The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Reading Between the Lines: A Q&A with Lincoln County Public Libraries

Libby, Montana

Matthew Pearl, author of The Poe Shadow, signs a book for Carrie Terrell, Plains Library District Director. Photo courtesy of Lincoln County Public Library staff

Throughout the fall, communities in Montana?s Lincoln County have delved into the dark, twisted world of Edgar Allan Poe. From a series of movie screenings to The Mystery, The Madness of Poe, a theater production exploring Poe?s life and works, Lincoln County Public Libraries developed a variety of events that speak to Poe?s legacy as the master of the perfectly crafted horror tale. We spoke with Samantha Pierson, director of the Lincoln County Public Libraries, to learn more about her county?s Big Read.

NEA: Why did you choose to focus on Edgar Allan Poe?s stories and poems for your Big Read program?

SAMANTHA PIERSON: We chose Poe mainly for his familiarity---many of our school-aged participants studied him at some point and our adult participants have a chance to return to an author they might not have read since they were in school.

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

PIERSON: We were very excited about the visit from our keynote speaker, Matthew Pearl. Our book clubs read his book The Poe Shadow in the month before his arrival. His fictional account of the time period of Poe and the events surrounding his death made people excited about both Poe and his own visit. The two presentations Mr. Pearl gave were very well received. He was a funny, personable presenter that really was a special treat.

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

PIERSON: This is our third Big Read. We were counting on better overall attendance with each one and so far that has been true. But we are amazed at just how many more people are attending. We are about halfway through our programming schedule and have just about outdone the attendance of the entire last grant. The communities are really responding and participating. Maybe third time is a charm!

NEA: What benefit do you think The Big Read has on your community?

PIERSON: We are located in a very isolated, rural part of Montana. The Big Read has allowed our library to bring high quality programming to the communities in the county. This level of programming would not happen without all the assistance we receive. We don?t have the staff or time to develop programming like this.

What is really great is that this programming is not just used one time. The teachers that we distribute materials to use it over and over in their classes, the library staff uses some of the materials as models for other programming, and it has spurred the participation by many of the community members in other things the library does.

Partnerships have increased with each grant cycle, not only in number but in level of participation. This year we partnered with a community theater group that has been a huge success.

NEA: Any last words?

PIERSON: The staff is already busy brainstorming the next book and programming. Half the fun is coming up with the ideas and seeing how many end up coming to life.

Lincoln County Library?s Big Read events continue through December 15. Visit The Big Read website for a full calendar of events and to learn more about Edgar Allan Poe.

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