Bringing Philadelphians Together with One Book

By Siobhan Reardon
March 28, 2014
book education stock

Deb Ahrens, Branch Manager of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Oak Lane Library, works in a place surrounded by books, and yet in her day-to-day job, she rarely has a chance to talk about them. So every year, from mid-January through mid-March, when the One Book, One Philadelphia (“One Book”) program takes place, she eagerly anticipates the challenge of getting to know one book cover to cover, and leading a group of enthusiastic library users in a thoughtful discussion series.  Deb Ahrens is not alone.  She, along with hundreds of other librarians across our great city dive head first into this initiative every year, engaging students and citizens to be inspired and connected through the reading of a single book.

With the help of Walmart, the Free Library of Philadelphia just concluded another wonderful year of the One Book program last week.  The initiative is a joint project of the City of Philadelphia Mayor's Office and the Free Library that promotes literacy and encourages the Philadelphia community to come together through reading.  Deb is one of the thousands of Philadelphians who looks forward to this eight-week effort because it reminds her of why she became a librarian in the first place.

The 2014 One Book reading selection, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, tells the emotional story of a young soldier's experience in Iraq and his life upon returning home.  The book has a powerful message of hope for America’s veterans, something Walmart is also delivering to our vets through its ‘Welcome Home’ hiring commitment.

The One Book program is a sizable, citywide effort and it takes a committed partner like Walmart – who has supported the Free Library since 2010 -- to make it happen.  In fact, this year the One Book reading selection and companion books were checked out of the Free Library an average of 1,500 times, and more than 10,000 people attended 100+ special programs inspired by the book’s topics and themes. 

As for Deb, she already can’t wait until next year when she will again have the opportunity to engage with her East Oak Lane neighborhood by reading a single book.

Find out more about this unique program at freelibrary.org/onebook