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Community Memory Through Writing

I think everyone is familiar with the concept of “collective memory”. It’s the memory of a group of people passed from one generation to the next. Many of us have been told stories by our parents, grandparents and if we’re lucky enough, great grandparents about their lives, what a geographic area was like and more. Many of these stories are never documented in writing or text. In this digital world, one would think that would be easy. However, we always think we have more time. We can do that another day. We’ll remember. Sometimes we’re right… and sometimes we’re not. Now is your chance to add to the Story of the Illinois Valley and be a part of the Valley’s collective memory!

2020 has been a historic year in every way. So we took inspiration from a library in Tennessee and have created Stories of the Illinois Valley, a project of community memory through writing. The library has 5 empty notebooks waiting for patrons to fill with their memories on specific topics. The first and most obvious topic is “My 2020 Quarantine Experience”. In the Quarantine notebook we want to know: what did you do while you were sheltering at home, were you considered an essential worker; what was your experience like, how did quarantine affect you?

The other Stories of the Illinois Valley topics include, What Was Your Childhood Like?, Poetry, What do you remember about Westclox?, and Doodle for Us! These notebooks have multiple functions. They can act as a time capsule for the Illinois Valley. They can aid future generations in genealogy research. They can be cathartic just to doodle out your feelings on a few pages or write a poem about unrequited love. You can add your stories by requesting a notebook in our online PrairieCat catalog and searching “community writing”. Or call us at 815-223-0229 to borrow a Stories of the Illinois Valley notebook.

The inspiration for this project came from “Pages of Madison County” a writing project from Jackson-Madison County Public Library. Librarians’ there were looking for a way to connect people in an isolating time and use up materials previously purchased.

Once the Stories of the Illinois Valley notebooks are full, they’ll be available for checkout as reading material. Topics are subject to change as notebooks are added. We have a few rules, posted inside each notebook that we ask each of you to follow. However, we really just want you to have fun with this project and add to the story that makes up our community. Every story is important, so add yours! And remember – grammar and spelling do not count.

Emily Schaub, Teen Manager

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