On a recent site visit to the Cotuit Library on Cape Cod, I learned from Antonia Stephens, the library’s director, about several interesting program series. In this interview, you’ll hear directly from Antonia about these interesting programs. She will also share pro-tips for planning program series at your library.
Please tell us about the recent series that your library has hosted on a wide range of topics including music appreciation, end of life care, and Peru.
Antonia Stephens: The spring after I arrived at Cotuit, the former, well-loved, conductor of the Cape Cod Symphony—Royston Nash—passed away, and the Library received a lot of donations in his memory. Since we were in the habit of putting on music concerts a few times a year anyway, I decided to leverage those donations and apply for grants to host a two-year music appreciation series in the conductor’s honor. The idea was to present live music, workshops, lectures, films and book discussions throughout the year, featuring different genres and having some didactic element, so that the audience would learn something new, rather than just passively enjoy a concert. We ended up getting funding from two agencies—the Mid-Cape Cultural Council and the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod—for two years, which meant we were able to pay a reasonable amount to our performers. We even attracted some outside interest, with individuals and organizations collaborating with us for no cost, such as the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. Although the two years have passed, we still put our music programs under the Royston Nash Music Appreciation Series heading, and it’s likely we’ll look for more grant opportunities in the future.
Living Until the End started as just a talk about facing a life-threatening illness, but my Program Coordinator, who at age 24 suffered such an illness, decided to go further with it, eventually including a Death Café, a discussion of end-of-life spirituality, green burial options, a book discussion on Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, and a documentary viewing, among other events. It was compressed into one summer, and was attended by people who were very interested in the topics—not a lot of mildly curious folks for this one—but definitely appreciated by those who came.
Pathways of Peru was the latest version of our Wintertide Read and Ramble series, which is also a small fundraiser for the Library. It started four years ago when the former director and a Board member decided to do a variation on what the Boy Scouts in Alaska do and challenge patrons to walk a certain number of miles or read a certain number of books in anticipation of the Iditarod—they called it the Iditawalk/Iditaread. The challenge began at the beginning of January and ended in March when the official Iditarod banquet is held. Participants pledged to walk or read and were given a log to track their progress, a map of the route of the Iditarod, some reading suggestions for books about Alaska and dog sledding and an invitation to a banquet at the end of the series. We also held thematic programs throughout the weeks of the series about Alaska, dog training and even a Facetime interview with a reporter on the trail. As participants covered the miles of finished books, they would move a personalized pin along the large trail map posted in our main room. There were prizes for the first reader and the first walker to reach Anchorage, and a draw for a raffle prize for those who paid to participate (the events were open to everyone, but they didn’t get to go to the feast or participate in the raffle). Continue reading