Kent State Stark Library prepares multimedia collection of military experiences

Erin Vanjo

The Kent State Stark Library is putting together “an online multimedia collection of military experiences” called “Reflections of Service.”

“The project was started last fall in conjunction with a play we produced on campus called ‘Plumfield, Iraq,’” said Rob Kairis, director of the Kent State Stark Library.

The play, which is about two high school seniors who are sent to Iraq, explores how the war affects people’s lives.

“The director of ‘Plumfield, Iraq’ was looking for ways to incorporate the play’s themes throughout the campus,” Kairis said. “The library wanted to get involved.”

Kairis and other library staff began brainstorming ideas about how the library could get involved in the promotion of the play when Jean Hawley, senior library assistant, came up with an idea.

“While listening to their ideas, I mentioned that what they described sounded like a scrapbook,” Hawley said.

The library decided to put together a virtual scrapbook of military-related items.

“We wanted to simply reflect and memorialize the people who have served in the military, during war or at peace, as a way to celebrate their commitment, avoiding the controversy that often accompanies war initiatives,” Kairis said.

The Kent State Stark Library invited members of the United States Armed Forces and their family and friends to contribute photos, letters, videos and other memorabilia to the collection.

“Everyone contributing was positive and appreciative for the opportunity to express themselves,” Kairis said. “Often the contributors would tell us their story of service or how the service of relatives affected their lives.”

Hawley said students can gain a more personal perspective by viewing this collection and have the ability to augment their study of material on events they are covering in class. It also gives the community an opportunity to connect with the faculty and students.

This fall, the library hopes to improve the technology used to support the collection.

“We are in the process of hiring someone with better technological skills, and I hope that person can find a better method for maintaining this collection,” Kairis said.

With the new technology, the library wants to give people the ability to submit content directly to the collection themselves.

“It would be great to have it available to more viewers and in a format that would accept contributions directly rather than having to submit them through us,” Hawley said. “That way it could take on more of a life of its own.”

Although the project was originally conceived alongside “Plumfield, Iraq,” and in conjunction with Veteran’s Day in 2011, the library will continue to add to the collection as long as contributions are received.

“We feel that it offers a chance for people with a common experience to reflect on how that part of their lives or the lives of family and friends impacted them,” Kairis said. “It’s like looking at a shared scrapbook of memories, and I’m not sure there is [any] equivalent already out there.”

Contributions can be made in electronic form by email to Rob Kairis at [email protected] or Jean Hawley at [email protected]..

Anyone can view the collection on the Stark Campus library website under the heading “Reflections of Service.”

Contact Erin Vanjo at [email protected].