One Book, Any Readers?

The concept of one community reading the same book and then talking about it has been around for quite some time. In fact, Lanark County libraries have taken part in the One Book, One Community initiative a few years in a row. Each library bought multiple copies of the same book, based on the theme for that year, and community members read, took part in book talks, author discussions, and fun activities. While it was super popular in some libraries, it didn’t do well in others. The reasons? We really have no idea.

Advertising can be part of the issue, and how community members get their news. Some populations might be more inclined to read everything in their local paper, while others rely on Facebook and other social media outlets. But it also depends on the age of the population that is likely to participate in library events such as this. It’s possible that some communities had a younger population attending adult library events, and maybe they weren’t ones who had a lot of time to participate in several events based on one book. Maybe in other communities, an older popular had more time, or loved book clubs. It’s difficult to say, but often, it comes down to people knowing about the program.

New York City recently tried a venture that stemmed from the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, and the popular website BuzzFeed. They called it “One Book, One New York”. Essentially, it was what libraries have been doing for decades. They advertised it as the largest book club in history.

Ironically, they tried to launch the same type of initiative two years earlier, but no one could agree on what book to read, so it was scrapped. This time, they allowed New Yorkers to vote on five selections, and they decided on AMERICANAH by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi.

So, did it work this time? Each burrough of New York City reported back with their results—how they advertised, what events they offered, and what they thought about the program. You can read the entire article here.

Overall, it was difficult to measure the success, because it depended upon the area and who you asked. Some places in NYC found it difficult to advertise and get the book to people because they didn’t have any small, local bookstores there anymore. Other places couldn’t keep the book on their shelves. Some people saw ads for the program, but didn’t make it to any events, and felt a little out of the loop, while others read the book with co-workers and were able to have their own discussions.

This sounds typical of community book clubs in general. You can’t have programs that will accommodate everyone all the time. All you can do is try. And try again. And try a third time. And if it still doesn’t fly, move on to a new program.

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