Nashville Library Foundation Citywide Read
In mid-2008, the Nashville Public Library Foundation asked MP&F to plan and promote its first-ever Citywide Read. With The Citywide Read, The Foundation wanted to create an event that would raise awareness of its annual Literary Award by calling on area residents to read the honored author’s works while also generating a communitywide dialogue concerning the author’s works. John Irving, literary legend and author of more than a dozen best-selling novels including The Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, was selected to be the recipient of the award in 2008.
In years past, recipients of the Literary Award spoke to a small crowd at the downtown library while in town to attend the gala and accept their awards. MP&F’s first suggestion was to hold the free public lecture at The Ryman Auditorium. Holding the lecture at The Ryman added a uniquely Nashville element and helped create excitement around the event. It also afforded a greater opportunity for more Nashvillians to see and hear John Irving. The opportunity to see Irving was an essential element in the campaign to generate interest in The Citywide Read.
After The Foundation decided on The Ryman, MP&F suggested holding a news conference to announce The Citywide Read. Mayor Karl Dean, an avid reader and fan of Irving, gave his support early on and agreed to be part of the announcement, slated to be held at the Downtown Library in September.
MP&F’s graphic design department created a “look” for the event that incorporated MP&F’s theme for The Citywide Read: “Read John Irving. Meet John Irving.” This theme was critical in the team’s efforts to reach out to the community through earned media, social media, and partnerships with local businesses and educational institutions.
MP&F thoroughly researched Irving and his work as soon as the project began. Members of the team read different Irving books and pulled quotes to be part of a series of ads in Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean. The team referred to its research on Irving throughout the project. We also prepared a detailed media list and researched reporters at the local and regional levels who would be interested in Irving and his work.
MP&F felt that having local book clubs participate in the event and then come “meet Irving” was critical. In an effort to get them involved, the team compiled a list of businesses across the city and asked them to host discussion group or book club meetings.
The MP&F team also reached out to high school and college English and literature classes and encouraged them to come to the event at The Ryman and be part of The Citywide Read.
On the earned media front, MP&F drafted a series of calendar listings, advisories and news releases. The media push began with the news conference in September. After the announcement, the team continued to pitch media and send out reminders about the event. The week before the lecture at The Ryman, MP&F scheduled media interviews with Irving in the Nashville Scene and The Tennessean. Library Director Donna Nicely appeared on More at Midday on NBC affiliate WSMV, and a participant in The Citywide Read, Maureen Schlacter, was interviewed by WPLN’s Nina Cardona.
The MP&F team created MySpace and Facebook pages for The Read that included photos and video from the news conference, information about discussion group locations, Irving’s bio, and a list of his work.
MP&F created a list of local businesses and reached out to them, asking for their support. Many of them put up posters about the event and offered free coffee and coupons to book clubs whose members were reading an Irving book
MP&F also worked to coordinate the involvement of local colleges and universities. Vanderbilt University sponsored the event at The Ryman and held a discussion group with Mayor Dean on campus. Montgomery Bell Academy teachers held a free seminar on Irving at Davis-Kidd Booksellers.
The Tennessean signed on to be a media sponsor and ran a series of ads on its Web site and in the print edition. MP&F also created a public service announcement that featured Mayor Dean to share with local radio stations.
Additional art projects included a palm card about the event and huge banners that hung in the Downtown Library. MP&F created a program and run-of-show, hired a photographer, and drafted talking points for Mayor Dean and Donna Nicely.
The Citywide Read and event at The Ryman were huge successes. On the morning of the event, Nashvillians started lining up outside the doors to The Ryman at 7 a.m., despite the chilly weather and the fact that the event did not begin until 10 a.m. More than 1,400 Nashvillians came to The Ryman to hear Irving and be a part of the discussion that followed his lecture.