Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: One Country, One Conference, One Book. (Reading)

Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: One Country, One Conference, One Book. (Reading)

Article excerpt

If you are still looking for reasons to come to Toronto in June for the joint ALA/CLA Annual Conference, here's a good one: Come see how--and what--Canada reads. One way to get a preview is through a project called just that: Canada Reads. Hosted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Canada Reads takes the "one community, one book" notion one step further. Begun in 2002 and continuing this year, it got a whole country reading.

As with most U.S.--Canada comparisons, there are similarities and decided differences--the books considered, the selection process, and the roles of publishers, media, and libraries. CBC launched the project with a week-long series of radio broadcasts in April 2002. Five panelists--two authors, an actress, a rock star, and former prime minister Kim Campbell--each presented their shortlist of five books for all of Canada to read and defended their top picks in a spirited debate.

At the end of each day, the panel voted one title off the list until a single title remained. Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion (1987) was the winner, chosen by Steven Page of the band Barenaked Ladies. Canada's National Librarian Roch Carrier announced the winner the following week and Canada began reading in earnest.

"The project was enormously successful," said Jacqueline Carlos, who directs outreach efforts for Canada Reads, including getting libraries into the act. "When we started this, we were of course influenced by the American 'one book' projects, but we wanted to do something distinctly Canadian. We knew we wanted to involve the whole country, we wanted it to be playful, and we wanted it to be an interesting radio series.

"Libraries were a big help in getting the word out. We're doing it all over again this year, and the libraries have been pushing us for information, wanting to get books ordered and get discussion groups started. We've sent out hundreds of thousands of bookmarks, thousands of posters. We've seen a wide range of communities get involved through their libraries, from cities like Vancouver and Winnpieg to smaller towns like Cobourg, Ontario."

This year's Canada Reads panel will be broadcast on CBC April 21-25, and the contenders are Next Episode (Prochain Episode) (2001) by Hubert Aquin and translated by Sheila Fischman; Sarah Binks (1947) by Paul Hiebert; Life of Pi (2001) by Yann Martel; The Lost Garden (2002) by Helen Humphreys; and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1999) by Wayne Johnston. …

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