The Big Read Blog (Archive)

READ BETWEEN THE LINES: A Q&A with Bloomsburg Public Library

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

The New York City skyline, circa 1904. Photo by William Herman Rau, from Library of Congress collection.

When Dr. Ferda Asya, Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania?s Bloomsburg University, approached the Bloomsburg Public Library staff about organizing a Big Read featuring Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, they were pretty hesitant. ?It was maybe not our first choice?? said Anne Cosper, Bloomsburg?s Big Read coordinator. ?But the community?s reaction was, surprisingly, really pretty good.? Anne Cosper shared with the NEA more surprises and favorite moments about her community?s first experience hosting a Big Read.

NEA: What has been your favorite Big Read moment?

ANNE COSPER: We held a Children?s tea party, which was a lot of fun. We had a woman come in who brought a lot of personal treasures, such as clothing and antiques from the Age of Innocence time period and explained to the children what they were for.

NEA: Why should other cities participate in The Big Read?

COSPER: It has helped our library establish itself as a participating part of the community. We recently remodeled our library and opened it up for more programs. We held a series of events on Edgar AllAn Poe and The Big Read has helped us to maintain that momentum and keep people stopping into the library.

NEA: In what ways has your community benefitted from The Big Read?

COSPER: It started a lot of new community book discussion groups. The Columbia County Historical & Genealogical Society led discussions, as well as an organization called TRiO Upward Bound at Bloomsburg University.

NEA: What were some of the unique activities that your organization planned for The Big Read?

COSPER: Our Big Read kick-off event featured music by Touch of Brass, an eight piece brass ensemble, who play period popular songs. Dr. Carol J. Singley, Associate Professor at Rutgers University, and author/editor of four books on Wharton gave the keynote speech: Following Convention, Courting Change in The Age of Innocence.

It was also hard to find a way to tie in children to The Big Read, but our Children?s Museum held a month-long exhibition that allowed children to dress in costumes of the era, build and use sets from scenes in the story, and sample foods described in the novel.

NEA: If you could choose three words to describe your Big Read, what would they be?

Cosper: Interesting, surprising, fun. This has been a lot of work, but worth the effort.

To learn more about  Edith Wharton's most famous novel, visit The Age of Innocence page on The Big Read website.

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