County libraries devote entire month to Frankenstein

The monster is alive, and it’s taking over Johnson County this month.

All throughout October, the Johnson County Public Library will shine the spotlight on one of literature’s great works of art, as well as one of its most recognizable monstrosities.

This is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” and in recognition, the county library system’s four branches have planned a myriad of activities, from group discussions on the book to science that inspired it to the gory history of body snatching.

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“It grapples with a lot of the same things we’re talking about today, with what kind of impact science has on our lives, and what it means to be human when it comes to artificial intelligence,” said Sarah Taylor, programming manager for the library. “These themes aren’t going away anytime soon. We want to start the conversation around a lot of those themes.”

By bringing focusing on such an iconic yet relevant work of literature, the hope is that people will think more deeply about issues facing their lives today.

“We want people to understand that the themes in these novels are timeless, and how they present us an opportunity to think about these things in a different way,” Taylor said. “It provides us a chance to talk about this as a community, all based on a work of literature. Some really interesting discussions and insights come out of that, when we talk to each other about novels. We learn something new and get a new interpretation that we didn’t expect.”

The activities are part of Indiana Humanities’ One State/One Book: Frankenstein program. With the help of a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the organization has helped put together events and celebrations of Shelley’s book throughout the state.

“Frankenstein” was written by Shelley in 1818, when she was just 20 years old. Inspired by a nightmare she had, and built off of a ghost story she had told during a stormy, cold trip to Switzerland a few years prior, Shelley wrote about a young scientist who creates a grotesque creature through scientific experiments. He is later horrified by what he has created.

“When it comes to asking the hard questions at the heart of scientific investigation, perhaps no book has ever topped ‘Frankenstein,’” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “The book raises big questions about right and wrong, how we live in the world and the relationship between science and society, among others. But it’s also a book that allows us to have a little fun, too, and can resonate across multiple generations. We look forward to engaging the entire state in relevant, thought-provoking and engaging activities.”

Though written so long ago, and by such a young author, the themes of the story resonate as loudly now as they did then.

“’Frankenstein’ is a powerful book that raises big questions about right and wrong, how we treat other people and the relationship between science and society,” Amstutz said. “That’s what makes it such an important book to read as a community and as a state. We want to catalyze those serious conversations, but we want Hoosiers to have a little fun with the book, too.”

The four branches of the Johnson County Public Library were each awarded $1,000 grants through the One State/One Book program. The Franklin branch was also awarded an additional $1,000 in order to put on a Frankenfest celebration in their community.

At the center of the month-long event will be a push to get people to read “Frankenstein.” Though most people are familiar with the story, and the monster that was born from it, the book itself goes so much deeper, Taylor said.

Copies of the book have been provided to the libraries through Indiana Humanities, so people who registered to participate in the book discussions get a free copy, Taylor said.

To supplement the group discussions, about 40 events have been planned throughout the library system to help them engage more fully with the reading material.

One of the first activities was the Frankenreads: Adult Monster Mash, a combination book discussion and carnival at MashCraft Brewing in Greenwood that featured trivia contests, costume contests and games to go along with a discussion of the book.

An actor will perform as Mary Shelley to get a sense what the Romantic writer was like. Svetlana Rakic, who teaches art at Franklin College, will talk about the portrayal of death in artwork throughout history in her presentation, “Confronting the Terror of Death.”

Another Franklin College professor, George Phillips, is slated to discuss how Frankenstein helps to better understand global warming.

In “Tales from the Crypt: Bodysnatchers,” people can learn about grave robbing from an expert from the Indiana Medical Museum of History.

“It’s things like that, a little bit different, to help you understand the material better,” Taylor said.

The programs aren’t restricted to adults. Kids will have ample opportunities to learn about Frankenstein through some ancillary subjects, such as electricity, robots, circuitry and stop-motion animation in horror films.

“This offers us the chance to do a lot of programs based around science,” Taylor said.

Frankenfest will be the culmination of the month’s activities. Held in conjunction with Franklin’s Halloween Town festival, the library has planned a read-a-thon of “Frankenstein,” inviting people from the community to take a turn and read passages from the novel.

“People can stop by and listen, and hear that work being read aloud as they visit the festival,” Taylor said.

Children and adults can participate in hands-on science experiments at a recreation of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, and organizers have put together crafts, games and other activities to celebrate the book.

“There will be a lot of things for families to stop by and learn a little bit about ‘Frankenstein,’” Taylor said.

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One State/One Story: Frankenstein

What: A month-long celebration of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, including group book discussions, family activities and historic programs.

Where: All four Johnson County Public Library branches

Schedule of events

Frankenreads book discussions

What: Special book discussions at each of our branches in October. The first 200 people to register and attend one of these events will receive a free copy of "Frankenstein."


  • Franklin branch: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, 401 State St.
  • White River branch: 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood
  • Trafalgar branch: 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, 424 Tower St.
  • Clark Pleasant branch: 2 to 3 p.m. Oct. 23, 530 Tracy Road, Suite 250
  • White River branch: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 31


A Visit with Mary Shelley

What: This one-woman event is a unique opportunity to a “meet” Mary Shelley, author of "Frankenstein," as storyteller Adrienne Provenzano puts Shelley’s life as a 19th-century literary woman into historical context. Please register.

Who: All ages

When: 2 to 3 p.m. today, Trafalgar branch

Zap! Electric Safety

What: Electricity brought Frankenstein’s monster to life; now see what can happen with electricity in this sizzling presentation by Johnson County REMC. Please register.

Who: Children grades K-6, child’s caregiver required; families welcome


  • White River branch: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday
  • Franklin branch: 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday


Confronting the Terror of Death: How Dead is Too Dead in Art?

What: As seen in "Frankenstein," death is a common theme in creative arts. Franklin College’s Svetlana Rakic will explore how death has been depicted throughout art history.

When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Franklin branch

Not-So-Scary Stories

What: Get ready for Halloween with not-so-scary tales from professional storyteller Sally Perkins.

Who: Children, grades K-6; families welcome

When: 7 to 7:45 p.m. Oct. 18, White River branch


What: Meet in the Urban Forest for some Halloween fun. Wear your costume, listen to some not-so-scary stories and bring a flashlight as you trick-or-treat along the StoryWalk trail.

Who: Families

When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19, Franklin Urban Forest, South Street between Nineveh and Dunn streets.

Family Monster Mash

What: A family-friendly party for all things Frankenstein including crafts, games and treats. Please register.

Who: Families

When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22, Clark Pleasant branch


Can Frankenstein Help Us Understand Global Warming?

What: George Phillips, assistant professor of English at Franklin College, draws connections between two eras of climate change concerns, with a look at how Shelley’s appeals to reason and emotion reflect the ways we talk about climate science today. Please register.

Who: Adults

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, Clark Pleasant branch


Frankenfest Read-a-Thon

What: During Franklin’s Halloween Town celebration, the library is hosting an all-day read-a-thon of "Frankenstein," with volunteers who are willing to read aloud for 15 minutes at a time. Organizers will also have a science experience in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, games, crafts, photo opportunities and more.

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 27, library services center, 49 E. Monroe St., Franklin

Volunteer to read: