Q&A: Emily Ellis, Brown Bag Green Book series coordinator

Ellis is a reference librarian at Lawson McGhee Library, and also coordinator for the library’s Brown Bag Green Book series. The next one takes place Feb. 15 at noon, with Elandria Williams of the Highlander Research and Education Center talking about My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver by Mark D. Hersey.

Where did the idea for Brown Bag Green Books come from?

When I started working at the library and went to lunch each day, I’d see everyone out to lunch, and think, “We should have a program at lunch time.” I also thought it would remind downtowners that there is great library nearby.

Why the green angle?

I’ve always been very interested in and concerned about the environment, and when the city came in as partners, we agreed it was important to talk about it.

How long has the series been going?

A little over two years; we’ve done about 30 programs.

You’re covering George Washington Carver now partly for Black History Month, but how is he green?

This book is a biography with the perspective of Carver as a sustainable farmer. He was an interesting guy, a really talented musician, artist, and scientist. He’s best known for coming up with so many ways to use the peanut but he had so many more talents and accomplishments. And the best part is that what inspired him to make farming more sustainable was that he wanted to help his people produce more from their land.

How’d you find the book?

When you work in a library, there’s a constant stream of book awareness, and I always have an eye out for books about the environment. I saw that one and got really excited and wanted us to talk about it. Just for this month, because this is history, we’re also partnering with the East Tennessee Historical Society, so all that kind of comes together with this one book.

Have you been to all 30 events?

Oh, yes, and I’ve enjoyed them all—they’ve involved a wide variety of speakers and books. It sounds like a narrow topic, but it’s not. It’s about every aspect of life, when you start looking at it.

How do you come up with the speakers?

Some I already know. Some, I have a topic but don’t know someone with expertise or insight, so I might get online and Google, ask around, use my reference abilities.

Are people usually pretty willing to be the facilitator?

Yes, for the most part. It’s been really refreshing how people are willing to come give their time and talk about the things we cover, and sometimes they might be part of an organization where the exposure is also helpful to them.

Does anyone actually bring a lunch?

Some do. Say six or seven, and we usually have about 40 in attendance, so that’s a nice handful bringing a lunch.

And you’re allowed to eat in the renovated auditorium?

Oh, yes.

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