Library initiative hopes to bring community together through reading
Reading may be a historically solitary activity, but the Clarence Public Library has a grandiose vision to turn books into shared experiences that will ignite a deeper sense of intellectual camaraderie within the community.
The initiative titled “One Community, One Book” will seek to provide the town with one book to read, followed by a series of discussions and events in which residents will be able to engage in dialogue and debate surrounding the book’s most pertinent themes.
The concept has grown to feature 37 sites throughout Western New York, including the entire Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System, the Town of Clarence Youth Bureau, Monkey See Monkey Do Bookstore, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, University at Buffalo Libraries and the Buffalo Maritime Center.
“We know that this is something that’s been done in other communities, but we fell in love with the idea and wanted to bring it to Clarence,” said Clarence Public Library Director Monica Mooney, who along with a committee of 12 other members, met last spring to develop the concept into fruition.
The list of potential books that could be used as the initiative’s inaugural choice was narrowed from dozens of candidates, until the committee settled upon “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown.
The book delves into the inspiring story of how the nine members of the 1936 U.S. Olympic rowing team navigated an array of obstacles during the Great Depression, while simultaneously providing background as to how Hitler and Nazi Germany used the splendor of the Olympic games as a façade to cover the heinous blueprint for genocide that was being developed behind the curtain.
In May, events that tie into the book’s major themes will take place at various venues throughout Western New York. Event activities will be centered on themes of rowing, reading and daily life during the Great Depression. As an example, anyone who comes to the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse, located at 1 Rotary Row in Buffalo, with the book on the day of the John Bennett Regatta on May 7, will gain admission for $5 as opposed to $15.
The library will also offer a host of kid-friendly programs, such as a mini-book craft time that will allow youngsters to create books based on the themes of perseverance and teamwork.
Justine Janora, the community business development manager for the Barnes & Noble location at 4401 Transit Road, worked extensively to include teachers and librarians of area schools in order to jump-start the initiative for youth. She hopes that by next year, the concept will have become ubiquitous enough that schools will incorporate the chosen book into the curriculum.
Edna Scherf of Monkey See, Monkey Do Children’s Bookstore, 9060 Main St., is also a committee member who believes that a different kind of community engagement can be garnered by beginning literary discussions.
“Our hope is that during the month of May, students, book clubs and seniors will read the book, discuss it and then come to the activities to interact with other people who have read the material,” she said.
Local speaker Bob Poczik will use words and vivid images to help readers better understand the impact of the Great Depression, the challenges faced by the scrappy rowers, and the face that Nazi Germany showed to the world at the time of the 1936 Olympics when he gives a series of talks in May based on the book and its themes. Poczik has committed to several dates throughout the month at various library locations in Western New York.
The committee stresses that those interested in the initiative should follow the events calendar as it unfolds on the official Facebook page, which can be visited at https://www.facebook.com/One-CommunityOne-Book-1152998814778713/.
“The goal here is to be able to carry on a dialogue about different, powerful themes that we can all relate to in some way,” Mooney said. “We definitely want to evolve this into a more organized, community-wide initiative going forward.”