Project’s popularity saved city’s ‘One Book, One Community,' Cloquet Library involved
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune , Pine Journal
Because of city budget cuts, there almost wasn’t a community reading project this month in Duluth.
Library staff who had coordinated the program since it beginnings in 2002 weren’t available to organize the One Book, One Community program, apply for grants and set up events as they did in the past.
But the selection committee, made up of representatives from area bookstores, colleges and libraries, wouldn’t allow the project — which encourages everyone to read and discuss the same book — not to happen.
Anita Zager, owner of Northern Lights Books and Gifts in Duluth, took the lead to put together a scaled-down program this year.
After classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and bestsellers like “Tuesdays with Morrie,” the committee chose a book that was closer to home: “Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time,” by Michael Perry.
Committee member Bridget Reistad, a librarian at Lake Superior College, said she read two dozen books by regional authors in 1½ months before the group chose Perry’s book published in 2002 by Harper Perennial.
The book is about the author’s return to his hometown of New Auburn in western Wisconsin after a 12-year absence, and how he reconnected with the community by joining the volunteer fire department and serving as one of its emergency medical technicians.
“It’s talking about the importance of small-town life, being a member of a community and knowing your neighbors,” said Nancy Eaton of Duluth Public Library’s community services. “It’s promoting the importance of the simple things.”
The book is a memoir, a genre often called creative nonfiction and one that’s becoming more popular, says Katharine Johnson of Cloquet who teaches memoir writing.
“I’ve never read one quite like it before,” she said of Perry’s book. “It’s very good. He’s an excellent writer. His characters are average people in town. They’re so alive, and it works together. It shows how the town comes together in crises.”
While this year’s reading project largely leaves book discussion up to readers, the Cloquet Public Library and Lake Superior College became involved, holding events at their sites.
It made sense for the Cloquet Public Library to get involved after seeing so many of their users participate in Duluth’s communitywide reading last year of “Three Cups of Tea” co-authored by Greg Mortenson, library director Mary Lukkarila said.
The Duluth Public Library’s 55 copies of “Population: 485” generally have been checked out with a waiting list, as have the Arrowhead regional library system’s 15 copies.
“People are talking about it in town,” Lukkarila said. “I’ll be standing in line someplace, and people are talking about the book and they don’t know I’m the librarian. It’s interesting how it’s taken off.”