That’s why the Trumbull Library One Book, One Town program remains strong as it enters its seventh year of existence in March 2016.
This year the library system will be building its monthlong program around Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See — the winner of the 2014 National Book Award, the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The heavily acclaimed World War II-set novel was the perfect source material to unite residents of all ages and backgrounds, according to Jackie Carlino, the library’s program coordinator, and Donna Soucy, the library’s head of collections.
“It’s almost impossible to pick a book that’ll appeal across the board — a book with themes that both children and adults can relate to and want to discuss,” Soucy said.
“A lot of people have read this book but few have had the opportunity to talk about it with others, and this gives residents that opportunity — a chance to talk face to face with people you’ve never met before who want to explore this world the author’s created and delve deeper into its many wonderful themes,” she said.
“There’s nothing else quite like it, and when it works, it’s a great thing,” she said. “You get to know people through it; you get to hear how they’ve interpreted the material and what they think of it.”
Carlino stressed that the March schedule will draw in people who have read the book and people who haven’t.
Before the war, the novel’s Paris-born protagonist, Marie-Laure, suffers from rapidly deteriorating eyesight before becoming blind due to cataracts at the age of 6.
To engage with that topic from the book, the library will host a lecture featuring a braille expert, a touch tank from the Maritime Aquarium, and a seeing eye dog exhibit.
“Blindness is a challenge for Marie but it’s never presented as a setback, and we wanted to engage with that part of the story and build some programs from that,” Carlino explained.
“She touches mollusks in the book, and that’s where we got the idea for the touch tank,” she said.
Another part of the story that will be covered in historical lectures and exhibits is Paris in 1934 — before it was occupied by Nazi troops — as well as what the city and the rest of France looked like during its World War occupation.
The time period and the setting will also be explored in several programs and discussions, including a field trip to the Neue Galerie in New York City.
“This will be the first time taking One Book, One Town out of Trumbull, which should be interesting,” Soucy said. “We’re going down to 5th Avenue in the city to see real paintings that tie into the World War II theme of art stealing and depict what it was like to live during that time. …
“We try to create something new every year,” she added. “This will be the first time a bus trip, or a field trip, will be incorporated into our calendar.”
That part of the program will include a private tour as well as a lunch that features Austrian pastries and food.
Speaking of food, culinary students from Trumbull High School will be making their own French pastries that will be served during a luncheon at the library.
Beyond the high school, Carlino and Soucy believe that the One Book, One Town program touches every part of town.
“From the schools to the businesses to the foundations, everyone finds a way to engage with the material and come up with a program that brings insight to its readers,” Carlino said. “The historical society, the nature and arts center, the high school’s culinary program, the senior center, Trumbull TV — everybody gets involved, and that’s what makes it very special.”
“We’re always thinking of ways to take advantage of everything Trumbull has to offer and build something in town that people have never seen before,” Soucy added. “It’s our way of saying, ‘Hey, these resources are out there, let’s come together and use them.’”
The whole month gives residents exposure to things they didn’t know existed in town, Carlino said.
“That’s one of the many unanticipated benefits,” she said. “The challenge is we usually come up with too many ideas and have to cut things out — we have to be realistic about the actual interest and the space we have to do it in.”
Soucy said they’ve gotten better every year about covering every element of the selected book.
“It’s a real juggling act,” Carlino added. “Luckily, we have all these tremendous partners who volunteer their space to make it all happen; we couldn’t schedule all of it on-site even if we wanted to — there’s already so much going on here on a daily basis.
“That’s why it’s important to have other partners in town and take advantage of everything they have to offer, like the nature and arts center’s geocaching event at Old Mine Park.”
Can you hear this?
Thanks to the community involvement, Carolino and Soucy are able to plan events like the TCTV’s podcast seminar which will guide participants through how to create their own personalized radio channel.
“In the book, the character builds a crystal radio — and that’s a pivotal moment in the story — so we knew we wanted to build a program around that specifically,” Carlino explained.
The event will be labeled “Make Your Own Crystal Radio” when the March schedule comes around, but it’ll be rooted in modern technology.
“We realized, having done the biography of Steve Jobs as our book two years ago, that older technology like the crystal radio can be subbed in for newer technology, which in this case is podcasts,” Soucy said. “What we’re really trying to get at is what it would be to create something like a crystal radio at such a young age, and then connect it to what kids would be doing today if they were in a similar situation.”
“We’re always looking for new ways to connect to the book — its characters, the time period, where it is set,” Carlino added.
To select a title for One Book, the 12-member committee has a first round of suggested submissions or recommendations that get whittled down into a manageable list of about 12 to 15 different books.
During that second discussion, a vote is held to continue the shrinking process. The final stage concludes with a vote that’s held at the end of the summer.
“That’s when we need to have a clear sense of what book we’re going to build the program around the following spring,” said Soucy.
“The voting process is very fun; we have very lively discussions about what would work and why,” she added. “It’s very democratic — other libraries don’t get to vote.”
Carlino said she’s never voted on the actual winner until this year.
“No matter what book is selected, we all embrace it as our own,” she explained. “Once we get the title, we hit the ground running.”
“We like to alternate between fiction and nonfiction if we can,” she added.
Soucy said the field trip could become a routine part of the monthlong celebration.
If it doesn’t become an annual tradition, it will most likely rank next to other past highlights, like the Civil War re-enactment that was created with the help of the Trumbull Historical Society when the library system named the novel Cold Mountain as its One Book, One Town selection.
“I think it’ll be wildly popular,” she said of the trip.
An annual highlight Carlino looks forward to is the debate between the St. Joseph High School and Trumbull High School debate teams.
“It kicks everything off,” she said. “And the Yale debate team is there to judge, so that’s exciting.
“It’s always the first event and it’s always well attended,” she added. “And it gives the kids great experience to debate in front of professionals, which is an experience they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
For this coming year’s calendar, the debate will be held on March 2.
Following it will be a bevy of other programs that fill the month to a brim, including a birds of prey exhibit, a 1940s big band, a family movie night featuring 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a French luncheon.
“The bird of prey connects to the book, which has an Audubon element to it, and will appeal to all ages,” Carlino said.
“We want the library to be the place in town where people can come and engage themselves with enrichment programs,” she said. “That’s why we exhaust ourselves in March with having a program almost every day of the month. It’s exhausting but thrilling.”
For more information and for a full calendar listing, go to the library’s website, www.trumbullct-library.org, or call 203-452-5197.