The UniRead this past Saturday was an incredible, vibrant, and unique event. The weather was gorgeous, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, it was an utterly marvelous day for a library protest. The event hinged on this idea of having multiple readers recite the same text translated into different languages simultaneously. We chose the first chapter of the first Harry Potter as the text as there are so many great translations available and there is a built in audience/fan base both in the library world and in the wider public. The Unisphere is a great backdrop and it could not have been a more Queens event.
Getting the texts was a task in itself and we were fortunate in our contacts there. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been translated into over 80 languages. While you would think that the libraries of New York City would offer these up in the blink of an eye we only found about ten languages available on the shelves in circulation. Our good friends the dauntless workers of ILL were able to come up with another half a dozen or so as well. In the midst of the prep we came across a reference to a professor of Russian at the University of Calgary, Nicholas Žekulin who had a complete set. On an outside chance we reached out to him and he leaped to help. He has been an utter delight to work with, furiously scanning languages to match readers for us turning text around overnight. Thank you Professor Žekulin!
On the day we had readers in: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Irish, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. The readers started off together and it was an incredible babel brought to life. It was just a jumble of language, a tumble of tone and inflection. You would hear the words Dursley, or Dumbledore, pop up occasionally but mostly it was just a wonderful welter of linguistics.
This event also marked the first appearance of Bonnie the Bookworm and her nemeses the Budget Birds. Bonnie is a hard working library professional just trying to do her job, help people, and hang out with her boyfriend Carl the Caterpiller (he’s in a band…so hot). Those Budget Birds keep pecking at her, messing with her storytimes, keeping the books away, and generally stressing her out. Bonnie doesn’t want to get a pink slip and neither do you!
This was the first stunt of the season but there are others in the works, big ones, fun ones. We would love to have you come out and join us. Our events are fun, lively, literary activism. We would love to see you there.
Libraries have taken a serious hit in the budget, let’s not forget that. There is a feeling in the air that “the money will be restored”. While we should all hope for the best at all times this is no reason to be complacent. We got cuts restored for the last two years due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people. If we don’t get out there and fight for our slice of the budget pie you can bet that someone else will be trying to take it right off our plate.
Don’t let the Budget Birds peck poor Bonnie. Please join us, get a postcard in, get lots of postcards in, come out, get active.
The third 24 Hour Read In to protest budget cuts will be held on June 9th & 10th from 4PM to 4PM at the Brooklyn Public Library Central Library in Grand Army Plaza. Please join us there.