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The crew with Dolly Parton. Left to right—freshman Kayli Martin, junior Abby Bowder, senior Story Sims, graduate student Lindsey Owen, professor Nick Geidner, senior Ben Proffitt, and senior Brock Zych.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library celebrated its 100 millionth book giveaway at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, and six students and a faculty member from UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media had a front-row pass.

Journalism Professor Nick Geidner took six students—junior Abby Bower, freshman Kayli Martin, graduate student Lindsey Owen, and seniors Ben Proffitt, Story Sims, and Brock Zych—to Washington, DC to cover the event for Land Grant Films’ 100 Million Stories documentary about the Imagination Library.

Geidner launched Land Grant Films several years ago to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing no-cost video services for local nonprofit organizations.

The UT crew interviewed Parton about the festivities and the success of the Imagination Library. They filmed Parton reading her book Coat of Many Colors and sat in on the question-and-answer session between Parton and the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

During her interview, Parton described the day as a family event. Her father was the inspiration behind the Imagination Library, and her mother created the coat that inspired Coat of Many Colors.

For team member Kayli Martin, the trip was unexpected and thrilling.

“I never imagined my freshman year I’d be going on a trip as big as this,” said Martin. “I get to work in the field I am interested in, and we get to highlight an amazing cause like the Imagination Library.”

The students and Geidner will continue traveling for interviews with authors, families, and others involved in the Imagination Library over the next several months.

The feature-length film is projected to be completed in the fall of 2018, and Geidner has said he hopes PBS or Netflix will be interested in airing 100 Million Stories.

Parton received an honorary doctorate of humane and musical letters from UT in 2009.