STARK COUNTY DISTRICT LIBRARY
Website and Writers Series
Backstory: My Childhood and Youth in the Library
Living as I do between Massillon and Canton, I have the great fortune to live nearly equidistant between two very good local libraries, the Massillon Public Library and the Stark District Library, with the added advantage of being just one-half mile from the branch library that I walk to most days, the Perry Sippo Branch.
When I was in third grade, I did well on the verbal part of the Iowa Tests, and my mother began her lifelong campaign to take my siblings and me to the Massillon Library every two weeks. There was no Sippo branch then, and the Massillon Library had the best children's librarians (we LOVED Mrs. Binns). This past week, the writer Francine Prose in the New York Times has said, "The age at which I fell most pasionately in love with reading, at around 9 or 10, roughly coincided with the time when I somehow sensed that the reality-fantasy border was about to tighten." Like Prose, I loved the Edgar Eager books that I found at the library, a series on four siblings who always managed to find a coin or charm that transported them to magic places. Being the oldest of four, I held hope that the Kendig Kids would stumble on similar adventures. I read all the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Cherry Ames books twice and all the Louisa May Alcott three times. I owe nearly all my rich life in childhood reading to my parents and to the Massillon Library, which today I mine for its movie collection.
Friends of the Library Gift Shop has Lady MacBeth Soap and literary socks and cards with writers quotes, used books and snacks. It is separate from the library itself, which is "The Smart Store, Where Everything Is Free." (The library's current branding.)
And I love the Sippo branch, with its reading room facing the little lake I was raised on and have returned to and the nature center that shares the space and has a naturey gift shop.
But my theme today is the main library of the Stark County District Library and two of its special connections to local writers.
Local Authors: A website and a reading seriesFifteen years ago, I had been teaching two courses on literature and the internet and my students were teaching me how much they appreciated literature on the web. I had both traditional students (18--22 on campus) in face to face classes and non-trad students (adults, mostly in business and hazardous waste engineering) in online classes. They especially liked how they could find photos, videos, sounds files, bio, and other information on the living writers we studied that made the writers and by extension, their writing, more immediate. Once I left teaching, I was looking for a way to use that conection, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library enabled me to curate a 30-day site on local poets which was very popular.
Keep Me Posted had plenty of setting to choose from, as did Audrey Lavin's detective series. I also found apt passages in the poetry of Theresa Gottl Brightman, Molly Fuller and David McCoy, and local color in an essay by local journalist Gary Brown's. This time the writers didn't have to write anything new, and as before, they all responded quickly and generously with permission to publish. The library's very new web designer got with the program immediately, and the whole online publication went smoothly and helped to produce an audience for the live event. The six author passages are still up for reading here.
Probably because of my own early positive experience with libraries, which provided me with the only connection to living writers I had until I got to college and met some writers in person, I really enjoy making connections between libraries and living writers, in person and on the web. It is a service libraries and writers can provide to their communities, and the service comes back to them in traffic to their sites. I'd like to see more libraries and writers using the world wide web to bring local authors closer to their neighbors and readers.