Friday, January 3, 2014

World Book Night!

Before I rave about how amazing World Book Night is, please note that the applications to be a 2014 Book Giver are due by this Sunday, January 5th!
Here is the link for More Information and the APPLICATION.

Now on to my musings...

Two years ago, in World Book Night's inaugural year, I applied to be a Book Giver but didn't make the cut. I don't remember my 3rd choice (but it was probably Hunger Games, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or The Book Thief), but my first two were:

1) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
2) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
(both 5-star favorites, must read if you haven't already)

Last year I eagerly applied again, saying in the short-answer questions that, if chosen, I would give away my 20 books in Wicker Park, and that I wanted to participate because I had officially just become a librarian and wanted to spread the love of reading to neighbors I have never met before, who may have less access to free reading materials.

My top 3 choices:
1) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
2) Bossypants by Tina Fey
3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
(also all 5-star favorites)

This time I got accepted AND got my #1 pick! The next step was choosing a pick-up location. There were limited places in Chicago, so I chose Barrington, since at the time I was commuting to Crystal Lake and could easily swing by there on my way home. Plus, the Barrington Public Library happens to be the backdrop of my earliest memories of being an avid reader and probably the initial seed planted that eventually led to me becoming a librarian 25 years later.

A few days later I received a confirmation of my pick-up location, which just said Barrington Public Library...can you guess where this is going? When I arrived at BPL on pick-up day, I got several confused looks from the librarians behind the circulation desk when I excitedly said I was there to pick up my World Book Night box. Turns out there's a Barrington in New Hampshire, and my books were 1,000 miles away. After a few e-mails back and forth with Amy, their library director, she said they often get holds requests from both Illinois and Rhode Island and offered to mail me my box. The awesome thing about librarians: They're always there to lend a helping hand and to help solve problems. So here's a public shout-out to Amy in NH! She sent me the box, I sent her a thank-you note with a check to reimburse the shipping cost, and I was back in business just in time to participate on April 23.

Except I was sick. And it was raining in Chicago.
A week later, it was bright and sunny, I was over the bug, and I was ready to finally distribute 20 copies of Phantom Tollbooth to other people enjoying the neighborhood. I proudly stuck my "I am a Book Giver" sticker to my shirt and gave one to my friend and fellow librarian, Stephanie, who offered to accompany me.

I felt uncomfortable at first because I realized people probably thought I was trying to pass out religious material (and, let's be honest, I'd be pretending to look the other way too if the roles were reversed), so instead of approaching people on the street and asking if they'd like a free book, I changed my approach to, "This is one of the best children's books, and it's celebrating its 50th anniversary! Want one for free??" We gave one to a pilot, one to a new mom, two to college students, four to a group of elderly women, one to a couple, one to a girl eating lunch in the park, a guy selling fruit, a few train passengers, a few people waiting for the bus, and a man with a dog. Some people were hesitant at first, mostly not believing that there wasn't a catch to the book being free of charge.
I sure hope they all find the book as magical and clever as I did, both at ages 10 and 30.

Me: "I wish I had an endless supply of free books to give away to people!"
Stephanie: "But you do...You work in a library!"

And that, friends, is the summation of why World Book Night and libraries are equally awesome!
Spread the literature love, and become a Book Giver!

Here are some of the portraits I took of the happy new book owners.
Click here to view the full album on Flickr.

At the bus stop on Damen at Milwaukee

At the same bus stop. Notice the previous man in the background is already reading!

Fruit stand on Damen outside the Blue Line station

Last copy went to a man and his dog! I'd like to think he read him the story :-)

My 2014 Top 3, you ask? 
1) Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
2) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
3) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


toni said...

I had a great experience every year and am looking forward to 2014. Your photos tell the story better than I could.Happy Giving!

alyse said...

Thank you so much, Toni! I was excited that most of the people allowed me to photograph them. Hopefully we'll both get to give again this year!