United We Read hopes to bring county together through reading
Salt Lake Library Director Jim Cooper reads “A Man Called Ove,” the book for the first United We Read. (Liz Sollis/Salt Lake County Library Services)
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Salt Lake County Library Services is hoping to bring residents and community together through the shared experience of reading the same book in United We Read. Over the next few months, residents are encouraged to read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman and participate in programs and events based on the book.
This is the first year of United We Read. In years past, libraries have participated in One County, One Book. However, this was the first year every library in the county was involved in planning the initiative.
“We just wanted to make sure we provided the community with the opportunity to come together,” said Liz Sollis, marketing and community manager for the Salt Lake County Library Services. “We felt the best way to do it is to make sure the three main public libraries within Salt Lake County were providing a similar user experience no matter what library they went to.”
“A Man Called Ove” tells the story of a cranky yet sad old man who is forced to interact with his chatty and lively new neighbors after they accidently flatten his mailbox. Sollis said it was chosen to be the United We Read book because of its themes of unity.
“We know the election year has been very divisive and we wanted to find something that was really unifying. We read several books and decided this book, it has a sense of community and it provided a lot of elements that I think, if you’re in a community, it’s hard not to experience,” Sollis said. “The other thing we wanted to promote was kindness. This book, we felt also encourages and promotes kindness. It shares examples of kindness.”
The United We Read website, www.unitedwereadslc.org, will provide a place for readers to connect and share their experiences reading the book, including examples of kindness they’ve either received or given.
Sollis said the book is also a fairly easy read.
“We wanted to find a book that wouldn’t be too difficult to read. Sometimes books are selected that are real deep topics and really long,” Sollis said. “We wanted a book that was right in the middle that connected with a lot of people and where people could relate to the situation.”
In order to accommodate the number of people who will be reading the book, all libraries have increased the number of copies of the book, both in paper copies and in electronic copies.
“Additionally, at the different branches, we’re also giving away some books through programs. The books are first come, first serve, but the idea is once you read it, you share it with someone else,” Sollis said. “There will be free copies of the book floating around and there will be copies people can check out.”
The official launch for United We Read was on Jan. 18 but different libraries will be doing programs related to the book through May. There will also be a screening of a Swedish movie based on the book in February.
“We’re going to be doing classes on auto mechanics. We’re going to be doing classes on bike repair. We’re going to do classes on suicide prevention. We’re going to have classes on cooking. We’re funding a variety of classes that we can offer,” Sollis said. “There will be book discussions in addition. Many of the branches do book clubs so we’ll have books for the book discussions. There will be a variety of programs that tie into the money topics in the books.”
Sollis advised residents to be patient when they wait to get a copy of the book, since they will be promoting the book throughout the entire county.