Shakespeare’s Birthday, Paris, and World Book Night :  What Do They All Have in Common?

How does your library celebrate World Book Night?

World Book Night’s annual book giveaway transports readers in one UK hospital to the City of Love.

Since spring has finally arrived here in the north of England (Is it me, or has it been a longer winter than usual?), and certain age groups are now in the process of sitting their end-of-year exams, it’s definitely time to start thinking about summer holidays and frivolity. And this might or might not have been a factor in the choice of book for World Book Night last month — Paris for One by JoJo Moyes.

For those who haven’t come across the concept, World Book Night takes place once a year on the 23rd of April (Yes, you’re not imagining things, that’s Shakespeare’s birthday. Allegedly.) The idea is to encourage those who might not typically pick up a book and read it to do just that — libraries effectively “bid” for multiple copies of a particular title, which are then given away to encourage reading. This year the Trust chose to request copies of the JoJo Moyes title, which was then distributed to various staff departments in the main hospital and in the community and left in patient waiting areas for patients to pick up. We did a LOT of walking that day — along the main corridor (which sometimes seems to go on for miles), out at occupational therapy community centers, and into a couple of primary care units as well.


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Paris for One is a quick read— just right if you’re short on time and need to be transported to another world as a rapid pick-me-up. As this book is actually a short story, it’s especially suitable for those staff able to fit in a quick coffee break or patients waiting for an appointment. And as the theme is a rom-com in book form, it is light enough to help act as a diversion in what can often be a very serious setting.

Every year there’s a variety of book titles to choose from in different genres, usually including cosy crime, autobiography, historical fiction, and uplifting lifestyle guides. Each book comes with a Reading Agency bookmark, and once you’ve read the book, the idea is that you can leave a short review online and pass the copy on to someone else you think might enjoy it. (Though it’s not compulsory, some readers like to keep the copy if they’ve really enjoyed the narrative.)

Amazingly, World Book Night has now been running for twelve years, having started in 2011 after a discussion at the Book Industry Conference. The first World Book Night took place on 5 March 2011 and was moved to 23 April the following year. Towards the end of 2013, the English charity The Reading Agency took over the running of the programme.

In case you’re wondering whether there’s a link to World Book Day, the answer is yes; World Book Day 2023 took place in early March, and where World Book Day is aimed at children, World Book Night is for grown-up readers.


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World Book Night isn’t the only programme run by The Reading Agency over the course of the year and beyond — there’s also the Teachers’ Reading Challenge and the Reading Well set of reading lists, put together in conjunction with Health Education England (now part of NHS England). The Reading Well lists all have a health and wellness theme, and then there’s the Summer Reading Challenge, due to launch on the 24th of June.

The physical library space in the hospital trust has also seen something of a mini-facelift recently, thanks to some additional funding from Health Education England. A new quiet space has been installed in the shape of a study pod, while sofas, chairs, and artificial plants have been added to a corner of the library that was previously “dead” space. We’ve also been hard at work improving the book stock to support our clinical colleagues, with Knowledge and Library Services staff preparing for at least a couple of marathon cataloguing stints. Typically in medical and healthcare libraries, textbooks should ideally have been published within the last ten years — the more recent, the better, in most cases.

Things move so quickly in health that it can be tricky to catch our breath, but we do know that one of our next mini projects will be taking part in some presentations and information sessions for Health Information Week in the summer. There’s so much information out there that we see it as a huge part of our job to try to help users work out where the decent health information is — we’ll be working with our colleagues in public libraries again on part of this, and we’re also hoping to catch up with Healthwatch, an independent entity that helps make sure patient voices are heard by the NHS and social care organizations that are there to make life better.

In the meantime, though, it’s definitely time to look towards summer events, wellness, and light summer reading of the JoJo Moyes Parisian rom-com variety — now, where DID I leave that floppy hat. . . ?



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