It has officially been one year since the first episode of the Ypsi Stories podcast. The 13 episodes so far cover a wide range of topics related to Ypsilanti’s history, from its infrastructure and development to personal narratives about Black liberation and women’s rights.
Reference librarian Shoshanna Wechter is the creator and host of Ypsi Stories. Wechter had the idea to start a podcast during the pandemic. As a result of YDL’s closure she realized the importance of engaging with the public.
“[We wanted] to give them some of the same experiences they had gotten when we’d been open,” said Wechter. “The Ypsilanti District Library has always brought in speakers to present on Ypsilanti history, and these are popular programs, so what better way than a podcast to bring Ypsilanti history to our patrons in the age of social distancing.”
Not only is the podcast entertaining and informative, it is also a valuable resource for researchers. “The library is creating primary sources in the form of interviews of Ypsilantians’ personal experiences, and is contributing to the intellectual heritage of Ypsilanti,” Wechter said. One of the goals of the podcast is to bring light to lesser known stories, “whether it’s a story making the invisible visible, highlighting the infrastructure that underlies our community, a story from a nondominant racial, gendered, or class-based lens, or a personal narrative thought to be too current to be considered part of history by many,” she added.
Podcasting is an increasingly popular mode of storytelling, and YDL is one of many libraries across Michigan using this medium to start a dialogue with the community. In fact, American Libraries featured Ypsi Stories in its November issue as part of an article on how library podcasts examine local history. Ypsi Stories is one of a handful of library podcasts from across the country featured in the article.
In that piece, Wechter explained that the podcast was “an opportunity to showcase different experiences, narratives, and histories that you don’t normally see in a history book or even from local history organizations.” The Ypsi Stories podcast has over 1,700 plays from people looking to absorb that history.
Going forward, Ypsi Stories will continue working with local historians and community members to tell stories from multiple perspectives. December’s episode will share the history of the Kiwanis Club of Ypsilanti. In January, hear about the Washtenaw County African American Genealogical Society and African American genealogy as a whole. In February, coinciding with Black History Month, you’ll get the history of discriminatory housing laws in Ypsilanti.
New episodes are released on the first Wednesday of each month. Ypsi Stories is also available wherever you find your podcasts.