Posted by: churchlibrary | September 15, 2009

History of the One Book Program

For all you history buffs out there, here’s a little bit of background on the One Book initiative – how it came to be and where it is now.

The program itself actually began in 1998 and was initiated by Washington’s Center for the Book . The first One Book program was put into action by the Seattle Public Library in 1998. At that point, the program was dubbed “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book.” (I, for one, am happy that “One Book” has now replaced that somewhat arduous title!) The chosen novel was The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks and the program was an overall success. I find it sort of funny that a reporter from the Seattle Times defined the program in his article as a “Pie-in-the-sky idea” and yet here we are, eleven years later, beginning our own One Book program!

This type of program is not limited to North America. In fact, this idea to promote literacy and literary communities is being implemented in Australia and the UK as well!

In Canada, one of the longest running One Book programs, entitled “Canada Reads,” has been put on by CBC Radio since 2002. This year’s choice was The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.

Other long-standing Canadian One Book programs include:

One Book, One Vancouver –

One Book, One Community (Waterloo, Ontario) –

One Book, One Community (Medicine Hat, Alberta) –

Many more public libraries have added their name to the list of participants in this program including:

Orangeville Public Library, Burlington Public Library, Hamilton Public Library, Brampton Public Library and many more!

Another initiative similar to the One Book program is The Big Read At present, this program only exists in the United States with a whopping 268 communities participating!

One Book programs are not limited to public libraries either. Various associations and conferences have also used the One Book program in order to bring people together and get them talking. The American Library Association and the Canadian Library Association were already using this idea for their combined conference way back in 2003! Check out this article for an overview.

Schools of all types and sizes have gotten in on the program too. Universities, high schools and elementary schools alike are using the One Book concept in order to give a sense of unity to their place of learning.

A few Canadian examples are:

Lethbridge College (Lethbridge, AB) –

Simon Fraser University (British Columbia) –

Overall, you can see the amazing impact that this program has had on not only individual literary knowledge, but also each community as a whole. There have been countless numbers of participants and, most likely, an endless amount of insight into the novels read. And now we all get to be a part of that too!

(If you have any additional links for examples of One Book programs in Canada, please send them to me at and I’ll add them to the post!)


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