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Show Notes

Laura Maylene Walter chats with Don Boozer, Manager of the Literature Department at Cleveland Public Library and Ohio Center for the Book (OCFB) Coordinator, to introduce Page Count. Laura and Don discuss the OCFB collection, Superman, a few notable Ohio authors, and their hopes for the podcast before taking an unexpected detour to Hershey, Pennsylvania.*

Mentioned in this episode:

  • The Library of Congress Center for the Book
  • Superman
  • Toni Morrison
  • Langston Hughes
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Zane Grey
  • The Ohio Literary Trail
  • Ohioana Library Association
  • Hershey Public Library
  • Chocolate World
  • Brandi Larsen


Laura Maylene Walter (00:02):
Welcome to Page Count presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, literary advocates, and readers in and from the state of Ohio. I'm your host, Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the novel BODY OF STARS.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:28):
To help introduce not only the podcast but also the Ohio Center for the Book, we have Don Boozer, the manager of the Literature Department at Cleveland Public Library here with us today. Don, hello, thanks so much for being here.

Don Boozer (00:40):
Hi, it's a pleasure to be here.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:41):
Today's a big day. It's our official launch at long last for our podcast Page Count. But before we talk about the podcast a little bit, can you explain to our listeners what exactly is Ohio Center for the Book and what is its connection to Cleveland Public Library?

Don Boozer (00:57):
Sure, I'd be happy to. So as the manager of the literature department, one of the pleasure is that I get to have, is to serve as the coordinator for the Ohio Center for the Book. The Ohio Center for the Book is the state affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. So we have a direct relationship with the library of Congress in DC. Each state has its own designated affiliate center of the Center for the Book in DC. And so we are home of the Ohio Center for the Book here at Cleveland Public Library, and we are honored to have that distinction.

Laura Maylene Walter (01:29):
Well, since this podcast is meant to reach readers and writers and book lovers all across the state of Ohio and also beyond Ohio for that matter, I know not everyone who's listening has been to Cleveland or been to Cleveland Public Library. So I'm wondering if you could offer everyone kind of a brief audio tour to share what it would be like if someone were to visit the main library in downtown Cleveland and to see where Ohio center for the book lives in physical space.

Don Boozer (01:58):
Sure. What we have here is a designated part of the literature department on the second floor of main library that is dedicated to Ohio authors and illustrators and children's books and teen books and graphic novels. And so whenever somebody comes into that area of the floor, they get to see all of the Ohio authors that we have on display. There, we have a number of shelves worth of authors. We have an entire corner of the floor that is dedicated to the Ohio Center for the Book's physical collection. One of the nice things that you also get to experience whenever you come to the Ohio Center for the Book is our semi-permanent Superman exhibit. That is also on display in the second floor of the main library. And that is of course, because Superman was created right here in Ohio, right here in Cleveland, as a matter of fact, and we pay tribute to the tradition of that particular iconic superhero and are able to provide people a little bit of background and also a wonderful collection of memorabilia that the library has access to as well.

Laura Maylene Walter (02:59):
And I don't know if you know this but years ago when the library was preparing the larger Superman exhibit, I helped catalog some of the items. So I got to sit in this room and sort through Superman toys and comics and magazines that mentioned Superman in some way. And so, you know, I have to say, I learned more about Superman during that time than I ever expected to in my entire life. But I think that is just one of the joys of working for a public library. But speaking of the Ohio Center for the Book collection, you know, I just took a quick walk through the collection today, right before we recorded this. And even just in that quick pass, I was seeing so many amazing materials. I mean, not only novels of Toni Morrison, but also a book that collected her interviews and conversations. I saw a children's book focusing on the poetry of Langston Hughes. I saw a stack of zines on the table. So there's just so much in this collection. And I was wonder if you could tell us about maybe some of your personal favorite items in the collection, or just any highlights that you'd like to share with our audience?

Don Boozer (04:07):
One of the things I think that people find interesting about the physical collection is you sort of get to browse the shelves like you would in any normal library, but you see some authors that you may not even realize having Ohio connection like Zane Gray, for instance, I mean, he's well known for writing Western novels and things like that, but his family actually helped found the city of Zanesville. And we have that direct connection to him. You mentioned Langston Hughes, but we also have Rita Dove from Akron. We have Harriet Beecher Stowe represented on the shelves. We have any number of fantasy and sci-fi authors that are from Ohio or have an Ohio connection. We have some wonderful children's illustrators Will Hillebrand and all those people from around the state that have done wonderful children's books. And so we have the ability to really highlight people who patrons, when they come in the library, may not even know that there's an Ohio connection. That's one of the nice things about this podcast too, that we're gonna be able to have the ability to highlight people that it's like, "I didn't know they were from Ohio." Well, yes. As a matter of fact, they were.

Laura Maylene Walter (05:03):
I think we have a lot to be proud of here. And for any listeners who might be interested in learning more about Ohio's literary heritage and the history, we have another episode that's out today called The Ohio Literary Trail, where I speak to a few folks from the Ohioana Library Association who take us on a little tour around the state. We discuss Zane Grey, Toni Morrison, Nancy Drew, AKA Carolyn Keene, and just a wide range of literary sites all around the state so far beyond Cleveland. So that's definitely something to listen to if you are interested in learning more about literary history in Ohio.

Don Boozer (05:39):
Yeah. And that is one of the wonderful things about all around the state. We do have authors from all over the state. It's not just in the big cities, that there are a number of locations around the state. And that's one of the nice things that Ohio has been able to do with that literary trail.

Laura Maylene Walter (05:50):
And we do hope to do that with the podcast as well. You know, it does work out that a lot of the authors will be speaking to, or people in the book world, happen to be from some of our larger cities in the state like Columbus and Cleveland and Cincinnati, but we will be releasing an episode every two weeks and we will have the space to explore the state more thoroughly. We're definitely interested in branching out and exploring some of the lesser known corners of the state. Some people we interview might not be famous names, but they might be people who are doing really great things for books or for literature or for readers or writers throughout the state of Ohio. So that will be something to look forward to as well.

Don Boozer (06:30):
I think it's a great way to highlight the state, its connection to the literary world, its connection to comics creators, its connection to screenwriters. There's so much that Ohio has given that we are looking forward to promoting through this podcast. And I think it's gonna be great to be able to open people's eyes to how many connections Ohio does have throughout the country and even the world for that matter.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:52):
And I think you and I were very aware that there are a lot of podcasts out there, including literary podcasts. I listen to a lot, love them. And so the question of course, is what makes this podcast different? And I think the fact that we have Ohio as a focus, all our guests will either be from Ohio or currently in Ohio or otherwise working with Ohio in some way. But as we will learn through these conversations, their reach and their impact on the literary world or on readers go so far beyond Ohio, throughout the country, throughout the world. So I'm just really excited to show everybody what Ohio has to offer in terms of the literary landscape and the broad range of ways that people from our state are working to make the world a better place for books, I guess you could say.

Don Boozer (07:39):
And Laura, I'm very excited about you being the host of the podcast too, because you bring a unique perspective to this area as well, because you just happen to be a published author as well. So I think that you have a very good perspective and a way to get at questions that other hosts may not think of.

Laura Maylene Walter (07:56):
Well, we'll see. I hope so. I have worked in the past as a journalist and yes, I am an author as well. My novel BODY OF STARS actually just came out in paperback. So I'm excited about that, but I teach writing for lit Cleveland. I've been guest faculty in the NEOMFA. Think I have a sense of what a lot of aspiring writers are looking for questions they might have that I will hope to pass on when I'm interviewing guests like a literary agent, for example, to try to help give those writers advice. But also this podcast will just be for readers who love to find a new book, especially from someone who might have a home base in Ohio and thinking behind the scenes, what is it like for an author when they're sitting down to write a book, what is it like to go through that process? What's the difference between your reading life and your writing life and your publishing life and your professional life, where you are in the spotlight, such as on a podcast. So we'll be discussing all these things, really excited for it. Our guests so far have been so smart and enthusiastic and knowledgeable and have really been generous in sharing their insights with us. So I think everyone who is a podcast fan and a book fan is in for a treat.

Don Boozer (09:04):
Oh, that sounds great. I'm looking forward to sharing these with the public.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:07):
Okay. So Don, you are the coordinator for the Ohio Center for the Book and I am in a newer role. I'm the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow. I will be producing this podcast and ideally will be helping out with some other things down the road, using my experience as a writer and a teacher of writing to try to help bring that experience to this position. But I'm interested in hearing a bit more about you, not only how you came to become the manager of the literature department and work with Ohio Center for the Book, but how you became a librarian in the first place. You know, what drew you to this career? Did you always want to be a librarian? Give us a sense of how you ended up where you are today.

Don Boozer (09:45):
I think I have a great origin story because my very first job in a library was at the Hershey Public Library in Pennsylvania, directly across the street from the chocolate factory.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:53):
Wait, wait. I did not know that. Yes. Okay. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I am actually from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So Hershey was basically in my backyard when I was growing up.

Don Boozer (10:04):
Are you really? Oh my heavens.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:05):
<laugh> Yeah. In case anyone can't tell, Don and I have never talked about this before. This is entirely new information for me.

Don Boozer (10:11):
Oh my heavens.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:12):
Yeah. Hershey. I went there a lot as a kid and as a teenager, don't think I've ever been to the library sadly enough, but please continue. I want to hear all about this

Don Boozer (10:22):
<laugh> Well, I had a previous job at the newspaper there in Hershey. And if nobody has been to Hershey, the streetlights in Hershey, Pennsylvania are shaped like kisses all the way down the street. And the main avenue is of course Chocolate Avenue. So it is all chocolate all the time. But every time I would go to my job at the library there, I would have the scent of chocolate wafting across the street from the factory. So I told somebody that one time they said, oh, Books and Chocolate, that's the perfect name for a blog. So maybe if this wasn't Page Count, this would've been Books and Chocolate. And then we moved to Ohio for, uh, my wife was going to graduate school. And it just so happened that I found out that Kent State had a library program. And as I was leaving the Hershey Library as talking to the director and she's like, Oh, we're sorry to see you go, have you ever thought about this as a career? And I was like, you know, honestly, no, but now that you mention it, this might be a possibility. So, you know, nights and weekends and three years or so later then I got a job at the Barberton Public Library, and the rest is history.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:18):
I love that. It Does smell like chocolate, too. It really does. I remember being a kid and when we'd get into Hershey, just the smell of that chocolate wafting through the air was it was a dream. So I'm curious to know if you can estimate how many times you have ridden that free chocolate world ride at the edge of the park.

Don Boozer (11:36):
<laugh> Well, anytime anybody came to visit, you had to go through there so <laugh> I hesitate to think. And also when you have small children too, it's like, okay, let's go to the park.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:45):
Next time. I'm in the area. I have to go to the library to see where it all began for you and see a bit about your history.

Don Boozer (11:52):
Actually, the library has changed location since I started there, too. It was part of the school building whenever I was there, literally across the street from the chocolate factory. And they've moved to a wonderful new facility. I've seen pictures of it online and things like that. So shout out to the Hershey Public Library.

Laura Maylene Walter (12:04):
You know, we can still celebrate other states in this podcast, even if we primarily have an Ohio focus.

Don Boozer (12:09):
That's true. That's true.

Laura Maylene Walter (12:11):
Well, again, today is the launch day for Page Count, and this is something you and I have been working on behind the scenes for a while, along with some other library staff members. And we have some episodes up today to get a taste of what is in store for this podcast down the road. So what I can tell you is that we have a lot of great episodes coming up. I will be speaking with a broad range of, but also librarians and booksellers and publishing professionals or people who are involved in what I call literary advocacy. We're hoping to host a really eclectic range of guests who are connected to Ohio in some way. They don't have to live here now, but they have some sort of connection to the state. And they're also involved in the book world. So I suppose, Don, do you have any hopes for the podcast you'd like to share anything you want listeners to look out for or more simply, why should someone listen to Page Count?

Don Boozer (13:04):
I think it's gonna be a real eye-opener for people. Like I said, that some people will not know that these authors and creators having an Ohio connection, I think it's gonna be a lot of fun for people to hear the range of people that we're gonna be talking to. And by we, I mean, you, and I think that it's gonna be a wonderful opportunity for people to just, like I said, get a wider perspective on the literary world and find out that, you know, Ohio does end up being the crossroads of everything it seems, and we have one or two degrees of separation, you know, we're even better than Kevin Bacon. Better than Bacon, there's our slogan there

Laura Maylene Walter (13:32):
<laugh> Okay. So we could have named this podcast Better than Bacon <laugh> or we could have named it Books and Chocolate. But of course it is called Page Count. And along those lines, we do have an episode coming up in the future where we speak to Brandi Larsen, a former executive at Penguin Random House, who will talk about page counts and books and word counts and books. Maybe some of the writers out there listening might have taken note of a little Twitter controversy several months ago that actually surrounded word counts for both books and page counts, which was surprising to me. Sometimes you never know what will cause a stir on literary Twitter, but Brandi will be here to offer the business perspective of why there are general guidelines for word counts within books, why it matters, and also why those rules aren't hard and fast. That's just one example of one of our industry-related conversations, but we'll be having so many other different kinds of conversations with a broad range of people, and I'm really excited to share these conversations with everyone.

Don Boozer (14:34):
That's another thing I'm just pleased as punch that we're able to do this really excited to be able to say that you know, that people can subscribe to Page Count wherever you listen to podcasts. We're also taking suggestions for future guests and topics. And if you have an idea or you have feedback about the podcast, you can get in touch with the Ohio Center for the Book by emailing Ohiocenterforthebook@cpl.org, and just put "podcast" in the subject line. And please share the word with book lovers writers, anyone who's a fan of literary podcast, no matter where they live, they're gonna find something that they're gonna enjoy.

Laura Maylene Walter (15:06):
We do have a couple of episodes up and ready to listen to right now. And I should add here that we will have episode transcripts available on our website, Ohiocenterforthebook.org. So be sure to go there if you'd like a transcript. And before we wrap up today, we'd also like to thank Cleveland Public Library for making this podcast possible with special thanks to John Skrtic, Chief of Special Projects and Collections, as well as Cleveland Public Library Executive Director and CEO Felton Thomas, Jr. Our music for this podcast is "Viral" by Sweet Sammy courtesy of SoundStripe. And our artwork was created within the marketing department here at Cleveland Public Library. Finally, all episodes are researched, produced, recorded, and edited at the library as well. So I think that's it Don, thanks so much for being my guest today and for introducing us to Ohio center for the book for all your help in launching this podcast. And for getting me to think about chocolate in the middle of the workday. Thank you.

Don Boozer (16:03):
Thank you very much. And I'm looking forward to being a subscriber.

Laura Maylene Walter (16:11):
Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center of the Book at Cleveland Public Library. Learn more online at ohiocenterforthebook.org. Follow us on Twitter @cplocfb, or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email ohiocenterforthebook@cpl.org and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.

Please subscribe, spread the word, and tune in April 26 for the launch of Page Count. Get in touch by emailing us or finding us on Twitter @cplocfb or on Facebook. Learn more about Cleveland Public Library.

*While Laura and Don reminisce about the chocolate-scented air of Hershey from years past, the chocolate factory closed in 2012, which means the air might no longer smell of chocolate.