The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Reading Between the Lines: Galesburg Public Library

Galesburg, Illinois

Poe impersonator David Keltz performs at Galesburg High School as part of The Big Read. Photo courtesy of David Keltz Productions, LLC

This winter, residents of Galesburg, Illinois, and its surrounding communities have tackled the use of cryptography in Edgar Allan Poe?s writings, solved mysteries at Family Mystery Night, and explored Poe?s tragic life and how it led to the creation of his tales of terror. In addition to learning about these great works of literature and the author behind them, Galesburg Public Library also encourages its participants to create their own writings through an annual contest, The Big Write. We spoke with reference librarian and Big Read coordinator Karly Steele to learn more about both The Big Write and The Big Read.

NEA: Why did you choose the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe for this year?s Big Read?

KARLY STEELE: We picked Poe for several reasons. First, we knew his literature would appeal to a wide variety of ages. Poe is undoubtedly alluring to younger readers who find dark themes and scary stories irresistible, and we thought adults would enjoy reliving Poe in pop culture with classic films. The diversity of Poe?s work was another major factor in our selection process. He wrote horror, science fiction, detective mystery, and poetry. In Poe, there is a little something for every type of reader. Finally, Poe?s life story, especially his controversial death, is a source of much debate and interest.

NEA: How does The Big Write fit into your Big Read activities?

STEELE: The Big Read and Big Write both aim to promote literacy and contribute to the betterment of our community. Our Big Write contest encourages community members to delve into their creative sides, giving them the opportunity to share their art with others. We have winners for four different age groups and a graphic short story category, so all ages can get involved.

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

STEELE: We have already hosted several exciting events. Our kick-off event for this year with Poe impersonator David Keltz was really a hit with residents in our Big Read area. Between the Galesburg High School and Orpheum Theatre performances, over 400 people turned out to see Mr. Keltz. These live enactments brought another dimension to Poe?s works for many members of our community.

As for upcoming events, we are really looking forward to the Sandburg Days Festival for the Mind. Held each April, the Festival for the Mind features three days of literary and historical programming for children and adults. The festival has several exciting events planned for this year, including a poetry slam with slam movement founder Marc Smith. Of our forthcoming library programming, we are generating the most excitement with local paranormal investigator Sylvia Shults. Sylvia will be discussing her latest title, Ghosts of the Illinois River, at Galesburg Public Library (GPL) and four additional locations in our Big Read area. Edgar Allan Poe book discussions will also be taking place in a variety of venues in our Big Read area. GPL is holding special Poe-themed sessions of monthly teen programs: Animanga Mania, Teen Movie Club, and Classic Book Club for Homeschooled Teens. For the younger set, we are hosting a Family Mystery Night based on our children?s companion title, Chasing Vermeer.

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

STEELE: The biggest surprise has been the wide variety of readers in the community. One of my favorite stories was when a resident told us that he was passing out copies of Poe at local bars! The bar patrons all enjoy reading mysteries, so he brought in a whole stack of our free Poe books and told them they had to check out Poe because he is the father of the mystery genre. We all really got a kick out of that story.

NEA: Any last words?

STEELE: GPL would like to thank the NEA for opportunities like The Big Read. The Big Read has enabled us to form relationships with infrequent or lapsed library users. We are gaining valuable feedback from these users which will help to improve the future of library programming in the Galesburg area.

Galesburg Public Library?s Big Read continues through May 10. Visit their website for more information. To learn more about Edgar Allan Poe, visit The Big Read website.

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