MLA Conference Recap #3: Story Slam

Beautiful lilac bushes growing near Stevens Hall.

You’ve probably heard of a Poetry Slam (a gathering where people are encouraged to get up and recite poetry) but have you heard of a Story Slam?  Last year, teens stood up and told true stories from their own lives at the Edythe Dyer Community Library.  Each night the winning storyteller walked away with $500 and the winner of the Grand Slam won $1,000, thanks to generous sponsorship from Katahdin Trust Company.

Leading up to the event, the library also provided a storytelling workshop to give the teens a chance to try out and refine their stories.  There was a strict five minute limit, and there was no inappropriate language allowed, but other than that the kids were free to choose whichever story they wanted to tell.

I thought that a Story Slam program would pair nicely with an interesting program that was mentioned during Buffy Hamilton’s speech:  Human Library.  This program looks for volunteers to act as a book.  Patrons are then able to “check out” a human book for an hour and then have a conversation with him or her.  Human books usually represent a demographic that are misunderstood and the program’s goal is to break down the walls of prejudice.  After talking about the idea with several EPL librarians, we agreed that it would be a great opportunity to pair seniors with teens and offer a multi-generational program.  Better yet, if the conversations were video taped, it would be a way to document the stories.  So many people (older and younger) have amazing stories that would be a real asset to the collection.

Without taking up a lot of space, or investing in a lot of expensive equipment, these programs would be an easy, affordable way to introduce participatory culture in the library.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “MLA Conference Recap #3: Story Slam

  1. These are such amazing, forward-thinking ideas. The Human Library sounds really amazing and rather inspirational. If you do get to record some of the conversations, then you’ll be able to create a living, breathing archive that could be used to combat stereotypes and prejudices.

    • Exactly! We are currently brainstorming ways to preserve these stories so they can live on for generations. I’m sure you’ve come across some great stories and anecdotes from your interviews.

      A lot of these ideas are new to me, but I just love thinking about the future of libraries in this way. We could offer the community cutting edge technology and still continue to provide people with content (but more of it may be locally created instead of mass-market). It’s a lot to think about, for sure!

      • I hope the brain-storming’s going well. It must be so much to process. I don’t know about the United States in general, but in my region of England we still view libraries as a central information point and sometime meeting-place for (non-literary) clubs. Some of the ideas mentioned in the conference-related blogs are making some part of my head spin around! o.O
        Yes, I’ve heard some brilliant anecdotes during the interviews and also from conversations with people. It may sound cliché, but I believe that everyone has a story to tell, even if they don;t know it and even if they don’t say it with words but through art, etc.

      • It’s certainly an interesting time to be a librarian because I feel that libraries are evolving very quickly to keep up. And, I think we should do everything possible to make the library as community-led as it can be. It will certainly be interesting to see how libraries change in the coming years, be it by offering fewer materials and providing more equipment for creation, or by eliminating the collection completely in favor of e-books and using the space for a community gathering place. These changes sound extreme, but I can sort of see things heading in that direction down the line.

        I completely agree with you. I think some people are more accessible or relatable and it’s easier to understand their stories, but it’s everyone’s job (not just the librarian’s) to listen to all stories, even if some people seem like closed books :)

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