Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Author visit: Barbara Ehrenreich

A big day at the library: our three-month-long community read of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting By in America culminates with a visit and talk by the author. We're hoping for about 300 people to fill our meeting room tonight for Barbara's talk. And since I have to introduce her, I need to figure out what to say. Something like this...

Good evening and welcome to the Appleton Public Library. My name is Terry Dawson and I’m the Library Director. Tonight I have a quandary because there’s not enough time to thank by name all the many people who helped make this evening possible.

But I will say that we are celebrating National Library Week and today is Library Workers Day. I would like to acknowledge all the work of many people on our staff who made tonight’s program possible, from the maintenance staff who set up the room for tonight to the clerks who checked out, checked in and reshelved all the copies of Nickel and Dimed – about 2,000 times, and the Technical Services staff who ordered and processed our 350 copies of the book. I wish I could list every staff member by name, but I would like to single out Meg Shriver and the Reference staff, who have coordinated our community read project for Nickel & Dimed, developing websites and posters, and leading book discussions. And Michael Kenney, our Marketing Coordinator, has worked many hours in pulling together and promoting these programs.
I also want to thank the entire committee who worked on developing the community read including many community members as well library staff. They developed a ballot that allowed people to vote on their choice and select Nickel and Dimed for this discussion. Coincidentally, the ThedaCare Community Health Action Team (CHAT) conducted an educational program on poverty issues and it became clear that this reading project offered opportunities to address some broader issues and social needs in the Fox Cities.

This confluence led to the formation of Project Promise, led by the library, ThedaCare and Thrivent Financial with active participation by several other organizations. Project Promise has conducted numerous other activities studying poverty and income related issues in the Fox Cities. There will be a wrap-up meeting and Action Forum from 6:30 – 9:00 PM in this room on April 30 and we will identify some next steps and actions growing out of lessons learned these past months.

This is our library’s second community read, and the first one done with the participation of other Fox cities libraries; it will not be the last time we work together, and I want to thank the Neenah, Menasha, Kimberly-Little Chute and Kaukauna libraries for their participation. Neither reading nor social concerns stop at municipal borders.

Many of our library programs, including this one, are funded through the Appleton Library Foundation, which relies on your generous donations to maintain and build their endowment fund. Thanks to the Foundation Board as well as the Library Board of Trustees for supporting these programs.

Thanks also to the grants from ThedaCare’s CHAT program and Thrivent Financial which helped make tonight possible. With your support, this library will continue to be a place where the entire community can come to learn and explore issues together.

And now for our speaker:

Barbara Ehrenreich , author of Nickel & Dimed, is a distinguished author of several books exploring social issues and our culture. She has a Ph.D. in cell biology and has been Assistant professor of health sciences at the State University of New York. In addition to being on bestseller lists, her writing has earned her a National Magazine Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Christopher Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Puffin/Nation Prize. A feminist and socialist, her writing has tackled middle class attitudes toward working and poorer classes, consumerism, social justice, poverty, unemployment and war. She may be in danger of lightening up as her current work is Dancing in the Streets: a History of Collective Joy.

In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich attempted to sustain herself at “entry-level” jobs in three cities, waiting tables, cleaning hotel rooms, working at a nursing home, and as a retail sales “associate”. Reactions vary, but I hope that reading the book opened my eyes and made me more mindful of my actions as both a consumer and employer. I know it made me a better tipper.

But you don’t need to know what I thought of the book. We all want to hear from the author and it’s an honor to have her with us tonight: Barbara Ehrenreich.

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