Libraries encourage Parkites to unite through reading
Kirsten Nilsson, like many in her line of work, is fighting an idealistic crusade. A librarian at the Summit County Library, she believes books possess a unique and unchallenged power. Words can motivate masses. A passage, penned with a thoughtful touch, can change the world.
Or, they can inspire just a single mind — and sometimes, she said, that’s just as important.
“Even if you just get one person that gets excited about something that they didn’t know anything about before,” she said. “We’re super passionate about people making connections between art and life and literature.”
Nilsson, youth services librarian at the library’s Kimball Junction branch, is among those hoping to foster some inspiration in the coming weeks. The branch, along with the Park City Library and Dolly’s Bookstore is putting on the annual One Book One Community program.
One Book One Community, in partnership with the Park City Education Foundation, encourages residents throughout the Park City area to read the book assigned to Park City High School students in the PCEF’s Author-in-Residence program. This year’s book is “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline, an historical novel that delves into the late 19th- and early 20th-century practice of poor families on the East Coast sending their children to live with families in the Midwest.
The program provides several ways for people to engage with one another beyond simply reading the book. On August 22, Dolly’s Bookstore on Main Street will host a community discussion of the book, which Nilsson will lead. Previous One Book One Community discussions have proven popular, and Nilsson expects this year to be no different.
“We hope by then that there will be students who will have already read the book that want to participate,” she said. “We’d love to have them come, but also their parents. Older people, younger people, this book has a really broad appeal.”
Another discussion is set for August 29 at the Kimball Junction library branch, when Park City residents Harold and Kathy Blomquist will share their experiences from fostering children for nearly three decades, while two of their adopted children will also speak.
One of the main characters in “Orphan Train” becomes a foster child, and Nilsson said the discussion will provide a unique perspective on the foster system that Parkites will appreciate whether or not they’ve read the book.
“It’s another great hook to draw people in to this story,” she said. “Even if they haven’t read it, it would be a really interesting evening.”
The Park City Library will host a documentary, “The Orphan Train,” which further explores the practice of sending children to the Midwest, September 8. Lastly, people who participate in One Book One Community can hear Kline speak September 13 at the Park City Library during a community discussion put on by the education foundation.
Nilsson, who first read “Orphan Train” a few years ago and recalls being moved by its vivid portrayal of an event she previously knew little about, is optimistic that a wide array of residents will also find meaning in the book’s pages. And she’s hopeful that the One Book One Community will add to the experience.
“We love that the parents and the grandparents and the community members are all reading the same thing that the students are,” she said. “That’s what literature is all about, helping people have shared, common experiences to talk about. Particularly this book — it has so much that can bring generations together because it’s a multigenerational story.”
She added that participation in One Book One Community has grown nearly every year. She’s anticipating turnout for this year’s events to be higher than ever before. And for a librarian eager to help people find enlightenment through books, that’s a very exciting prospect.
“It’s so rewarding,” she said. “There’s nothing better than seeing people come in and being like, ‘I love this book so much.’ And to really be able to engage in a meaningful conversation about it is great.”
More information about One Book One Community, including details about the events, can be found at the Summit County Library’s website, youseemore.com, or at the Park City Library’s website, parkcitylibrary.org.
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