CAMPAIGNS: Public Initiative - All of Windy City is on the samepage

Client: Chicago Public Library (Chicago)

PR Team: Chicago Public Library Communications Office

Campaign: One Book, One Chicago

Time Frame: August 24, 2001 to October 14, 2001

Budget: $40,000

Chicago is known for the blues, pizza, da Bears, the Sears Tower,

Oprah ... the list goes on. The Chicago Public Library can now add the

city's love of literature to that list.

To promote the second annual Chicago Book Week (October 7-14), a new

initiative called "One Book, One Chicago" challenged Chicago residents

to read Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a


The program was also designed to encourage parents to read to their

kids, as well as foster discussion of the story in this historically

racially charged city.


"I saw a wire story about Rochester doing this, and I realized that

Rochester, Buffalo, and Seattle had all done it," says Chicago Tribune

columnist Pat Reardon. "I checked to see if anyone in Chicago does this,

and I was surprised that they were already considering it."

In March, Reardon contacted the Chicago Public Library (CPL) for his

column, and he later turned the idea of a city reading one book into the

theme of his article. "He challenged us in a very positive manner," says

Margot Burke, press secretary for the CPL. The next challenge would be

to decide on a book.

"We had to choose a book with a message that young adults can read, and

that children and adults can read to together," says Burke. The CPL

surveyed 75 librarians, and "it came out that To Kill a Mockingbird was

suggested several times." Burke adds, "About a month prior to that, the

mayor had publicly declared it his favorite book, so it seemed like an

obvious choice."


The CPL remained tight-lipped about its book of choice as reporters

began calling. But the secret didn't last long: "They ordered thousands

of copies of the book, and as they started showing up at the branches,

librarians started sending them back since they hadn't ordered them,"

Reardon recalls.

"Eventually, they had to say what book it was so they'd keep them, and

then I was able to run the story."

That story, as it turns out, was an exclusive that Burke promised to

Reardon, which the Tribune ran on the front page.

"From that point forward, it skyrocketed because the Tribune Company

owns so many papers," claims Burke. "It really began its own life after

that ... it was a very reactive role for me from then on."

Burke's team also encouraged Chicagoans to discuss the book with their

friends and families, and even held a mock trial. Burke herself handed

out "Are you reading Mocking-bird?" buttons to people she saw reading

the book in public. "I've seen up to three people at the same time

reading the book, and I've attended several discussions," she says.


Discussions were established in churches and schools, and even companies

such as Boeing encouraged employees to read and discuss the book.

Thousands of copies in English, Polish, and Spanish were checked out of

CPL branches, and To Kill a Mockingbird became one of the best-selling

books in Chicago.

"One Book, One Chicago" also generated countless media impressions, from

print to TV to radio, including: Good Morning America, Today, CNN, The

New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune,

Chicago Sun-Times, Detroit Free Press, LA Times, The Boston Globe,

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Houston Chronicle, and St. Louis


More importantly, however, Burke has received overwhelmingly positive

feedback from the community, as well as countless calls from other

cities and countries. "Every city has contacted us to ask how we've done

it," Burke says, adding that she even got calls from Scotland and



Burke claims that the success of "One Book, One Chicago" has guaranteed

enthusiasm for and participation in Chicago Book Week, which involves a

wide range of events, including discussions with authors. Burke says

she'd like the author to have more visibility and involvement in next

year's "One Book, One Chicago" (which wasn't possible this year, as

Harper Lee is essentially a recluse). She also plans to expand the

"grassroots outreach to the people who don't read the paper or watch TV

in the morning. But we're a staff of three people, so we've really done

a great job."

Chicago - and the rest of the world - seems to agree.

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