I was excited to attend the American Library Association (ALA) 2021 Conference on behalf of the Permanent Legacy Foundation last week! At this online conference, I learned Permanent Legacy Foundation, an online archiving platform for individuals and organizations, is more important than ever in order to empower people to create and preserve their personal history.
Making meaning of data is something Permanent is striving to do. The files and photographs that our members trust us with are not just data to us. The experience of helping your elders upload family history to our platform provides a window into the lives they led along with the wisdom they carry that can be added to the description of the photo upon uploading. As a new graduate from the library and archives iSchool program at UT Austin, I can say that in the world of information science wisdom has the least amount of scholarly research. The ALA Conference proved that the handing down of wisdom is needed in order to advance our society into a more equitable community.
Own Your Own Story
The main genres discussed at ALA were memoir, biography, and autobiography. These genres have the potential to upload wisdom into the brains of their reader like no other. People seem to resonate with learning from people widely perceived as successful, like former Presidents, successful actors, those who overcome extreme adversity, and thought-provoking academics. People want to learn how they got to where they are. Compelling memoirs and biographies have a lot more to say about failures and challenges than successes and triumphs.
Amanda Gorman opened the conference with a conversation led by Dr. Carla Hayden who is the first woman, and first African American woman to lead the National Library. Gorman was promoting her children’s book titled Change Sings and the wisdom she offered spoke to her unique collaboration with her illustrator during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She simply handed her epic poem to her illustrator and told him to run with it, calling it “non collaboration, collaboration.” This highlighted the trust needed when one hands over a life’s work to their collaborator and believes in their ability to come up with a companion art piece that will speak truth into what the other artist created. The meaning of a poet’s words could mean something different to every reader. That is the beauty of poetry. Trust is something that is needed when a Permanent member hands off their family photos or their life’s work to us to store in an archive and it is a mission we take very seriously.
When I heard Danny Trejo speaking with Donal Logue about their memoir of Trejo’s life titled Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood, he mentioned the importance of trusting someone with their life story. Trejo met his co-writer and long time friend at the West Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Center joking, “when I met you I thought you were the meanest person in the world.” He could not understand how Logue was selected to be the greeter at the door. They both had a laugh at that and then spoke about how digging deeper into a person’s first impression could lead to a lifelong friendship. Trejo says, “where I came from you had to earn trust.” He came from a life of gangs, drugs, and prison –Soledad State Prison to be exact. Subsequently, forgiveness and redemption plays a large role in him telling his life story. Trejo began his mission to help people after being released. The wisdom he received from being locked up ultimately led to fame as an actor propelling his platform to speak change into others lives that he came across.
Among the other notable authors sharing their stories was Gabrielle Union, who spoke of her memoir on women’s reproductive health challenges. Union mentioned that she spoke her truth onto the page in order to let people know they are not alone and to be seen herself. Union said that when her daughter is much older she wants her to read this book and say, “I see myself, I see you.” She left her panel asking the audience how we were going to write our own chapter and that is a mission we at Permanent share by encouraging people to preserve their family legacy with us.
The overarching theme for the first three days of the conference was not just writers sharing their stories, but writers encouraging others to create and share their own stories too. Sharing your own wisdom with the world is something we believe in at Permanent also and we have the tools to help you achieve that. It inspired me to want to dig deeper into my own family history and archive them for the future. In fact, I have already been creating my family archive with my mom and the experience I had of hearing her tell me about what she wants her life legacy to be contained wisdom that my mom said she did not hear from my grandmother until she was on her deathbed. The experience for me was priceless. Sharing your wisdom and owning your own story is important, and Permanent is here to help you do that not just for your family and friends today, but for those generations to come behind you.
Other interesting books and resources!
- Memory Lab Network Guide
- Film and Media Roundtable
- Rural Library Network
- Learning Management System
- Modern Jungles by Pao Lor
- rez dogs by Joseph Bruchac
- Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
- History of Magic by David Copperfield
- Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
Me freaking out!
*And also there was that time Amanda Gorman reposted our Permanent InstaGram post and I lost it along with my other fellow archivist at Permanent, Kaitlyn! #ALAAC21