WAPL - "One Book, One Community" Programs: the Do's and Don'ts

Posted by Lisa Strand on Thursday, May 01, 2008 in WLA Blog Archive
A panel discussion on several examples of community reads programs, which are growing in popularity.

Meg Shriver Appleton PL on organizing
  • There were some key choices for the Fox Cities Community Read
    • this was the 3rd year of community read in Appleton, and the 2d as a multi-library effort
    • the most effective thing was partnering w/other libraries, bookstores & community groups
    • selected a title in partnership with other libraries and organizations
    • brought in the author to speak as the culminating
    • have used the community read to focus on an issue
    • APL buys hundreds of copies, using foundation funds
  • Do:
    • form partnerships
      • Multiple libraries(Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Kimberly-Little Chute, Kaukauna, UW-Fox) - allows choice of venues, cross-over by patrons - provides greater pool of funds from libraries
      • Bookstores are good synergy for PR & sales, and can sometimes provide more economical access to author tours
      • Businesses offer other partnership possibilities, such as catering for author reception, bus promotion
    • select a title using wide representation to get community investment - last year the library partnered with newspaper, schools and bookstores to have a community vote on title -- this requires a lot of staff involvement to provide coordination, but it was popular and will likely do again
    • take opportunity to discuss common issues --
      • in 2008 Alice Hoffman was part of a larger book festival, creating lots of excitement, more partnerships and coss marketing opportunities
      • in 2007 Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich was foundation of Project Promise in partnership with community nonprofits and the media
      • in 2005 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson became foundation of community discussion about teen sexual assault, including a partnership with lots of schools, churches, community groups
    • select book that allows for an author visit: it creates a pinnacle of the process, gives people the chance to discuss with the author
    • use the ALA publication on planning a community read
  • Don't
    • Hesitate to do this!
Michael Kenney, Appleton PL, on marketing
  • we're already starting process for next year
  • marketing alone doesn't do it, the community read needs the expertise of librarians
  • once author is selected, need to get word out, use available opportunities
  • in planning process for 2007,
    • brainstormed 30 titles from a broad-based selection group
    • the group culled these down to five
    • the local newspaper got enthusiastic pushing a vote
    • vote nearly selected British author, wound up with Barbara Ehrenreich, who was initially too expensive
    • the library made a proposal to Community Health Action Team of ThedaCare for funding -- they underwrote a large piece of the cost, but asked us to include other Fox Cities libraries
    • having larger base, larger team created more marketing opportunities
    • the community read grew into Project Promise, ongoing coalition effort to deal with poverty issues
    • important to establish good working relationship with local press [examples presented of press coverage in local media]
    • giant replica of book covers, t-shirts with cover for staff, are godd devices
  • marketing
    • need to identify goals for libraries, potential audience
    • increases library exposure and profile, with corollary benefits
Ellen Connor, Manawa PL, small library program
  • most ever spent was $900
  • only pick Wisconsin authors -- available & affordable
  • 1st book was Population 485
  • in a small community, don't need big committee, not a lot of issues and politics, whole library staff can read the title -- and should
  • Michael Perry's photo motivated people to read -- women liked his looks, men liked that he wore flannel
  • bought copies of book for all firefighters & EMT
  • timetable for the read: unveil book in December, give people until March to read, then author appears
  • this is hard, hard work: you need to talk to every patron and try to persuade them to read the book -- can be exhausting, but is effective
  • the staff first agrees on the book, because every staff person needs to read and promote
  • nonfiction is more marketable to men, who often hesitate to read fiction
  • library system support & graphic arts are key to holding down cost of PR materials
  • buys 10-15 copies, minimal processing
  • talk it up everywhere -- meetings, service clubs, posters in grocery stores
  • get high school English teachers to give kids extra credit for reading the book
  • pick your date carefully in a small town: one basketball game can put you out of business
  • fortunate to have benefactor who underwrites programs, asks bank to pay for ads
Jessica MacPhail, Racine PL, another large library model
  • hardest thing is to choose the book
  • for the first book, met with literacy council, Hispanic council; book had to be in paperback, large print, audiobook, and in Spanish
  • for first book, had radio interview rather than author appearance
  • for second book, did baseball book to coincide with Miller Park opening --had contest to find errors in Shoeless Joe
  • for third book, Fist Stick Knife Gun -- community supported ideas for nonviolent conflict resolution, encourage kids to express concerns
  • for fourth book, tried for theme, got Holocaust survivor Motherland
  • fifth book, Nickel & Dimed, support from business & social service agencies
  • Seed Folks - partnership with gardeners
  • in each case, there are natural coalitions to build around the title -- communities of interest
  • structure of choosing books is loose, depending on who shows up, only current criteria are
    • must be in paperback
    • must be "discussionable"
  • they buy 25 copies
  • have experimented used BookCrossing for distribution of some copies
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