Three Reasons to Love World Book Night

It’s 11:00 pm on Monday night.  This time last week, I was cruising the main drag in town with two colleagues, passing out copies of Ender’s Game, chatting up folks of all stripes, and hoisting a pint with many of them.  World Book Night USA was a great night to be a librarian – especially one whose passions are readers’ services and marketing.  And beer.  

My strategy was simple – books and bars.  Lawrence is a quintessential college town and Massachusetts Street is the classic college town main drag.  On any given night, a stroll down Mass St will reveal professors in ties eating in a cafe, grad students hunched over a laptop in a coffee shop, and of course, lots of folks, young and old, enjoying an adult beverage in a variety of establishments.  All of these people come through the doors of the library – both our physical and virtual doors – and I was excited about the chance to encounter them outside the library walls in a new and interesting way.  World Book Night provided just that opportunity.

I loved World Book Night for many reasons, but here are three big ones:

1. For such a massive undertaking, I though it was very well executed.  Instructions were clear, deadlines were established, guidelines were straightforward, and the WBN organization was responsive.  There was a mix-up and my library did not get properly designated as a delivery site, but with one quick email exchange the problem was fixed and my books were re-routed.    I am often involved with big events – though none nearly as big as this – and definitely absorbed some new ideas and practices just by watching the WBN preparations and protocols.  I’m also thinking about a “Lawrence Book Night” leading up to Read Across Lawrence, our One Book/One Community program.  We always give away books, but this year, we are hoping to secure sponsorship funds that will allow us to give away a significant number in a single day, all across town.

2.  The WBN social media component was engaging and sustained and abiding – it didn’t just spring up around the event and then disappear.  The WBN Facebook and Twitter accounts kept givers abreast of deadlines and dates, but they also continue to pass along great content that is on point and dovetails perfectly with their mission of “spreading the love of reading, person to person.”

3. In a time when librarians are in the thick of arguments about ebooks, conversations about multiple literacies, and deep reflection and (occasional angst) about the future of our profession, World Book Night, for me, was what it’s really all about.  And I’m not talking about putting books in people’s hands (though that’s pretty darn great).  What it’s really all about is connecting with your community, right where they are, right now.  It’s about going to them, not waiting for them to come to you.  It’s about showing them what you’re all about, not just telling them.

How did we do this on World Book Night?   For about a year or so now, we’ve been positioning ourselves as a fresh and slightly funky public library.  Through a highly engaged social media strategy, a new approach to programs, and leveraging the college town atmosphere in Lawrence, we are putting ourselves out there as “not your mother’s library.”  We can feed folks that line as much and as often as we want – they may or may not buy it.  But trust me, when you show up in a townie bar on a Monday night and give away books and maybe even buy a round, people understand that this is indeed a fresh and funky library that their mama probably wouldn’t recognize.

Having said all that, World Book Night was just plain fun. For us, the givers, and for the receivers we connected with.  Smiles were abundant that night, and it was due to more than just these.  Check out our photos of the evening on our Facebook page and see our #wbn Tweets here.

Cheers to World Book Night organizers!  See you next year…

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