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Library example: Riverton Memoirs final report

The Riverton program’s final report to the grant funder gets most of its text from their Logic Model. Click on the following three sections to review the final report in three parts (with text from the Logic Model highlighted in green). If you want to see the complete Logic Model, click on the Cases tab above and choose Riverton Memoirs Link.

Section 1: What we wanted to do
Section 2: What we did
Section 3: So what?

Final Report on the “Filling in the Dashes” Program
Riverton Public Library
Kentucky LSTA grant

To the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives:

Section 1: What we wanted to do

With the aid of a $7650 LSTA grant from the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA), the River County Library offered a creative writing program focusing on autobiographical pieces. County participants attended bi-monthly meetings, guided by a facilitator, on Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. for a year. Meetings included visits from three published Kentucky authors of biography and memoirs as well as sharing and critiquing participants’ autobiographical writing. A small book containing the best samples of each group member's writings was published at the end of the program, and group members presented selections from their work at a community meeting.  Participants improved their writing and demonstrated they felt themselves to be part of a community of writers.

Section 2: What we did

Needs met: 

The program grew out of requests by library patrons and confirmed by response to locally published articles requesting feedback from potential participants.  Library patrons wanted a writing program for adults, in Riverton, Kentucky, a town of 3800 on the Ohio River, across from Indiana. Identified needs included: an organized "group" meeting regularly to produce some genre of writing, feedback from others as to how to grow as a writer, and, most importantly, the organizational help of a facilitator.

Program Activities:

In response to advertising for the program by Library Director Gerry Bard, twenty-one adults started out in the program. Rod Blackmur, an instructor at a Louisville Community College, facilitated the group. The group completed the following activities:

20 two-hour meetings (Wed., 6:30-8:30 p.m.) were held (with only one meeting in December, January, July and August).  Eighteen of the original twenty-one participants continued with the group regularly.

Group members read from a list of five published Kentucky authors who had published memoirs or biographies.

Three Kentucky authors visited, discussing writing techniques and style.

Most meetings included critiques of autobiographical writings by group members with discussion led by the facilitator.  Some meetings included in-meeting writing.
Each continuing participant had at least two completed pieces written, critiqued, revised and published in a small book at the end of the program.

Group members gave a reading from their works at the end of the year for the Wednesdays @ One Group that meets at the Library.

Director Gerry Bard publicized the program at county post offices, with handouts to the Rotary Club, Lions Club, and Women’s Club meetings. She worked with the Extension Agent to publicize the program with the Homemakers Groups. Registration was also publicized in church bulletins throughout the county.

The Library’s cataloger, Naomi Strang, ordered and processed the multiple copies of books included in meetings. Circulation Manager Tara Baker kept records to track and assess participation and outcomes.  Mr. Blackmur handled editing duties involved in publishing the book, Kentucky Lives,by Wasteland Press of Louisville, Kentucky. 

Director Bard arranged for visits by Kentucky authors Ed McCahan, Randy Black, and Bobbie Ann Johnson. Throughout the course of the year, visiting authors were photographed as they spoke to the group. Bard wrote two articles about the progress of the group for the local paper. In addition to the final presentation to the Wednesdays @ One Group at the library, Bard arranged for readings at a local coffee house (Coffee Klatch).

After eight months, each participant chose an evaluation portfolio with two pieces, providing the original version, their description of what they tried to improve, and the revised essay.

All eighteen participants were published in the book Kentucky Lives, with from three to five pieces by each author.  All participants read either at Wednesdays @ One or at the Coffee Klatch. 

Section 3: So what?

Indicators of Success <Outcomes>:

The goals of the program were that participants would improve their writing and demonstrate they felt they were part of a community of writers.

Improved writing: An analysis of the work of the eighteen writers was carried out by an independent expert, creative writing instructor Marcia Reed in two ways. She graded the essays for 18 participants without knowing the names of the writers or which of the pair of essays (2 originals, 2 revisions) was written first, using her overall impression. She found that 12 writers (67%) improved their score on the revision. She then read the packets, evaluating them for improvement by the writer’s intent, with 17 writers (94%) showing improvement.

Community of writers: In an exit survey, all of the writers (100%) could name three ways they felt part of a community of writers, including such examples as critiquing their peers, revising, being published (in Kentucky Lives), discussing writing techniques with published authors, and presenting their work publicly at a library book club and at a local coffee shop. In addition, a phone survey three months after the close of the group showed that 15 (83%) acted in ways (predetermined by a checklist) that showed self-identification as a writer: discussing their published work with others, attending readings of other writers’ work, signing up for another writing activity, producing more writing, reading additional memoirs.

Participants indicated the importance of talking with published Kentucky authors in their sense of belonging to a community of authors.  They discussed techniques of writing and style with published writers in the context of their own experience as memoir writers.  All the participants met with at least two of the authors, and 16 of 18 (89%) met with all visiting writers. 


Everyone in Riverton is proud of the work done by program participants and pleased with the results. The participants showed they knew how to produce autobiographical writing, by drafting, revising and publishing it as well as presenting it to the community. A survey of participants showed that 100% of them rated as important or very important “shaping stories of lived experience” (using a 5-point Likert scale). Reading Kentucky Lives supports this view. Participants range in age from 25 to 83, covering subjects such as experiences in the Great Depression, service in World War II, getting the family’s first television set, attending the Kentucky Derby in 1975, the first day of attending an integrated high school, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The reception of the pieces by friends and families left no doubt of the writing’s authenticity and power to affect.  One middle-aged child of a participant said he had never known before of his father’s service in Europe during World War II.

The participants’ sense of improved writing has been confirmed overwhelmingly by an independent writing judge. Our Riverton writers feel pride and achievement; they have discovered a new avenue for communication with family and friends. The community has been enriched by the shared, crafted experience of its citizens. Writing is no longer a spectator sport in Riverton. The Library is proud to be not only the source of books, but also the cradle of a book.

We are grateful for the support of an LSTA grant that has made this pilot program possible. We expect to be able to sustain and continue the program with the Library Director Identifying appropriate local volunteers.

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