Use Louisa May Alcott TV Special for Library Programs
Kim Mears | June 28, 2010
Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, this week we’re featuring blog posts on ALA Annual Conference programs. This entry focuses on “New Grant Available: Use Louisa May Alcott TV Special for Library Programs,” where attendees learned about a new NEH grant to ALA for library programs using the documentary Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, and discussed the "Soul of a People" documentary and library programs. Also featured: documentary websites and educational resources for libraries.
Most people recognize the name Louisa May Alcott, and many even know that she penned Little Women and other children’s books, but it’s what most people do not know that is the most interesting. Did you know that Alcott was part of a torrid love affair, or that she also wrote pulp fiction in addition to children’s books? Libraries across the nation have been exploring the unknown side of Alcott through a new documentary called Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, and a companion biography. In combination with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Public Programs Office (PPO) is offering libraries, big and small, the chance to apply for a $2,500 grant in support of programming involving the reading, viewing, or discussion of the movie or book. Nancy Porter, the producer and director of the movie, and Harriet Reisen, the producer and writer, presented clips from the movie and read excerpts from the biography. Among the things we learned about Alcott were that she was a Civil War nurse, a friend of Emerson and Thoreau, a participant in a Paris love affair, and the author of “blood and thunders tales” that were only discovered after her death and are still being discovered today. More information about the movie and book, including video clips and lesson plans, can be found at the film’s website. More information about the grant application process can be found on the ALA Public Programs Office’s grant page.
In addition to the Louisa Man Alcott grant, the “Soul of People: Writing America’s Story” project was also discussed by panelists Andrea Kalin of the Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story documentary; Henry Fortunato of the Kansas City Public Library; Nora Quinlan of Nova University; Jude Schanzer of East Meadow, New York Public Library; and Susan Brandehoff from the ALA Public Programs Office. The respective libraries, 30 in total, each applied and received a $2,500 grant to support programming in coordination with the national release of the film, which documents the work of the Federal Writers Project (FWP). The FWP was commissioned during the Depression Era in an effort to stimulate the economy and produced such authors as Zora Neal Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Saul Bellow. Perhaps the most legendary aspect of the FWP was the production of the American Guides for forty-eight of the states (and cities as well) within the United States. Each of the libraries represented at the presentation discussed how they used the grant and involved the community with the Soul of a People documentary.
The panel also offered some words of advice worth mentioning when applying for PPO/NEH grants:
Let the filmmakers know what you need in advance, and they will more than likely be willing to provide pictures, posters, or whatever you need.
Make sure to film your programs or have someone take photos.
Be sure to promote your programs. PR is very important. Get involved with radio, news, etc.
Be imaginative when planning programs for your library. For example, Skypeing in a scholar or filmmaker if you cannot afford to get them to your library.
Kim Mears is an MLIS student specializing in academic librarianship at Valdosta State University.