Magazine article American Libraries

On My Mind: Why Stop at One City?

Magazine article American Libraries

On My Mind: Why Stop at One City?

Article excerpt

American libraries have become accustomed (if uncomfortably so) to being situated between a rock of shrinking funding and a hard place consisting of the increasing demands and needs of our customers, many of whom are economically stressed themselves. Here is a plan to help libraries obtain both greater funding and greater public recognition as an essential American institution.

Many libraries have been successful with One Book/One City programs. These communitywide reading initiatives, started by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, have the city's residents all read the same title at the same time in a sort of citywide book club. They've proven extremely popular and have had a positive effect in stimulating a greater sense of community.

If some of the money from the sale of all those books had gone to the sponsoring libraries, it could have been a modest financial benefit to the library. If the money from all the books sold for all the One Book/One City programs could have gone to ALA's Campaign for America's Libraries fund, a fairly large sum would have been accumulated, invested, and leveraged in various ways to provide direct financial assistance to the neediest libraries, innovative program grants, and high-level professional services (such as legal, lobbying, and high-tech) that could benefit American libraries in general. But that's not what I'm proposing.

I think it's time for ALA to sponsor a One Book/One Nation (OBON) project that would be promoted to all Americans through their local libraries. This would be the first time one book would be read and discussed concurrently by a potential audience of millions of people. This project would focus much media attention on the book selected, on ALA, and on the nation's libraries in general. OBON would have the potential to affect the thinking and actions of a large portion of the American population. Thus the book that's selected should not be just an interesting read, but rather a title that has the potential to have a positive influence on American life. It should be a book that addresses one or more of the major social problems currently afflicting America, so as to both clarify the problem and challenge readers to provide ideas and effort toward its solution. …

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