Just under a year ago, I moved to Marion with my wife and four children and immediately began to search for ways to engage the community, for both personal and professional reasons. Our family being avid readers, one of our first stops was the Marion branch of the Smyth County Library system, and we were simply amazed with both the quality and quantity of the programs available. One excellent example is the Summer Reading Program.

This year more than 100 people entered the program and more than two dozen turned in sheets to be tabulated. I personally came in 10th place with over 30 books, but it was a distant 10th, as the winner had read almost a hundred!

As the chief of police of the town of Marion, I cannot even begin to express how vital reading generally and these activities are to a healthy community. Many of the books I read this summer dealt with community and more specifically with the disintegrating bonds of community in the modern electronic age. One author, Sven Birkerts, expressed it this way:

“As the circuit supplants the printed page, and as more and more of our communications involve us in network processes - which of their nature plant us in the perpetual present - our perception of history will inevitably alter... in the contemplation of a single volume, or mass of volumes, we form a picture of time past as growing deposit of sediment; we capture a sense of its depth and dimensionality.”

Birkerts captures an engaging reality, that books are the sediment of history, and that organizing ourselves around them gives our entire social sphere a tactile quality that simply cannot be had, perhaps anywhere else, other than a library. As I consider, as the chief of police, what I can do to engage this community, one obvious answer seems to be that I can engage our community in the place where our collective history coalesces. Perhaps together we can contemplate the volumes that form our collective identity, and in this, we may form bonds far deeper than we could have ever imagined on social media or any other of our electronically mediated platforms. I hope we bump into each other the next time you go to the library.

When I spoke with Amber Combs [who oversees the summer reading program], she wanted me to make sure everyone knows: “Our fun programs aren’t limited to just the children. The adults have all sorts of great options now. We launched 18+ Board Game Night this past spring, and now that Summer Reading is over, we are continuing that program on the third Saturday of each month from 6-8 p.m.”

“We also have the SCPL Makery, which is a monthly crafting program for adults. Registration is required due to limited materials, but we plan to have repeats of the popular crafts.”

“In addition, by popular demand, we are launching a monthly Dungeons & Dragons Game Night starting in September. The first meetup will be our character creation night on the 27th from 5-8 p.m. Check out www.smythcountypubliclibraries.net and https://www.facebook.com/SmythCountyPublicLibrary/ for more information and to stay current on all library events and happenings!”

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