Put away your stereotype of a day at the public library as a boring trudge through dusty books. The area’s two libraries - Blount County Public Library on Cusick Street and the Mary E. Tippett Memorial Library in Townsend - may be the best time you’ve had all summer.
After all, where else can you explore the depths of the ocean while learning about the future of our shores, immerse yourself in the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and do a little shopping for books, DVDs and CDs of your own?
These are just the “special” events at area libraries. In addition, the Blount County Public Library has its summer reading program in full swing, with prizes to be won for the children and discussion groups for adults.
Oceaneering founder to discuss shoreline future
With the recent national news focused on the remedy attempts for the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf, much speculation is traded around morning breakfast, coffee breaks and dinner conversation about a quick and workable resolution for containing the spill.
Oceaneering International, Inc. -- a company contracted by BP and other major corporations of the world when work is required at depths exceeding 5,000 feet - has a local connection. The co-founder of the company lives in Townsend.
John T. (Johnny) Johnson, now retired, is co-founder of Oceaneering International, Inc., which is located in more than 68 locations in 21 countries and employing 7,900 people. He sold his share of the company although he continues as a board member and senior vice president for Oceaneering, which has a net earned income of $39.2 million on revenue of $435.2 million.
Johnson will give a presentation, “Exploring the Ocean Depths: Past, Present and Future,” at 7 p.m. on July 13 at the Blount County Public Library.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Johnson says that he and a buddy lettered in swimming and wanted to meld their careers into something they could do in the water. Johnson was co-founder of World Wide Divers and also of Oceaneering International, Inc. In addition to work underwater, the companies offer technologies, robotics, products and services for subsea projects as well as projects in outer space. The company develops space suits for NASA as well as robotic equipment.
During his presentation, Johnson will talk about the history of the industry, its past, present and future.
Shakespeare on the lawn to feature ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Tom Parkhill appreciates the audiences when he brings the Tennessee Stage Company to play Maryville. An audience of 300 to 500 typically show up to sit on the lawn at the Blount County Public Library and listen to Shakespeare, an act of dedication not lost on the company’s artistic director.
Performing Shakespeare on the lawn can be tough, said Parkhill, but the audience always makes it worth the effort.
The company will bring a cast of 19 actors to the Blount County Public Library lawn for a 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 26, production of Romeo and Juliet. “We usually have between 300 and 500 folks who attend the play out on the lawn,” community outreach coordinator Joan VanSickle Sloan said.
Parkhill said it is an interesting dichotomy performing outside on the lawn. “It is harder physically to play it on the lawn. There are no trees for shade, it is usually sunny and hot, and there is no raised stage,” Parkhill said. “But the audience always makes it worth it. We have been doing this for four years, and every year it has been a wonderful audience.”
Parkhill said audiences at the library are always very attentive and responsive to the actors. “The interplay between an audience and the actors is vital to how the play goes. An audience that is alive and responsive and laughing at jokes and enjoying the play makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “Every year when we come to Maryville, the audience has been fantastic, appreciative and responsive and that makes it so much fun. As soon as an actor responds to the audience response, they have more fun so therefore the energy of the play rises.”
The artistic director, who directs and produces “Romeo and Juliet” for the company, said outdoor productions can also be difficult verbally.
“Shakespeare is a highly verbal playwright. The language or words of the play are always challenging outdoors. One thing we always do with our outdoor productions is try to see how the physicality of play helps reinforce the language and story. We cut the play a little more than we might in a different environment,” he said. “We try to make sure the story comes through loud and clear.”
Sometimes that means taking Shakespeare’s beautiful language and pairing it down, said Parkhill, something Shakespeare purist aren’t always happy about.
“Outdoors, telling stories is the important thing. We try to make sure we are clearly letting people follow the action of the play.”
Parkhill said one aspect of this production that will be different is how the actors do the first half of the show. “We’re approaching the first half as a comedy. There is a whole lot in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that is very funny. It’s a tragedy, and everyone dies in the end, but we forget that it is halfway through play before someone dies. Up until then, it’s a romantic comedy. There are some very funny scenes,” Parkhill said. “Romeo was mooning over this other girl, meets Juliet and moons over her. His friends are needling him about the way he falls in love so quickly. There are some very funny scenes in first half.”
VanSickle Sloan said there will be a special treat for folks who come early. “This year, the Society for Creative Anachronism is going to do dueling demonstrations from the Renaissance before the play starts,” she said.
VanSickle Sloan said fans of Shakespeare are also being encouraged to sound like him.
“For the second year, we’re sponsoring Talk like Shakespeare Day. People are invited to speak in the manner of the Bard all day long that day to recreate the era of Renaissance England,” she said.
A display in the lobby has different words people can use when speaking in the manner of the Bard. “They even have suggestions on even how to insult someone in the manner of the Bard,” VanSickle Sloan said.
Shakespeare on the lawn is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, who also help work the event. The group’s primary funding comes from the Friends of the Library book sale that they have four times a year.
While the Tennessee Stage Company regularly performs on Market Square in Knoxville, those who attend the performance the last few years in Maryville enjoy being on the library lawn. “They say they really appreciate being able to sit on the lawn at the library instead of on hot concrete and they appreciate having it available in Blount County,” VanSickle Sloan said.
Audience members are asked to bring a lawn chair and water or cool drinks. No alcohol allowed on the grounds.
Rain date for the production is 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10.
Build your own library and help public ones
Book and media lovers can build their own libraries and help out public libraries in Maryville and Townsend next week. The deals will be incredible as two separate events offer an opportunity to shop for real bargains.
The Blount County Public Library in Maryville and the Mary E. Tippett Library in Townsend are both sponsoring separate book sales to help fund their programming. The quarterly Friends of the Library book sale in the basement of the Blount County Public Library is July 15, 16 and 17.
Books to Go in Townsend offers not only a book sale, but a chance for folks to meet and speak with local authors, such as Dr. Bill Bass and Dr. Lin Stepp. Books to Go will begin at 9 a.m. daily, July 16 and 17.
Jane Bennett, a member of the Blount County Friends of the Library said the Friends have been busy organizing and sorting books for the quarterly sale. “Every Tuesday, people with Friends of the Library come and they get sections to organize. Someone will get Travel, someone else will get Biographies and so forth. The men will cart the books back to the table, and the persons in charge of specific sections puts the books where they go,” she said.
In the days just before a quarterly sale begins, the activity downstairs is frantic. “The Tuesday before the sale, the floor is teaming with people. Everyone is down here working,” Bennett said.
This month there are new incentives to get people involved in Friends of the Library. “We’re giving out free book marks and a cup of coffee for everyone who joins Friends of the Library,” she said. “There are 120,000 people who live in Blount County, and we have 1,100 Friends of the Library. That isn’t enough.”
Ruth Butterfield, a two-year member of Friends of the Library, said she enjoys being able to do something helpful at the library. “And you always meet wonderful people,” she said.
Carol Trammell of Louisville said the group normally sells between 8,000 and 15,000 items during each quarterly sale. “I just love being surrounded by books, helping to keep the library going and helping provide the library what they need to serve the community,” Trammell said.
Sandy Goodson is a board member with Friends of the Library and is often amazed by the sheer number of people on the first day of the sale. “Typically we will have a long line of people,” on the first day, she said.
Harry Downey of Louisville has volunteered for three years with Friends of the Library and is the incoming treasurer for the board. “I like the library. Hauling the books may not been the most fun, but this not a hard job. It is fun to do.”
Friends of the Library members pay dues of $12 a year, work shelves of books in the basement for the quarterly book sales, stock shelves on the main library floor, serve on the board, do a newsletter and publicity for sales. In addition, Friends maintain the website, Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as donate and buy books at sales.
This quarter’s book sale will feature more than 40,000 volumes with prices from $2 down to free of charge. Collectibles are a little more expensive. Other items for sale include CDs, DVDs, videos and some video games.
Featured specials this quarter include American Heritage magazines, over 90 How to Write and Publish books, Christmas in July books, collectibles like a 1940s edition of Alice in Wonderland, Martin L. King editions and plenty of children’s books and intact puzzles.
For folks who want the chance to speak with local authors like Dr. Bill Bass or Dr. Lin Stepp, take a short drive up to Townsend for the “Books to Go” tent sale of new and used books from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 16-17.
The tent sale will be situated directly behind BankEast near the IGA in Townsend, to benefit the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library.
Stepp, author of “Tell Me About Orchard Hollow,” will sign her book from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday, July 16.
“She has used Townsend as the setting for this book,” Mary E. Tippett library director Mary Newman said.
Bass from the University of Tennessee Body Farm fame and author of “The Bone Thief,” will sign his new book from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 17.
This sale offers paperbacks, hard back books, cookbooks, children’s books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, travel books, gift books, etc. Questions/book donations welcome leading up to the sale. Call 865-448-1441 for additional information about donations.
Newman said this is the first book sale the “Friends of the Mary E. Tippett Memorial Library” have done.
“All I can say is that it is very nice of them to put on another fundraiser for us. This will be their third fundraiser this year,” she said. “In the spring, they do a golf tournament and, in the fall, their members work a hamburger booth at the Fall Festival to bring in money.”
Newman said there will be a large selection of items, including hard cover books, paperback books, cook books, travel and audio books, DVDs and CDs.
The Friends have a long history of helping support the library. The Friends of the Mary E. Tippett Library was formed when library was created in 1997, and it was started as a fundraising group for the library, Newman said.
Newman said the summer reading program for Mary E. Tippett library also kicks off this week. “Our summer reading program begins Thursday July 8, and will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. each Thursday in the month on July 8, 15, 22 and 29,” Newman said. “The program is for children ages 3 to 11. On July 29, the friends sponsor our picnic at Townsend City Park where we give out awards.”
For information on the Books to Go or the Friends of the Library in Townsend, call 865-448-1441.