Volunteers from the UW-Madison libraries, the Center for the First-Year Experience (CFYE), Housing, Enrollment Management, and the Kohl Center, as well as a number of students, gave out five thousand copies of this year’s common book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, on September 1st. As one of those volunteers, I had the pleasure of participating in a high-energy effort to put a book in the hands of each and every student attending the Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students.
After the students gathered in the Kohl Center to be welcomed to campus by Chancellor Biddy Martin and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, the volunteers began an organized, yet frenzied, project to unpack hundreds of boxes with thousands of copies of the hard-cover common book with its bright orange cover. A letter from the Chancellor explaining the goals of Go Big Read and the benefits of participating in a campus and community-wide discussion around a single title was inserted in each copy and the books were stacked high on tables ready for distribution. The energy and collaborative spirit of the volunteers, clad in green t-shirts (Go Big Read volunteers) and black t-shirts (CFYE volunteers), was palpable. With just five minutes remaining before the convocation ended, all the books were unpacked, stuffed, stacked and ready to go.
Chancellor Martin talked about Go Big Read in her welcome and invited students to participate, letting them know they would receive a copy of the book for free. Then the students exited the Kohl Center in massive streams. They first grabbed a brown-bag lunch and as they headed outside for a giant picnic, we handed each student a book with a smile. They all seemed genuinely appreciative to receive the book, even with hands full of lunch and convocation programs. It was truly exciting for the volunteers to be part of making the logistical challenge of distributing thousands of books such a success.
Director, College Library
Photo: Jeff Miller/University Communications