By Dot Bergin
For the past 10 years, April has been the month for “One Book/One Bedford,” a community-wide reading program in which the Bedford Public Library encourages everyone to read the same book and to come together for discussion. But this year, as Noreen O’Gara, Assistant Library Director, told the Bedford Lyceum on March 23, the Library staff has decided to take a year off to re-evaluate the program.
O’Gara told an attentive audience of book lovers at the Lyceum (which takes place each Sunday morning at First Parish Unitarian Universalist church), that a series of recent personnel changes in the Library has meant less time for staff to prepare and carry out such an extensive program. For 2014-2015, staff is literally at full capacity. Thus, the Library decided on a one-year hiatus to give staff time to re-think the program and to solicit input from the community. As O’Gara explained, some libraries are already doing an every-other-year “One Book” program. The timing of the event may also move to the fall, as April is an exceptionally busy month at the Library with a number of special events on the schedule.
In answer to a question from the audience about the role of the Friends of the Library, O’Gara said the Friends provide financial support but the actual selection of the book is made by the Library staff. (One Book/One Bedford is just one of many programs sponsored by the Friends.)
The One Book program began in Seattle in 1998 and quickly spread to other libraries throughout the country. In 2004, the Bedford Library was awarded a $7,500 mini-grant from the state to establish a “One Book” community-wide reading program. Bedford’s first selection in 2004 was Kent Haruf’s Evensong, and the event was enormously successful, in part because of the efforts of then-Library Director Meredith McCulloch, who invited the author to speak. Haruf happened to be on a book tour of the East and was available; his talk attracted a large audience. O’Gara mentioned that having the author speak has real bearing on the success of the program. Bedford has been fortunate enough to have had several authors appear, most recently Siobhan Fallon, whose book You Know When the Men are Gone resonated with the Bedford community because of our long association with Hanscom Air Force Base.
Technology may have some effect on the program, O’Gara said, pointing to the ease with which readers today can immediately “connect” with others via Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts about a particular book. Does this reduce the attraction for people to participate in a One Book program? It’s not clear but bears watching. Other towns have found that the existence of a local bookstore also has a positive impact on the program.
O’Gara mentioned that School Superintendent Jon Sills, an avid reader himself, had suggested the possibility of offering a One Book program at the High School, with cooperation from the Library, another idea that is open for exploration.
Lyceum attendees offered many suggestions for the program, which O’Gara will take back to the staff. If you have ideas or book titles to suggest, O’Gara asks that you contact her at the Library. She is eager to hear from the community.