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Spreading the joy of reading one book at a time

Sandy Gilmore, head of adult services at the Oxford Public Library, will once again be giving away free books as part of World Book Night on Tuesday, April 23. She’s holding one of the books scheduled for distribution – “Playing for Pizza” by John Grisham. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
March 27, 2013 - Sandy Gilmore isn't satisfied with simply waiting around at the Oxford Public Library for folks to walk in and check out a good book or two.

That's why for the second straight year, the library's head of adult services will be participating in a worldwide event in which thousands of volunteers give away millions of books to people who don't read regularly or even at all.

"Anything that gets people reading is important," Gilmore said.

It's called World Book Night and the way it works is quite simple. Every year, approximately 30 books are selected by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers.

Thirty-two diverse titles made this year's World Book Night list including classics such as "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain. Popular authors such as John Grisham and James Patterson are represented as well as celebrity authors like comedic actress Tina Fey.

Authors have agreed to waive their royalties and publishers have agreed to cover the cost of producing specially-printed paperback editions for the giveaway.

Once the book titles are announced, people apply to personally hand out 20 copies of a particular title any place they believe there are light readers or non-readers.

Last year, World Book Night was celebrated in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. More than 80,000 people worldwide gave away more than 2.5 million books. In the U.S. alone, 25,000 volunteers handed out 500,000 books.

"Last year was the first year in the United States," Gilmore noted.

Books can be given away at such diverse locations as veterans' hospitals, roller-skating rinks, nursing homes, bus stations, food pantries, schools, etc.

"You can do it anywhere at all," Gilmore said. "It does not have to be in your hometown. You can go anywhere you want. You just want to hit up people that aren't really reading."

But there is one place that's strictly off-limits.

"You're not allowed to give them out at the library," Gilmore said. "You don't want to stand out in the parking lot of the library and hand them out because obviously, people going in a library are readers. It has to be somewhere where non-readers hang out."

Last year, Gilmore handed out her 20 books at a bar in Rochester, where many of the regulars are older, retired men.

"Everybody was really excited about it," she said. "I got a cute little picture of them all holding their books, looking like they were reading them."

Gilmore encouraged them to pass the books on – when they were finished, of course – to other people they know who aren't avid readers.

This year, Gilmore will be handing out copies of "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis. It's about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane.

The book examines baseball economics, specifically how to assemble a competitive team with limited revenue. The 2003 book was made into a 2011 film starring Brad Pitt.

Gilmore chose this book because she felt it would "appeal" to men.

"It's more difficult, in my opinion, to get some of the men who aren't (regular) readers to read," she said. "It's just an impression I've (developed) in my lifetime. So, I tried to pick something that might be interesting to them."

Gilmore hasn't yet decided where she'll distribute her books this year.

"I was thinking of going down to the senior center here in Oxford," she said. "I honestly think that as people get older, they forget that reading is such a pleasure. I see it with my mom and I've seen it with some of the seniors I've worked with before. They don't realize there are large-print or audio books (available). They forget the library is there."

World Book Night is "a good way to remind them of that," Gilmore noted.

For the second year in a row, the Oxford library will serve as a spot where volunteers can pick up their books during a little pre-World Book Night get-together.

The gathering will take place on Monday, April 15 at 6 p.m. It's an opportunity for volunteers to meet other givers and enjoy a snack before they go forth into the world to share their love of reading.

Gilmore's not sure how many volunteers Oxford will host this year.

"We don't have the number yet," she said. "They'll send us a list probably in the next couple of weeks. Last year, I think we had 11, which for a first year is pretty good.

"I'm expecting a little more this year. Just about every library and bookstore in the area are volunteering to be pickup stations."

Gilmore noted the program has all the volunteers it needs for this year's distribution. "Everybody's already been selected to be a giver," she said. For more information, visit www.us.worldbooknight.org

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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