How One Librarian Made a Difference
It’s been nearly two weeks since the wrongful death of George Floyd; with major events going on in our society on a daily basis, I feel compelled to announce and release this podcast that speaks to our still turbulent time, when we are far from ready to start what we thought would be a new normal. Life needs to move forward, but not without some poignant reminders to keep our focus on what we feel is right for tomorrow. This blog post highlights key take-aways from our interview with Elizabeth Kahn. I contemplated whether to postpone this until a later date, but then realized that the points that were powerful to me during the podcast are even more relevant today.
On March 12th, 2020, literally days before all of our lives changed by the COVID-19 lock down, Linda Houle (a long time LiveBinders curator) and I Zoomed with Elizabeth Kahn, the Library Media Specialist at Patrict Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, to talk about her Hurricane Katrina LiveBinder. In the interview, Elizabeth clearly demonstrates how important our role as custodians to historical events really are. Here is why.
In 2005 those of us old enough will remember Hurricane Katrina and how devastating it was to New Orleans and the towns, schools and people who were displaced by it. Fear was palpable, but through time the impact, the trauma, the fear starts to fade. Elizabeth and her colleagues had a simple epiphany: A generation of students are growing up without any knowledge of this devastation and how it displaced a million people in a matter of hours and impacted their own family’s lives.
At that time, Elizabeth does what librarians are trained to do, she goes out and finds information, resources that can help tell the story of what happened in 2005. She vets information and then she goes a step further, she builds a narrative in the way she organizes her resources. In this case, she puts them in a digital binder because so many things that she wanted to illustrate are captured on film. She starts to build activities that she can share with teachers, who are the medium through which she can distribute this body of work. It moves from one classroom to many classrooms, even to classrooms outside of the neighborhood she is trying to preserve.
But there is something that happened that is unique only to this digital world. Those primary sources started disappearing, and that’s the part where you hear Linda and I reflecting upon it in the beginning of the podcast. In the actual interview, you’ll hear Elizabeth bring this up as something that is part of her routine, but it is significantly more revealing about her commitment to the cause and to what it takes to keep a history alive.
Video clips taken by news agency were disappearing from the internet. Why do you think that is? What happens when primary resources disappear – does the history disappear?
That is why it is so interesting to listen to this podcast and apply it to today. How does Elizabeth’s project with Hurrican Katrina provide a model for preserving the Covid-19 pandemic or the #blacklivesmatter protests? That we all know will fade as the media’s interest fade. How do we become the custodians for historical events? How do we make sure that we don’t let history repeat itself? The heroes of destabilizing events are often those who learn how to take small steps and make them tangibly accessible. If you haven’t appreciated your librarian recently, now is the time to think about that in the context of learning. Thank you Elizabeth for all of this.
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