Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Creating Cohesive Community through Shared ReadingA Case Study of One Book Nova Scotia

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Creating Cohesive Community through Shared ReadingA Case Study of One Book Nova Scotia

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background

One Book Nova Scotia follows the One Book, One Community (OBOC) model that grew out of a 1998 Seattle-based program. OBOC programs represent an intersection of traditional forms of reading and reading practices with the communication technologies of the twenty- first century and are one type of "Mass Reading Event" (or MRE), a term coined by Fuller and Rehberg Sedo ("A Reading Spectacle" 5). MREs are large one-time or annual events that promote shared reading on a wide scale, often through new technologies. OBOCs are the current-day evolution of the seventeenth-century literary society and the contemporary book club and, as such, borrow certain key practices from them. Chief among these is the fostering of discussion, a tendency to focus on personal interpretations of texts, and (perhaps most importantly) the creation of community through this book-focused interaction. What differentiates the MRE and, by extension, OBOC programming, from its antecedents is the use of digital technologies to unite geographically disparate people in virtual communities, i.e., people who are not necessarily living in the same community and who may never meet, through the practice of shared reading.

Begun in 2012, One Book Nova Scotia is organized by Libraries Nova Scotia, and is described on the program's website as "a province-wide community reading event for adults." The One Book Nova Scotia website states that the program has four goals:

1. to encourage reading and contribute to the development of a reading culture in Nova Scotia;

2. to create opportunities for social interaction and community development;

3. to support life-long learning;

4. to allow those in the literary community to work together and develop stronger relationships.

In 2012, the "one book" was Nova Scotia author Leo McKay Jr.'s 2004 novel Twenty-Six, the story of a mining disaster in a small Nova Scotia town, inspired by the Westray mining disaster of 1992. In 2013, the selection was Toronto-based author Alissa York's 2011 novel Fauna, about a small group of people with diverse backgrounds who share a common love for Toronto's urban wildlife. In both 2012 and 2013, formally programmed events included the book announcement and launch, a series of author readings, and book discussions. Participants in 2013 were also encouraged to utilize Twitter as a mechanism for discussion and as an information hub for the program.

This paper analyzes the success of the One Book Nova Scotia program in achieving its goals of developing a reading culture and community in the province of Nova Scotia, based on the findings of a participant survey and an analysis of related Twitter discussions, and concludes with some recommendations to improve the effectiveness of future programs. Although the findings of our analysis are specific to the One Book Nova Scotia program, our recommendations should be applicable to similar OBOC reading programs.

Literature Review

The practice of reading in groups is certainly not new, and descriptions of reading groups have been documented since the Middle Ages. Until the latter half of the nineteenth century, literary societies, reading societies, book societies, and book clubs were still primarily male- dominated. This changed in Europe and North America following the Industrial Revolution, when middle-class women gained more leisure time and began forming literary societies with mainly female membership. Generally, these women were white, educated, and middle class (Rehberg Sedo, "Cultural Capital").

In Reading Beyond the Book, Fuller and Rehberg Sedo demonstrate that book clubs are modelled on familial reading sessions, where discussion focuses upon subjective personal interpretations and reactions to the text. Massive Reading Events extend this familial (as opposed to academic) reading style into a new media environment. The first true MRE emerged in 1998, when Nancy Pearl and Chris Higashi created a citywide program called "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book. …

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