This is the first of a new column profiling innovative library initiatives and best practices
Lots of libraries run a One Book, One Community communitywide reading program. But we only know of one that published the book itself: Sacramento Public Library, CA.
The library was well equipped to do so, since Sacramento already has an Espresso Book Machine, which it uses to run I Street Press, a self-publishing venture that offers writing classes and layout/design services for a fee as well as printing. Still, producing its own content takes things to the next level.
The book, The Slender Poe, a collection of works by Edgar Allan Poe, was designed by the library’s in-house graphic designer Laura Koivunen, who also created posters, T-shirts, and coasters to promote the event. The text was edited and introduced by local poet and professor John Allen Cann. The library sold copies for $20 each, as well as loaning individual copies and book-club-in-a-box kits.
Funds to print the book were provided by the Friends of the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven branch, Lori Easterwood, the library’s programming and partnerships coordinator, told LJ. Some 720 copies were printed, 125 of which were added to the collection (they’ve circulated 305 times). About 60 additional copies were used for book clubs but not added to the collection. Another 299 copies were sold, raising $4,618 for the library, and the book is now available for purchase via Amazon.
Spreading the word
The library didn’t just promote One Book to its core audience of already-active patrons; it reached out with some very unconventional marketing. That included sponsoring the Poe Project film festival in partnership with the Capital Film Arts Alliance, the Kline Family Foundation, and Access Sacramento. Eleven short films and seven screenplays were produced for the event, which was included in the Sacramento Film & Music Festival, reaching a new fan base for the library.
The library also paid for ads to appear on bus shelters. “These were a critical part of our campaign to entice new participants to the One Book program,” Easterwood told LJ.
Even more quirky was the library’s partnership with a new local firm, New Helvetia Brewing Company, to produce a beer for the One Book program.
“I was surprised. This was not the library I remembered,” said David Gull, New Helvetia’s founder/CFO. New Helvetia introduced “Edgar Allan Porter,” supplying samples at library events and hosting its first book club in the company’s taproom.
The One Book launch featured a kickoff party with screenings of two films from the Poe Project. Matthew Donaldson, who starred in Ligeia, the Best Film winner among the Poe Project entries, played the ghost of Poe at the launch event. Cann gave a reading of “The Raven.” A Poe impersonator even attended a Public Library Authority Board meeting to publicize the One Book Dinner hosted by the Friends group. The Poe theme carried through to discussions of “The Raven” and Poe’s role in the origins of mystery fiction with California State University professors and the Haunted Stacks! event, which featured the classic Poe film The Pit and the Pendulum. The monthlong celebration closed with Ebony Reveries, an evening of music and readings celebrating the author. Ebony Reveries was recorded using equipment Access Sacramento provided for the library’s I Street Studio and aired on Access Sacramento.
All this effort was a success: 504 people attended the anchor programs at the Central Library; overall program attendance at the branches was over 1,000. The Poe Project films were attended by another 950 community members. And Poe Project films were viewed online more than 20,000 times.
The library’s marketing of the One Book program was so groundbreaking, it was recognized by the local American Advertising Federation (AAF) as a 2014 ADDY winner in AAF Sacramento Ad Club’s local level of the American Advertising Awards. Rivkah K. Sass, Sacramento’s library director (as well as an LJ 2002 Mover & Shaker and the 2006 Librarian of the Year), said,“If we win locally, we move on to bigger and better awards. Needless to say, we’re excited.”
[Editor's Note: after this article went to press for LJ's March 1 issue, the library took two local awards at the AAF event: the Gold Award for Best Integrated Campaign and the Best in Show Award. The Awards recognized three library employees--visual communications specialist Laura Koivunen, communications analyst Linda Beymer, and public information coordinator Malcolm Alan Maclachlan -- as well as outside contributor John Allen Cann.The One Book campaign will now move on to a regional competition against other local winners in Northern California. Winners from the 14 regions will move on to the national level.]