Today was World Book Night, and I couldn't have been more excited! I had signed up to be a volunteer months ago, and I was really looking forward to participating in this event as a volunteer book giver. I picked up my 20 copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian last week, and was ready to head to the streets of southern California to give the gift of reading- free of charge. I don't normally enjoy giving critical feedback on things, however, I feel that like all experiences, there are the positives and the negatives. This story just happens to be the latter, and perhaps with the type of experience I had, the good people at World Book Night will be able to make a much more fulfilling event next year.
The weather today was a bit cloudy, one of those gloomy days where I think most people would rather stay inside than face the mood-altering effects of bad weather. I packed up my 20 copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, along with a selection of book related giveaways I had received at SDCC this past year, just to have a wider selection of literary items to pass out. I brought my sister along for the ride, and we began our journey at the local Starbucks. Not only was there a huge amount of construction going on, there were also no customers with the exception of a few middle aged men enjoying their lattes and iPhones. After a while with no one to hand out books to, we decided to head over to another shopping center, which also had a Starbucks as well as many other shops and a Target, a great place with high traffic in my opinion. We dropped off 5 copies of the book at the Starbucks, who was taking children's book donations and were very grateful for our contribution. We brought the next 15 books over to the Target entrance, and tried handing them our there. I was at first surprised by the large number of people who were not interested in receiving free books. This stigma may come from the plethora of solicitors that inhabit the area, particularly religious groups handing out bibles and other paraphernalia. I decided to change up the way I approached people by asking if they would like a free young adult novel, rather than a free book, and explained the mission of World Book Night. This seemed to change people's reception a bit, but we were still only able to hand out around 5 copies. After about an hour, and thankfully no interference from the Target staff, we decided to head over to the local library, which is typically inhabited by homeless or low-income families, a location which is notorious for accepting donations.
We were greeted by a rather unpleasant librarian, who promptly turned us away, on account of not knowing how she would even begin to give out the remaining copies of the book we had. I was stunned, to be quite frank. It is very unusual for a library to deny the opportunity to spread the importance of literacy, and yet that was happening right here in my very town. We decided to drop off the remaining copies at the Starbucks we had visited earlier. Maybe it's the location that I live in, maybe it's the areas I choose to give out the books, perhaps the gloomy weather had something to do with it, but it seems to me to be a testament to our society how little reluctance, and dare I say hostility, there is towards reading or accepting a free book from a stranger. I feel our society has become far too self-absorbed to even stop to acknowledge a good thing a person is trying to do. What a shame. However, I am taking this as a learning experience, and I hope to offer my input to the World Book Night group so that we may make next year's event more pleasant and efficient than 2012. It might be more beneficial to take cues from Free Comic Book Day, and simply have volunteers man booths at prominent locations throughout the U.S. It may make people feel more comfortable to accept something from a group with a banner than a girl with a mockingjay pin.
What are some tips you would like to send the people to WBN after reading this experience? Would you sign up for this event next year if they use this same distribution method?