Arts, reading, survival themes of Stillwater Public Library’s community reading series Oct. 2-Nov.11; Registration begins Sept. 15

Story provided by Stillwater Public Library

The Stillwater Public Library’s next community-wide reading series, “NEA Big Read: Stillwater,” takes place Oct. 2-Nov. 11. The series explores survival and the necessity of arts and literature, especially during the darkest times. It also includes the library’s first “Little Read” for children and families. 

This year’s series focuses on “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. Published in 2014, the literary fiction novel was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Mandel’s story moves between a pre-pandemic world and one struggling 20 years after the “Georgia Flu” devastated civilization. A band of actors and musicians roam the wasteland performing concerts and Shakespeare plays to keep the remnants of art and humanity alive. When they encounter a new threat, everything the survivors have worked so hard to rebuild is at risk. A final twist of fate reveals how they are all connected.

A virtual conversation with Mandel and Visit Stillwater’s Cristy Morrison will take place on Nov. 11 as the NEA Big Read series finale. Readers can watch online or sign up for limited spaces to attend a watch party held in the OSU Flight Center hanger at the Stillwater Regional Airport. Immediately after the event, nine readers will each get five minutes to chat with Mandel one-on-one. The nine readers will be selected from all participants who attended a “Station 11” book discussion and announced prior to the event.

The Little Read author, John Rocco, will also meet virtually with kids to talk about the Caldecott Award-winning book, “Blackout.” Rocco, who is best known as the illustrator of the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series, will talk with several second-grade classes on Oct. 26 before making an appearance for the public on Oct. 27. This event is sponsored by Oklahoma State University Libraries in partnership with Oklahoma State University School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences.

Copies of the two books can be picked up at registration, which begins Sept. 15, or at the series kick-off events on Oct. 2. The books are provided by the Stillwater Public Library Trust and will be available for free while supplies last. “Station Eleven” readers must register for a book discussion to receive their copy. 

Series participants must also register for the other programs they wish to attend, and registration for programs is limited. Most programs take place outdoors, so participants should bring a lawn chair or blanket. Changes to programs may occur with little notice due to weather or pandemic conditions, so attendees should check the library website and social media sites for program status before leaving for an event.

Library staff also request that participants take COVID-19 safety precautions by not attending programs with symptoms of illness, wearing a face covering and practicing social distance outside of household groups. 

Other events scheduled for the series include:

  • October 2, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Couch Park) Kids and Families Little Read Kick-off– Enjoy reading “Blackout” by John Rocco as the library’s newest Storywalk installation, and then experiment with solar energy with , OSU’s One Community One Challenge: Common Ground and have plenty of outdoor family fun.
  • October 2, 7 p.m. (SPL Courtyard) Big Read Kick-off – Kick off “NEA Big Read: Stillwater” with the musical artistry of Oklahoma guitarist Edgar Cruz. 
  • October 7, 5:30 p.m. (Lake McMurtry) Survival Skills – Learn skills to help survive an emergency, including starting fires, finding water, creating shelter and navigating.
  • October 9, 7:30 p.m. (SPL Courtyard) Isle of Dogs outdoor film screening – Watch the PG-13 film directed by Wes Anderson about an outbreak of dog flu in Megasaki, Japan. A young boy named Atari sets out on an adventure to find his lost dog, Spots, with the help of other canine friends. 
  • October 12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (SPL) Flu and Covid-19 Shots Clinic – Drop by the library to receive a flu shot or Covid-19 vaccine, as available and while supplies last, from the Payne County Health Department. 
  • October 17, 2 p.m. (SPL Courtyard) – Rainwater Harvesting – Zack Henson with City of Stillwater Stormwater Management will teach workshop participants about the benefits of rain harvesting and how to convert barrels to collect rain. Participants will receive a free barrel to convert from ARCA Continental Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages.
  • October 19, 6:30 p.m. (Southern Woods Ballfield) Pandemics of the Past – Learn about the history of pandemics with Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, a nationally recognized epidemiologist and public health leader, most recently serving as the interim Oklahoma State Epidemiologist in coordinating the elements of the State’s COVID-19 response. He currently teaches at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. 
  • October 23, 1-4 p.m. (Prairie Arts Center) Teen Comic & Zine Workshop – Teens in grades 6-12 can attend a comic and zine-making workshop and create and produce their own graphic story. OSU Graphic Design professor James Ewald will lead the hands-on workshop.
  • October 23 & 24 (Lake McMurtry) – Overnight Backpacking Clinic (Fee Program, limited registration) – Want to learn more in-depth backpacking and survival skills? Come check out Lake McMurtry Friend’s overnight backpacking clinic taught by local experts. Learn how to safely camp overnight, build fires, purify water, practice “leave no trace” techniques and more. The initial meeting date is Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $50 if participants bring their own gear or $90 to rent equipment. Register at or call 405-880-2463.  
  • October 26, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (SPL – 3rd Floor) Red Cross Blood Drive – The Red Cross needs the help of blood donors to meet patient care needs. Appointments can be made now and must be scheduled in advance at Red Cross requires mask-wearing throughout the drive regardless of vaccination status. Photo ID is required. 16-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds and provide signed parental permission; 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds; 18+-year-olds must weigh at least 110 pounds. 
  • November 6, 1-3 p.m. (Lake McMurtry) Survival Skills & Arts for Kids (Limited to 40 children – Explore two sides of the great outdoors with survival skills and nature art. For elementary ages K-5.
  • November 7, 11 a.m. (SPL Courtyard) Oklahoma Shakespeare presents Children’s Classics – The Oklahoma troupe presents “Professor Spillsby Hunts for Treasure” with a journey to Italy’s greatest cities and appearances by Shakespeare’s most famous female characters. 

Two additional ongoing activities will take place during the series. As Stillwater’s very own “Museum of Civilization,” the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar is featuring the exhibit “COVID-19: A Year in Review” and collecting Stillwater’s memories and experiences of the pandemic as a way to document firsthand accounts of this unprecedented time. The museum also hopes to display personal memorabilia on loan from participating community members.

In addition, participants of all ages can complete the Stillwater Art Scavenger Hunt and discover local art hidden in plain sight in the community. The scavenger hunt will be downloadable from the library’s website or picked up at the library. Participants completing the scavenger hunt by Nov. 11 will win a small prize.

For more information about the NEA Big Read: Stillwater, visit the series website at, call the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633 x8106 or email [email protected].  

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The series has been made possible through a Big Read grant along with funding from Stillwater Public Library Trust, Friends of the Stillwater Public Library, and Oklahoma State University Library. 

Series partners include Oklahoma State University School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences, Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar, City of Stillwater Stormwater Management, Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages, Lake McMurtry Friends, Inc., Payne County Health Department, American Red Cross of Northwest Oklahoma, Stillwater Area Sports Association, OSU Flight Center, City of Stillwater’s Community Resources, OSU’s One Community One Challenge: Common Ground, Prairie Arts Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and Visit Stillwater.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. Library hours are Monday- Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.