One Book One Valley kicks off 10th read, ‘Lab Girl,’ with virtual event, NEA Big Read grant
One Book One Valley is prepared to launch its 10th year of community reading Monday at 6 p.m.
In a virtual Zoom session, participants are invited to join in celebration of this year’s read, “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren, as well as OBOV’s big achievement: receiving a National Endowment of the Arts Big Read grant. The official kick off will share remarks from community officials, and all community members are invited to attend at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19: the Zoom meeting ID is available at onebookonevalley.com.
Each year since 2006, the NEA Big Read grant, in partnership with Arts Midwest, awards funds to community initiatives that “broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.”
“It’s all about getting people on the same page, shared enjoyment of reading, spreading literacy throughout the valley and sharing a common topic of conversation,” said Lori Ann Barnes, director of library services at the Vail Public Library.
One Book One Valley started as Barnes’ small dream 10 years ago. She had heard about other communities that had initiated community reads, including Steamboat Springs and Denver. She reached out to the Eagle Valley Library District and a professor at Colorado Mountain College to see if they’d be interested in partnering to produce a community read here.
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“I didn’t want it to just be Vail,” she said. “This needs to be an Eagle County read.”
The first title in 2011-12 was “Doc” by Mary Doria Russell, a historical fiction novel about Doc Holliday and the American West. Russell came to speak about her book at a local event.
That first year started two traditions. One was picking books with themes and subject matter that will resonate with the community. Last year’s “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Maria Sanchez explored life as a teenage girl within her Mexican immigrant family and community.
A committee chooses the book every year, and includes representatives from the Bookworm of Edwards, the Vail Public Library, Colorado Mountain College and local high schools.
“We want it to have themes that will resonate with our community, that men and women will enjoy reading, that’s applicable for people of all ages. We have a lot of criteria that we use,” Barnes said. “The author is an academic professor, she’s very well published.”
For the Big Read grant, applicants must select a book from a diverse list of titles that includes American classics, poetry and new releases. The OBOV committee selected “Lab Girl” for its themes on plant life, nature, sustainability, the mountains and adventure. Plus, since Jahren is a living author, they can bring her to the community for author discussions, an important tenet OBOV and the second tradition that’s been around since year one.
Organizing programming with the book’s author is important to OBOV because it helps enrich community understanding of the book. The author sessions, even if they must be virtual due to COVID-19, connect readers with the person behind the book. Sanchez offered two virtual author discussions for “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” this fall, and OBOV is able to virtually bring Jahren to the Vail Valley as part of the Big Read grant.
“One Book One Valley means a lot to us. It’s always meant a lot to me, but it means a lot to all of us that work with this,” Barnes said.
When it came time to plan the 10th year, committee member and MLIS, Reference/Instruction Librarian at CMC Katy Walker suggested applying for the Big Read grant.
Over many meetings, Walker and Barnes were able to submit applications — a lengthy, arduous process, Barnes said, grant writing is no joke — and were one of 84 organizations to receive funds from the NEA and Arts Midwest. The $9,150 awarded, an amount which OBOV selected based on a budget review, will be used to purchase titles for community distribution, as well as advertise locally and bring the author to the community virtually.
In addition to OBOV’s programming, they will work with partner organizations including the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Walking Mountains Science Center and the Town of Vail’s Environmental Sustainability Department to offer community book discussions, where participants can discuss the novel and connect with each other over the shared read. Knapp Ranch, Eagle Valley Land Trust and a group called Gardeners on the Go have also expressed interest in hosting book discussion events in 2021.
As OBOV enters its 10th year, with recognition from the NEA and Arts Midwest, Barnes feels more empowered than ever to share the community read’s goals with everyone who picks up “Lab Girl,” or listens to the audio book or buys an e-book.
“It means so much to us, because how important is collaboration? How important are partnerships, how important is literacy?” she said. “It means a lot to us to be able to partner with people, to come together and work on a collective project that’s just so meaningful.”
For more information about One Book One Valley, visit onebookonevalley.com.