In September, the Preservation Lab participated in a day-long workshop for 4-H youth in grades 8-12 from minority communities across Iowa.

4-H’ers participating in Ujima. Photo credit: J.P. Chaisson-Cardenas

The day that the kids spent at the ISU library was a part of a 3 day retreat called Ujima and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander). The kids who come to these retreats are African, African American and Asian American. The event was developed by the Culturally Based Youth Leadership Accelerator Program (CYLA).   The purpose of the initiative is to encourage underrepresented and underserved youth to become part of their local 4-H learning communities, drawing upon their cultural strengths, knowledge and narratives.  The library partnered with ISU’s Extension and Outreach in order to be able to reach this audience of 4-H students.

Participants were welcomed at ISU State Gym before breaking up into groups and scattering across campus. Photo courtesy of Extension and Outreach, 4-H, CYLA

The partnership has been of great benefit to the library because the university’s 4-H program provides the infrastructure that is necessary to be able to bring dozens of kids from communities across Iowa to the university campus. They stay at the Clover Woods camp center outside of town, where the majority of their activities take place.

The youth spend the first day of the retreat  on the ISU campus, participating in workshops that are offered by different university departments. This year the library was one of the sites that they could pick from.  ISU’s Extension and Outreach 4-H Office  took care of all the complicated logistics, all we had to do was prepare awesome, memorable workshops and be ready for a day full of exciting high energy interaction with our audience.

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Co-teaching one of the groups at the Preservation lab. Sonya Barron and Emilie Duncan, our Lennox Preservation Intern.

During their day at the library the students participated in 3 different workshops. And yes, we definitely provided plentiful lunch and snacks! Three departments within the Curation Services division created hands-on teaching sessions united by one theme: Telling Your Story. The inspiration for the theme came from observing and acknowledging that minority individuals are extremely underrepresented in professions engaged with cultural heritage. Most often, minority communities have their stories told by people who are not a part of that community and may not understand their experiences or have a similar perspective on their history. In our workshops we wanted to champion the idea that the students had a part to play in telling their story and the stories of their family and community.

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Rosie Rowe, AV Preservation Specialist, explaining how to use an iPad to record a storyteller’s voice

Our AV Preservation Specialist, Rosie Rowe, taught the students how to record each other’s voices on an iPad app, StoryCorps-style. Most of the kids were willing to share a story about themselves and their families. In some cases English language skills presented a barrier. Most of the young people in this group had spent a significant amount of time in refugee camps and had been through difficult traumatic events. Their stories were powerful. At the end the day the students got to take their recorded story home on a USB jump drive.

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Practicing detective skills: looking at original documents from special collections.

At Special Collections and University Archives they worked on piecing together a real life story by examining  original documents from the library’s rare collections. Each person in the group only had information about one part of the story. How these fragments fit together was revealed only at the end of the session, when everyone shared what they discovered.

5 pamphlets sewn into a 10pt wrapper

Different colors for sewing

At the Preservation lab the participants got to try their hand at making their very own memory book/scrapbook. They selected colors of thread to sew a simple non-adhesive structure using attractive archival-quality materials. For all of them, this was the first time they had made a book. Although there was some frustration involved, there was a lot more enjoyment and pride of accomplishment.

This student said that he surprised himself. He didn’t know he could make a book.

This student was very proud of her finished product

I think that exploring the behind-the-scenes parts of the library was eye-opening for many of the youth. The conventional image of a librarian is a person sitting at a desk with a computer, helping people find books. The students were surprised that librarians could also be teachers, history detectives, recorders of others’ voices and could work with old books and historical documents.

On a personal level, I also made some discoveries:

  1. I got a glimpse into the depth of experience that the students possessed because they were willing to share their stories. I felt lucky to be there and was filled with respect for them.
  2. Phew, teaching is hard! I take my hat off to all good teachers out there. We really need to show our children’s teachers that we value their work. How about a bigger salary to start with?
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