- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Local history proved its popularity in the Shoals recently when the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library’s first history podcast crashed the library’s website.

“It got 535 listens on the first day,” library director Nancy Sanford said. “It overwhelmed us, but that was pretty exciting.”

The podcast, “Historically Speaking,” is the brainchild of Lee Freeman, head of the local History and Genealogy Department, and Clint Alley, the library’s digital archivist.

“Our teen program has been doing podcasts for about a year. They are kind of our muse,” Alley said.

Freeman and Alley picked a topic from local history and made an audio recording of their discussion. Alley said the first one, which went live in July, included background fiddle music recorded by a friend. The podcasts, found at flpl.org, are about 20 minutes long.

“The first one was about Mountain Tom Clark,” Freeman said. “We pick a topic we think everyone is interested in.”

Clark was a notorious outlaw in the years immediately after the Civil War, when law and order largely had broken down in northwest Alabama. He was known to rob and murder. Clark eventually was caught and hanged. Legend has it he claimed nobody would run over him, so he was buried under present-day Florence Boulevard near the busy entrance to the city cemetery.

“We debunked that myth,” Alley said.

The next episode will be about the early music of the Muscle Shoals area. Alley said it will focus on the 19th century and early 20th century.

“It will not be about the Muscle Shoals sound. We feel that story has been pretty well covered,” he said.

Freeman said the area has a long musical tradition.

“It goes back to the founding of Florence in 1818,” he said. “Those musical traits, I think, got carried down through the centuries until Rick Hall, Tom Stafford and the Swampers began doing their thing.”

Editing the monthly podcast is a four- to five-hour process, Alley said. If the podcasts become popular enough, they will consider recording two a month, he said.

The staff at the library has not been afraid to step outside the usual definitions of what a public library’s role is in the community. Electronic readers are available, as are guitars. The library hosts a wide variety of community events, and sponsors speakers on specialized topics of historical and cultural interests.

“For our library, and the way we serve the public now, we look at service in a different light,” Sanford said. “We are seeing more likes for our digital archives page. That helps us understand what people are interested in, and how we can serve them.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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