Several years ago, YALSA Blog covered the original StoryCorps app, but recently StoryCorps released a new app that offers some great new features. The app allows you to create an account, but you can also proceed without an account if you would prefer. Once you make that decision, you can get started with your first oral history right away.
When you get started with your first interview, you can opt to either start recording right away or prepare your interview questions in advance. If you pick the option to prepare your interview first, you are offered several tips on best practices for conducting this time of interview. These are very approachable for those who are new to interviewing and cover the basic protocols that should be followed in a way that lets novices feel like experts very quickly. You are then prompted with the three preparatory steps for the interview: customizing a question list, selecting who you will interview, and setting the length of your interview.
When you are setting up your list of questions, you can choose from suggested questions on a variety of topics ranging from family heritage to serious illness or you can write your own questions. Adding one of the suggested questions to your interview is as simple as clicking the plus icon and once you have selected several questions, you can view your list and reorder the questions to suit your needs. You can also save your questions and then go back to editing them later.
The next step on the app is setting who your interview subject will be and this is the only one of the three steps that requires an account. Once you have done this, you can then set the length of your interview. The app allows for interviews of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 40 minutes in length, but you can also say that you don’t know how long the interview will last if you would prefer, though it is worth noting that the app will stop recording after 45 minutes. Even if you select an interview length shorter than 45 minutes, you can continue recording for longer, so this step doesn’t have to be too much cause for concern.
Using the app, you can set up multiple interviews before you record any of them, which can be useful if you are planning a single event where you will interview multiple people or if you are using a single (perhaps library-owned) device for multiple users. As you are conducting your interview, you will be presented with the questions one at a time and can swipe through them at your own pace. Once you have finished your interview, you will be prompted to take a photo with your interview subject. You will then be given the option to share it on the StoryCorps website and archive it with the Library of Congress for posterity. You can also delete your interviews after completing them if you would like.
This app has a lot of potential for use in library programming. Whether you want to plan a Bring Your Own Device workshop to introduce teens with iOS and Android devices to this app and the best practices for conducting oral history interviews or you want to host an on-site interviewing event to help teens find mentors and become more civically involved, this free app is a great way to achieve several of the goals in YALSA Teen Programming Guidelines 4.0. Because the app allows users to have so much autonomy in creating their interview questions and selecting who to interview, it is a great opportunity to bring in all types of teens with all sorts of interests and they can each make a contribution to local history while learning how to conduct interviews. The app is already very useful, but if you find bugs as you use it, feel free to submit comments; it is in public beta and they are actively soliciting input from users.