Andover Reads Presentation to the Board of Selectmen
Presented by Director Jim Sutton on March 16, 2009
Thank you for giving us a few minutes tonight to talk about our program. My name is Jim Sutton and I am Director of Memorial Hall Library. This is Emily Classon and she is the library’s Community Services Librarian. We are planning to hold a series of programs throughout April and May which we are calling “Andover Reads.” “Andover Reads” is our version of something that has become a national trend called “One Book/One Community.” The idea is to have everyone in Andover read the same book in order to generate discussion. The book we have chosen is The Worst Hard Time; the untold story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan.
The starting point for this project came from the Trustees who were hearing requests for such a program from other citizens who had seen it in other places. At that time, the Trustees were also thinking about how to best build upon programming ideas generating from the increased interest in the environment. Many community-based organizations in Andover have as their purpose a commitment to improving the environment. AVIS, the Andover Preservation Commission, the Andover Historical Society, and the Recycling Committee are a few of the groups that come to mind that have as their purpose the preservation and enhancement of the quality of life in Andover and the greater world. The sculpture of the polar bear family that graces the library lawn is a tangible symbol of the values of respect for nature and the environment as well as family. Choosing the book The Worst Hard Time seemed a natural progression to build upon those themes.
The Worst Hard Time tells the stories of the families whose lives were devastated by the worst natural man-made disaster in our country’s history. The selection committee considered many books before choosing this one. The Worst Hard Time won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2006 and it tells an important and engrossing story. While the drought that afflicted the Dust Bowl of our country may not have been created by human activities, there is much to learn from how the agricultural practices of that time worsened the situation that resulted from the drought. We think there is much to learn from looking at what happened during the 1930s. Additionally, the 1930s was an era that provides us with music, photographs, fashion, and other culturally enriching topics for programs. Even in The Worst Hard Time, Americans continued to live culturally satisfying lives.
We expect Andover Reads to provide a period of six weeks for our community of approximately 32,000 to share a reading experience that can result in conversations about America and Americans. By reflecting on the calamity of the Dust Bowl , we can share empathy for those families and perhaps come to understand our own good fortune. These shared experiences will help us understand the past and may help provide a common basis for making decisions in the future.