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Savannah Children's Book Festival
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Innovation SummaryCelebrate the joy of reading, the power of the written word and the magic of story telling with children's book authors and illustrators from around the country.
10 years ago the library was an island. We were not connected to the community beyond our walls. We needed a way to increase our profile within our community and to build bridges with funding partners and other complementary organizations and agencies.
Library statistics were no where near where they should be. Program attendance was limited; visits were stagnant; circulation was holding its own.
Additionally, literacy and graduation rates were at an all-time low.
Our desire to be seen as part of the education solution was another challenge. The library was categorized as an entertainment or recreational destination for many residents, leaders and funders.
To reposition the library within the community, we launched the Savannah Children's Book Festival. We intentionally started the festival with few overt connections to the library. Over the years the festival has grown and in the past 2 years, we have strengthened the ties to the library.
The festival has also grown from a one-day event to a year-long series of programs culminating in an eagerly anticipated all-day extravaganza for children of all ages.
Beyond the one day festival, this year included: a poster contest, a young writers' contest, a reluctant readers symposium, authors-in-classrooms program, special library story times, an intern program for disadvantaged youth, and a special TIER award (teach, inspire, empower through reading) to one of the featured authors.
To reward those who read the most hours in our annual summer reading program, these children are declared VIP readers and receive a golden ticket in the mail to exchange at the festival for a VIP reader badge and swag bag. Throughout the day, our VIPs are congratulated on their summer reading achievements and identified as super library users. This aspect of the festival has cemented the relationship between the library and the festival within the community.
The festival has presented the library with an innovative opportunity to promote everything we do to new audiences, such as civic leaders, business elite, and people who really believed the library had nothing for them.
The first year, the festival had a budget of under $10,000 and an attendance of less than 5,000. The 2011 festival had a budget of over $100,000 and attendance was more than 40,000, making it one of the largest one-day festivals in Savannah and one of the largest children's book festivals in the country. The festival spans generations and socio-economic lines offering one of the most diverse events in our area. Authors are now clamoring to be part of the festival. We had over 90 authors and illustrators from across the country participate.
As the festival has grown and evolved, there have been many positive outcomes for the library:
-new funding streams from municipal government
-support from the business community where there was none before, including, cash, in-kind and volunteering
-recognition from local educators that the library is an essential partner
-with a much higher profile within our communities, the library's use has increased
-organizations and businesses now seek us out for partnerships
-the library is now seen as a driver for festival tourism and economic development
-increased number of volunteers
The festival has become a springboard for the library to engage the community in new and meaningful ways. Marketing opportunities have allowed the library to expand its user base, increase general funding, as well as festival funding, and raise awareness of the importance of reading. The library is now seen as an critical resource and a catalyst for literacy. Through the festival, the library and our community now celebrates the joy of reading, the power of the written word and the magic of storytelling all year long.