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Contact: Laura Hayes, PPO Program Officer 

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2003

Library conference highlights “One Book, One City” trend

Raft of programs features Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Librarians have always known that books and reading connect people across time and place.   In a rapidly accelerating trend over the past five years, libraries have been bringing entire cities and countries together through literature.  To date, more than 140 communities in 49 U.S. states and Canada have hosted community-wide reading programs.  The American Library Association (ALA)/Canadian Library Association (CLA) joint conference in Toronto, June 19-25, will celebrate this library-driven initiative with the association-wide reading and discussion program, “One Book, One Conference.” 

Hundreds of librarians, publishers and guests will read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and participate in a series of discussion programs at the ALA/CLA Annual Conference exploring the book’s topics and themes.   American and Canadian librarians with extensive experience in leading reading and discussion series will facilitate the discussions.  As an added bonus, ALA will give away more than 100 copies of Atwood’s latest book, “Oryx and Crake,” to conference attendees and “One Book, One Conference” participants.   The books were donated by Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. 

“We are excited about this program because the ‘One Book’ phenomena has captured the imagination of communities across North America,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels.  “Librarians are putting together incredible ‘One Book, One Community’ programs that bring attention to libraries and the value of reading and book discussion programs.  This conference-related initiative will provide a ‘hands-on’ learning experience for those considering, planning or participating in such a program, as well as an enjoyable activity for conference attendees.”

The “One Book, One Conference” initiative culminates with Atwood’s appearance at the Public Library Association (PLA) President’s Program on Monday, June 23, at 4 p.m.   The author of more than 30 books – novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history and books for children – Atwood has been acclaimed internationally and published around the world. Her novels include “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Cat’s Eye” – both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; “Alias Grace,” winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; and “The Blind Assassin,” winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her latest novel is “Oryx and Crake.” 

“PLA is very pleased Margaret Atwood will be speaking to our members and all conference attendees,” said PLA President Jo Ann Pinder.   “Atwood is the premiere Canadian author of our time, making her book the perfect match for the new initiative.  PLA is honored to present her appearance and to participate in this new initiative.”  PLA is a division of the ALA.

Support for Atwood’s appearance is provided by Ingram Library Services.  Support for “One Book, One Conference” is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

For more information about "One Book, One Conference," please visit

The ALA Public Programs Office will host a preconference institute for librarians interested in learning more about implementing community-wide reading programs. "Mastering the One Book, One Community Initiative" will be held Friday, June 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature several experienced "One Book" directors, including Mary Dempsey, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library; Nancy Pearl, director of the Washington Center for the Book; Steve Sumerford, assistant director of the Greensboro (N.C.) Public Library; and Sheila Murphy, senior program officer with Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds.

As an additional resource for librarians planning their own “One Book, One Community” initiatives, ALA Graphics and the ALA Public Programs Office will debut a new “One Book” CD product in Toronto.  The CD features the “Planning Your Community-Wide Read” guide and customizable artwork libraries can use to promote their “One Book” programs.  Librarians and others can purchase the CD at the ALA Store in Toronto or online at 

The ALA Annual Conference is the world’s largest and most comprehensive library conference and exhibition. Drawing librarians, educators, writers, publishers and special guests, the conference includes more than 2,000 meetings, discussion groups and programs on topics affecting libraries. Conference speakers include Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Smeal and Naomi Klein. Exhibitors will feature the latest and best library products and services and host authors from across North America.

For the most up-to-date conference information, please visit the ALA home page and click on the “Annual Conference” icon on the right.