Help Veterans Share Their Experiences

ImageThe Sylvania branch of the Toledo-Lucas County (Ohio) Public Library and Lourdes College of Sylvania cosponsored a Veterans' Writing Workshop.  They "crafted a variety of thought-provoking writing and reading exercises intended to encourage all veterans, active and retired, to write about their experiences for their own benefit or to share them with friends and family." In the article "Helping Warriors Unleash the Power of the Pen," Amy Hartman and Holly Baumgartner described how this program worked for them.

Some of the benefits the library saw as a result of the program include:

  • Outreach to underserved populations
  • Community connections
  • Intergenerational relations

Here are the highlights of what worked for them, to offer ideas for replicating this program at your library:

  • We hoped to avoid intimidating veterans who didn't have much writing practice, yet keep the sessions challenging enough to encourage those who already had some writing experience. We finally settled on a workshop format with a two-hour program each Monday evening for six weeks to provide the greatest flexibility for responding to what would likely be a variety of backgrounds. Each week's activities were based on a theme that would work regardless of the writer's abilities: writing about a place (week I), writing about an event (week 2), using humor in writing (week 3), writing about a memorable person (week 4), writing about yourself (week 5), and weaving a sense of reflection into writing (week 6).
  • The library's marketing department disseminated the information to local newspapers via press releases and a prominently featured push on the library's website. Amy sent fliers to the local VFW posts, talked to a friend active in the Vietnam Veterans of America, and gave information to the local Rotary organization. Holly hung flyers around the Lourdes campus, and College Relations posted the information to the college website. The Toledo Blade surprised us with a Sunday feature on page one of the newspaper's second section, which proved to be the most useful tool for generating interest in the program.
  • We were extremely pleased with the quality of the writing, quickly realizing a passion to tell one's story is a fine motivator in achieving excellence.

They printed a commemorative book titled In Our Boots, containing 20 essays and poems from the workshop.

sources: Hartman, Amy. 2011. "Helping Warriors Unleash the Power of the Pen." American Libraries 42, no. 11/12: page 38. Accessed via MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost.

photo credit: MATEUS_27:24&25 via Flickr