A Look At: Danville – San Ramon CityRead

CityReads_logoDAN-SRLSeng Lovan, organizer for Danville-San Ramon CityRead, discusses with Books in Common how the program has evolved throughout the last 10 years.

Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long have Danville and San Ramon been hosting a Community Reads event, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?
The Danville-San Ramon CityRead is our community-wide reads event for the neighboring communities of the town of Danville and city of San Ramon. In 2014, we celebrated the program’s tenth anniversary with a very special historical fiction book, Orphan Train, by the wonderful, Christina Baker Kline. She is an incredibly knowledgeable and engaging speaker whose presentation and book resonated tremendously well with our communities in Danville and San Ramon. It was a truly special event that was open to all readers throughout the San Ramon Valley and beyond.

We started CityRead in 2004 as community-wide reading events were just gaining momentum in many cities throughout the country. As we are neighboring communities, the Librarian at the San Ramon Library and myself, really felt this would be a great opportunity to work together on an amazing community building literary event for the entire San Ramon Valley.

CityRead has very much grown over the years to the point where we’ve had to move the culminating author event to a larger venue to accommodate as many readers as possible. The closing program would attract not only residents from our communities, but also neighboring cities! As the event grew, we were also able to incorporate more and more suggestions from local readers. We’ve had some wonderful author and book ideas that have come directly from patrons and participants of CityRead.

2014 was your special Tenth Anniversary program: did you do anything out of the ordinary to celebrate?
Books in Common really worked with our libraries and understood that we wanted to do something special. They were able to confirm a wonderful author, Christina Baker Kline, bestselling author of Orphan Train, for CityRead’s Tenth Anniversary. Throughout CityReads, historical fiction always seemed to be a genre that our readers really respond to and has sparked good conversations. That dialogue and community discussion is the heart of our program. In order to keep the momentum of our five-week program and further foster discussion, we also added smaller programs leading up to the author event. With Orphan Train, the San Ramon Library hosted a speaker panel about transitioning from foster care and the Danville Library brought in the Historian and Chair of Archives at the Western Railway Museum to do a visual and informative presentation about the role trains/rails have played throughout history.

What did you learn from last year’s program that is helping you this year? What are you changing, what worked well?
We’re always learning and want to keep improving and building the program. Especially in terms of logistics, we strive to make the closing event as smooth and successful as possible. The CityRead closing event with the author is held at the lovely Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center in San Ramon with capacity to seat up to 600. During the past couple of years, we’ve moved the book signing and sales to the lobby to make them more visible and help with the flow of the event. We also transitioned to open seating which has made the seating process much quicker.

What advice or tips can you share with us about hosting a community reads program?
The best advice I can provide about community reads events is to listen to your community and get their feedback and suggestions. I feel the fact that this event is so community driven has made the Danville-San Ramon CityReads very special and successful.

How has your relationship with Books In Common during the past few years been beneficial?
It has been wonderful working with Sarah Walker at Books in Common. As we’re public libraries, we are often restricted by budgets and limited resources, but she understands these restrictions and the library’s desire to offer engaging literary events for their local community. She has been wonderful at suggesting book titles, sharing our vision, and working within our means to help us develop something truly engaging for our readers and communities.

What titles have worked best for your community, and why?
Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train because they’re both compelling, well-written stories about enduring love and friendships during very significant periods in history. I think many people have experienced similar stories or connect with that time in history.

Do you have any examples of bridging diversity in a community by coming together around a book?
I think a great author and incredible story can bridge generations, cultures, and socioeconomic levels. I see it many times at our CityRead author events. When I look out into the audience, I often see different communities, varying ages, ethnicities, income levels, and reading proficiencies. It really motivates us to keep building and improving our program and shows many of our stakeholders just how much a community can come together around a book, author, or shared experience.

What are some of your fondest or most notable memories from past events?
I don’t have one specific memory, but I find the most touching, insightful, and thought-provoking moments of our CityRead events come out of the Q&A sessions between the author and audience. I’m always in awe when I see that interaction and how powerful a story can be when I hear an individual describe how connected they are to a character or place and share so much of their own story.

This entry was posted in Christina Baker Kline, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Issue #11, Jamie Ford, Orphan Train and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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