Off the shelf Oct. 10

Off the shelf Oct. 10

Mark Luetkehoelter, Librarian

Read locally. Wait… What? What do you mean read locally?

Most people today are familiar with the concept of the local food movement, the idea of obtaining food from local sources like farmer markets, community-supported agriculture organizations (CSAs), community gardens, etc. By supporting local food, we get fresher, healthier food, we use less energy to get it and we support local people who produce it. There are similar local movements (e.g. shopping locally), but one local concept people may not be familiar with yet, is reading locally.

Like the local food movement, the idea of reading locally encourages people to consider buying fiction and nonfiction titles by local authors. We get fresh, local perspectives, and we support voices that might otherwise get buried.

As big bookstores like Borders close, or Barnes & Noble slowly turns into one giant Nook station, there is a concern that smaller local writers may get lost in the marketing shuffle if the only place left to shop for books is Amazon or another large online vendor.  Local bookstores and local libraries do a good job of stocking and promoting these titles, which may otherwise get buried or lost in big mega online sites like Amazon. Independent community bookstores and local libraries not only stock local authors, but support community-supported publishers (CSPs).

In the Madison College Libraries we try very hard to feature local writers. For example, you can find books by many current and past Madison College instructors and students. Read books by Andrea Thalasinos, John Galligan, Matt Guenette, Steven Salmon, and many others. All of the Madison College Libraries have current and back issues of The Yahara Journal (808.80005 Y13), an annual collection of some of the best writing by Madison College students. A search in our library catalog on the keywords “Wisconsin author” yields almost 500 titles, with many of those being authors from the Madison area. The Madison College Libraries also have many feature and documentary films by local artists that you might have a hard time finding on Amazon. Madison College librarians can also help you access local online literary publications, such as Verse Wisconsin or Devils Lake, just to name a couple.

At this year’s Wisconsin Book Festival, which takes place in Madison, November 7-11. One of the featured writers is Richard Russo, who, along with his daughter Kate, will talk about the importance of supporting local bookstores and local writers. Russo hopes people begin to understand the implications of buying all their books through online booksellers. While he’s fine with online booksellers, he just doesn’t want things to get to a point where they monopolize all the publishing decisions.

Living in the Madison area you are blessed with a wealth of independent bookstores and various types of libraries to practice reading locally. Give it a try. To get a sense of some reading locally initiatives across the country, take a look at the site IndieBound