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Books Sandwiched In at the Library series features themed months, political debate

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As the Fall Books Sandwiched In series at noon at the Schenectady County Public Library begins Monday, longtime fans of the program might notice a few changes.

We wanted to broaden our audience and not just do book reviews, said Geri Mulligan, program chair and a volunteer with the Friends of the SCPL. So we added poetry, political debate and are now doing themed months.

The series began over 10 years ago and began with reviews of mostly non-fiction books. But over time it evolved into forums with local authors talking about their own books; discussions on criminal matters; talks about children’s books or even classic novels like Moby Dick; and an attempt last year to do an opera, which failed due to the pandemic, Mulligan said. Theme months now include November as history month and March as science month.

Mulligan said there are eight people on the series committee, with each member choosing a month or two to organize what will be presented.

The free program runs every Monday, the Central Library is open, lasts about an hour, and takes place in the McChesney Library Room. When the program started and why it is so named, people brought a little food and there was light refreshments.

Not anymore, said Bill Levering, one of the committee members. But there is a loyal following.

Attendance varies from around thirty people to around a hundred.

The subject is everything, Mulligan said.

Levering is also one of the organizers of the program and took September.

I had presented science fiction before, but this is my first time doing the organization, he said. I know a lot of people so it didn’t take long. But I wanted to mix it up a bit so that it was different from normal.

On Monday, the work of poet Robert Frosts will be read along with fan commentary.

Frost is a perennial favorite, so picking him was a no-brainer, Levering said.

On September 20, Levering, a Democrat, and Cathy Lewis, a Republican and Schenectady School Board member, as well as a frequent series organizer, will discuss Deirdre McCloskeys’ book Leave Me Alone and Ill Make You Rich.

Library staff will discuss children’s books on September 27 and how the 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 October 4 with Jim Tracy, author of Juror of Silence, on Adirondack serial killer Robert Garrow. An award-winning local journalist who worked for 10 years with The Post Star of Glens Falls, Tracy has spoken often about the affair in historical societies.

On October 18, Joe Bruchac, a Native American from the Abenaki tribe and acclaimed children’s author, 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 General Ulysses S. Grant. It was Parker who drafted the official terms of surrender which were presented to General Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox courthouse in 1865.

On October 25, Michael Kagan, a Bethlehem High School graduate and turned law professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, will give a virtual talk on his efforts to stand up for children and families struggling against eviction, something detailed in his 2011 book, The Battle to Stay in America. Kagan was also a 2019 plaintiff in one of the lawsuits that prevented the Trump administration from including a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

The series will take place live and also via Zoom. People will be required to wear vaccinated or unvaccinated masks and chairs will be arranged based on social distancing.

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