For libraries, it is the best of times, and the worst of times. And for author Jon Katz, it is the best time to be talking about them.
The popular author of over a dozen books on dogs, and the mastermind behind The Bedlam Farm Journal, came to Scituate Town Library last week to discuss his travels to the 12 different libraries he had visited in the past few months, and the struggles associated with each.
“You see how important [libraries] are when you go and visit them,” Katz said in an interview before the library talk. “They’re busy, evolving for different functions … I think they are busier and more relevant than ever, and I’m not sure that reality has caught up with people.”
Katz’s passion for libraries stems from his own history with them, he told locals, and specifically from a librarian that encouraged him to write.
Although the book tour was primarily to discuss his new book, “Rose in a Storm,” having that discussion at libraries, and not at book stores, was significant.
“I think it’s very important for people in writing and publishing to join the struggle a bit, because that’s where stories live, so I feel a great responsibility to do that,” Katz said. “Without some sort of intervention for the public, they’re just going to get chipped away and chipped away.”
As such, on his own time and his own dime, the upstate New York writer traveled to the coastal community to discuss the changes in culture he so infamously writes about.
“He’s doing it support of libraries,” said Scituate librarian Susan Frankel, who organized the event. “He came up with this idea himself…no one is sponsoring it. [He is just going to the libraries where] people wrote to him.”
The talk centered mostly on Katz’s work, specifically his most recent books. Katz also discussed the Jeff Bridges movie “A Dog Year” made from one of his books, and the odd circumstances surrounding the making of the movie.
“It was a very strange experience for me, and it began with Jeff Bridges coming into my house with two trash bags, asking, ‘Where are your clothes,’” Katz said. “He said, ‘I want to be authentic.’ So he went up to my closet, took all my clothes and stuffed them into two garbage bags…
He said he’d return them, which was a lie,” Katz said with a smile.
Katz encouraged residents to lobby for their libraries to their local governments. In an era where the government spends so much bailing out banks and automakers, the government needs to know libraries are worth saving too, Katz said.
All in all, Katz felt the tour brought attention to the ailing communities, a sentiment he summarized on his blog a day after the event.
“Nearly 1,000 came out to meet me and [my wife] Maria this week and to talk with us about books, reading, and the importance of libraries in our lives,” Katz wrote on his blog. “I hope we made some noise for libraries, and focused some attention on their plight. More than ever, I could see what libraries mean to people, and to me.”