A literary treasure hunt in Sudbury


First aired on Morning North (4/7/2013)

If you live in Sudbury, Ont., keep your eyes peeled this summer for treasure. Literary treasure, that is. The Sudbury Public Library has scattered 100 books all over the city as part of a new program called Book Trek. The library wants you to find the book, read it, then release it "back into the wild."

The program was designed to improve adult literacy initiatives, Michelle Fex, the outreach programs and partnerships programmer told Morning North host Markus Schwabe. The 100 books include a wide variety of formats and genres, designed to engage as many different readers as possible. "We have large print. We have fiction. We have non-fiction. We have French titles. We have English titles. We have juvenile literature," Fex said.

Each book comes complete with a Book Trek sticker that says "Congrats, you found me!" and outlines the steps involved. First you find it. Then you read it. Then you map it. The Sudbury Public Library built a mapping tool that allows readers to locate where they can find the books, but also follow their progress as they are found, read and re-released. The library also wants you to review the books when uploading your data, to make the project as dynamic as possible. Once you've mapped it, you release it. And if you like, you can map where you released it so someone else can find it. 

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"We decided that whatever happen is going to happen. We didn't want to try and control it too much," virtual librarian Brian Harding said. The project was only launched this week, so data is sparse right now -- but the library hopes that will change. "So far it's been when people find the book, they immediately go on and map it. But if you do want to map where you are going to be releasing the book, then that's great as well. The more data the better."

If you want to take a book beyond the boundaries of Sudbury, the library gives you permission to go for it. Fex plans to take a book with her to Vancouver this month and leave it there. She says participants are limited only by their imagination.

If the project seems complicated and time-consuming for the library -- especially all that data management! -- to take on, it is. But Fex and Harding are okay with that. What libraries do and what they can offer communities is changing, and this project is part of that. "With the advent of technology, the library has had to redefine itself and evolve," Fex said, adding that the Sudbury Public Library is up for the challenge.

"Libraries are regarded as these brick and mortar institutions where you had to go down to get your books," Harding said. "But now, it's all about getting information out to the people. We want you to come down and get your library card, but we also want to bring these services to you."