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Tales of Our Forefathers

Calcasieu Library
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Innovation Leader: Susan Gerhart, Young Adult Librarian for Central Library, sgerhart@calcasieu.lib.la.us

Problem Statement

Young adults do not have a clear appreciation of the struggles of past generations until they hear about them face-to-face. Families often do not speak of past experiences and so not take the time to make a record of their ancestry. The Calcasieu Parish Public Library provided a framework in which a dialogue between teens and older family and community members could be opened. As a part of the 2009 Teen Summer Reading Program, the teens were tasked with finding someone to obtain historical information from and to create a technological record of that information.

Innovation

Rather than supply a written record of their research into the history of their community or family, the teens used technology as a reporting device. In a unique twist to teen programming, the library encouraged teens to bond with an elder through collaboration on creating an oral history. The students were tasked with planning, implementing and organizing an interview, videotaping and editing the interview, scanning images to insert into the film, and transcription of the oral interview into a written format. By the end of the project, they had compiled the technical notes to create a visual, auditory and tangible record of their experience with an older member of the community. They learned the legalities of obtaining waivers for use of images and internet posting. Through an Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Mini-Grant, the library was able to compile and print multiple copies of the interviews.

Progress

The group of teens created a permanent record for the collections of the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Library and the Central Library, which are available to all residents of the Parish (County). Their project created connections with people and family members from other states who visited the Calcasieu Parish Public Library website to view the results. They made a valuable connection with a local historian, Nola Mae Ross, who has written 20 published historical works about our area. The teens interviewed Ross and obtained historical photos that they included in the Tales of Our Forefathers document for the library collection housed at the Genealogy Library. The group project has made a valuable contribution to the historical collection of the Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish area.