The Big Read Blog (Archive)

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

Moline, Illinois

You can't miss The Big Read at Moline Public Library! Photo courtesy of Moline Public Library

One of the original Big Read book selections, Fahrenheit 451 continues to be a popular choice for communities around the country. Lisa Williams, Adult Services Coordinator for Moline Public Library---one of three grantees to tackle this book for 2010-2011---takes us behind the scenes to learn why Moline chose Fahrenheit 451 and the effects Ray Bradbury?s cautionary tale of censorship is having throughout the community.

NEA: This is the first time Moline has participated in The Big Read. What drew you to the program?

LISA WILLIAMS: We had participated in other ?all community reads? projects in our community with varied levels of success. We wanted to try a larger scale, more comprehensive project. We knew of The Big Read and thought it would be an ideal program fit for our library, partners, and the community at large.

NEA: The Big Read has 31 selections for communities to choose from. Why did Moline choose to read Fahrenheit 451?

WILLIAMS: Our library features a quote wall that runs the two stories of our building on the reverse side of our elevator. One of those infamous quotes is ?It was a pleasure to burn,? the opening line of Fahrenheit 451. With that as a starting point, coupled with Bradbury being an Illinois native and a lover of libraries, and the novel?s focus on intellectual freedom, it was a clear choice for our Big Read.

Additionally, it was a novel that the staff embraced when reviewing The Big Read selection possibilities.  Some of us had read it previously and shared our recollections and others were eager to engage and interact with the rich themes of Bradbury?s work.

NEA: What effects do you think The Big Read will have on your community?

WILLIAMS: The benefits are that community members will have a heightened awareness of the impact of reading and the importance of intellectual freedom. Additional benefits include visibility for libraries and community agencies by engaging the public in The Big Read and reminding our public of the importance of literary, educational, and cultural endeavors, and their contribution to the quality of life in our community.

Moline Public Library created a 3D replica of the illustration on the cover of Fahrenheit 451, nicknamed ?Guy? after Guy Montag. Photo courtesy of Moline Public Library

NEA: Moline Public Library has a range of events planned, from a What Book Would You Save from the Fire of Censorship essay contest to a book discussion of the graphic novel version of Fahrenheit 451. What event are you most looking forward to during your Big Read?

WILLIAMS: Sam Weller?s keynote address. He is the author of The Bradbury Chronicles, the work we chose as a supplementary book for The Big Read to gain greater insight into Bradbury the man and his works, particularly the information on how Fahrenheit 451 was written. Weller tells the story of Bradbury calling Fahrenheit 451 his ?dime novel,? as he kept plugging dimes into the typewriter at the UCLA Library and then wandering the stacks of the library for inspiration.

We ordered some copies of the book for use by discussion group leaders and group participants so that they could more thoroughly understand Bradbury?s influences, including book burnings in WWII Germany and the McCarthy Era of the early 50s, and how they gave shape to the novel. With Weller having unparalleled access to Bradbury to write this book, as well as his continued close relationship with Bradbury, we knew it was of importance in telling the story of Fahrenheit 451.

NEA: What has been your favorite Big Read moment so far?

WILLIAMS: I have two favorites at this point in the project.  One, again, is Sam Weller?s keynote address. He was incredibly passionate about Ray Bradbury?s life and work and our audience was delighted by his insights. I do not think we could have had a better keynote address.

My second favorite moment at this stage of The Big Read is when I had a  Friends of the Moline Public Library Board Member share that she was glad we ?put this book in her hands.? She noted that she would never have read it without our Big Read project and our insistence on the importance of the message of this seminal Bradbury novel.

Big Read activities continue through the end of October at Moline Public Library. For more information on Ray Bradbury and the inspiration behind Fahrenheit 451 visit The Big Read website.

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