As part of winning the highest honor from a national group in 2019, the Gulfport Public Library will be in the limelight again in 2020 when StoryCorps visits on January 28 though 30 to conduct recordings from groups of locals, one of which may be featured on National Public Radio, said Library Director David Mather.
“They are bringing two of their professional storytellers,” said Mather. “Every hour, they will meet with two people. One person usually takes the lead and starts talking to the other. The StoryCorps storytellers facilitate the conversation, when needed. They also bring questions with them to spark conversations.”
According to the StoryCorps website, the mission of their group is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”
StoryCorps, an independent non-profit, began in October 2003 with the opening of an unscripted story booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Since then, they have won prestigious awards and grants in addition to partnering with other like-minded groups like National Public Radio (NPR).
A total of 30 local people in 15 groups of two will be interviewed at the Gulfport Public Library over the course of three days.
“Mainly, the conversations should revolve around is the library itself,” said Mather. Like “how the library affects the community positively and if they have any specific stories about how the library has helped them in their own life.”
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, it was announced that the Gulfport Library was one of five library winners of the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition to receiving $10,000 in grant funding, the award also includes the StoryCorps recording sessions.
During the 2019 awards press conference at the library, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-FL 13th District described the facility as, “impressive.” In his nomination letter, Crist wrote that the “library offers several invaluable resources to its diverse community” including an art-makers’ space, a free summer lunch program for all kids and educational programs for older residents. He also noted it is nationally recognized for its LGBTQ Resource Center – the only one of its kind in the state of Florida. The center “provides incredible educational opportunities to community members of all backgrounds.”
In his notification letter to Mather on May 7, 2019, Crist wrote, “I am incredibly proud to have an institution of your stature serving the people of Pinellas and setting the standard for libraries across the country.”
During January’s audio recording sessions, StoryCorps will “speak to everyone for 40 minutes,” said Mather. All of the interviews will be placed into the national archives.
“One of them will be professionally produced and condensed by StoryCorps into their three-minute blocks that they have on NPR and other places,” said Mather. “That one will also be put into the StoryCorps archives online.”
For more information and to experience the online StoryCorps audio archives, visit storycorps.org.