Thousands participate in One Book campaign

By on January 30, 2013

South Central Pennsylvania’s One Book, One Community campaign enticed thousands of area residents to read "Zeitoun" by journalist Dave Eggers and participate in a wide variety of community-based programs that focused on the issues presented in the non-fiction title. Ethnic and racial profiling contributed to the Zeitoun family’s ordeal during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The regional reading campaign, now in its ninth year, was the first of its kind to be launched in Pennsylvania. In 2012 it ran from August 25 through mid-November.

"Zeitoun" was borrowed 2,916 times during the One Book, One Community campaign according to tracking done by the Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York county library systems and HACC academic libraries. These numbers reflect multiple formats of "Zeitoun" made available to the public as books, audio books, and e-books.

The relevance of this year’s book was enhanced by interest in the Muslim culture and Islam as many residents of the United States are from the Muslim culture.

Throughout September, October, and mid-November, an estimated 750 central Pennsylvanians participated in a total of 60 library programs, including book discussions, cooking demonstrations, and other related events. Many readers responded that they like the sense of community that the One Book program encourages while highlighting good literature. The response to this year’s campaign reaffirms the important role that libraries and books play in bringing people together.

Sponsor Harrisburg News Company reported robust sales of over 1,300 copies of the book through outlets including Giant food stores, Weis Markets, and Wegmans stores once the campaign was launched. Partners Barnes & Noble Bookstores and a growing list of independent bookstores also saw a marked increase in the sale of "Zeitoun."

The official website, oboc.org, served as a resource for individuals to gather information on the program that included features on Zeitoun and recommended reading for adults, excerpts from the book, a survey for feedback, and a special coupon offer from Isaac’s Restaurant and Deli.

The One Book, One Community effort was made possible by the generous support of many community leaders, including WGAL-TV 8, the Robert H. & Beverly U. Fowler Family Foundation, Isaac’s Restaurant and Deli, ShowcasePA Magazine, Giant Food Stores, and K &L Gates. Local library friends’ groups throughout the area contributed to the project. Glatfelter, a local paper company, supplied over 100 outreach books that were distributed throughout the six participating counties. Outreach books were shared with senior centers, hospitals, local prison libraries, and other community outlets. WGAL, media sponsor for the reading initiative, produced public service announcements for the One Book, One Community campaign. News 8′s education reporter Anne Shannon served as on-air spokesperson for the campaign.

The September issue of ShowcaseNow! Magazine featured Anne Shannon on the cover and a four-page insert with information about this year’s selection, the author and programming, and the programming schedule for participating libraries in six counties.

"True to the spirit of One Book, One Community, this year’s title was both relevant and timely," said Carolyn Blatchley, librarian for Cumberland County library system and coordinator of this year’s One Book Campaign. "With Abdulrahman Zeitoun making news on our kick-off date, and Hurricane Sandy blowing through at the end of our campaign, lively discussions took place throughout the region."

"This year’s campaign offered the opportunity to discuss the nature of prejudice and what it means to have one’s civil rights taken away — especially during a time of crisis. Many readers commented that this year’s selection was not a book that they would have chosen to read on their own, but because it was encouraged by the One Book campaign, they welcomed the opportunity to expand their knowledge about issues addressed in ‘Zeitoun,’" said Mary Ann Heltshe-Steinhauer, community relations director of Library System of Lancaster County.

Led by the Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York county library systems, as well as Harrisburg Area Community College campus libraries, One Book, One Community promotes the value of reading by recommending a compelling book that links community members in a common conversation through readings, group discussions, programs and other events. For more information, visit oboc.org.

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