Okay…so this is cool. In March, my library took part in a mini Wisconsin library tour with Gordon Korman…yes, THE Gordon Korman. What a great guy! Before I gush all over the place, I wanted to explain how this program offering happened and how you, yes you, can make a major author visit happen for your library.
First, this library tour would likely not have occurred if not for one ambitious 8th grader. This young man was in the midst of the Swindle series when he noticed Mr. Korman’s website was listed on the back cover. Being so excited about Korman’s writing, this student perused the website and found that school/library visits were something that Korman was willing to do. He composed a quick email asking Mr. Korman to visit Waupaca, Wisconsin…and within a day or two received a reply from Gordon himself! How cool!?
In his reply, Gordon explained that he would love to visit Wisconsin, but would need a formal invitation from a school or library professional. This email was forwarded to the Middle School Library Media Specialist, who then forwarded it on to my supervisor, who then spoke with me about it. We were all so impressed that this young man took it upon himself to do something nice for his classmates by inviting a nationally-recognized/award-winning author to visit our community. We decided to pursue it, so I sent an email to Gordon Korman that very day asking him for more details on a school/library visit and financials. Again, he replied within a day.
I took Mr. Korman’s reply to my supervisor and we discussed the cost–it was a bit more than we would like to pay, but for an author of Korman’s caliber, it might be worth it. Other than the financials, Korman also asked that we try and schedule the visit for 3 days…which, with his per day rate, meant we would have to seek out other libraries to partner with to make it less cost-prohibitive. This proved a relatively easy task as it seemed other area libraries were chomping-at-the-bit to have Korman visit their communities as well. It was decided, we were committed. Now, we needed to find sponsors to help fund our leg of Korman’s wintery, Wisconsin journey.
- Waupaca Middle School Parent-Teacher Group
- Waupaca Area Library Foundation
- Waupaca’s Student Library Advisory Group (S.L.A.G.)
- Waupaca Learning Center Parent-Teacher Group
- Waupaca Middle School Principal
- Comfort Suites/Foxfire
We had accomplished our goal to fund Korman’s visit! Yay!
After we secured funding, I emailed Mr. Korman to let him know that this thing was happening. He sent me some dates he had open in his schedule for a mini tour and we took those date to our partnering libraries. We decided on March 1-3. He would fly in on Leap Day, stay in Waupaca for 2 nights, Green Bay for 2 nights, and fly out on the morning of March 4. We also decided to drive him from place to place, rather than pay for a rental vehicle and chance him getting lost somewhere along the way.
We spent the next couple of months working on getting the kids ready by book talking his works for 3-8th grade. We also made plans to offer a pre-sale of his books to students who could then indicate whom they like the inscription made out to, or a quirky message they’d like included in the book from Korman. Normally, the pre-sale does really well at the elementary school and is lacking at the middle school. You know how middle school students can be bringing things home to their parents…but, the new Library Media Specialist at the Waupaca Middle School is amazing and ended up with over 100 book orders from middle schoolers! I also created a display in my teen room to help get the community ready for the Gordon Korman visit. Check it out:
During the book talks, I talked briefly about whom Gordon Korman was…very few didn’t already know. Haha! Most were already reading or had read at least one of his books. I also gave them a quick lesson on asking good questions at author visits. We asked students to write their questions on a note card to be asked at the presentation.
When the day finally came, I picked Mr. Korman up at his hotel. We chatted while he finished up his breakfast and coffee and I learned right away that he really is such a cool guy. He practically exudes cool…and the kids are going to really enjoy talking with him. We held 2 presentations at our Middle School. The first of which was for third through fifth-grade students, approximately 500 in attendance. The second presentation was also held at the Middle School for sixth through eighth-grade students, again, approximately 500 in attendance. Just as I thought, the students loved him. He was funny and engaging. The only complaint came from some of the teachers of the younger students that Mr. Korman’s presentation was 45 minutes of talking to the kids with no visuals, which was difficult for some younger students to sit through. Between daytime presentations, we got a small group of students, teachers, and librarians together to lunch with the author. Korman also signed the many books ordered by students.
After the second presentation, Korman had a little downtime to relax at this hotel before his evening presentation at the public library. His evening presentation saw over 150 in attendance, some of which bussed in from neighboring communities. His books likely sold in the high hundreds between the Middle School pre-orders and the book sales at the public library presentation. Some of his books sold out before he even started speaking.
It was truly a great event and I am so glad to have met Mr. Korman.
The following day, I drove Gordon to his next speaking engagement in Kimberly/Little Chute and that was that. That previous day was a whirlwind and an event I am still hearing praise for. Students are picking up Korman books left-and-right and requesting them for summer reading prizes. Gordon Korman truly made an impact in my community and that means everything.
So, how can you make this happen in your community?
- Get started early. This process doesn’t happen overnight.
- Nothing is out of reach. Don’t be afraid of a large price tag. Think of your community partners and library champions. Does your library have a Friends group? A Foundation? Does your community have a Rotary Club, Lions Club, Lioness, Elks Club, etc.? Approach your school partners, parent-teacher groups, etc. If you are excited about it and can fully explain the benefits of an author visit, your potential donors will be excited too.
- Get in touch with the authors – and add a personal touch. In past years, my teens have made videos to send authors requesting a visit. We’ve also written personal postcards with pictures of our community on the back. If a student comes to you with an author they’d love to meet, empower them to contact the author, or do so together.
- Contact some local hotels. They may be willing to donate a night or two. The owner of our local Comfort Suites also happens to be a library champion and was willing to donate a night’s stay.
I hope you are inspired to bring an author (or as many as you can) to your community. It is a lot of work, but truly worthwhile!
Photo credits: Me.