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Dolly Parton created the Imagination Library in 1995 to inspire a love for books and reading among the preschool children of Sevier County, Tennessee. Since then it has expanded to 50 states and five countries, mailing a book each month to 1.7 million children, and it recently hit the milestone of giving its 150 millionth book.

Three years ago, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Associate Professor of Journalism and Electronic Media Nick Geidner gave the students of Land Grant Films—the program through which Geidner leads students in creating documentaries—the challenge of telling the story of the Imagination Library. As the project grew in scope, it became a unique learning experience for the students involved.

six students pose with Dolly Partoon
Dolly Parton stands with the Land Grant production crew (left to right) — students Kayli Martin, Abby Bower, Story Sims, Lindsey Owen, Professor Nick Geidner, and students Ben Proffitt and Brock Zych.

Originally scheduled to premiere on more than 300 screens last spring, The Library that Dolly Built will be shown for the first time Wednesday, December 9, at 7 pm EST as a free livestream on Facebook and on the Imagination Library website. The screening will be followed by a conversation with and live acoustic performance by Parton.

“I am so excited that we can finally tell the whole story of the Imagination Library,” said Parton. “It is certainly not just about me. Our story is the story of children, of families and communities who all share the dream to inspire kids to love to read and to love to learn. My hope is this documentary will encourage more towns, more states, and even more countries to jump on board. One thing is for sure—I think this is the best investment I have ever made!”

Dolly Parton being interviewed on camera by UT students
Dolly Parton is interviewed at the Library of Congress.


Brooks Clark (865-310-1277,