Read all about it!

Sal­man Rush­die is among the au­thors who have been part of lit­er­ary pro­grams at the Cent­ral Lib­rary.

Across the North­east, lib­rar­i­ans plan pro­grams de­signed to ap­peal to a broad range of tastes.


Did you get a Nook or Kindle over the hol­i­days and it’s still in its box be­cause you don’t know how to use it and you don’t know any­body who does?

Evid­ently, your situ­ation is com­mon enough, be­cause the Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia has sched­uled a class next month in which the techno-peas­ants among us can learn how to use our elec­tron­ic read­ing toys.

The Bustleton branch lib­rary, for in­stance, has sched­uled its e-read­er train­ing for 10:30 a.m. on Wed­nes­day, March 14. Show up at the branch at 10199 Bustleton Ave. and lib­rar­i­an Kristin Sawak will not only bring you up to speed, she’ll also show you how to down­load free e-books.

It’s a pro­gram that was partly in­spired by ques­tions from lib­rary pat­rons, said An­drea Shum­sky, the Free Lib­rary’s North­east area co­ordin­at­or.

Get­ting read­ers caught up with what their e-read­ers can do is a pro­gram star­ted by staffer Jam­ie Wilson about a year ago at the Cent­ral Lib­rary at 19th and Vine streets. The Bustleton pro­gram will be the pi­lot for the North­east, Shum­sky said, adding that she ex­pects it will be re­peated reg­u­larly at the branch.

Shum­sky stressed lib­rary card hold­ers can down­load e-books from the freel­ib­ Web site. In most cases, she said, the e-books will dis­ap­pear from your read­er after three weeks. There’s no worry about re­turn­ing them.

“They just go away,” she said.

The e-read­er help is just one ex­ample of pro­grams the Cent­ral Lib­rary, the North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary and vari­ous neigh­bor­hood branches have for adults.

A lot of what the lib­rar­ies are of­fer­ing are how-to or edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams — com­puter classes, smart board tu­tori­als, stop-smoking sem­inars, busi­ness-skills work­shops, tax tips for seni­or cit­izens and garden­ing sug­ges­tions.

The North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary on Cottman Av­en­ue has a lab with 12 com­puters that are used reg­u­larly for in­struc­tion­al pro­grams, Shum­sky said. Reg­u­larly is an un­der­state­ment; the lab is in use for classes some­times twice a day, she said.

There are bi­lin­gual Chinese-Eng­lish com­puter classes and some in Span­ish and Eng­lish, too, she said. Not all pro­grams are lis­ted on the Free Lib­rary’s Web site’s events page, she said. Some are pos­ted at the branches.

Shum­sky said branch lib­rar­i­ans come up with their own pro­grams. There is some em­phas­is on chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming, which draws the big­ger audi­ences, but some branches put to­geth­er adult pro­grams.

The Fox Chase branch has a work­shop on jew­elry mak­ing, she said, and next month will host a pro­gram on the movie, Stand­ing on My Sis­ters’ Shoulders. The film, by Phil­adelphi­an Joan Sad­off, is about black and white wo­men in the civil rights era.

The Ta­cony branch hos­ted the “Fin­an­cially Hers” work­shop to help wo­men get their fin­an­cial houses in or­der. The same branch also par­ti­cip­ated in a speed-dat­ing pro­gram, Shum­sky said.

The Cent­ral Lib­rary has a March 1 in­struc­tion­al on how to get the most out of gov­ern­ment re­sources.

Of course, a lib­rary is a gov­ern­ment re­source, too. It’s one that al­most two-thirds of Phil­adelphi­ans don’t even tap, if the num­ber of people who have lib­rary cards is any in­dic­a­tion. There are about 1.5 mil­lion people in the city, but only about 31 per­cent of them have cards.

Those in the 69 per­cent on the out­side are miss­ing out on books, mu­sic, au­dio books, movies and live pro­grams — all or most of which are free. Well, maybe not com­pletely free.  Wheth­er they use the lib­rary or don’t, they pay for it with their taxes.

The biggest draws are meet-the-au­thor events at the Cent­ral Lib­rary at 19th and Vine. Read­ers can meet the people who have writ­ten their fa­vor­ite books dur­ing the more than 100 ses­sions slated every year. Most of the ses­sions are free.

Turnout is a good in­dic­a­tion of pop­ular­ity, and the av­er­age num­ber that at­tend au­thor events is about 200, said Andy Ka­han, dir­ect­or of au­thor events.

The au­thors are well known. For ex­ample, James Pat­ter­son and Sal­man Rush­die have spoken at the Cent­ral Lib­rary. Some au­thors are so pop­u­lar that the events have to be moved to lar­ger ven­ues, Ka­han said. Some events have a small charge, but tick­ets nev­er are above $15.

Former U.S. Sen. Ar­len Specter will make a stop at the Cent­ral Lib­rary at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, to pro­mote his book, Life Among the Can­ni­bals: A Polit­ic­al Ca­reer, a Tea Party Up­ris­ing, and the End of Gov­ern­ing As We Know It in a free event. Call 215-567-4341 for in­form­a­tion.

Au­thor vis­its fol­low a pretty set pat­tern in which the writers read from their work, an­swer ques­tions and sign cop­ies, Ka­han said.

The events are pop­u­lar with read­ers, Ka­han said, and the vis­it­ing au­thors are pro­mot­ing their most re­cent books, so they want to make their audi­ences happy.

More than five years ago, however, one au­thor was so late for his ap­pear­ance that Ka­han had to walk over to his hotel to ask where he was. He found him eat­ing din­ner, so Ka­han went up to him and re­minded the writer, a fresh­man U.S. sen­at­or from Illinois, that he had a speak­ing en­gage­ment.

You might have heard of the guy. His name was Barack Obama. He was tout­ing his book, The Au­da­city of Hope. ••

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus