As the fall Books Sandwiched In noon-hour series at the Schenectady County Public Library begins Monday, longtime fans of the program might notice some changes.
“We wanted to broaden our audience and not do just book reviews,” said Geri Mulligan, chairwoman of the program and a volunteer with the Friends of SCPL. “So we added poetry, a political debate and now do theme months.”
The series began more than 10 years ago and started with reviews of mostly nonfiction books. But over time, that spiraled into forums with local authors talking about their own books; discussions about criminal cases; talks about children’s books or even classic novels such as “Moby Dick”; and an attempt last year to do an opera, which did not pan out because of the pandemic, Mulligan said. The theme months now include November as history month and March designated as science month.
Mulligan said there were eight people on the series’ committee, with each member choosing one or two months to organize what will be presented.
The free program runs every Monday the central library is open, lasts about an hour and is held in the library’s McChesney Room. When the program began — and why it is so-named — is that people would bring a bit to eat and there would be light refreshments.
“No longer,” said Bill Levering, one of the committee members. “But there is a loyal following.”
Attendance varies from about 30 people to up to 100.
“Topic is everything,” Mulligan said.
Levering is also one of the program organizers and took September.
“I’d presented sci-fi before, but this is the first time doing the organizing,” he said. “I know a lot of people so it didn’t take long. But I wanted to mix it up a bit so it will be different than normal.”
On Monday, poet Robert Frost’s work will be read with commentary from fans.
“Frost is a perennial favorite, so choosing him was a no-brainer,” Levering said.
On Sept. 20, Levering, a Democrat, and Cathy Lewis, a Republican and a member of the Schenectady school board, as well as a frequent organizer of the series, will discuss Deirdre McCloskey’s book “Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich.”
Library staff will discuss children’s books on Sept. 27 and how changes in our culture are reflected in these books, and how the library in turn has adapted.
October has three sessions that Jack Rightmyer organized. These include Oct. 4 with Jim Tracy, author of “Sworn to Silence,” about the Adirondack serial killer Robert Garrow. An award-winning local reporter who worked for 10 years with The Post Star of Glens Falls, Tracy has often spoken about this case at historical societies.
On Oct. 18, Joe Bruchac, a Native American of the Abenaki tribe and acclaimed children’s book author, as well as poet and storyteller, will present his latest book, “One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker.” Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe, was a close friend of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. It was Parker who wrote the official terms of surrender that were presented to Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Court House in 1865.
Oct. 25 will see Michael Kagan, a Bethlehem High School graduate who became a professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, give a virtual talk about his efforts to defend children and families who are fighting deportation, something detailed in his 2011 book, “The Battle to Stay in America.” Kagan was also a plaintiff in 2019 in one of the lawsuits that prevented the Trump administration from including a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.
The series will be held live and also via Zoom. People will be required to wear masks whether vaccinated or not and chairs will be arranged according to social distancing.