.
"We are looking to combine all these stories as a way to bring the community together,” Ronn continued. "Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding wants this program to serve a model for future programs.”
Raszetnik explained that no digital experience is necessary for folks who want to participate but - for those who are interested in learning this technology - the Library is offering classes free of charge.
"We are holding several workshops throughout the fall where people can get more involved in the creation and editing of their portion of the movie,” he said. "The first one is coming up next week - September 24th at 10:30am.”
Kids can get involved, too, as the Library is offering a program designed especially for them.
"The kids' version is for ages 12 and under and is called "Kids of Courage”,” Ronn told us. "Like the adults, they will read one of three children's books related to the theme of human resilience but instead of doing an interview, they will create a fun, short animated story with the assistance of library staff that will be placed on the library's website.”
Susan Maunz will be helping with the program, commuting to the beach from her home in Naples. A native of western New York, Maunz has lived in Naples for nine years and brings with her over 15 years of library experience.
"I was granted a fellowship through Project Alfa - Accessible Libraries For All to get my Masters Degree in Library Science,” she told us. "I met Dr. Hommerding at the Library's grand opening celebration and was really impressed with how 'green' the new facility is and with the idea of working for an independent library. I've worked for our Naples Library for several years, and the beach's library is so different being independent - it really allows Dr. H to have his hands on the pulse of what's happening here, and I think that's great.”
Maunz will be in the library primarily on Mondays, which is when most of the interviews will be scheduled. She will be working there until she graduates from her distance learning classes at Wayne State University in the middle of December.
"I've always enjoyed oral histories,” she told us. "It's so important to capture peoples' stories, and this is a fun and easy way to do it.”
Both the kid’s and adult's programs officially began September 16th and will run through November 25th. The adults have a choice of "The Yellow Birds” - a story of two soldiers who vow to protect each other; "There Are No Children Here” - an account of two boys struggling to survive in a neglected Chicago home for orphans and "Into the Beautiful North”, the powerful tale of a woman who tries to save her Mexican hometown from being overrun by drug gangsters by going north to recruit seven men to help protect it. For the kids, their selections are "The Secret River” - the story of a Florida girl who meets a medicine woman who shows her a secret river teaming with catfish that only appears when people are starving; "Piper Reed, Navy Brat” - the tale of navy brat Piper, whose sadness over moving once again is turned to happiness by her family and "When Jessie Came Across the Sea” - an account of a thirteen-year-old Jewish orphan who emigrates to New York City where she works as a seamstress until she can make enough money to pay for her grandmother to join her.
Raszetnik told us that all the books are available at the staff workstation on the 1st floor, and that extra copies have been ordered so there are enough to go around.
"We will be screening the movie we make sometime in December,” he said. "I invite everyone to share their stories with us and become part of a community story that celebrates the resilience of our community.”
Keri Hendry Weeg