The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Paranoid, But Fashionable


A participant in the Lewis & Clark Library?s Tin Foil Hat Contest proudly displays his hat, entitled ?The Moon." Photo courtesy of the Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Montana.

A couple of months ago, I was looking through Big Read events, trying to get an idea for a tweets and posts when I saw that one of our grantees was reading Fahrenheit 451 and was holding a Tin Foil Hat Contest. I burst out laughing, immediately shared it with all of my coworkers, and decided that I had to do a post on this. So, today we?re talking with Suzanne Schwichtenberg, the adult services librarian at the Lewis & Clark Library in Helena, Montana, and looking at some of the fantastic entries of their Tin Foil Hat Contest!

NEA: This isn?t your first Big Read, is it?

SUZANNE SCHWICHTENBERG: This is our fifth grant cycle. We've done To Kill A Mockingbird, Call of the Wild, The Things They Carried, The Maltese Falcon, and now Fahrenheit 451.

NEA: Why did you choose Fahrenheit 451 as your book this year?

SCHWICHTENBERG: More school involvement. We asked the teachers what book they wanted and this was the one. We did a "How to Teach The Big Read" workshop in August and had around 30 teachers, which is huge. We had teachers from many more subject areas, besides literary arts, which was unusual and exciting as well. We gave them a third of our books to hand out. I love that part.

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A participant in the contest, wearing her ?magic hat to pull bunnies and pink kitties out of.? Photo courtesy of the Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Montana.

NEA: Can you tell me about some of your other experiences with The Big Read?

SCHWICHTENBERG: Last year we did this wonderful "Maltese Your Own Bird" contest which turned out to be awesome, so we thought we'd revisit the artistic and irreverent side of The Big Read. We had some fabulous entries! One women made a quilt; another entry was a kitty that said, "What bird?" The high school students have created new covers for each book over the years. This is one of the community's favorite aspects of The Big Read.

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Contest participant, wearing a hat inspired by the movie 300, which protects the wearer from attacks to the head. Photo courtesy of the Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Montana.

NEA: What made you decide on a tin foil hat contest? Can you tell us more about it?

SCHWICHTENBERG: There was such a great response to last year's contest from the artists and kids in town...we believe it's a great way to involve reluctant readers from all ages. Basically people were invited to make their own tin foil hats and submit them for a prize. There must be some aluminum foil on it somewhere, but materials weren?t not limited to only foil. We had a local artist, Tim Holmes, spearheading the judging. It was great fun and so exciting to see kids of all ages come into the library proudly wearing their creations.

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This participant?s hat was titled ?Living in the Now," which ?protects the wearer from unhealthy radiation from ruminations on the Past and Future.? Photo courtesy of the Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Montana.

NEA: What are some of the other events for this year?s Big Read that you?re especially looking forward to?

SCHWICHTENBERG: I think we've got some great lecturers coming. Dr. Robert Woods [a professor at Alabama?s Faulkner University] is our first. We are so excited to have [the illustrator of the official Fahrenheit 451 graphic novel] Tim Hamilton come and talk to the art students this year!

Two more hats that were too good to not include. Photo courtesy of the Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Montana.

For more information on The Lewis and Clark Library?s events, take a look at their website. For more information on Fahrenheit 451, please visit The Big Read website.

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