Terri Wojtalewicz is the Youth Services Librarian at Lansing Community Library. In this Q5, she discusses the upcoming Big Read and the grant the library received from the Kansas Humanities Council.

Terri Wojtalewicz is the Youth Services Librarian at Lansing Community Library. In this Q5, she discusses the upcoming Big Read and the grant the library received from the Kansas Humanities Council.

1. Terri, can you tell us about the recent grant that Lansing Community Library received from the Kansas Humanities Council?
We first heard of the opportunity from Debra Hutton, the librarian at Lansing High School. Debra and I thought it would be a great way for the high school and library to partner together. We were one of six libraries in the state of Kansas to receive this award to host The Big Read through the Kansas Humanities Council. This program is in partnership with Arts Midwest.

2.  What is The Big Read designed to do? And as the focus of The Big Read, what events will the library sponsor in the next few months by incorporating the collection of stories "The Things They Carried?"

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure and enrichment. The book, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, is a fictional account of a young platoon in Vietnam. The kickoff event will occur on November 8th at 10:30am with a viewing of a video documentary produced by students at Lansing High School. They interviewed and recorded oral histories of veterans from World War II through Afghanistan Wars. The community will also receive an overview of the upcoming events and have the opportunity to register for them.
We will be hosting two book discussions at the library facilitated by Tom Prasch, Chair of the History Department at Washburn University and Sister Rosemary Kolich, who teaches in the English Department at Saint Mary’s University. The first 50 people to register for these discussions will receive a copy of the book courtesy of the Kansas Humanities Council grant and the Friends of the Lansing Community Library.
In December, we will bring together veterans from different eras in a panel discussion to share their experiences and will explore how they were different yet similar. This will be held on December 9th in the Lansing City Council Chambers at 6:30pm. Kim Stanley, Chair of the Modern Languages Department at McPherson College will facilitate this event.
Ms Stanley will return in February to lead a workshop in memoir writing. This will be in conjunction with a display of items and letters from home during different wars to demonstrate the effect of “The Things They Carried” during their service to our Country.

3.  The library will be a drop-off point for cards and letters to service members serving in the Middle East, which will also be in conjunction with the story collection about a young platoon in the Vietnam War. Do you think this will be one of the most popular parts of the events once people read the stories and connect the challenges of soldiers in Vietnam with present-day soldiers?

Yes, we are hoping it will encourage the community to remember those still serving overseas. We borrowed a mailbox from the US Postal Service for the program. The children who participate in the library’s Storytime will also have the opportunity to make cards for service members during the holidays.

4.  In our age of Facebook and Twitter obsession, why is it important for people to find time to read the great works of literature? How will the library's upcoming events help to motivate community members to savor reading and encourage their kids to do the same?

Taking the time to read is especially important for so many reasons: it encourages critical, independent thinking, and can help to reduce stress. It is so much more accessible now with traditional print, e-readers, and apps on tablets and phones for audio and e-books. It is one of the greatest legacies we can pass onto the next generation.
The events are designed to bring the fun back into reading and for people to see the social side of a traditionally independent and solitary activity. It is when people come together and discuss ideas that understanding and growth can happen.
As John Steinbeck said “Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.”

5. How can people find more information on The Big Read?
People can find more information at the Lansing Community Library and on Facebook at The Big Read – Lansing Library. We are hoping that people will engage in meaningful dialogue on the site throughout the program.