A touch of wizardry to support her library

By Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / March 7, 2010

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HULL - Calliope Pina Parker is a sixth-grader who reads as many as 10 books a week and favors Harry Potter. She dresses as Potter characters for Halloween, plays Potter trivia with friends, and regularly revisits the series - all seven books and 4,167 pages.

Calliope is also an avid user of libraries, borrowing from across the region and frequenting branches throughout the South Shore on her way to and from school, ballet, and karate practice. So it came as a particular blow when budget cuts in Hull not only sheared the local library’s funding and hours but also cost the town its state certification last month.

“Now people from Hull can’t go to any other library,’’ said Calliope, whose card is no longer welcome at many other certi fied libraries.

Wanting to do something about it, the 11-year-old organized an all-day reading of the J.K. Rowling book that started it all, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’’

Yesterday’s readathon and bake sale, with wizardly cupcakes and “magic wand’’ frosted pretzel rods, raised awareness about the library’s circumstances and collected money for the nonprofit Friends of the Hull Public Library.

While keeping up with schoolwork at the South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, Calliope found a location, publicized the event with fliers, phone calls, and e-mails, and organized a network of readers that extended well beyond her circle of friends.

The schedule of participants filled a grid that stretched across three poster sheets at the Weir River Estuary Center. It included the names of two selectmen, provided flexibility for drop-ins, and allowed readers to go at their own pace - some took a page, some half a chapter.

“It’s a great idea. Calliope really handled it herself. We were there to help her when she asked for it, but she really has put it together herself,’’ said Lindsay Clinton, a friend of Calliope’s mother, Jenn Pina, and a board member of Hull Performing Arts, which helps manage scheduling at the Weir River center.

Calliope had been thinking about organizing a reading marathon since January, when her dad, Mark Parker, brought the family to see a friend participate in the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s annual reading of “Moby-Dick’’ - not yet one of Calliope’s favorites. But she appreciated the experience, and thought about arranging her own.

“It started as an idea for a sleepover, but I figured me and my friends would probably stop reading and start talking instead,’’ she said yesterday, during an interview while a participant read.

After the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners voted Feb. 4 to strip Hull’s certification, Calliope decided to stage the daytime readathon as a library benefit, and in the process fulfill her school’s community service requirement.

She planned the event at a time of strain for libraries throughout Massachusetts, as the recession has cut into state and municipal tax revenues.

Nearly one in three communities in the state this year failed to meet minimum requirements set by the Board of Library Commissioners, primarily because they did not spend enough of their budgets on libraries. Ninety-seven communities applied for waivers to stay certified, and only Hull was denied.

The board decertified Hull last month because the town had cut its library budget disproportionately to other town services by a significantly wider margin than anywhere else in Massachusetts.

“It was a huge cut,’’ said George T. Comeau, chairman of the state board, who is optimistic Hull will restore funding - if not this year, then next. “We feel terrible about Hull, but at the same time very hopeful. We’ve never seen a community lose a library certification and never come back into the system. They usually come back stronger.’’

Enter Calliope to spur the rally for a comeback.

She showed poise as project manager for yesterday’s event, but she also exhibited some 11-year-old energy while trying to rally passersby for the cause.

In between shifts reading and staffing the snack table, she led a group of friends in cheers, most of them clad in Hogwarts garb.

“Go, go Gryffindor!’’ they called, doing the wave for motorists on George Washington Boulevard, next to a sandwich board advertising the event. “Harry Potter! Woo!’’