Last night I had a great time at Eastmont Towers, a retirement community here in Lincoln.
I'd been invited to talk about books, and so I chose to present six of my favorite books from recent years' American Library Association Notable Books lists. From time to time when I'm asked to talk about books, I'll review recent Notables lists and pull out those that seem most broadly appealing, and that I found especially rewarding. As a reader, I enjoy reviewing those titles, going back to mark an excerpt or two to sample the flavor of the book. As a librarian, I hope that I'll persuade someone in the audience to try a new book...from the library.
What a great group! I recognized several people with whom I'd worked before on library or literacy projects. While one or two people may have checked out from time to time (it happens in every crowd!), I appreciated their engagement, their interest, and their follow-up questions.
When I talk about books, I emphasize how much we get from talking to each other about books (or the newspaper or magazines or blogs....). I point out the role that our libraries play in promoting the community conversation about reading. I always hope that these presentations lead to conversations based on books and reading. My goal for the Eastmont group was that within the week, they'd each start a conversation that began, "I've got to tell you about something I just read...."
And even though it isn't about books specificially, here's the Big Question that I've inserted into my presentations recently--Why Are Some People Engaged? Its corrollary is--What Can the Library Do to Promote Engagement in Lincoln and Lancaster County? Behind my questions is my belief that it's better to be engaged than disengaged. Better for people, better for communities. There's been interesting research that links reading to other forms of civic engagement. Our Eastmont group didn't come to any hard-and-fast conclusions last night. We did agree, though, that being among people who are engaged, and having even just one person invite you to participate, likely makes a person more likely to engage.
Even in this time of great change in the technology of reading, I'm committed to the human connection, the human engagement, that reading creates. Our time together at Eastmont demonstrated how people come together through reading. That's some great energy. Let's tap it.