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Getting out the (Patron) Vote

   November 7th, 2006

In 2007, my library is conducting a "One Book One Town" program. It's the first time this community has done it, and the library received a grant [pdf] from the State to run it.

The biggest question, then, is which book to read. Instead of the library just picking one, we decided to let the patrons choose their book. To do this, the library designed a two-step process.

Step One was "nominations." During the months of September and October 2006, we had nomination forms and boxes in the library and on the website, for patrons to nominate a book (or books - they could nominate as many titles as they wanted) that they thought would be a good read for the entire town.

When nominations closed, a committee of library staff and townspeople tallied up all the nominations. The idea was to take the top five or so most popular, but the committee found that the nominations were all over the spectrum. So, they had to apply some criteria to help narrow the list:

  • had to be fiction
  • had to be under about 400 pages
  • had to be readable by and interesting to ages about fourteen to adult
  • shouldn't be a book everyone read in high school

Once those criteria had weeded out many books, the committee then chose the three most popular nominations, and created a voting ballot for general elections.

Step Two came on Election Day (today, Nov. 7th), with ballots and boxes set up in the library, on the website - and also at the election polling locations around town. The idea was to get people interested in the One Book One Town program by really letting them vote on which title they read.

Voting is going on right now, and I'll post how the results come out.

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10 Responses to “Getting out the (Patron) Vote”

  1. Kate Says:

    Wow, that’s a really great idea – to solicit recommendations and then hold a vote on Election Day. That’s awesome that they can vote for the book at the polling locations around town, too.

    I can’t wait to find out what they choose! You need to tell us both the top three and the final selection. 🙂

  2. Liz Says:

    It’s interesting that your library’s three nominations have all been (or are being) made into movies–maybe that made them more familiar to everyone. I hope you had good voter turnout today!

  3. herzogbr Says:

    The three finalists were The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Empire Falls (Richard Russo), and House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus).

    And the winner? Empire Falls (yay, Maine). The final vote counts were:

    • Empire Falls: 561 votes
    • The Kite Runner: 483 votes
    • House of Sand and Fog: 254 votes

    That is 1298 votes total, which isn’t too bad (well, it’s a 4% voter turnout for this town of about 35,000). We haven’t come up with a program schedule for next year yet, but I will certainly be talking about this more in the future.

  4. Liz Says:

    This is so cool–so do you order a bunch of copies of the book so there are plenty to go around at the same time, or do you do it in smaller reading groups? Do you discuss it in person, or online, or a little of both? Let us know how it goes!

  5. herzogbr Says:

    As far at the books go, we’re going to do a couple things. Part of the grant money we received is earmarked for buying a couple hundred copies of the book. Most of them will not be cataloged like normal library books, but instead just given out to people. We’re going ask the people who take one to pass it on to someone else when they finish reading it (a la Bookcrossing). We’ll also buy additional copies for the library’s collection, and I think we’ll be getting some from the publisher as well.

    The programs haven’t been finalized yet, as we had wait to see which book would be chosen. In general, though, we’re planning on a series of events lasting throughout 2007, with the goal of one event a month. Some of the ideas we’ve come up with so far are:

    • A visit from the author
    • Book discussion groups every third month
    • A “diner day” at the library (since the book centers around a diner – I’m hoping for a bacon cooking contest)
    • A Maine-related event, since the book takes place in Maine
    • Perhaps a showing of the movie
    • And whatever else we can think of

    Another town in Massachusetts has already used Empire Falls for a One Book program, so we’ll also be contacting them for additional ideas. But if you can think of anything, please let me know.

  6. Liz Says:

    I just started reading this book, and was surprised at how, I don’t want to say light I guess, but how personable and funny it is in parts.

    It won the Pulitzer, and not long after was made into a movie (HBO?), and the ads for the movie had these very somber images of people and places, with Snow Patrol’s “Run” (a great, but plodding and depressing, song) playing in the background. So I suppose I was expecting the book to be more like the ad. Isn’t it funny what an impact marketing can have on you, even beyond the product they’re pitching?

  7. herzogbr Says:

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve also heard that it is much less dark than the HBO movie. Perhaps that accounts for the advert you saw – since it was promoting the movie (and not the book), which I do remember mostly as being very sad, it did intentionally have a darker slant to it than an ad promoting the book would have.

    Which is, in and of itself, interesting – it would be interesting to take stock of how different movie-versions are from the books they are portraying. I went looking around and found a few websites (below) listing books made into movies, but none of them directly compare the two versions. So if you’re looking to start a niche website, there’s an idea for you.

  8. Liz Says:

    The “advert”? What are you, British now?

    But I think you’re right, often movie adaptations take a book and swing with it one way or another.

    What’s interesting is how prominent tv and movie ads are, especially in relation to books. So if you see an ad (or, pardon me, *advert*) for a movie made from the book, it leads you to make inferences on the book which are sometimes unjust.

    For instance, if you saw ads for Hi Fidelity, or saw the movie itself, you might be shocked to read the book and find that it takes place not in Chicago but in London, and that that location is a vital part of the book. Or if you saw Breakfast of Champions, you might think the book would be as awkward and crappy as the movie when, in fact, it’s very fluid and enjoyable. (Or at least I thought so.)

    I worked with a Scottish elementary school teacher once who brought the Harry Potter books over and read them to the kids before they hit the states, and the kids were suddenly excited about reading. She said, though, that the books being made into movies was dreadful because, even though more kids were interested in them, it took away their mental images and imaginations, and slanted all the books toward the director’s vision rather than the child’s.

    Maybe we’re just as susceptible to that bias as adults.

  9. herzogbr Says:

    Sorry – must be watching too much The Young Ones lately.

    Anyway, yes, movie versions rarely seem as good as the actual book – and I bet it does have to do with people other than the author meddling with the story. Plus, too, you can do a lot in a book that you can’t do on the screen, so stories get changed for that reason too.

    But not all movie versions are bad – in fact, I really like the Breakfast of Champions movie (“…Mr. Rhythm-Mover”), and I thought the grittiness of Chicago substituted very well for the grittiness of London in an Americanized High Fidelity (besides, I don’t think John Cusack would be believable with a London accent).

    And, it can go the other way, too. For instance, I liked The Princess Bride movie more than the book (movie Buttercup came off as a much stronger character, which made me like the entire story more). So, I guess it all depends on what you like.

  10. Liz Says:

    That’s definitely true, that it can go either way. And not all adaptations are bad–I thought Wonder Boys was every bit as good as the book, as was Of Mice and Men.

    But High Fidelity in Chicago? Granted, they had some street cred with so-British-it-hurts Stephen Frears, but when you think of Chicago, what kind of music comes to mind? Blues, maybe jazz, perhaps a little polka, plus a few bands who rose out of the neighborhood. It doesn’t have nearly the ties to music that London does, with the British Invasion and the Punk movement and emo and all the indie bands and singer songwriters for which the city is known, especially the West End. They’re equal in grittiness, absolutely, but not so much in musical lineage. And wasn’t music, not Rob Fleming (or Gordon in the film), the real central character?

    You’re right, though, who’d believe John Cusack and Jack Black as born-and-bred Londoners?