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The Face on the Poster
Northside Library "Read" Posters

December 2005
By Karen Edwards

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Kayla poses for one of the Northside Library "Read" posters
created by Jamil Thomas.

We already know Oprah reads – she has her own international book club for heaven’s sake. Just let her select a book and watch it skyrocket to the tops of best-seller charts.

Denzel Washington reads too? Well, that’s just cool. A handsome, action figure sitting down with a novel gives reading a whole new cachet, doesn’t it?

That’s really the purpose behind those “Read” posters adorning the walls of libraries, you know, the ones that picture Oprah and Denzel and other celebrities with books in their hands.

“They’re role models, and they’re reading,” says Kayla Fluharty, a customer service assistant on staff at the Northside library. “We hope the posters show it’s cool to read – and that reading catches on like wildfire.”

But sometimes it’s hard to relate to an Oprah or Denzel. Well, of course they read, you think. They don’t have to do six loads of laundry, mow the yard, make sure the kids get to soccer practice on time (let alone school), make cookies for the Scout meeting, or get the cars tuned up…sure, if I had their leisure time, you tell yourself, I’d probably read too.

What happens, though, when you spy a “Read” poster and the person encouraging you to read isn’t Oprah or Denzel or anyone else from the entertainment industry? Instead, it’s your local librarian – the one with kids to raise, or school to attend, chores to do, errands to run – the one who helps you locate that book for your book club, or all those resources your child needs for next week’s science project.

Northside Library has posted new “Read” posters around its facility. Sure, Oprah and Denzel still grace posters, but now they’re joined by Susan and Jamil and Eddie and Kayla and the rest of Northside’s library staff – who, incidentally live busy lives, just like you, but who still find the time to sit down with a good book every now and then.

The idea to imitate the popular, celebrity “Read” posters came from Northside’s customer service assistant Jamil Thomas.

“It was time to take new staff photos, and we decided to make it fun,” says Thomas.

The staff was encouraged to come up with ideas for staff photographs that could be posted around the library and entertain as well as familiarize Northside customers with the library staff.

Thomas’s suggestion to copy the “Read” posters was not the only idea considered, of course.

For example, there was a suggestion to turn Northside’s very hip staff into “stereotypical librarians” – one assumes that meant tightly-coiled hair buns and forefingers held before the mouth in a classic “ssshhh” position. Then there was the suggestion to do the staff photos as “glamour” shots, with soft lighting and lots of air brushing.

But Thomas’s “Read” suggestion prevailed, and he quickly offered to organize the effort and to take the photos as well.

The project began in earnest last spring (about May) and finished up in late summer.

To set up the shots, Thomas asked the staff to choose a section of the library, or outside the library, where they felt most comfortable. He also asked each staff member to choose a favorite book, or a book that pertained to the specific library location where they elected to be pictured.

Half the fun of the posters is to see where staff members decided to have their picture taken and with what book. Stephanie Burley, for example, stands before the library’s aquarium reading Aquariums for Dummies, and Susan Thomas (no relation to Jamil) stands before a display of books by writer Nancy Zafraf, holding one of the author’s latest books. That poster, incidentally, is printed with copy that reads, “Think Globally, Read Locally” – very fitting considering Zafraf is a Central Ohio writer. One staff member even elected the toilet as a poster background.

Once the staff member was in place, wherever it was, Thomas captured the moment with the library’s digital camera.

Fifteen photos were taken in all. That’s the entire library staff. Thomas even brought the library’s security guard and custodian into the act (the security guard’s poster says “Read….or else.”). But like any place of business, some of the photographed staff has moved on to other jobs.

“We still have their picture posted,” says Thomas. After all, the message is one they’d hardly change, no matter where they’re working today.

Thomas admits, however, that he’s a bit behind when it comes to photographing new staff members who have taken their place.

“We’ll get to it,” Thomas promises, “It’s an ongoing project.”

Once the photograph is taken, the artistically inclined Thomas (he paints and draws in his spare time) works on the computer to add the type, and turn it into a poster-size print.

“I copied the art on the color printer,” he says, then the posters were laminated and hung all over the library.

“The customers love them,” says Sarah Mackey, Northside’s manager. “We’ve had lots of comments on them.”

Susan Thomas, another Northside customer service assistant, says Zafraf liked the poster idea so much she intends to take it to her son’s school as a potential project for the PTO.


Occasionally, though, the posters do catch library patrons unaware.

Jamil Thomas’s “Read” poster is right on the circulation desk, for example.

“Customers will do double-takes,” says Thomas with a laugh. “They’ll look at the photo, and say, ‘Hey, that’s you!”

Children especially seem awed by the fact that the person on the poster is standing right in front of them – or maybe on the other side of the bookcase. After all, you don’t see Oprah or Denzel stepping out of their posters to answer questions or locate books.

And maybe that’s the posters’ charm.

After all, Northside library staff members are more than just a bunch of pretty faces. They’ll not only encourage you to read (any Oprah or Denzel can do that) but they can also help you determine the right book for you – and lead you right to it!


To catch a glimpse of the posters, and to check out a book or two, visit Northside Library at 1423 N. High St., open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

©2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.