In 2019, the Watertown Free Library in Massachusetts will celebrate its 11th One Book program. Previous years’ selections include Refuge by Dina Nayeri (2018) and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2017).
The Watertown Free Public Library’s One Book program is an “opportunity to bring people to books they might not have picked up on their own.” Encouraging new literary discoveries through this program allows participants to individually “read from their own unique background” and collectively “come together to share an experience and meet over this connection.” Fostering meaningful discussions takes careful planning and strategic marketing.
Adult and Reference Services Supervisor Jill Martin Clements recognizes that “programming can be a challenge,” and offers valuable advice for using creativity to engage patrons across all age groups. To get the community excited about Common Reads, Clements suggests:
- Think about what your goals are in hosting a community read, and write them down. Refer to them as you develop programming to ensure you keep moving toward them.
- Try to create programming outside of book discussions. “We have found that our audience for book discussions, while engaged, is limited and constant. When we began offering film festivals, and gallery exhibits, and art classes that tied into our book selections, we got a larger and more diverse group of participants.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask authors to come to your library. “We have been turned down (usually by agents and publishers – not by the authors themselves), but we have also had authors graciously agree to come spend time in our community. It’s always worth asking, as having the author on hand is an immense attraction.”
- Everybody loves to eat. Including food in your programming is a sure way to bring people through your doors.
- Have fun with it! Create contests or quirky promotional campaigns. “We have given people a raffle ticket for every program they attended and then raffled off Kindles and other great prizes. We held a “Boston vs New York Trivia Night” (with prizes!) for The Race Underground.”
- Reading the book is just a starting point–see what journey you can take the community on!
We hope you find these tips useful in your library with your community reads programs!
(Contributed by Ivana Petani)