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Community Involvement in Community Reading Program

Pierce County Library System

Problem Statement

Pierce County Library System continuously seeks opportunities to engage and involve the public. PCLS has experienced tremendous success with its first three community one-book reading programs: Pierce County READS. It wanted to continue the momentum, bolster participation, and build continued excitement, support, and engagement in the program.


To further community engagement and involvement with Pierce County READS, PCLS asked the community to select the 2011 READS book and author. PCLS’s Pierce County READS team reviewed and developed a short list of three books and authors, based upon its community one-book selection criteria: broad appeal to a wide audience; available in multiple formats, such as paperback and on CD; written by a well-known living author and a good speaker; discussable topic that people can talk about with relevant and meaningful characters and themes; and presents themes and issues that can be enhanced in community events and activities. In May 2010, PCLS asked the public to cast ballots for one of three books and authors. PCLS conducted numerous communications activities to involve people with the vote including flyer and posters in libraries and at dozens of community partners’ locations, a PCLS web page and links on community partners’ sites, Twitter, Facebook, and media relations.


The vote garnered strong media coverage. In all, people cast 1,281 votes to select the READS book. The book choices included: “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” by Timothy Egan, “The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Craft Rubin and “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. It was a close vote with “The Help” (507) coming in first, followed closely by “The Big Burn” (488). Prior to the vote the publicists for Stockett said she was available for READS 2011. Following the vote tally she was unavailable. Therefore, a strong contender, with considerable public support, “The Big Burn” is the 2011 Pierce County READS book. Pierce County READS 2011 is underway now and the public involvement and engagement is going strong, along with considerable media coverage and checkouts of “The Big Burn” from PCLS and purchases of the book from bookstores, which are community partners.