Library participation in World Book Night US is increasing, with libraries hosting launch events around the country for the fourth iteration of the annual April 23 event, which encourages public reading by distributing about a half-million free books and honors Shakespeare’s birthday.
The 30-35 titles are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors waive their royalties and publishers pay the costs of producing the specially printed editions. The books that volunteers pass out are sent to libraries and bookstores because these places act as community centers and have cheaper shipping rates, said Carl Lennertz, executive director for World Book Night US. Some libraries and bookstores host a special reception when the books arrive to foster community spirit among the volunteers. Last year, World Book Night US had volunteers in 5,200 towns and cities in all 50 states and a record 1,055 libraries and bookstores participate, Lennertz said.
NYPL Partnership Expands
The New York Public Library (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street will host a public talk April 22 with several authors whose books have been selected for 2014 World Book Night US distribution. This is the first time NYPL is holding official World Book Night launch events; prior World Book Night events were held at the Barnes and Noble store in Union Square.
NYPL was interested in becoming a partner because both organizations share the common theme of providing public access to free books, said Kelly Yim, the NYPL adult programming specialist who helped organize the library events with Christopher Platt, director of Book Ops.
The guest list at the main library event includes writers Victoria Bond, Malcolm Gladwell, Garrison Keillor, Walter Dean Myers, Esmeralda Santiago, T.R. Simon, and Tobias Wolff. The talk will take place at 6 p.m. in the 250-seat Edna Barnes Salomon Room, and will also be live-streamed on the Internet.
“All these authors, we carry their books in the collection. We definitely want to bring to life what’s on the shelves to the people of New York,” Yim said of the talk. “This event definitely does that. We and Carl [Lennertz] want to engage the audience. The authors will not just be speaking—they will answer questions and mingle with the audience as well.”
NYPL will also hold World Book Night adult and youth poetry workshops at 7 p.m. in 20 local branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Local poets will guide audience members in creating their own poems and the works written that night will be read aloud, Yim said. The events will distribute some of the 10,000 special World Book Night edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets created by Dover; others will be given out at Shakespeare theater companies and libraries and bookstores who will host high school drama clubs, Lennertz said.
The number of NYPL libraries hosting World Book Night volunteers has increased as well from five to 11 locations this year, Yim said. World Book Night volunteers will collect books to distribute at the Baychester, Bloomingdale, Castle Hill, Eastchester, Jefferson Market, Melrose, Mulberry Street, Pelham, Roosevelt Island, Woodstock and Yorkville libraries.
“We’re eager and so happy to do it,” Yim said of the partnership. “We hope it continues.”
NYPL’s events will happen in tandem with other launch parties at libraries and bookstores across the country. Said Lennertz of the launch events, “The author speaks for five minutes about their love of books and libraries. The givers who are part of that store and library group come and talk about their library experience.”
Among them, other World Book Night author talks are slated for 7 p.m. at the Sulzer Regional Library in Chicago with writer Scott Turow and the Gum Spring Library in Stone Ridge, VA, with writer Alethea Kontis.
Linda Holtslander, programming manager for the Loudoun County Public Library in Virginia, said this will be the library’s second year celebrating World Book Night. Last year, 20 volunteers from the Cascades Library participated in the event by handing out The Phantom Tollbooth at a local Boys & Girls Club. This year, in addition to hosting the Gum Spring Library author talk with Kontis, volunteers from the Ashburn Library plan to distribute books.
Holtslander said the library is happy to have Kontis, who writes children’s and fairytale themed-books, to present again. “She’s very popular and very giving of her time to get people to the library,” Holtslander said. “It’s a big opportunity to bring a live author. It makes it more valuable to the reader to meet the author and get to know them as a real person.”
The Chicago Public Library—another first-time participant—called World Book Night “an innovative and exciting new initiative in [the] celebration of literacy,” the library’s director of marketing and communications Ruth Lednicer said. The library is thrilled to have author Turow—”a friend of CPL for many years,” return.
More than one night
The Hayward Public Library in California has an interesting spin on World Book Night. The Hayward library, which has celebrated the event every year since its inception, has expanded the program to encourage library patrons to read the World Book Night book and volunteer to do a community service project, said librarian Sally Thomas. The program is called Book-to-Action, a collaboration between the California State Library and the California Center for the Book.
Last year, the Hayward Public Library encouraged a book group to read The Language of Flowers, a novel about a woman raised in foster care. The library’s 30 World Book Night volunteers encouraged members of the public to read the novel and learn more about local organizations supporting children and youth in foster care, Thomas said, and author Vanessa Diffenbaugh spoke at the library in August.
This year, Thomas said the library requested copies of the environmental-themed novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen and the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed as its 2014 World Book Night selections.
“Not only will we give the book out and spread the love of reading, we’re going to encourage others to volunteer at the Hayward Regional Shoreline—part of the regional parks system—to participate in their Weed Warrior program to get volunteers to weed out invasive non-native plants that are not helpful on the shoreline, and, in the process, learn about and appreciate one of our natural treasures in the park system,” Thomas said.
The Hayward Public Library also requested copies of When I Was Puerto Rican in English and Spanish to reach out to the large local Latino population.
A little electronic extra
In addition to the special print editions which World Book Night volunteers hand out, this year Ingram and Livrada are working with World Book Night to create a proprietary ebook that will contain six short essays and two short-stories by librarians, book sellers, and authors who are also World Book Night volunteers, said Lennertz. The ebook will be available for free to the public and posted online April 22 at two launch events in the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington D.C. and Brazos Bookstore in Houston.
“Our mission is completely and totally printed books for light and non-readers, or to provide books for people who cannot afford one,” Lennertz said. “Without changing our mission at all, why not have something short, sweet and interesting for all 25,000 givers in conversations nursing homes, parks, mass transit, bus, ferry? When someone says, ‘I don’t read printed books, I have a smart phone,’ the giver can tell them to go on the website for the smart ebook.”