By: Emily Waltenbaugh, Public Information Officer, Nashville Public Library & Ryan Darrow, Special Collections Librarian, Nashville Public Library
The Special Collections division at Nashville Public Library (NPL) tells the story of Nashville. The mission of NPL Special Collections is to explore Nashville’s past, inspire conversation, and anticipate stories to come. A large part of that mission is the collection and preservation of oral histories, as with NPL’s Veterans History Project (VHP). NPL hired an author to transcribe and compile many of these histories collected from World War II veterans in 2003, to put them into context and to provide perspective. NPL Special Collections wanted a bound version of this inspiring collection, and IngramSpark provided the ideal platform. NPL Special Collections librarian Ryan Darrow discussed the experience with Ingram and the various ways NPL supports its writing community.
Q. What was your goal in taking these recorded histories and putting them into print form?
A: We wanted to highlight selections of the collection. Our VHP interviews run the gamut from the Pacific theater to the European theater, about the Great Depression, and technical information about aircraft. Compiling them in bound form made them accessible to people with a spectrum of interests from a history buff to an academic historian, and in a different format.
Q: Tell me about the project and the books you have created.
A: We decided that the overall manuscript from the VHP was too long and too broad for one book, so we split the project into three volumes.
Nashville’s World War II Veterans
We hired a graphic designer to create covers for each volume, and we included images from our own collections to highlight photographs from our archives.
Q: What are your plans for the finished titles? Where could we find them going forward?
A: All three are currently available at NPL as reference items. We finished the project and are excited to have physical books. IngramSpark took us through the creation of the books. We appreciate the flexibility to go back later and make plans for promotion and possible wider distribution.
Q: How does the Nashville Room work with writers?
A: We are a resource for research, assistance, and space. We provide archival reference service through the desk or by appointment. We can help with research requests (for writers or just for curious patrons) through phone or email. Writers working on a project can apply for a Nashville Room Writer’s Room, a dedicated mini-office within the Nashville Room, to use while they’re researching and writing.
Q: Does NPL have any other writing programs?
A: Absolutely! We hold poetry workshops for teens with our partner Southern Word, we co-sponsor the Nashville Youth Poet Laureate program, and we host NaNoWriMo workshops for adults. We partner with Humanities Tennessee, BookPage, Parnassus Books and our Library Foundation to host Salon@615 author events, and we are also one of the hosts/space providers for the huge, annual Southern Festival of Books.
Q: How was your experience working with publishing through IngramSpark?
A: For me, it was an exciting learning experience. I've always secretly wanted to be a publisher and [IngramSpark] walked me through the process. I don't know how else I would have published a book except through a platform like that.
Q: In what other ways could NPL work with IngramSpark to support local authors and researchers?
A: IngramSpark is easy enough that you can use it for anything. The setup costs are low, so authors and organizations could use it for activity guides, event listings, or strategic planning documents. It’s great for limited-run items.
One idea we have for IngramSpark is using it to create surrogates of some of our manuscript records to facilitate teaching through primary sources. We have a partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools, called Limitless Libraries, that connects public library materials to school libraries. We could use IngramSpark to make circulating materials and extend the reach of Special Collections into the classroom.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share about NPL or special collections?
A: NPL Special Collections is a really exciting place right now. We are doing a lot of innovative programs that get our materials outside of the library walls. We are continuing our tradition of oral histories and allowing people to tell their stories: over 200 oral histories about the Nashville Civil Rights movement, stories from prominent business leaders, histories documenting the devastating 2010 Nashville flood, histories of “old” Nashville and the stories of people who’ve arrived here from all over the world. All of this is in addition to our reference service, manuscript collecting, and popular tours of our Civil Rights Room.
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