Skype service at library to give access to author

JO KNOWLESAuthor of “Lessons From a Dead Girl” and “Jumping Off Swings”

Mesa County Libraries’ Central Library will host award-winning author Jo Knowles at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 21. But Knowles won’t leave her Vermont home for this appearance.

How is this possible?


Skype, an Internet telephone service, allows users to make free video and voice calls using an Internet connection and webcams.

Shanna Smith, teen librarian at the Central Library, came up with the Skype idea while brainstorming this spring for cost-effective, teen-appropriate programs. She wanted to be able to introduce the youth to authors of books they had read, much like the One Book, One Mesa County program does every year.

After reading about other libraries teaching teens to use Skype and being interviewed for a job via a video conferencing site, Smith came up with the idea of using Skype to bring an author to the library.

A Google search resulted in discovering an entire network of published writers willing to connect with fans over Skype for small fees, she said.

From there, Smith had her Teen Advisory Board pick the author: Knowles, who wrote “Lessons From a Dead Girl” and “Jumping Off Swings.”

This is the first time the library has hosted a Skype author event, and the kinks are still being worked out.

Smith plans to cast Knowles onto the projection screen and have a webcam trained on a podium at the front of the Central Library Program Area.

Members of the audience with a questions will be able stand at the podium individually and speak directly to the author.

This will be a virtual-visit first for Knowles as well, who learned about using Skype for fan interaction from a teacher in Kentucky who couldn’t afford to bring Knowles to meet her students.

“Since I really couldn’t afford to take that much time away from my work and not get paid, I asked her if she’d be interested in doing a virtual visit, instead. So, we planned our first Skype visit,” Knowles wrote in an e-mail.

“Unfortunately, we had a strange schedule mix-up at the last minute, and I wound up doing a visit over the phone from a gas station parking lot, but that’s another story,” she said.

Knowles expects Skype and other multimedia sources to play bigger roles in introducing kids to authors, particularly as school and library budgets decrease.

“On the one hand, it’s a shame because I really don’t think anything can compare to a face-to-face, in-person author visit,” Knowles wrote. “However, Skype has allowed lots and lots of schools to bring in authors ‘virtually’ who might never have been able to afford it in the first place, so to me, that’s what’s most important. Anything that can get kids excited about reading and writing is a good thing, and author visits certainly do that.”

If Knowles’ virtual visit is a success, Smith said she will try to bring in more writers, possibly Ellen Hopkins, author of “Crank” and its sequel, “Glass.”

Hopkins lives in Carson City, Nev.


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