Monday, September 29, 2008


The National Book Festival

On Saturday, I was among more than 120,000 visitors who went to the National Book Festival on the National Mall. Started in 2001, it was co-founded by First Lady Laura Bush--a former librarian and advocate of reading and literacy. The annual event is sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by the First Lady of the United States. The National Book Festival brings together local, national, and international authors and poets of renown. This year's festival was no exception and featured writers Salman Rushdie, Daniel Schor, Cokie Roberts, Tiki Barber, Eleanor Clift, Katherine Paterson, Laura Bush and Jenna Bush, Marisa de los Santos, Phillipa Gregory, Alexander McCall Smith, and 2008 poet laurete Kay Ryan, among many others.

A reading in the Children's Pavilion and the Scholastic Reading Bus

Pavilions were divided into categories ranging from Home & Family to Children & Teens, History & Biography to Fiction & Mystery. There was also a Pavilion of States where each U.S. state and several territories had tables set up and you could learn about local authors specific to each of the states and territories. There was a tent for buying books by featured authors and poets and, if you were willing to stand in very, very long lines, you could get your books signed by the author or poet.

L: Target was the Distinguished Benefactor sponsor of this event. Visitors could have their picture taken with
Bullseye, the Target mascot. C: Visitors browsing the book sales tent. R: Two lovely young ladies from Wyoming
who were hosting the Equality State's table in the Pavilion of States.

Here are some interesting facts and statistics about libraries, as provided by the State of Oklahoma. Across America, did you know:
  • There are more public libraries than McDonald's in the U.S.--more than 16,500.
  • Americans spend twice as much on salty snacks as they do on public libraries.
  • Academic libraries answer 72.8 million reference questions each year--almost twice the attendance at college football games.
  • The cost of materials has skyrocketed. The cost of a fiction hardcover has increased 53% since 1986, while the cost of some reference books has increased 224% since 1989.
  • Research in Colorado and New York shows the highest acheiving students attend schools with good library media centers.
  • Students make 1.5 billion visits to school libraries during the school year--100 million more visits than trips to movie theaters in 2005.
First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna, were signing books
at the National Book Festival. This was the closest I could get.
(Click image to enlarge.)

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/08


Lucy said...

That's worth moving to DC for. I'd never get out of the mall.

Bernie said...

Sorry I missed that. I did go to the used book sale Saturday at the Middletown, MD Heritage Festival, so at least I was thinking about books. :)

Virginia said...

With the mention of the Scholastic Bus I got all sweaty and my heart started racing and I got that ole teacher urge to throw money at someone for more books!

Wayne said...

Interesting. Vancouver has had an event for many years called 'Word On The Street' and it was held yesterday.

The exhibits wrap around the main library on 3 streets. The weather was perfect. If I hadn't promised to be somewhere else I'd have been there.

Maya said...

Looks like fun. I LOVE books!

marley said...

We have the Cheltenham Literature Festival here in October. It last a week and is big, but not this big! We have big name authours, celebrities and shows, but no First Lady! This looked like a great place for book worms :)

D.C. Confidential said...

Lucy: Well, I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's certainly worth a visit! ;-) Actually, it was totally enjoyable, but definitely requires a little more advanced planning than I did. I thought it would be more tradeshow-ish and it wasn't. Next time I go, I'll do a better job of finding out what times authors are going to be speaking and then plan accordingly. Otherwise, you just end up wandering around.

Bernie: The Middletown Heritage Festival sounds like a lot of fun! Wish I'd made it for that. I love small town fetes.

VJ: Isn't it ridiculous that the Pentagon can get any piece of warmongering hardware they want, but schools have to beg, borrow and steal just to buy books? Something's wrong with that picture.

Wayne: Vancouver's book festival has such a cool name! I love it! That would be worth a trip to Vancouver.

Maya: You'd have loved this festival!

Marley: That sounds lovely! I'm sure you could get the First Lady, if you wrote and asked. She's going to be out of a gig in a few months and might welcome the opportunity! Speaking of Laura Bush's tenure ending as First Lady, I wonder if the book festival will continue even after her husband leaves office? Hm.

Virginia said...

Oh D.C. I could rant all day about that. We can flush billions for a war, but teachers, who are grossly underpaid, spend more money than you will ever know on their classrooms. The first 6 years or more, I spent an average of $1500 out of pocket on my class. Those were receipts I kept. Spent much more that that that I didn't bother claiming. But everyone wants to pipe up about what's wrong with schools. For the love!!! A donation to a good teacher or her classroom is the best money you can invest.

And Lucy's kitten looks stangely like our yarn obsessed Kittykins!

D.C. Confidential said...

VJ: When I lived in California, I had a roommate who was a school teacher. It astounded me how much money she spent out of pocket to decorate her room and provide supplies to her kids. If she was even clearing $40K a year, I'd be surprised. It really is shameful that we spend so little on education in this country. Sadly, it's really starting to show.

babooshka said...

Fantastic. If only we had such a thing. I am huge fan of libraries. Good to see still more of them than MacDonalds. You were right you have got a bevy full of people at a public event. This kind of photography is a lifeblood for me during the touristy time here. Books should be for all.

D.C. Confidential said...

Babooshka: As I always like to say, "Books are our friends." Corny, I know, but books are the only thing that are going to save us from downright stupidity. Libraries are definitely a wonderful thing!