The Library That Dolly Built

A documentary about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Produced by Land Grant Films. In theaters Fall 2020.

During the last 25 years, Dolly Parton has quietly built one of the largest literacy-focused non-profits in the world. Started as a gift for the children of her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in now active in all 50 states and five countries and delivers more than 1.5 million free, age-appropriate books to children every month.

The Library That Dolly Built goes behind-the-scenes of this unprecedented program to show how one of the most famous performers in the world has developed an efficient and effective program, beloved almost universally by its recipients.

Featuring original interviews with authors, policy makers, Imagination Library staff, recipients, and the legend herself, Dolly Parton, The Library That Dolly Built introduces the viewer to all aspects of the Imagination Library, from how the books are selected and mailed to how the Imagination Library was originally formulated and where they expect to go in the future.

The film also provides a glimpse of the profound impact the Imagination Library has on the people it serves by sharing the stories of people like John Gibeau. Gibeau runs an Imagination Library program in rural Minnesota. His town has no library, school or bookstore. Through tears, Gibeau explains that without the Imagination Library some children in his community would not have any books.

Weaved throughout the story of the Imagination Library is a biographical sketch of Dolly Parton, featuring rare photos and films from her childhood. Unlike most biographies of Dolly, it doesn’t focus on her music. Instead it demonstrates that at every point in her career, any time she has had success, Dolly Parton has come back to Sevierville to give back to her people.

Dolly has gifted her story, her music, her inspiration and her Imagination Library to people throughout the world. It is her Imagination Library, however, that will most likely be remembered as the sweetest gift of all.

Select Crew

Director/Producer: Nick Geidner

Writer/Producer: Abby Bower*

Editor: Clinton Elmore

Director of Photography: Brock Zych*

Associate Producer: Lindsey Owen*

Associate Producer: Story Sims*

Assistant Producer: Kayli Martin*

Assistant Producer: Samantha Wathen*

Audio Recordist: Ben Proffitt*

Additional Camera: Chet Gutherie*

Additional Camera: Isaac Ward*

Scoring: Jonathan Braun*

* Were UT students at time of production

The film was booked to screen in more than 250 theaters and at more than 100 community events in April 2020. The screenings were cancelled due to the global pandemic. We hope to rebook in Fall 2020.

In Production

Land Grant Films is working on numerous projects. Here are a couple of the projects keeping us busy.

ORNL Spallation Neutron Source doc

Land Grant Films is partnering with Oak Ridge National Lab to create a half-hour documentary about the cutting-edge neutron science program at Oak Ridge National Lab. Production on the doc will be led by students in Prof. Nick Geidner's fall special topics course on science documentary production course. Read more about the project.

Cherokee Women and Stickball

Long before lacrosse, there was stickball, a ball game played by the Cherokee not just for sport but for cultural preservation. Isaac Fowler and Tim Morris (co-directors of Welcome Home Brother), joined by sports management doctoral student Natalie Welch, are creating a new short documentary about the role stickball plays in the Cherokee culture. Read more about it.

Land Grant Micros

Short stories about the people, places and things that make Knoxville home. Learn more about LGF Micros


Here's the latest information on Land Grant Films. For more news, check out our blog.

Stay at Home Video Contest

Land Grant Films, with support from Canon and WBIR, are proud to announce the first — and hopefully only — Stay at Home Video Contest.


Actor, Author Danica McKellar to narrate LGF doc

Land Grant Films is honored to announce that acclaimed actress and author Danica McKellar will narrate The Library That Dolly Built.


LGF receives first Emmy nomination

"Welcome Home Brother," a short documentary directed by Isaac Fowler and Tim Morris, received an Emmy nomination in the Midsouth region.



Here is a collection of some of the work we have done during the last couple years.

7 Days in America

"7 Days in America" follows a case worker from Bridge Refugee Services as she helps a family of Burundian refugees resettle in Knoxville after 12 years in a Tanzanian refugee camp. Watch the full documentary.

Defenders of the Dream: Student Documentaries about the Vietnam War

Defenders of the Dream is a half-hour program, comprised of three short documentaries by student filmmakers at the University of Tennessee. In September 2017, Defenders of the Dream aired on East Tennessee PBS in coordination with Ken Burns' epic film, The Vietnam War. Watch the full documentary.

Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy & Addiction in ET

Last year alone, nearly 1,000 children in Tennessee were born drug dependent. "Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy and Addiction in East Tennessee" examines this terrible phenomenon plaguing our state. Through interviews with medical experts, addiction specialists, policy makers, and, most importantly, the mothers whom have struggled with these issues, this half-hour film presents a comprehensive view of the problem and documents the struggles addicted mothers face in reaching recovery. Watch the full documentary.

Changing Gears

In April 2015, the first annual Tennessee Para Cycle Open was held in the rolling hills of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “Changing Gears” chronicles the event through the eyes of David Neumer, one of the more than 30 competitors. Neumer turned to competitive para cycling after being severely injured in Afghanistan. The film was directed and produced by Nick Geidner and Clinton Elmore.

Teach a Man to Fish

Wounded veteran Dan Moneymaker says if it hadn’t been for Project Healing Waters he would be dead. "Teach a Man to Fish" tells the story of this amazing organization and its participants. This film was produced by University of Tennessee professor Nick Geidner and journalism students Clinton Elmore, Hannah Marley and Maxwell Baker.

In His Own Words: Charles Coolidge

The Medal of Honor Project produced a five-minute video about Tennessee's only living Medal of Honor recipient T/Sgt. Charles Coolidge for the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association. The video was screened as part of the ETVMA's annual Medal of Honor dinner held on May 4, which honored Mr. Coolidge. The dinner was attended by more than 300 people, including Mr. Coolidge and his family, fellow World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams, and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide University of Tennessee students with real-world experience in documentary storytelling while providing local non-profit organizations with videos assets that can be used to raise awareness and funds. We aim to do this by building strong service-learning relationships with local non-profit organizations and working with our students to tell the stories of the people and issues affected by these organizations.

Our History

In 2013, we launched the Medal of Honor Project as a service-learning program devoted to covering the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention held in Knoxville, Tenn. Our students produced a 45-minute documentary about the event that aired on WBIR, Knoxville's NBC affiliate. After the convention, we decided to continue doing documentaries, but to broaden our focus by working with various non-profit organizations to create a wide range of stories.

Our Team

Nick Geidner

Director &
Associate Professor of Journalism

Clinton Elmore

Assistant Director &
Video Production Specialist

Isaac Ward

Graduate Assistant &
Journalism Graduate Student

Our senior leadership guides the dozens of students involved in our projects every semester. We're also grateful for our advisory board's help in shaping our organization & improving our films.

Our Advisory Board

John Becker

Anchor & Reporter
WBIR-TV, Knoxville

Kevin McIntyre

Director & Owner
FWD: Video & Promotion

Catherine Luther

Director & Professor
UT School of Journalism & Electronic Media

Taylor Hathorn

Annual Giving Officer
UT Haslam College of Business

Contact Us

Are you a student looking to get involved, a non-profit organization with an amazing story, or a individual wanting to support our work? Feel free to contact us below or email Prof. Geidner.