The true story of how four undocumented Mexican immigrant teenagers – given an opportunity and two amazing teachers – won First Place in a national robotics competition and bested teams from MIT and other major colleges – is not just a great tale, but one that many in Salem will soon know.
Spare Parts, by Joshua Davis, is the first selection in an innovative community reading program sponsored by the Salem Public Library Foundation.
In the short time since the Salem community was invited to read the book– readers have responded in droves. In the days following the title announcement, 57 of the Salem Public Library’s 63 copies of the print book have been checked out, according to Kate Van Ummersen, Executive Director of the Salem Public Library Foundation.
The reading project was sparked when a number of board members of the Salem Public Library Foundation noticed Community Reads programs in other places in Oregon. “Community Reads” is a model promoted by the American Library Association, among other agencies, to stimulate and involve more diverse readers and strengthen the Library’s role in the cultural life of cities. The model fosters a sense of community by bringing people together to read and discuss a common book.
After some consideration, Van Ummersen says, the Foundation agreed to support the first year’s effort with staff and fundraising activities and the City Librarian agreed to commit Library programming for the month of February 2017 to the project.
Then, “a strong committee of volunteers spent [last] winter deciding on a book, and since April we have been developing programming and outreach,” she says.
The author himself will come to Salem to present a lecture and the library is also offering DVDs of both the major motion picture based on the book and a related documentary titled Underwater Dreams.
“We also have ebooks and audio books available,” Van Ummersen says, and The Friends of the Library Book Store is offering copies of Spare Parts for sale as is Book Bin, Salem and Willamette University Book Store.
Lake Oswego, Hillsboro and Deschutes County, all veterans of community reads projects, helped get Salem’s effort started.
The selection of Spare Parts was an inspired and timely one, in the thinking of former State Librarian, Salem’s Jim Scheppke. With the changing demographics of Salem showing a rapid rise in Latino residents, Scheppke notes, “What this book teaches is that everyone, no matter what their background and culture, can excel and contribute to their community and our country.” He hopes the book will inspire thinking about how Salem is rapidly becoming a multicultural community, and will encourage readers to see the positive aspects of that.
“We see Salem Reads as an opportunity to increase the Library’s visibility, and act as a catalyst to bring the community together around shared values,” says Van Ummersen. “The committee selected Spare Parts because the book has many dimensions that will lend themselves to broad community engagement. These include education, immigration, undocumented young people, robotics, education best practices and equal opportunity for young people in general.”
The program at Salem Public Library is distinctive from other similar programs in Oregon in the way it targets the participation of young people in high schools and colleges with the goal of having a rich multi-generational experience. for everyone who participates.