The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Reading Between the Lines: Vigo County Public Library

Terre Haute, Indiana

Each year Arts Illiana brings together area designers to create themed dinner settings, called tablescapes. Seen here is last year?s My Ántonia tablescape, created by Vigo County Public Library for its 2010 Big Read. On March 3rd, Vigo County Public Library will unveil its Edgar Allan Poe table. Photo by LeRaye Cameron

There?s just something engrossing about the dark, twisted world of Edgar Allan Poe. Among the 31 selections of literature that Big Read communities have to choose from, the stories and poems of Poe have proven to be the most popular this year. From a Big Party featuring Horror-gami and Poe-pourri, to a treasure hunt that will lead participants to local businesses and non-profits in search of clues, Chris Schellenberg and her team at Vigo County Public Library have developed more than six weeks of Big Read activities devoted to Poe?s writings. Vigo County?s Big Read begins next week, but Schellenberg gave us a sneak peek into what her community can expect.

NEA: Our most popular Big Read selection for 2010-2011 was Edgar Allan Poe?s stories and poems. What inspired your organization to make this selection?

CHRIS SCHELLENBERG: Our program planning committee bases selection on a variety of criteria. In the case of Poe, three things stood out. First, we haven?t done short stories or poetry before, so this would be a new genre. And no one could say they didn?t have time to read a poem or short story! Everyone could be involved. The second reason is that when we checked to see if Edgar Allan Poe was listed on the Indiana Reading List, Poe was recommended for both middle school and high school. This attracts more young readers. Finally, we thought Poe would be fun to program and this has certainly proved true. Right now I am surrounded by a skeleton (bought last summer at a ridiculously low price), a murder of crows (we are calling them ravens and putting ?Nevermore? on their beaks), and some Poe-pourri that I picked up today!

NEA: This is Vigo County Public Library?s fifth Big Read. How do you continue to attract new community members to the program?

SCHELLENBERG: The only way we can do this is by involving more and more people. The other crucial element is free copies of the book. The fact that we can provide materials, including the free books, helps to sell the program. This year we ordered 4,500 books (500 more than last year) and are almost out before official programs begin! We also try and contact new partners each year. This year the new organizations included elementary schools and libraries. My assistant writes a young people?s adaptation of The Big Read title. This year she has written "The Golden Bug," based on Poe?s "The Gold Bug." For the first time, an entire elementary school will see this interactive presentation. I have posted it on the forum to share. Books are then left for parents. The school involved is a Title 1 school and part of The Big Read target audience. Each year we send information to all libraries in the region, and as word spreads, the program reaches more and more people. This year we have added Willard and Scottsburg Public Libraries, the furthest south and east The Big Read has reached in Indiana so far. It is our goal to make this a regional event.

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

SCHELLENBERG: Oh, that is a hard one. I always enjoy our Big Party for The Big Read, but we have Edgar: Between the Lines, The Ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe, Poe?s Gothic Psyche: How Poe?s Dreams Became Reader?s Nightmares, and a Ghost Walk, and of course the Poe Film Festival and Welcome to My Nightmare Sinfonietta Concert---seriously I can?t choose!

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

SCHELLENBERG: The community loves it! I put out books at the library and ?Read It and Pass It On? copies around the community [at] the beginning of February, about a month before our first public program. But patrons, teachers, and book clubs begin asking for materials in November! It is wonderful to have this level of enthusiasm for a program.

NEA: Any last words?

SCHELLENBERG: I would like to thank the NEA for The Big Read. I think it is one of the most successful programs I have ever coordinated.

Vigo County Public Library?s Big Read kicks off next week and continues through April 19. Visit their website for a full list of events. For more information on Edgar Allan Poe, visit The Big Read website.

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