“We want to freshen up the image of the library … as the cool place that it is,” Sarah Gallagher tells me with a sideways glance. We both giggle. It’s funny, because she’s a librarian and I have a degree in literary criticism and books are a big part of our lives.
The library is our seat of action. It’s defi nitely one of the coolest places to spend a summer afternoon, and not just because you can catch a great cross breeze through all the open windows.
But we know the library isn’t exactly, you know, cool. It isn’t popular. You might not change your Facebook status update to let all your friends know you were there, and you might not Instagram the covers of each book you sign out.
But Gallagher kind of wants you to. “Libraries these days aren’t just in the walls. Lots of people who use the library regularly never come in to the building,” she says, citing the impressive catalogue of E-books readers that can be signed out directly from the library’s website. “My whole point with putting energy into social media is to bring the library out into the world and the world into the library,” she says.
Review Haiku is the library’s most recent attempt to do this. It’s a Tumblr page… /Downloads/ (http:/yukonpubliclibraries.tumblr.com/) of book reviews in the form of haikus.
When you return your book to the library, you’re invited to submit a haiku or small poem discussing the book you’ve just read. The librarians upload them to the Tumblr page (yukonpubliclibraries. tumblr.com) along with a photo of the book cover.
Each haiku is also entered into a draw to win an Acer tablet. You can enter each time you fi nish a book. “The more you read, the more ballots you can put in,” Gallagher says, also mentioning that anything at the library is eligible for review, including books on tape and DVDs.
But the project is about more than just social media presence. “Behind the scenes we know we’re manipulating people to read more,” says Gallagher, which makes us both laugh again. It’s like manipulating people to brush their teeth or go for walks. “It’s a reading incentive for adults,” she says. “Kids always get prizes for their reading.”
It’s also a heightened way for people to engage with the books they’re reading. “People want to talk about their books,” Gallagher says. “They’re talking to us all the time about their books when they return them.”
The Tumblr acts as a platform for this kind of discussion. Library staff will also be voting on the “most creative” review they receive, so there’s an extra incentive to put a little thought into it.
That being said, your review need not be a traditional 17-syllable haiku. “Some people stressed out about it,” says Gallagher. “So we’ve opened it up to short poems, one-line poems. We don’t want it to be homework.”
The responses so far have covered a real range. “Everything from ‘it was good’ to two paragraphs,” says Gallagher. “And then we’ve had some poems.”
Review Haiku runs until September 15. You can enter your haiku in the ballot box at the Whitehorse branch, through email, or in person at any Yukon library. Visit the library’s website (ypl.gov.yk.ca) for more info.
The ideal submission, says Gallagher, is short and sweet. “Like a Yukon summer.”