When Library Services Director Melissa Harter looked out her office window at Noel Wien Library and saw a woman deliberately face plant into a snowbank, she was a little concerned — until she saw who it was.
“Oh, that’s just Zak, making another YouTube video,” she remembers thinking.
Zak is Zakeya Mitchell, 31, an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Fairbanks North Star Borough Libraries. She began this one-year position in early September. She is one of many VISTA members helping nonprofits in the Fairbanks area.
“My mission here is to alleviate or aid in alleviating poverty in the city of Fairbanks, through literacy,” she said. “That’s where the video comes in.”
She creates YouTube videos that encourage people to visit local libraries. These are attention-getting, sometimes funny, and even goofy videos with a serious message: The library is free and filled with resources that many people may not realize are available.
“That’s the beauty of my particular road,” Mitchell said.
“I can be as creative as I want.”
Hence, the face plant into the snow, for a special scene in the Happy Holidays video, reminding patrons that the library is free to users.
“I create them as I go, I just kind of come up with stuff,” she said. She runs her ideas through a supervisor first, before diving in full blast. Mitchell has created six videos to date. She hopes they serve as an important reminder that the library is always available.
“The videos help people understand that the library is here to serve them,” she added.
She hopes the videos also show patrons that the library changes with the times, she said.
One video focuses on recruiting volunteers. Another features a contest for K-12 students focusing on cyberbullying.
Another announces an exciting new program, developed by Mitchell, that will offer Library Foundation scholarships to two recipients seeking GEDs from the Literacy Council of Alaska. This program begins in 2020. Get more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Mitchell creates a video, her supervisor must approve it. Then she shares it to the Fairbanks, Alaska, Facebook page.
“My goal is to redirect them to the YouTube page and then directly to our Facebook page to see other things the library is doing,” she said.
This is Mitchell’s first time in Alaska and she deliberately chose this far north destination. Her previous AmeriCorps position was in North Carolina.
“I chose Alaska on purpose,” she said. “I wasn’t 100% sure I would like it, but I really like it.
“I’m happy to be here.”
AmeriCorps VISTA of Fairbanks collaborates with local nonprofit and public agencies in the Interior to recruit dedicated, hard-working self-motivators to bring poverty-alleviating projects to life and establish sustainability, according to the website. People in these positions build capacity, strengthen communities and along the way, develop their own careers.
They receive a monthly living allowance of just $1,333 and an end-of-service choice between an education award of $6,095 or a stipend of $1,800. There is also a relocation mileage allowance, a small settling-in allowance of $750 and health care coverage/allowance. Fairbanks' yearlong VISTA members also receive cold weather gear allowances of $275. Obviously, this is not a money-making venture.
Many other local organizations sponsor VISTA positions. For a complete list and more information on AmericaCorps VISTA Fairbanks programs, go to www.vistafairbanks.org. That’s also where you can see Zak Mitchell’s YouTube videos about the libraries.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.