Blake Wahlert creates Daytime Docs Film Series 

Mary Pom ClaiborneOur Town Readers

This Sunday (2/18/24), we are launching a new film series called Daytime Docs at 1:30 at Lawson McGhee Library, 500 W. Church Ave. The first screening features Toni Morrison, The Pieces I Am (2019) and explores the incredible life and work of the Nobel Award-winning author.

The series is the brainchild of Blake Wahlert, a reference librarian who cut his teeth in the Sights and Sounds Department at age 16.

If you aren’t familiar with Knox County Public Library’s film and music collection, you might not know how good it is. The catalog is both broad and deep with more than half a million titles available through either physical or streaming options. It was a great place for a teenage Blake to work. As a homeschooler, he had weekly assignments requiring him to check out one documentary every week and write a paper on it. That’s where he fell in love with film.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in cinema studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Blake sought a master’s in media arts at the University of North Texas with a focus on, what else? – documentary films. He wrote his thesis on the renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman, whose recent subject is the New York Public Library. (By the way, you can stream Ex Libris: the New York Public Library, 2017 through the Library’s streaming service Kanopy.)

But why earn just one master’s, when you can get two? Blake returned to UTK for a master’s in information sciences where he could put his love of libraries together with his love of film. He became a full-fledged reference librarian in September 2022.

“I love documentaries because they present stories of real people you wouldn’t normally hear about,” says Blake.

The Daytime Docs Film Series takes place on the third Sunday of each month at Lawson McGhee Library at 1:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public:

  • February 18: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am(2019) – Storyteller Toni Morrison on her work and life with interviews from Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and others
  • March 17: Sisters With Transistors(2020) – The remarkable untold story of electronic music’s female pioneers, with Big Ears performer Laurie Anderson
  • April 21: Life Animated(2016) – The story of Owen Suskind, an autistic boy who couldn’t speak for years, and how his family learned to reach him through cartoons
  • May 19: Meet the Patels(2014) – A laugh-out-loud, real-life romantic about the almost 30-year-old, recently broken-up Ravi Patel

You can stream these documentaries and thousands more through library streaming services Hoopla and Kanopy.

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development of Knox County Public Library.


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