The Great Michigan Read Spring Tour is starting with a virtual event on April 5 hosted by the St Clair County Library. Then, Mary Doria Russell will travel for in-person events in the Upper Peninsula and finish out the tour with a virtual event on May 10 (please see the complete tour schedule here). Michigan Humanities wanted to interview two of our library partners who hosted and will host a Great Michigan Read event with author Mary Doria Russell. We interviewed Lynn Riehl from the Hamburg Township Library and Natalie Nowak from Bayliss Public Library.

The Hamburg Township Library hosted a GMR event last October 2021, and the Bayliss Public Library will be hosting their event this May. It is a great pleasure to have an opportunity to talk to our library partners participating in the Great Michigan Read tour because without them there would not be a Great Michigan Read program. Libraries across Michigan are key actors in bringing people together to experience and discuss humanities work such as the histories of our own neighborhoods and towns in Michigan. These histories can also be accessed through fictional events and characters as our GMR author Mary Doria Russell does so gracefully in her book, The Women of the Copper Country. We hope that with this interview our Michigan Humanities family can join in our excitement for the Spring Tour ahead and inspire other libraries to partner with us to hold future GMR events!!

Conversation with Lynn Riehl, Hamburg Township Library

How was the Hamburg Township Library’s experience hosting a Great Michigan Read event with author Mary Doria Russell?

Hosting a Great Michigan Read event for author Mary Doria Russell was the highlight of our adult programming year. We were proud to represent Livingston County and pleased with the number of people who attended our event. COVID made things a little uncertain as we pivoted from planning on an in-person event to a virtual one. Once the direction was finally decided upon, things moved well with the organization of the event. Working with MH was an excellent partnership that we hope to be able to do again in the future.

What were some rewarding moments in hosting this event?

First and foremost, we were thrilled to be chosen as a host library, along with our cohost library, the Pinckney Community Public Library. Being able to bring a bestselling author to our communities was a wonderful treat for them as well. Michigan topics are very popular with our patrons and being able to bring a story about a strong Michigan woman was icing on the cake! The event was very well received and Mary Doria Russell is a treat for anyone who attends one of her events.

Would you recommend other libraries in Michigan to host a Great Michigan Read event and why?

Yes, we would. As a Michigan library it is important to support programs that showcase our story and the people in it. It is also a way that a library can showcase itself within their community while reminding residents of the benefits of having easy access to a library and all the wonderful things it can offer.

Conversation with Natalie Nowak, Bayliss Public Library

Why is it relevant for the Bayliss Public Library to share the book The Women of the Copper Country with your community?

We have numerous community members and patrons whose relatives lived in the Keweenaw area during the copper mining era, so this book resonates with them on a personal level. However, at the same time, there are so many citizens and patrons here who have lived in the Upper Peninsula for all or most of their lives, yet know very little about the history of the copper mining industry here. For these patrons, The Women of the Copper Country serves as their introduction to this part of the history in the Upper Peninsula. I can also say that I have myself heard patrons tell me that they are excited that this land is the focus of this year’s Great Michigan Read. They have told me that finding a novel or film which focuses or takes place in the Upper Peninsula is difficult, so they felt proud reading The Women of the Copper Country. This novel benefits our community in more ways than one.

What are you looking forward to the most in hosting this Great Michigan Read event?

I am looking forward to the discussions that will generate from these events. I am anticipating that during our book discussion, our visit with Emily Schwiebert from Michigan Tech, and our visit with Mary Doria Russell will all culminate in thoughtful discussion and dialogue between everyone. One of the things I love about working in a library is that I work with people who have all kinds of interests and preferences. I can’t wait to hear what patrons liked, what they disliked, what they learned, and what they would like to learn more about from the film and from our guest speakers.

Michigan Humanities invites you to attend any of the GMR events, either virtual or in-person, to be part of meaningful conversations across Michigan communities and to have a chance to interact with GMR author Mary Doria Russell! Check out the entire tour here and contact GMR Director Ashley Ross with any questions.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Michigan Humanities.

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