BATAVIA — There will not be a 15th chapter in A Tale for Three Counties, after the Tale’s organizing committee is dissolving the community-reading program instead of setting out for the 2017 edition.
Facing the search for a new leader and waning support from Wyoming County libraries, members of the A Tale for Three Counties council voted Monday, ending the project after what many said was a successful spring of events centered around S.M. Hulse’s “Black River.”
“2016 was a great year for Tale, and we enjoyed talking about the many good things that happened,” Tale co-conveners Sandy Gillard and Leslie DeLooze said in a statement announcing the dissolution. “But even more than that, all of our years have been excellent ones, and this has been an amazing run for a one-book project. Certainly, meetings with our colleagues — and especially the discussions of books at these meetings — has been a high point.”
Hulse spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Richmond Memorial Library in March, culminating a month of book discussions, essay contests, review contests and the final author visit diving into her deeply emotional modern western.
“If this is the last Tale, we’re definitely going out on a high note,” said Daily News Lifestyles Editor Matt Krueger, who voted against the dissolution Monday. “I think ‘Black River’ was an excellent book and Sarah Hulse was a joy and a pleasure to listen to and to engage with in talking about her book.”
DeLooze, who told the Tale committee in April she was ready to pursue new projects, estimates the author visits alone brought a cumulative crowd of more than 5,000 people. Even more attended discussions or read each title individually.
“Readers had a chance to share a book with many other people and could participate as much or as little as they wanted to in the program,” DeLooze said. “Everyone who attended book discussions at the libraries and the Tale author visits always spoke about how much they got out of these events in terms of understanding and appreciating the book hearing about the author’s writing and inspiration. Loyal Tale readers who came back year after year spoke about how they had confidence in the Tale committee’s picks and would read the book.”
The Tale committee’s May meetings are typically the start of a summer-long process of discussing, dissecting and determining which one of the more than 50 books considered each year fit the Tale program best.
Lee-Whedon Memorial Library Librarian Catherine Cooper, a Tale committee member, sensed that discussion wasn’t coming. No one had jumped forward to take on the role of succeeding DeLooze.
“We had known for a while that Leslie was interested in pursuing other interests,” Cooper said. “It was sad, but not really a surprise. And we had sensed that the Wyoming libraries, outside of Perry, weren’t as invested.”
Perry Public Library Director Jessica Pacciotti said the Wyoming County libraries didn’t have the staffing, or the funding, to take a more active role in the program. It exhausted them. Tale brought Hulse in from Spokane — they are able to bring in performers and children’s reading event leaders from a few towns away.
“We had a great 14 years, but we didn’t see a way to see it going forward,” Pacciotti said. “My library alone could never do something like this.”
Tale authors often came to Perry as part of their three-county visits each spring, drawing crowds in excess of what the village’s library could fit. Hulse visited the Perry Elementary School Auditorium to end a swing through Batavia, Albion and Lyndonville in March.
“We’re definitely going to miss the opportunity to have an (established) author come to Perry every year,” Pacciotti said. “In small towns, you don’t always have that opportunity. It was a really great program.”
For communities scattered around the region, the benefits were local. It fostered a community, Cooper said, or readers engaged in authors, genres and perspective they wouldn’t otherwise seek out. She hopes a single-county book discussion could be tried out.
“Just because it has ended doesn’t mean it can’t continue in another form,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t going to continue (in this form). If enterprising people take it on, we’ll accommodate and support them.”
Looking back, DeLooze was struck by the cooperation that kept the program running for more than a decade. Tale brought together libraries from three counties split between two different library systems, Genesee Community College’s library, the GVEP School Library System and The Daily News.
“Tale for Three Counties got libraries to work together in a group that had never had other occasions to meet,” DeLooze said. “It was an inspiring way to all work together for a common goal.”
Krueger succeeded Livingston County News Editor Ben Beagle as the Daily News’ Tale champion just a month before “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You” author Peter Troy’s 2013 visit.
“It’s something I’ve grown to love as I got progressively involved more and more each year. I really saw the value in the entire program, in bringing an award-winning author to talk with people, and I’m really sad we decided to dissolve it,” Krueger said.
Continuing would have meant more than finding a new leader — the Tale Committee would have had to change its charter, its area and its name. It was too much to overcome.
“We can’t have A Tale for Three Counties with two counties,” Krueger said.