With the Salina Reads Kickoff Event in the history books, we took a moment to sit down with the organizer of the event and Head of Information Services, Stefanie Knopp, to discuss how it all turned out. 

With so many different programs and activities happening that day from Mad Science youth programs to an adult paint party to readings from Many & Varied Paths by local authors, there were many positive takeaways. “I think for me, it wasn’t just one thing, but it was seeing how many people were here and how many people were interested in what we were doing. And watching the different ages and the different groups all get involved with their different activities. We could tell that we had drawn interest from a lot of different people”, said Stefanie. 

Some of the more popular events of the day were the kids’ events. Jetpack Jason from Mad Science was nothing short of a celebrity. While walking downstairs to check out the program Stefanie asked one of the kids how the show was and he said, “Awesome!” unable to contain his excitement.  The Nebula Paint Party, being a last-minute addition, also had a good turnout. Stefanie explained, “Sometimes with those last-minute additions, people don’t hear about it and we don’t get as high of an attendance, but there was a large number of people there.” Stefanie enjoyed how peaceful the paint party was in contrast to the other space-themed programs.

The Kickoff has been receiving positive feedback with several people appreciating the stories from the Many & Varied Paths book that were shared. Lori, an Information Services Librarian, shared her published story. People showed interest in hearing real stories from people within the community. One of the other contributors shared his story about being in the Vietnam War, being in battle, being rescued, and how it changed the trajectory of his life.

The celebration can’t last forever and the Salina Reads team is already looking ahead to next year. They will begin by finding areas of improvement and expanding on areas of interest within the community, especially for new adult programs. “Now we have to go back to the beginning and start to think about, what comes next, what’s our title going to be? We definitely are sticking with the concept of something that will be strengthening and unifying for our community. We always keep that sort of overarching theme in mind. But what that’s going to look like exactly, we don’t really know yet,” said Stefanie. With a newer team under her belt and having taken over the program herself only a year and a half ago, there has been quite a learning curve. Stefanie and her team made the decision to push the program back three months and start from scratch. “Between everything that happened in the Kickoff event and all the things that will happen before or by the end of this series, which goes to early March, there are over 25 events scheduled. So yes, that was a lot of planning. We had the book giveaway and we gave away almost 100 books. I’ll be curious to see how the whole thing happens down the road, especially with a lot of effort from the marketing department of getting all the information out there. It’s been a lot of work for me, but also for the rest of the Salina Reads committee.”

For those that are unfamiliar with the Salina Reads Kickoff or the Salina Reads program in general, the goal of the event is to use literature as a springboard for people to learn and connect with their community. Whether that’s by reading or discussing the book, or from one of the other community-building activities. Finding a meaningful and engaging way to connect with other people in the community while hopefully learning something along the way, is the ultimate goal.

There is much more to come in the next two months. There are a number of different book discussions related to the main title,  Record of a Spaceborn Few. The author, Dan Kois, who wrote the companion non-fiction piece; will be coming for an author visit. That book is titled How to be a Family. He, his wife, and their two daughters took a year to travel and live in four different places around the world with the purpose of learning how to be a family in those cultures; what could they learn from those cultures? They learned a lot about being a family, but also what community is like in those cultures as well. 

One of Stefanie’s personal favorites is a program about natural burial and human composting happening on February 21st. “I just find the whole thought fascinating. The book, Record of a Spaceborn Few, is a science fiction book based on the premise that these humans have destroyed the Earth, so they’ve had to take all the metal and turn them into space vessels and go out into space. They’ve been there for several centuries now. So obviously, none of the original people who left Earth are living anymore. They’re out there in these space vessels and when people die, they have to do something with them. So they compost them. They don’t just launch them out into space. They actually have a system of composting them and replanting them in their gardens. Actually, that’s a thing that you can really do, human composting. There’s a company out of Seattle that does that,” Stefanie explained, “There’s also a cemetery close by that does natural burial. It’s basically no embalming; they have a natural route. There’s a gal who is one of the leaders of that cemetery organization, and she’s presented here before, so she’ll do part of the presentation on the cemetery and natural burial, and then the other part will be this virtual visit with the people out of Seattle who run a human composting company.”

When asked about her favorite part of the Salina Reads Kickoff, Stefanie had three answers. “One was being over at the Nebula Paint Party. All these people had come together and they didn’t really know each other. They weren’t really talking to each other, but they were peacefully existing in this space together. It was a nice connection experience; peaceful and relaxed. Who knows what their politics were; who knows what their personal histories were; who knows what their thoughts on different social issues are? Didn’t matter. They were all just together, peacefully coexisting in it.” Another favorite moment of hers was seeing the little boy showing his excitement after one of the Mad Science programs, and then also hearing the personal stories from Many & Varied Paths from those who were able to share. 

With about 170 participants at Kickoff Stefanie was able to see her year-and-a-half-long hard work come to fruition. With much to still learn in the coming year, she has plans to visit surrounding libraries and explore new and interesting programs to continue her goal of uniting the community through literature.

Register for the upcoming Salina Reads programs and book discussions here.