Saturday, August 26, 2023

Unexpected Book Events: Release Party at Shadle Library, Spokane

Recently, a number of Spokane libraries underwent large renovations. The main structure may have not lost its main walls, but enough has changed that it's difficult to walk in and remember the original library. Our neighborhood library, Shadle, was one of those. Library construction is likely happening in many places outside of Spokane--adapting buildings to the changing needs of the communities they serve. Our new Shadle Library features a large indoor play area whose accompanying shrieks of delight reverberate from wall to shelf, and would have led every long-ago librarian to faint dead. Children whirling down slides in a library would have been something akin to a librarian's version of Dante's inferno.

Books now sit on portable shelving, here and there stand self-serve kiosks that provide check-out services. Of course, the days of card catalogs are long gone (I'll never get over that), but now the catalog is not only on the computers but also on large touch-screens that are attached to the ends of a few bookshelves. Checking in a book means setting it on a conveyer belt that whips it out of sight and registers your accomplishment on a screen. 

In fact, on Sundays, only a security guard mans Shadle Library, and everyone is left to use the library without the steadfast eye of a librarian. It's bizarre to me, but according to the information board, it's a cost-cutting solution, and according to my son, nothing that calls for surprise.

The previous version of the Shadle library had one meeting room that I remember. Maybe two, but I'm hard-pressed to conjure it. Now, it has several, and one very large one--all with the functionality of a university classroom. Fancy ceiling projectors, drop-down screens, microphones, surround-sound speakers, a bevy of moveable tables and chairs on wheels, as well as a computer set-up that connects to a laptop (yours or the library's) to control all of these gadgets. 

Shadle Library Event Room

Like a perfectly created conference room without stuffy carpet or generically interesting art, the large event room in Shadle Library looks more like a modernist theatre, but with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out into the surrounding park. 

Not only that but library cardholders can also use these event rooms for free. (There are a few exceptions.)

So, as soon as I knew that Unexpected Book Events would appear on October first, I reserved the large event room in Shadle Library for the book-release party. And as I have done the past three book releases, I went about creating the posters, hanging them around town, and adding the event to the various online calendars that residents and visitors sometimes check when they need activity ideas. 

Imagine my complete and utter surprise when months later, a librarian emailed me out of the blue and brought it to my attention that the book-release party could be an official library event, which would add it to the library's public event calendar and event newsletter. It also came with the added support of a person to set up the room. A person to set up the room? And with an hour of leeway included, which means I don't have to pull my wagon of things into the library six minutes before the start of the release party and set the room up with the speed of magic or Mary Poppins.

And that above graphic? All the library's doing. I didn't have to find free online design programs to do it, enter my email for a 30-day trial, spend an hour inserting images and then another hour after the program crashed my browser. I didn't have to send the order through FedEx, only to pick up my order and discover that the black for inserted graphics was a lighter black than the background black. It certainly didn't look like that on my screen. (Okay, I had already done this for the book-release party, but the above graphic I didn't do.)



I would also like to note that I'm billed as a "local author," which I haven't been before. I've lived here for thirteen years, but I don't think that you can decide when you become "local." 

My first book came out when I was in my sixth year living in Texas--three of those as a graduate student, which renders a status that makes one feel more transient than local. The Whole World at Once came out seven years into my living in Spokane, but five of those years I'd spent raising a small child, which meant I knew the neighbors, Bernie Sanders supporters, and our child's preschool teachers. 

As someone who came out of an MFA program in Texas and not the nearby MFA program, I lived not on the far outskirts of the local writer community but positively out in the boonies--all of my writing people were back in Austin. 

In 2020, Hezada! I Miss You marked ten years of living here, but the whole novel is set in the rural Midwest, which makes claiming "local writer" status seem . . . silly, even if I physically wrote the whole book in Spokane. 

But now, friends, it's 2023. Probably half of the stories in Unexpected Weather Events are set in the Northwest. The other part, of course, is in that rural Midwest that haunts all my work.

All of this is to say that the BOOK RELEASE EXTRAVAGANZA for Unexpected Weather Events will occur on October 1st, 2023 at 2 PM. Shadle Library, Spokane. And you're absolutely invited.