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Innovation SummaryRead the book. Meet the author. Put the ideas in the book into action in your town. The Library's "Book-to-Action" series will get you and your neighbors talking about the amazing communities that come together with words, and how to harness that power to transform our lives for the better.
Books and reading are the essential building blocks of society, used throughout history to record, share, and build upon the collective ideas and knowledge of our civilization. Reading is a universal activity that brings people together -- across the ages, across cultures and languages, and around the world. The written word has extraordinary power to stimulate, educate, and open minds, and to lift us all up to higher ground.
But for all the good things about reading, literacy faces many challenges in the modern world. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a comprehensive national report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only was literary reading in America declining rapidly among all demographic groups, but that the rate of decline was accelerating, especially among the young. The report showed that fewer than half of all American adults spend any time reading literature at all.
This begs the question, does it matter if people read or not? Does reading translate into action in the real world? The answer is, yes, in fact, it does. The report showed that readers are more engaged and active in their communities than people who don’t read. For example, readers are nearly three times more likely to attend a performing arts event; one-and-a-half times more likely to attend a sporting event; and over two-and-a-half times more likely to do volunteer or charity work in the community. In addition to the more obvious reasons why we know reading is a good thing -- education, lifelong learning, exploring new ideas, and so forth -- we also know that a community that values reading is likely to be a stronger, more active and engaged community overall. The challenge is what to do with this information. How can we translate the innate power of books and reading into community action?
Hayward Public Library's "Book-to-Action" series takes the concept of a author talk to the next level by pairing community-wide book discussions and author appearances with community action events. The series takes the power of words and ideas to inspire and motivate, then combines it with meaningful "hands on" opportunities for residents to make a difference in their communities. For example, one series featured the book "Farm City" by notable local author Novella Carpenter, about urban farming. The author appearance itself was a smash hit, with excellent coverage in the local press, and was followed a few days later by a community action event to replant a local school garden which attracted over 300 participants. Another series featured the book A Paradise Built in Hell, about community response to disasters, and features a seismic history walking tour along the Hayward Fault, and culminates in a popular workshop on personal emergency preparedness led a the Hayward Fire Department.
In addition to being wildly popular among residents, the Book to Action series has repositioned the library as the central location for civic and community engagement in our city, in particular in the eyes of local civic leaders. As a result of the library's demonstrated capacity to transform ideas and concepts into meaningful community action, several other innovative projects have been initiated at the library encouragement of local leaders, for example, the library is leading a city-wide visioning process to develop an urban agriculture plan, which include the establishment of a seed-lending library. Another project that has grown from the Book-to-Action series is the creation of a Nonprofit Resource Center in the library to support local nonprofit agencies with their resource development efforts, wth the goal of increasing our nonprofit community's capacity to bring more external funding into our city to support our residents through nonprofit social programs.