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Syosset Library Holds Wrap Party for Adult Summer Reading Club

While Syosset Library has been encouraging children to read during the hottest months of the year for decades now, the adult summer reading program just made its debut this summer. For librarians Lisa Caputo and Jackie Ranaldo, the motivation to start an adult program was simple: “We know how much adults love to read, and why shouldn’t they have some fun too?” said Caputo, head of Adult Services at the library.

On Wednesday, August 18, the Adult Summer Reading Club celebrated its first Wrap-Up Party, which included refreshments, prize raffles, and a visit from critically acclaimed author Jennifer Egan. Egan read two passages from her new book, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and took many questions from attendees about her career and the enigmatic craft of writing. Fifty-five members, out of the 113 who registered for the adult summer reading program, turned out for the party.

While many people at the library contributed to the success of the new program, Caputo noted that much of the credit goes to Readers’ Services Librarian Jackie Ranaldo, who first came up with the idea for the program while still studying for her master’s degree in library science last year. What started as an idea for a student project became a reality this year, with the program helmed by Ranaldo- now a full-fledged librarian- with the help of Lisa Caputo and other librarians in the Readers’ Services department.

With the first installment of the adult program deemed a success, Syosset Library now has three distinct summer reading programs: children’s, teen, and adult. The programs also receive different names, which relate to a national theme that all library summer reading programs have the option of using. This year, the theme was water: the program names were Make a Splash (children’s). Make Waves @ Your Library (teen) and Water Your Mind (adult.)

While the librarians do their best to target the programs to each age group, the process is not without its challenges. “It’s tough; the teens are hard, because you don’t want to make it too childlike, but you don’t want to make it where they’re reading books that their parents are going to object to,” said Caputo on the subject of properly differentiating the programs. “Our teen librarians do a very good job reaching that population,” she continued.

In structure, the adult program is similar to the other programs: to receive credit for the books they read, adults submitted raffle tickets that had their names, the title of a book they had completed, how much they liked the book on a scale of 1 to 5, and optionally, a review; only in the teen program are short reviews mandatory. In addition, there were weekly prize raffles which included prizes like books, mp3 downloads, and a watering-can-styled “Water Your Mind” mug. The tickets were also used at the wrap party to enter raffles for a wide selection of prizes. A grand total of 515 raffle tickets were submitted.

The librarians wanted to make the program accessible and inviting, meaning that anything deemed a book- including audiobooks- was included. They drew the line at magazines, but the general theme was inclusiveness; Caputo said that she was in favor of patrons reading graphic novels, if that was what they were interested in.

“So far, they love it,” said Ranaldo about the patrons’ reception to the new program. While a committee of four Readers’ Services librarians will likely discuss the implementation of the program and look for ways to improve it, according to Ranaldo, everything went fairly smoothly and they intend to run the program more or less the same way in subsequent years, depending on what new ideas they may come up with along the way.

The adult summer reading program is now concluded- until next summer, of course- but the book reviews submitted on the raffle tickets will eventually be compiled into a “Patron’s Picks” booklet, which will be available at Reader Services on the second floor.

At the wrap party, after attendees had a chance to pick up some refreshments and investigate the raffle prizes on display, librarian Susan Santa introduced author Jennifer Egan with complimentary remarks about the Egan’s latest book, A Visit From the Goon Squad. Santa commented that before she had finished the book, she knew that she would have to read it again because she knew she would get even more out of it the second time. “If you haven’t read it, please do; it’s really worth your time,” said Santa before giving the spotlight to the author.

“Like so many fun projects, this one began as a way of avoiding another project- the book I hope I’m about to write now,” said Egan cheerfully. An unusual novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad contains 13 chapters from different perspectives, all of which link together in an overarching continuity but are completely different in style. Egan commented that her desire to write each chapter in a different style led to learning how to use the Powerpoint program, so she could write a chapter in the form of a Powerpoint presentation; while the presentation made it into the finished book, a chapter in the form of epic poetry was scrapped. “I’m actually a terrible poet, it turns out,” she said with a smile.

The book also features rapid jumps backwards and forwards in time, an interest that Egan attributes partially to Marcel Proust’s famed In Search of Lost Time series, which she was re-reading while at work on the novel.

Egan also explained her writing process, which involves writing everything by hand on yellow legal pads before transferring the material to the computer for editing. “I try when I’m writing original material to get into a kind of non-thinking state. I really don’t want to be thinking, I just want to sort of get into a more unconscious, rapid creating state, and see what comes out,” she said. She went on to say that many of her most innovative choices as a writer originate in this non-thinking state.

Interestingly, she noted when she works as a journalist for publications like The New York Times Magazine, she does all her writing on the computer.

In response to questions from the audience, Egan offered three main pieces of advice for writers: make writing a habit, immerse yourself in the best of the genre you plan to write, and be willing to write “really, really badly.” She commented that being willing to write badly had helped keep her in the writing habit during difficult times, and that it was perhaps a “vaccine” for writer’s block.

“It’s so much easier to build on something- even [if it is] bad and rough and crummy- than it is to pull something out of thin air,” Egan said.

She also strongly recommended joining writing groups, and reading one’s work aloud to peers.

After Egan’s portion of the event, raffle prizes were drawn: Prizes included set of Nelson DeMille Books, a set of mystery books with a canvas library tote bag, a coffee set with two “Water Your Mind” mugs with a sampling of coffee products, and books signed by authors such as Nelson DeMille, Emily Giffin and Brenda Janowitz. According to Ranaldo, the prizes were obtained through a combination of donations, including gift certificates from local businesses, and items the library already had on hand.

The following local businesses donated gift certificates for the event: Butera’s Italian Restaurant, Woodbury; Estilo Salon, Woodbury; Lonny’s Wardrobe, Woodbury; Mieka LTD, Woodbury; Optics Plus at Woodbury Common, Woodbury; Protass Gifts, Woodbury; and Shoprite, Plainview. The Reader’s Services department at Syosset Library extends thanks to all of the sponsors who contributed to making the wrap party so memorable.