The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Read Between the Lines: A Q&A with Delta County Public Libraries

Delta County, Colorado

?Hike and Howl? was one of several Delta County Big Read events with an outdoor focus. Photo by Katherine Colwell

With the Black County National Park, three state parks, and plenty of opportunities for hunting and fishing, Delta County, Colorado, is an outdoorsman?s dream. That?s why when Delta County Public Libraries was choosing a novel for its second Big Read, Jack London?s The Call of the Wild seemed the obvious choice. Delta County Big Reader Leah Morris spoke with the NEA about the community's experience.

NEA: Why did you choose The Call of the Wild for Delta County?s Big Read?

LEAH MORRIS: We were looking for a book that would appeal to a large portion of our community. We felt that The Call of the Wild, with its outdoor and animal focus, would appeal to a community like ours, one that is surrounded by wild lands and feeds off an economy of ranching, mining, and hunting.  We also felt that the age level of the book would allow us to do more with school groups, and, indeed, we made great headway taking programming into the schools this year.

NEA: What were some of the unique activities during The Big Read?

MORRIS: We offered the community a family day at a local living history fort, Fort Uncompaghre, in Delta, Colorado, which included Rendezvous Storytellers and musicians, archery, hatchet throwing, and old fashioned root beer.  We called it Klondike Days, and the event was really successful, especially with the children.

We also partnered with a local animal rescue organization to hold a community dog walk, in which dogs were judged for their costumes and likeness to dogs in The Call of the Wild.

We had several programs with an outdoor focus, from a nighttime ?Hike and Howl? under an almost full moon, to an evening owl spotting adventure, to a weekend bird watching event.

NEA: What was your favorite Big Read moment?

MORRIS: Our final event incorporated live world percussion and a slideshow by award-winning local adventure author Craig Childs.  The intense combination of music, photography, and spoken word held the audience's rapt attention, then exploded into a high-energy DJ dance party that lasted late into the night.  This combination drew in a huge variety of people---some who wanted to hear the author and some who looked forward to the dance party.

I will not forget the excitement of packing the 250-person theater with a shoulder-to-shoulder, standing-room-only audience which sat in absolute, quivering silence for an entire two-hour adventure slideshow, and then watching the intensity and energy burst into a roomful of dancing bodies, knowing all the work that led up to that final event was completely worthwhile. We spent the month exploring what ?wild? meant to different people and organizations; that night we experienced wildness in many wonderful forms that rarely come together all at once.

NEA: What has been the biggest surprise from your experience with The Big Read?

MORRIS: We were extremely surprised and pleased with the number of performers, musicians, lecturers, writers, speakers, and other volunteers who stepped forward to let us know that they valued the role of the library district in the community, wholeheartedly supported the Big Read, and wanted to offer their services at free or significantly reduced rates to make sure that we could provide the very best possible programming for the community.

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

MORRIS: The Big Read is an amazing way to bring a community together.  For us, even those who had not yet read the book were engaged; we offered such a variety of programs that people throughout our area were constantly talking about some aspect of the Big Read.  Because we live in a very remote area, there are not many activities for growth, education, and entertainment.  The Big Read provides people throughout the county with something to look forward to and celebrate as a social and educational opportunity. 

This was also a great way for our library district to be noticed as an organization that can bring partners, schools, performers, and volunteers together to produce quality programming, resulting in many new and renewed relationships.  In a small community many organizations must connect and work together, sharing members, volunteers, finances, and venues, so improving communication among groups is extremely important.  The Big Read provides a fun, consistent groundwork for improving such ties, which grow stronger with every year of programming.

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

MORRIS: The Big Read is a terrific method for providing varied programming that can be easily adapted to fit with any community.  The reading of one common book unites people throughout an area who may not have much else in common.  Once everyone is on the same page, the book is a great starting point for discussions, lectures, movies, crafts, music, and more.  These programs are a chance to highlight specific organizations and build unity among others.

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