Tag Archives: Reading promotion

Minnesota writers are World Book Night “tradition”

Organizers of the third World Book Night (http://www.us.worldbooknight.org) have just announced the list of titles that will be shared round the globe on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  On World Book Night “reading ambassadors” will reach out in their communities to share a half million books with random, unsuspecting individuals.

Once again Minnesota writers are prominent on the list of 30 selected titles.  IN 2012 it was Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River and Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie that made the list.  At that time, Enger captured the spirit of World Book Night as “a beautiful foolish idea.”

It’s such a beautiful foolish idea that the selectors this year wisely turned to three more Minnesota writers, that’s 10% of the 30 chosen titles!  The 2014 selections include Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, Garrison Keillor’s Pontoon and Peter Geye’s The Lighthouse Road.  For a full listing of the 2014 list of WBN titles, click here. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/2014.  Reading selections from past years are posted here:



World Book Night is an annual collaboration first organized in the U.K. three years ago.  The intent of the nonprofit organization is to share the love of reading through a one-person-at-a-time distribution of a half million books.   World Book Night visionaries live their vision – it’s more than giving away books; “It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways – through the sharing of stories.”

Books for World Book Night are selected by an independent panel of booksellers and librarians.  The selections are based on lists curated by experts in the bookselling and library world.  Each year givers from the previous year’s World Book Night nominate books for the panel to consider.  The criteria used by the selectors is explicit:  Acceptable books of high quality; recently published books or established classics; books available in paperback; published books of any genre, and gender, ethnic and geographical balance.

In years past both individuals and groups – Friends of the Library, reading circles, youth groups and others – have participated in WBN as enthusiastic  — and much appreciated – “book givers.”

World Book Night planners are now accepting applications for book givers.  The “Be a book giver” posting covers the rules, e.g. givers will be asked to think about where  and to whom they intend to share the books.  Applications can be made online and are due January 5, 2014.  Answers to everything you ever wanted to know about WBN are posted at http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/faqs.

WBN has all of the characteristics of a “beautiful foolish idea’ whose time has come!


Nation’s First Publishing Hackathon – Definitely One for the Books!

“Cognitive dissonance” some might observe, a book publishing hackathon.  Not so fast .  The first ever publishing hackathon was a big deal event that led up to Book Expo America in late May where it exploded as a trend-setter for bibliophile/technophile attendees and the book community in general.

A group led by the Perseus Books Group, Librify, Book Expo, the AlleyNYC and William Morris hatched the idea.  In mid-May they invited digital designers, engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs to spend 36 hours together during which they worked in teams to develop new approaches to digital book discovery – Note: this is not discovery of digital books but using digital technology to explore the world’s literature.  Some 200 participants showed up.

Briefed by a cross-section of book publishing players participants teams set out to create apps, websites, programming or businesses that can – and likely will – play a role in “book discovery”, an adventure that potentially involves booksellers, writers, travelers, librarians, and, most important, the reading public writ large.

The innovative teams tackled the challenge from a host of creative angles.  At the end of the weekend of intense collaboration the most promising finalists were selected to pitch their solutions at Book Expo America.  There a panel of judges reviewed the results and selected recipients of some handsome monetary prizes.

Book Expo America event director Steve Rosato warmly embraced the concept saying “hosting the Publishing Hackathon finals at BEA not only brings attention to how important technology is in publishing and that tech is such an important aspect of BEA, but this also brings together venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, publishers, agents and others at Book Expo to discuss the digital future and the multitude of opportunities.”

And so it did.  Though the original lure was a single $10,000 prize, the impressed judges decided on the spot to  broaden the field.  Coming in first was the time that created “Evoke,” an approach to discovering fiction through characters.”  Team member Jill Axline explained, “A lot of what it means to love a book has to do with your relationship with a character—that’s at the core of what you describe when recommending a book to a friend.  Evoke allows readers to find new characters based on ones they already know and love.”  One critic observed that Evoke won “because it’s both plausible and totally out of left field.”

A second-place award went to Captiv created by the team from New York Public Library.  Captiv’s prototype was recognized for the best integration of library data, specifically mining Twitter posts to “bring you better book recommendations at the speed of life.”

Other finalists include Book City, a way to find books set in the place you plan to travel; Coverlist, a discovery solution focused on the joy of browsing book jackets, KooBrowser, a app for making better book recommendations based on browsing history, and LibraryAtlas, a book discovery solution based on geolocation.

HarperCollins, declaring these digital discoveries an “industry trend”, has announced a sequel.  Their BookSmart lures software developers to “unleash the book” by offering a $25,000 software competition for the “best reading/book discovery apps.”

Little Free Libraries Share the Joy of Good Reads and Good Neighbors

Little Free Library at Silverwood Park

Little Free Library at Silverwood Park

For a very long time I’ve been intending to celebrate the growth and popularity of the Little Free Libraries that continue to pop up in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities and far beyond.  The time is now, because the Little Free Library project has just received the 2013 Innovations in Reading Prize awarded by the National Book Foundation!  The prize honors individuals and institutions that have created innovative ways to initiate and sustain a lifelong love of learning.

In this case, the institution is the Little Free Library (LF) and the innovators are Todd Bol and Rick Brooks.  It all started in 2009 when the two men met at a workshop Brooks taught at UW-M where he was outreach program manager in continuing studies.  Brooks had some previous library experience helping build and maintain library collections in third world countries where he also had  experience in community development.  Bol was between gigs, obviously full of energy and ideas.  In the early years, LFL was a project of Wisconsin Partners for Sustainability.  Since 2012 LFL has operated as a nonprofit operating out of International HQ in Hudson Wisconsin.

The story is a delightful tale of a good idea brought to fruition by a couple of committed people with a vision.  Since the project began in 2009 Little Free Library exchanges have burst on the scene in 30 countries.  The first LFL consisted of a box of books that looked like a one-room schoolhouse with a sign that read “Free Books.”  The LFL was posted on Brooks’ front lawn in Hudson,  Wisconsin, established as a memorial to Bol’s mother, a bibliophile teacher

Today, the hub of the every LFL exchange is a bird-house size “library” that houses a snatch of books that circulate on the honor system.  The mission is “to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world.”   The founders remind participants in the exchange that “sense of community trumps everything.”

Little Free Libraries assume unique personalities and permutations as the ideas and adaptations expand.  In Minneapolis, the Books for All in Minneapolis (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/books-for-all-in-minneapolis.html)  has its own structure and persona.  Each neighborhood that agrees to host a LFL identifies an individual or group to serve as a steward for their Library.  Stewards give the Library and books the care they need.  Sponsors contribute funds that cover the cost to build, deliver and install a unique LFL.  Each Library holds 20-40 books, many donated by generous sponsors such as Northeast Minneapolis publisher Coffee House Press which was contributed thousands of books and generous cash gifts to the project.  Each site sports a sign that recognizes the sponsor(s) and indicates that this LFL is registered as part of the city and now global network of exchanges.

LFL has also attracted the attention and generous support of AARP.  The Touch Points Project is designed to address the challenges faced by socially isolated older adults.  Bol and Brooks describe the project as one that write that “will build upon the connections and common interests stimulated by reading-related activities generated by neighborhood book exchanges.  The idea is to bring people together by reading aloud, promoting friendly visits, book discussions and other ways to engage isolated older adults in community life, especially those who are vulnerable to loneliness and ill health because of limited means.  The steps and procedures for interested individuals and groups to participate in the AARP project are available at http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/reaching-out-to-socially-isolated-older-adults.

No surprise, libraries are key players in the LFL movement.  Though there is no requirement for library involvement, Brooks and Bol say that “this entire program has been designed with Friends of Libraries in mind.  Little Libraries offer creative and upbeat outreach tools to extend the reach of the public library to parts of your community that might not otherwise use it.”

The LFL website (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org) is a vibrant and endlessly informative resource.  Check it out for an update on the project’s global development, including an interactive map of sites,  and details about LFL sites, especially photos of the imaginative designs created by readers and craftspeople of every stripe.  Through June 21, 2013 you’ll have a chance to participate in the LFL film festival!  You’ll also find a great video that introduces Brooks and Bol  putting words to their vision – you’ll soon find yourself envisioning a host of LFL’s popping up in your own  front yard or neighborhood.