The Community Read: “The Book in The Bluff” 2020

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A few years ago, I was in Montreal sightseeing while my husband volunteered to work at a Formula One race. We rented dorm rooms at Magill University. Our stay included breakfast, cafeteria-style. Joe had to be at the track very early and I ate breakfast later. One of these mornings, I shared my table with some ladies from Ontario. They were in Montreal for sightseeing, also.

I have found books and reading are a means to engage in polite conversation. Inevitably, our conversation turned to books. The ladies were readers and shared time together in a book club. For one reason or another, we talked about Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. They asked me about the book. That was a mistake on their part. Enthusiastically, I began an extemporaneous book talk. After a minute or two, I realized my zeal might not be shared. I asked for forgiveness. They were kind to say, “no problem,” graciously saying they thought they would read it in their club.

The next question directed toward me was, “What is your profession?” I gulped and confessed to being a librarian. Each lady looked at the other and one said, “Of course.”

Libraries and books provide a means of developing a common thread among the public. Those of us who have read the same book, we want to share our thoughts and desire to know what other readers think.

We glean another’s feelings toward their read and the author’s intent. Just as the story above illustrates, reading sparks a conversation. Not only are we speaking to one another but we find commonality from which we can learn from one another. We find our similarities. We begin a relationship with one another.

A book brought my husband and me together. A friend whom we had in common invited us to play bridge. (I believe there was a little matchmaking going on.) After a few hands, we talked about books. Joe and I had read lots of Robert Heinlein novels. We liked the themes but disagreed vehemently on Heinlein’s women’s dialog. Thirty-nine years later, we still disagree and agree on books, authors, themes, etc. We never lack for lively conversation. We have learned to have civil discourse and enjoy our love of reading with one another.

Partnerships such as friendship, business, government and marriage are a perfect match with a community read. It brings “several shared goals driving each common reading program, including creating civic unity through literature, promoting literacy, fostering an appreciation of books and reading, and providing a forum for bringing together various members of the larger community,” according to the website, commonreads.com/2017/06/21/tips-creating-community-reads-program.

All over the United States, community reads bring people together. Nancy Pearl, Director, Washington Center for the book states, “People can go for days at a time not talking to anyone outside their immediate family. There are precious few opportunities for people of different ethnic backgrounds, economic levels or ages to sit down together and discuss ideas that are important to them. This project provides that opportunity.”

It is the same in our community. In April 2020, the library, with the generous sponsorship of Sterling Bank, begins to celebrate its third community read “The Book in The Bluff.” Named aptly as our community goes to the Bluff to shop, attend church, and enjoy entertainment and museums in our community.

“A project of this scale involves the whole community. Getting the word out means creating strategic partnerships in different sectors of the community,” says www.ala.org/tools/sites/ala.org.tools/files/content/onebook/files/onebookguide.p....

A working committee chaired and made up of community members with library staff have been reading and discussing what WE read next. Around the end of January, the committee announces our third edition. We hope everyone makes a commitment to read the book, see exhibits and meet and hear our speaker.

It is our plan to have many activities enhancing the book’s appearance in Poplar Bluff. READ signs will be in yards soon and other announcements through Facebook, the library’s webpage and other venues.

The Book in The Bluff sparks conversation (and possibly marriage). We will all have common ground to talk about and get to know one another much like my Montreal breakfast companions and me. We have an opportunity to grow together as we learn. Be on the lookout and plan to be a part of the next community read.

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