COLUMN: Literary conspiracy celebrates reading

The librarians are all reading. One looks up, smiles, and tells you that she can help you at 11:21. She suggests you pick up a magazine.

It’s Monday morning, you’re at the Library and you’ve picked out what you’d like to check out — you’ve got a couple of new novels, that hot new biography, some DVDs and CDs — and you’d like to reserve a book, so you come to the circulation desk. Or maybe you have a couple of questions about databases. Perhaps you’d like to sign your three-year-old up for Wednesday storytime, or your seven-year-old for the Halloween Howls program on the 29th.

But what’s this? The librarians are all reading. One looks up, smiles, and tells you that she can help you at 11:21. She suggests you pick up a magazine, or crack one of those books you’ve got under your arm, and then she goes back to her book. You look around, bewildered, ready to say to the closest person: Did you see that? This is outrageous! Is this how our tax dollars are spent?

And that’s when you see it: Everyone is reading. The library is full of people. Just, reading. Your mind whirls: is this some kind of strike? A practical joke? A literary conspiracy?

It’s D.E.A.R., the acronym for Drop Everything and Read (www.dropeverythingandread.com), a literacy initiative that invites everyone to do exactly that on Monday, October 28 from 11 to 11:20 a.m. It’s a way to celebrate reading during Canadian Library Month (and all the time), encouraging reading as a lifelong habit that everyone should enjoy every day.

Schools and libraries do it everywhere, with last year 65,000 students, teachers, and parents participating in the schools alone. This year, BC Minister of Education Peter Fassbender will be joining in at a Langley elementary school. More than a photo-op, though, it’s an acknowledgement that reading is important for everybody, from the baby with the board book to the grandparent with the eBook.

In the past, we’ve promoted D.E.A.R. but stopped short of joining in. This year, we’ve decided that the value of the message trumps our innate Librarian desire to be of service, and so we’ll join individuals everywhere in schools and libraries, workplaces and park benches to Drop Everything and Read.

There’s a nice irony in this for me. For all the times someone has said to me: “It must be great working at the library; you get to read all day!” and I’ve rolled my eyes (we are way too busy for that), at last I can read at work. It’ll serve as a nice reminder that I want to pick up a book or magazine or newspaper sometime during my day just for the pleasure of reading, 365 days a year.

If absolutely everyone dropped everything and read for a designated 20-minutes one day each year, we could have anarchy, it’s true. Zombies, of course (‘tis the season) could Drop Dead and Read and nobody would notice. But should the policeman stop chasing the bad guy to find out whodunit, the cook let the soup burn while he reads the latest culinary blog post, or the bus driver pull over to read On the Road making her passengers — all of them reading, of course — late for work, things could get dicey. But with a little creative common sense, we’ll start a movement.

A movement that celebrates knowledge, laughter, imagination, inspiration, and empowerment through the written word. We think that’s something worth dropping everything for.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more visit www.nelsonlibrary.ca.

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