StoryCorps values the everyday
Camden — Local residents might hear a friend or neighbor on the radio after StoryCorps' May 9 visit to the Camden Public Library.
Since the library published its history of Camden, “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea: A History of the Camden Area 1900-2000,” in 2009, library director Nikki Maounis and Heather Moran, director of the library's history center, had talked about wanting to have StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that records stories from people around the country in all walks of life and airs segments of them on NPR's “Morning Edition,” come to the library. However, the cost was beyond the library's budget.
The unusual one-day recording session with StoryCorps came about after Moran learned that the nonprofit was spending a week collecting stories at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. Library staff contacted StoryCorps and arranged for the organization to extend its Midcoast visit for an extra day in order to come to Camden, explained Maounis. The library got a grant from the Branta Foundation, started by the late Harvey and Jean Picker, to support the project.
The stories recorded May 9 will be part of a library project titled “Every Story Counts: Everyday Stories for Everyday People.” StoryCorps will do six, 45-minute recording sessions with people selected by library staff from a pool of applicants. It is not necessary to have a Camden library card in order to apply for one of the recording slots. Applications and information are available at the library. An application can also be made online on the library's website, librarycamden.org.
Maounis and Moran have not decided how they will choose people to tell their stories, but Moran said they are looking for “compelling stories and compelling storytellers.” Those who are recorded must be willing to have their story made available to a worldwide audience, since stories are accessible through the StoryCorps website, storycorps.org. Each person recorded will receive a copy of their recording on CD, and copies will be kept at the library, in the StoryCorps archive and at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
Rather than being interviewed, people coming to tell their story are asked to bring along a family member or friend to listen; two people who have a shared story also may tell it together, Maounis said. StoryCorps staffers will be in the library's Jean Picker Room with those telling their stories, but generally do not interrupt during the telling, she said.
Collecting and presenting the stories of people in the community is a vital part of the library's function, said Moran.
“I think a really important part of being a library is to have these stories,” she said.
Speaking about the importance of StoryCorps' visit to the library, Maounis said, “We look at it as part of our mission. We are the keeper of the world's stories.”
She added that the event would help to build understanding among people in the community. She values the stories she hears on StoryCorps because, “I hear people talking about lives that I will never live … and for just a moment I feel like I've walked in their shoes.”
For more information about StoryCorps, visit its website.
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.