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Jun 9, 2013 — by Jim Blanton
When I first started out as a librarian, I envisioned a future of providing reference service and assisting patrons with locating books and information. While that certainly comprised a significant part of my job duties, almost from the word go I was drawn into the area of library programming. Unfortunately programming was a subject that was notably absent in my graduate school program. I vividly remember during the orientation week of my first professional position, sitting in a board room with other new librarians, and being told we would be responsible for coordinating two programs a year. At the time I had no idea what that would entail, but I dutifully nodded and figured I would work it all out later. Boy did I ever! Over the course of 12 years in Chesapeake, Virginia, I became well known in the community for doing large scale programming, 3 of which ended up winning statewide awards.
One of those award winners was a program called Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion. The program was concocted by me and a dedicated library volunteer named Rob Floyd. Both lovers of B-movies, we thought it would be cool to do a monthly series in which we would screen a double-feature of thematically similar, really bad movies. Added to that foundation we would also bring in guest speakers, and “enhance” the films with gimmicks employed from the days of old when all B-movies were accompanied by outrageous ballyhoo. The show proved to be a huge hit right out of the gate, and is still running to this day.
Beyond the pure fun of hosting Fantasmo, the most rewarding part of the program was seeing folks from the community interact with each other. Residents from all walks of life came out to the library on Friday nights. Parents and teens, teachers and college professors, local celebrities, elected officials (even the mayor) – and they all had a blast together! Folks would usually show up an hour before the movies just to talk about all things cinema related, and then for about 3-4 hours enjoy our antics and hoot and holler at the screen as the outrageously bad films played on. It was truly something to behold, and just one of the programs that taught me what an amazing place a library can be for bringing folks together (many who otherwise would never have met).
Upon arriving at the Daviess County Public Library, one of my primary goals was to start up programs that would pull in the community in a similar fashion. While doing a movie program at some point was on my radar, I was surprised when barely into my first full month I was approached by a local filmmaker, PJ Starks, about putting together a series. The concept was to bring in local filmmakers to screen and discuss their works across a wide variety of genres. Needless to say I was excited by the possibilities, as the concept added that important layer of community by screening films made by folks from the area. Long story short we held our first round of Unscripted over 6 weeks in January and February and received a fantastic response. Over two hundred movie lovers attended and the local PBS affiliate even came out to capture the proceedings.
Most importantly, those who came to Unscripted were engaged in the same way I had experienced with Fantasmo and other programs I had coordinated back in Chesapeake. They were talking with each other and connecting in a meaningful way. Better still we had many participants who were not regular library users, and some visiting for the first time. That was always a thrill for me in Chesapeake, especially when I would see program participants coming back to the library to read and hang out, check out materials, or attend other programs. It just took the right hook to get them interested and aware of all the great things the library can be. With Unscripted I had staff members coming up and excitedly pointing out to me how there were so many folks they had never seen before in the library. My response to that observation was – this is only the beginning!
As for Unscripted, we will shortly be holding our second series, again with a diverse range of films. But that’s not all! We think it’s important to keep the community informed about the artists working locally more than just a couple of times a year, so to that end we’re launching an Unscripted page here on the web site which will feature interviews, blogs, trailers, and more. We hope you’ll keep visiting the site and checking out the latest and greatest indie films, and of course join us live for our shows. See you at the movies!