Library launches town-wide reading program
Getting an entire town on the same page is no easy task. But the Darien Library will settle for getting Darienites on the same book.
The library launched its second annual One Book, One Community program last Thursday by providing copies of both the town-wide read, "The Worst Hard Time," by Timothy Egan, and the selected book for younger readers, "Out of the Dust," by Karen Hesse.
The goal of the program is to encourage Darien residents to talk about the central issues in the books, which revolve around the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Though both books are set in generations past, they delve into topics that are timely and important to Darien readers, said Erica Bess, head of adult programming at the library.
"They cover the economy, the environment and the theme of helping other people," Bess said. "We're trying to have everyone read the books at the same time. When different perspectives come together, it will lead to a more rich discussion."
The program features more than 30 events in a variety of platforms to encourage participants to engage with the texts' themes.
The library will host book discussions, film screenings, workshops for children to create their own public service announcements, lectures featuring professors from nearby universities, a pot luck dinner, creative art projects and more.
"It's a really diverse list of projects," Bess said. "And there's something for everybody."
Residents don't have to read the books to take part in the program, but it makes the two-month long campaign more fulfilling, Bess said.
Egan's book tells the stories of those who survived the dust bowl. It's a historical account, as well as a cautionary tale, which describes the misuse of land and resources that built up to the environmental disaster.
"While it's non-fiction, for people who like to read fiction, this will also appeal to them because it reads like a novel," Bess said. "It's good background to how the Great Depression started and how the great plains became so distraught. I don't know anyone who has read this and didn't like it."
Hesse's book follows a 14-year-old girl named Billie Jo, who lives in Oklahoma in the mid 1930s. The book is written in free verse, which helps makes the 227-page volume an appropriate length for young readers.
Last year's inaugural One Book, One Community campaign was a big success, according to Bess. The library purchased 280 copies of the selected book, "The Book Thief," by Markus Zusak, which were checked out more than 1,600 times during the program.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to have even more participation this year," said Library Director Louise Berry. In fact, all 100 copies of Egan's book were cleared off the shelves within three days, forcing the library to order more copies.
The early interest is a good omen for the initiative, Bess said.
"One goal is that the book gets people talking, and ignites conversations about the topics in the book," Bess said. "Even if it doesn't ignite the conversation here, we want families to talk about it on their own, and in their own homes."
"That way, discussion ripples out of all these little communities and becomes part of a bigger community," Berry said.
The first official program will take place on March 10, when members are invited to watch "The Grapes of Wrath" at the library. Programs will run through the end of April, giving readers ample time to read the selected books.
For a complete list of programs, visit www.darienlibrary.org/2010/01/27/one-book-one-community-2010.