WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 3

Hi everyone,

Last Tuesday I added my thoughts to this month’s WRITERS AT WORK conversation: Loving Libraries. Now it’s back to Sandy Asher. Hi Sandy!
Sandy Asher
Loving Libraries
November 15, 2016
Part 3: Sandy

Recently, I spearheaded a gala that brought county-wide librarians and patrons together in the beautiful atrium of Millersville University’s Ware Center in downtown Lancaster City. This was my culminating event as the county’s first Children’s Laureate, a two-year appointment by the Lancaster Literary Guild. My goal, and the name of the gala, was “Celebrate Libraries!”

While this event was specific to Lancaster, I wanted to design something that could be duplicated elsewhere. Maybe where you live? With high hopes, I’ll share the details here.

It all began with a poem about using the library that I’d written for the Poetry Friday anthology CELEBRATIONS. And then there was my soon-to-be released picture book, CHICKEN STORY TIME, inspired by story time visits with my grandchildren and set in a library. Also, I’d discovered Jerry Spinelli’s short story collection, THE LIBRARY CARD. And I’d come across a Facebook post showing a meticulously decorated cake depicting a reading room, complete with shelves and shelves of tiny books.

So . . . you could write, draw, and bake libraries. How many other ways could they be celebrated?

I was invited to put the question to our county librarians at one of their meetings. It generated an enthusiastic response. The game was on! Here’s part of the follow-up letter I wrote to clarify our plan:

This is meant to be a “celebrate libraries in any creative way you like” project. My poem may be used as inspiration, a jumping-off point, but poetry is not the only possibility. The challenge is to see how many unique and wonderfully creative ways we can come up with.

My hope is that each of you will respond to this challenge in a manner that is comfortable for you and fits your community. Perhaps a group of young people will want to get together and create a short play or video or collection of photographs or a dance, musical number, or puppet show, or maybe a scroll with all their reasons to love the library written on it. Perhaps families will want to put together their own books of writing and/or illustration or create a poster or a performance piece of their own. Perhaps individuals will want to write a story or song or take photos or draw pictures or build dioramas or sculptures or – yes – even write poems.

The only “rule” I’d offer is that folks take into consideration that whatever they create will need to be brought to the Ware Center on April 1 to share with others. We can certainly arrange wall space, tables, a stage, computers to show DVDs, and so on, once we know what that creative outpouring will include. Perhaps we can set March 10 as the deadline for declaring project entries, so we’ll have time to plan how best to share them? They wouldn’t need to be finished then – unless that would fit YOUR needs. A list from each library with brief descriptions would do for planning.

Please note: It’s important that this NOT be a competition in any way, but one, big, inclusive and joyous celebration of libraries. Everyone’s enthusiasm is welcome!

Finally, I am happy to visit each library for an hour in January or February to inspire and brainstorm responses to the challenge. If your patrons particularly want a writing workshop, I can do that, but not everyone will want to celebrate with writing – and that’s fine! Also, if you want to do a local culminating event to display projects before the Ware gala and you’d like me to participate, I would be delighted to do as many visits of that sort as I can fit in.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Library System of Lancaster Youth Services office if you have any questions and they will pass any needing my attention on to me.

The results were delightful, and so was the gala evening of viewing and visiting. We had displays of artwork, black-out poetry, a hedgehog fashioned out of book pages, puppets, and more. My favorites included a multigenerational project in which teens interviewed and recorded the stories of older neighbors about historical photographs donated to their library and an animated video created by a first grade class depicting their brilliant group story about a librarian’s unusual day of chaos and pizza.

Sound like fun? It was! Let me know if I can help you and your community celebrate libraries!


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