Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Book Festival: "Books may well be the only true magic"

Whew. The Fox Cities Book Festival, many years in the dreaming and three years in the actual planning, is over. By all accounts, it was a tremendous success. Over 3,000 people attended programs over the three days of the festival proper. That doesn't include lots of auxiliary events, like author presentations in the schools, community read book discussion groups, etc. Our library hosted ten events with attendance of over 600.

People came from over 100 miles away to attend, and some community members were heard to say "Next year, I'll take vacation so I can go to more events."

I'm proud of our collaboration with other libraries, organizations and community volunteers. I'm very proud of the role our library played and all the hard work done by library staff, especially on Saturday, when we hosted eight programs in five hours, with attendance over 300. I'm proud of all the work our staff did to get ready for that day, coming hard on the heels of our very big Alice Hoffman presentation. Thank you, thank you, to attendees, library staff, library volunteers, and the Foundation donors who underwrote our participation.

Not only that, but dang -- it was fun! I managed to catch at least some of several programs. I enjoyed the authors, and enjoyed the community excitement about the value and power of books even more. Alice Hoffman & Naomi Shihab Nye absolutely rock, Chalres Baxter, Ellen Kort, Cynthia Johnson, Minnesota Crime Wave -- you folks were all great!

Now begins the debriefing and post-mortem, as we try to figure out if we can replicate this effort in a year! Here's a copy of letter I received in email:
To the editor:

The people of the Fox Cities celebrated the Fox Cities Book Festival last week from April 16-20, with a spirit of enthusiasm and energy and joy.

It was a great coming together of the many who love and value reading with those who write the books we read. We are most grateful to everyone who helped to make it happen: the committee, the libraries, supporters and donors, volunteers and the authors who came to read and talk to their readers.

It was great fun to hear why authors write as they do, to learn how they choose their subjects, what they want their books to do, and opportunity, for readers to ask questions of the authors, hear them read their own words, and meet authors not yet read, but now, will.

Thank you to those who gave the event publicity, those who sponsored the event with funding, those who gave ideas and suggestions, those who worked so hard and beautifully on the brochures, posters, website, the Post-Crescent and other media.

For those who gave in-kind, such as the books for the children, printing, advertising, time on tv and radio, food, venue space, we say thank you, as well. We ask everyone to go to the website or to your brochure to see the many sponsors and to thank them when you see them.

We especially thank the over 3000 people, from the littlest children to students and adult readers, who came to hear one or more of the 40 poets and writers present throughout the Fox Cities during the week. What a thrill to have so many value the Pure Joy of Reading, the event's theme.

Thank you, Fox Cities, from the Fox Cities Book Festival committee.

Ellen Kort
Leota Ester

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