By Shannon Tyner and Jennifer Rapier
Libraries are constantly looking for meaningful ways to connect with their communities. Powder Springs Library is a medium-sized branch of the Cobb County Public Library System in southwest Cobb County. In the last ten years, the city has seen many changes including new residential housing leading to an increased, diverse population. Starting in 2021, the library created invaluable local partnerships and reached out to its community through a One Book, One City Reading Campaign.
In the summer of 2021, Julia Davis, the new owner of the Book Worm Bookstore, and Jennifer Rapier, manager of the Powder Springs Library, decided to form a partnership and looked for ways to increase literacy in their city. They came across Nancy Pearl’s One Book, One Community program and decided to try a One Book, One City Reading Campaign, a citywide literary event that encourages members of the Powder Springs community to read the same book at the same time with the aim of bringing the community closer together. They reached out to Powder Springs city officials who agreed it would be a great way for residents to meet neighbors, share viewpoints, and start meaningful discussions. These three organizations then worked together to implement this program.
Powder Springs’ One Book, One City is formatted as a biannual program. The first event features a title for an adult audience while the second event is for youth. Each event includes an author talk and book signing, where the author participates in a discussion with audience participation. The city provides use of its outdoor amphitheater, and Julia books the authors through her professional connections with publishers. Jennifer also holds book discussions at the library prior to the author talks so everyone has a chance to contribute their views. All three work to promote the program and invite residents to participate.
Julia and Jennifer choose books with themes that reflect the community in order to spark meaningful conversations and foster a lifelong love of reading throughout Powder Springs. For 2023, they selected We Are the Light by Matthew Quick. They felt residents would relate to the book’s themes of grief and healing. Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas was the book selected for the younger audience, and it addresses bullying. Past titles included: Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris, and Unsettled by Reem Faruqi.
The community has shown overwhelmingly positive support for One Book, One City. The program has attracted new faces to the library’s regular book discussion groups. Participants have stated they love the community feel of the program, enjoy talking with the authors, and eagerly await the next event.
Creating partnerships and making connections is vital for libraries. Working closely with the city has led to other partnership opportunities for Powder Springs Library and proves that city officials and local businesses, as well as the citizens of Powder Springs, are thinking about, reaching out to, and utilizing the library. It’s a win-win for all involved.
To learn more about the Cobb County Public Library System, go to https://www.cobbcounty.org/library.