It’s not every day Harker librarians get the opportunity to spread their passion for reading by handing out free copies of their favorite books to an unsuspecting public.
Armed with a fierce belief in the power of the written word, two Harker librarians joined fellow bookworms from across the United States in participation of World Book Night, an ambitious campaign to give away half a million books for free in just one day.
On April 23, Lauri Vaughan, upper school campus librarian and Bernie Morrissey, middle school librarian, undertook the concerted effort to promote the joy of reading – one person at a time. From Kodiak, Ala., to Key West, Fla., in 6,000 towns and cities across America, volunteers like Vaughan and Morrissey went out into the community in order to share books in locations as diverse as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, ballparks, mass transit, diners and more.
Volunteers were given 20 specially printed copies of their stated favorite books, personally giving them away to new or light readers. They tried to reach many people in underserved places, knowing that a book has the power to open up the doors to new possibilities, and help make the world a better place.
American booksellers and publishers partnered with the first World Book Night in the U.S., following the impressive launch of this campaign by their bookselling and publishing colleagues in the U.K. and Ireland last year. This year, World Book Night took place in the U.K., U.S., and Germany, with thousands of volunteers going out into their communities to give away the special free paperbacks.
Vaughan, who is vice president of the Bay Area Independent School Librarian Association, chose to give out 20 copies of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” at the Summit Store on Summit Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“I gave away 20 copies … it was so fun! I had to convince shoppers in about 10 seconds they should take the book from me. I had about a 90 percent success rate – almost anyone who listened took a copy of the book. Some needed convincing, but I loved the guy who said, ‘I know this book!’ and snatched it out of my hand. Overall it was a wonderful experience and gave me a great opportunity to practice my reading evangelism in public. It took me about a half hour to give away all 20 copies of ‘Ender’s Game,’” recalled Vaughan.
Meanwhile, Morrissey took to the streets of San Francisco, handing out his beloved copies of Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ rehearsal. “All 20 copies were gone in less than five minutes. I had announced the event in email and Facebook messages ahead of time, but some who didn’t get the message were suspicious about something being offered for free, with no strings attached. If given the opportunity, I would definitely participate again next year, probably by standing at the corner of 18th and Castro, handing out books in a much less structured environment,” he said.
The books, whittled down to 30 popular titles, were chosen by a panel of booksellers and librarians through several rounds of voting. The printing of the free books was possible due to generosity of the authors, publishers and book manufacturing companies.
Examples of some of the books handed out included: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou (Ballantine), “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic), “Blood Work” by Michael Connelly (Grand Central), “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers (Vintage), “The Stand” by Stephen King (Anchor) and “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult (Atria).
World Book Night in the U.S. is a nonprofit organization, backed by publishers, Barnes & Noble, the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, Ingram Content Group, United Parcel Services, and more than a dozen printers and paper companies.
Anna Quindlen, the U.S. campaign’s Honorary National Chairperson, said: “What’s better than a good book? A whole box of them, and the opportunity to share them with new readers. The idea behind World Book Night is inspired, and as a writer and a reader I’m thrilled to be part of it.”