The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Read Between the Lines: A Q&A with Ephrata Public Library

Ephrata, Pennsylvania

Tom Ridge and Penny Talbert at Ephrata Public Library's Big Read Launch 2010. Photo courtesy of Ephrata Public Library

From screenings of Vietnam War films and documentaries to an oral history project featuring Vietnam veterans, conscientious objectors, and girlfriends and wives of veterans, the community of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, has spent this fall reading and discussing Tim O?Brien?s The Things They Carried. For this, their third Big Read grant, Ephrata Public Library created events that brought the Ephrata community together around the book and opened up a dialogue about this important part of U.S. History.

Penny L. Talbert, Community Relations Manager for Ephrata Public Library spoke with the NEA about her experience and what being a part of The Big Read has meant to her community.

NEA: This is Ephrata Public Library?s third year participating in The Big Read. What is it about this program that makes you want to return to it year after year?

PENNY L. TALBERT: What wouldn?t make us want to return? This gives our community the resources to really focus in on one piece of literature and explore the themes of the book. In addition, it has created a collaboration among groups and organizations that does not end when The Big Read is over. Being selected three years in a row is an honor for our community.

NEA: Why did Ephrata choose Tim O?Brien?s The Things They Carried for this year?s Big Read?

TALBERT: The public library and school library chose this book because it was appropriate for the curriculum, it gave us an opportunity to interact with the people who lived through the experiences that Tim O?Brien tells about, and it gives us a launching point for multi-generational dialogue.

NEA: Tell us about your oral history project. How did this come about?

TALBERT: The oral history project is a way to record the memories and opinions of people in our community. It is a joint project by the library and the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley. The videos are all available on our website ( Last year?s videos are also available for viewing. Included in this year?s videos are Ephrata native, Dr. Ronald Blanck, former Surgeon General for the Army and battalion surgeon during the Vietnam War and Father Michael Doyle, one of the Camden 28. Phil Eisemann, a library volunteer and historical society member, spearheads the project along with library intern Kristen O?Brassil-Kulfan.

NEA: What event are you most looking forward to during this months? Big Read?

TALBERT: The event I was most looking forward to was our keynote address by Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and former secretary of Homeland Security. This was the first time he?d spoken publicly about his experiences in Vietnam. The screening of The Camden 28 was also a moving event, with two of the original Camden 28, Father Michael Doyle and Gene Dixon, among the attendees. After the screening, they answered questions to a very enthralled crowd.

NEA: What has been your favorite Big Read moment, either from this year?s program or past programs?

TALBERT: My favorite moment was this year, during the Big Read launch, seeing all our government officials---municipal, state senate and house, retired---and our state librarian, head of the Pennsylvania Library Association, along with students, community members, library staff, Friends, and volunteers sitting in this huge hall completely mesmerized by Governor Ridge?s praise of the book. After the event, those who had not yet read the book could be heard saying, ?I have to read this book.? Within 16 hours of this event, every piece of promotional material, every free book and every reader?s guide were gone. It was so satisfying to know that we?d interested our community in this piece of literature!

Ephrata Public Library?s Big Read events continue through October 14. Visit The Big Read website for a full list of events.

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