Building Community: ‘Tale’ reading project brings libraries together

Saturday, January 9, 2010
Lifestyles/ The (Batavia, N.Y.) Daily News
By Ben Beagle
bbeagle@batavianews.com

For the last eight years, “A Tale for Three Counties” has helped build a community of readers. The reading project is also building a community of librarians across Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

“Tale has been a godsend to me,” said Stacey Anderson, who has been director of Corfu Free Library since 2006.

“I became director,” she said, “with virtually no library experience. Joining the Tale committee quickly put me in touch with a wide support network.”

2010 TALE BROCHURE: Click the link to download the 2010 “A Tale for Three Counties” brochure, with questions to consider while reading Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a schedule of book discussions, author visits, library contact information and more.

“A Tale for Three Counties” started with a gathering of librarians from each county in February 2002 and debuted a year later with Leif Enger’s “Peace Like a River.” A core group of a dozen librarians have been been meeting about once a month ever since.

The eighth “Tale” program begins this month with the first of more than a dozen books discussions for the 2010 selection, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein,. The author will make public appearances in each county during March.

Only a couple of librarians knew their counterparts in neighboring counties when the program started, said Leslie DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, and who previously worked in a neighboring library system.

“It has been great to be able to meet monthly with library directors and staff in our three counties — not only about Tale plans and books, but about reading and library services in general,” said DeLooze, who is credited with getting the Tale project started. “I think that it has helped all of us become more aware of what is happening in our larger community.”

Many community reading projects have started across the country in the past decade or so. The projects may feature a single city or even an entire state, some even serve rural areas.

One of the aspects that helps make the local “Tale” project unique is that it involves libraries working together across two different library systems. Public libraries in Genesee and Orleans counties are part of the Nioga system. The Wyoming County libraries are part of the Pioneer Library System, where DeLooze began her career. In 2005, Genesee Community College became part of the project, adding an academic library to the mix of public libraries.

“Within a system we see each other on a fairly regular basis, attending workshops and meetings together, and collaborating on projects,” said Sue Rudnicky, director of Albion’s Swan Library. “By having the Tale reach across those system boundaries, we get to work with librarians whom we otherwise would only see at regional or state events. The networking opportunities mean a closer relationship with the other system, and a chance to network with a whole different group of people.”

The monthly meetings, Rudnicky said, provide a chance for cross-fertilization of ideas and talents.

The Tale logo of a horse galloping across an open book was created by a librarian in Arcade in Wyoming County, posters for a special Tale event were designed by a graphic artist at Swan Library in Orleans County and in Genesee County several librarians have managed book orders, and Genesee Valley BOCES has helped create the large movie-style posters that feature each year’s book selection.

“We are all richer for the experience,” Rudnicky said.

Nancy Bailey, director of Byron-Bergen Public Library, has been involved with the Tale committee since its first meeting in 2002. The experience “has helped me to make some very important connections with libraries outside of our system that I may have never had a chance to make,” she said.

“With all of us being small- to medium-size libraries we have many of the same challenges,” Bailey said. “I know that if I have a problem or concern unrelated to Tale that I feel comfortable to ask for input from my colleagues” at other libraries.

In addition to sharing ideas, Tale librarians have collaborated on joint projects. They’ve organized presentations for a SUNY Librarians’ Association Conference, and also the state-wide New York Library Association Conference.

“Five years ago I only knew some staff at Richmond Memorial Library,” said Sue Chiddy, a reading instructor at GCC and member of the Tale for Three Counties Council, the non-profit group that runs the reading project.

Michele Asmus, who works in the Alfred O’Connell Library at GCC, began using Richmond Library for personal use — finding books to read and information for other projects — after attending meetings for Tale. “Because I am now familiar with the library, I’m more comfortable sending students over,” Asmus said. “I give them directions, tell them how to get to the children’s room, how to get a card …”

Anderson, the Corfu director, said she frequently chooses books for her own library’s book club after the titles have been discussed at Tale meetings. (Each year, dozens of books are read and reviewed for consideration in the project by Tale librarians.)

Several libraries have started book discussions groups as a result of Tale.

In Orleans County, Mary Zangerle of Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, said Tale helped “start our still thriving book discussion group with the first Tale for Three Counties title. … We haven’t looked back!”

The libraries work together to coordinate delivery of Tale books and materials to one another — whether by doing it themselves or using their system’s courier services for the final deliveries.

Nina T. Warren, director of library services at GCC, said prior to becoming involved with Tale her day-to-day interactions and projects had mostly been with other academic libraries and institutions within the State University of New York system.

“It’s been interesting and fun to work on a project with librarians who have a different focus and who provide very different kinds of programming and services,” Warren said. “Our positive feelings about pursuing cooperative projects are strengthened and reinforced by our Tale experiences.”

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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