July 24, 2017

Libraries Welcome Writers in Residence

Libraries have always been second homes to many writers. Two programs are hoping to further encourage that relationship, starting this fall and into the future. The Public Library of Cincinnati’s Writer-In-Residence program and the CHP in the Stacks residency program from publishing company Coffee House Press (CHP) will give select writers stipends to do their work in a library while helping publicize that library’s resources to the community.

Public Library of Cincinnati

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Foundation launched its first ever writer-in-residence program this year for writers who live in southwest Ohio.

According to director Kimber L. Fender, who came up with the idea, she was inspired by the artists’ residency programs that were found in local museums. She decided that having a residency program of its own was right in line with how the library had always supported writers in the area.

“I think it lets us really show that we support writers in our community and that we are interested in local writers, local authors, local content—that we are a place for literacy in the community,” she said.

Over a dozen writers applied before the August 31 deadline, submitting works from poetry to nonfiction to works of journalism. The library hopes to announce its chosen writer-in-residence by the end of September.

The writer will be given a $10,000 stipend and required to conduct a writer’s workshop, speak at four community events, and participate in select library promotions. Because of a generous donation by a local philanthropist, Naomi Gerwin, the library plans to continue the writer-in-residence program for three years.

“We’re really excited. There has been so much interest in this. We’re looking forward to picking the first writer-in-residence and building a successful program that will hopefully last for many, many years,” Fender said.

For now, Fender said, this will be a learning year for the library to see what works and what doesn’t for the next year’s residency.

CHP in the Stacks

Coffee House Press, a publishing company based in Minnesota, has arranged for novelist and essayist Valeria Luiselli to be a writer-in-residence in New York City’s Poets House starting in October. It is part of the firm’s CHP in the Stacks program, launched over a year ago, which creates residencies in Minnesota libraries with the help from a grant by the McKnight Foundation.

The Reed Foundation Library and Margo Viscusi Reading Room at Poets House

The Reed Foundation Library and Margo Viscusi Reading Room at Poets House

This is the first time CHP in the Stacks has placed a writer in another state as part of the program’s expansion to produce more library residencies across the United States, and to create a program to serve as a model for other libraries.

“What we hope to do is to inspire other libraries to collaborate in this way, in a way that provides the writer and artist space and time to work on their own project and create something that helps promote the library and the great things that libraries are able to do for people,” said Jay Peterson, CHP’s project manager.

CHP hopes that by creating residencies in libraries, it might publicize resources specific libraries offer, such as unique collections that might often be overlooked.

In the case of placing a prose writer like Luiselli in Poets House, CHP publisher Chris Fischbach said he wants it to highlight how collections of poetry should be viewed as a resource for all types of writers, not just poets. At the same time he hopes the library’s location will speak to Luiselli’s fascination with city landscapes.

“Valeria is very interested in architecture, cities, spaces, urban landscapes, which she writes about in a very fascinating way in her essay collection, Sidewalks. We hoped that she would also be interested in the building, the location, and its part in the redevelopment of downtown Manhattan,” he said.

Her residency will culminate with a public presentation and reading on October 21st at the library.

CHP is looking for more writers and libraries throughout the U.S. to collaborate with for future residencies.

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