24 October 2022
Man sitting and talking to a woman

Indian Prairie Public Library has participated in the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress since 2003. The project, which was authorized by Congress in 2000, collects first-hand accounts of veterans via oral histories. IPPL has interviewed over 120 veterans and counting. Any library, organization, or individual can contribute to this important program by submitting recordings, along with the required forms, to the Library of Congress. IPPL’s interviews and supporting documents can also be found on the library’s website at ippl.info under Veterans History.

IPPL’s community has a strong interest in history and genealogy, which prompted librarian Joe Popowitch to set the wheels in motion in 2003 after being approached by resident Marty Thomas about participating in the program. Marty interviewed ten local residents in the first year. Over the years, volunteers at the library have acted as interviewers, transcribers, creators of audio logs, and even sound engineers to clean up the background noise.

Although Indian Prairie Library creates a full transcript of the interviews as well as scanning and labeling photos provided by the veterans to submit, these extra steps are not required. IPPL’s volunteers record on a laptop computer using GoldWave digital audio editing software and a microphone. Many libraries in Illinois and across the U.S. participate in the program with some opting to use staff to handle the interviews and processing while others utilize volunteers or students. Many libraries also partner with local organizations such as historical or genealogical groups, or schools.

When asked for his thoughts on approaching 20 years of facilitating the IPPL’s contributions to the Veterans History Project, Joe stated:

  • We have interviewed pilots to POWs. We have interviewed men in military intelligence, officers stationed stateside, an accordion player whose job was to entertain the troops, and a female dietician who helped determine what the troops ate … The impact of the project has been to preserve history, further research, and tell the everyday stories of the common soldier.

Joe also shared that:

  • War is devastating. My current interviewer always lets the veterans know that she can stop the tape if they get emotional. They always say that won’t be necessary, but in about a third of the cases, it is.
  • Some men who had never spoken of their experiences thanked us for giving them a chance to speak.

If you have any questions about participating in the Veterans History Project, please check the Library of Congress website, or contact Joe Popowitch at joep@ippl.info to learn more about Indian Prairie Library’s ongoing contributions to the Veterans History Project.

Today's guest blog post is by Gail Graziani, Head of Resource Services, Indian Prairie Public Library District.