Librarians are helping to spread the joy and love of reading by taking part in World Book Night (WBN) on April 23, which is also the UNESCO’s World Book Day, chosen to commemorate the anniversary of Cervantes’ death, as well as Shakespeare’s birth and death. Held in the United States as well as in the U.K. and Ireland, the initiative aims at promoting the value of reading, printed books, bookstores, and libraries to everyone year round.
WBN seeks out reluctant adult readers wherever they are, in towns and cities and in such public settings as nursing homes, food pantries, low-income schools, and mass transit centers, according to organizers. Tens of thousands of volunteers will hand out copies of thirty specially chosen and printed World Book Night editions in their communities. The volunteers will visit safe, well-populated public areas or indoor settings. WBN U.S. is a nonprofit organization.
Among the thirty titles on the giveaway list are contemporary classics such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Popular titles such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and The Stand by Stephen King are also being distributed, as well as provocative titles that include The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Just Kids, the autobiography of counterculture icon Patti Smith. Some young adult books are also included, such as Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
More than 600 librarians are participating. The American Library Association (ALA) is among the supporters of the event, along with book publishers, the American Booksellers Association, Barnes & Noble, the Association of American Publishers, and Ingram Book Distributors.
Among the librarians participating is Alexia Hudson, reference and instruction librarian at Penn State Abington College, Abington, Pennsylvania, and incoming member of the ALA Executive Board (2012–2015). Hudson said:
World Book Night is a wonderfully unique opportunity to elevate importance of literacy by turning it into a “high-touch” personalized global conversation—in that we will distribute amazing and diverse literary works for free. I’m not only giving someone a book, but I’m inviting them to engage in a very deep and personal manner with me regarding the title I’m distributing. I hope to be asked “why this book? How will it enrich my life, etc.?” The ability to place a “ping” of interest in reading in anyone’s life is an incredible opportunity and I’m honored to participate.
WBN U.S. Director Carl Lennertz announced that the cooperation of the publishing, bookselling, library, and book manufacturing communities has resulted in a half million special editions produced for giveaway by 25,000 volunteers on April 23, preceded by a week of activities in hundreds of cities. The volunteer book givers will be able to pick up their boxes the week before WBN, when they will also receive buttons, bookmarks, a guidelines letter, and a thank-you certificate. To facilitate this, more than 750 bookstores and libraries are holding pre-WBN receptions.
“It is cool how this has taken hold across America. There are givers in 5,800 towns and cities, and I am overwhelmed by the their passion, as well as by the booksellers and librarians who have embraced this campaign, some of whom have organized major activities by local groups to complement the outreach by the individual givers,” Lennertz said.