Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John Wood, Nancy Pearl, and a Day at PLA

The first day of programs at the Public Library Association National Conference in Minneapolis is over. I have written reports on Book Buzz with Nancy Pearl and the opening address by John Wood, author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. You may find these and other conference reports at PLABlog.

After today's session, I decided to see how John Wood's book about building schools and libraries in Asia and Africa is doing in the SWAN catalog of the Metropolitan Library System (outside Chicago). I see that readers are not checking out Wood's book the way they are Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. Both were tourists who made promises to help rural communities in the Himalayas, and in both cases, the one act led to many more. Wood's organization skills are much stronger than Mortenson's and his Room to Read organization appears to have actually accomplished more to date. Both men have been on Oprah. So, why is Mortenson's book more popular?

I believe the answer is Mortenson is more of a story teller. Rather, his coauthor David Oliver Relin is more of a story teller. Wood's book appears to have more in the way of statistics and rhetoric. Also, Mortenson started trying to help when he was an impoverished nurse and accident prone climber. Wood was already a wealthy man who risked less to quit his job to help the needy. Book groups have taken up Three Cups of Tea because they like stories.

Still, I think librarians as a profession should do all they can to help Wood by promoting his book. We should display, review it, and suggest it to book groups. His goal includes building 20,000 libraries and training 40,000 librarians in third world countries by 2020.


I learned today that you really can get around downtown Minneapolis without ever going outside. I left my coat in the hotel and took the Skyway to the convention center. My best time so far is twelve minutes from room to center.

Nancy Pearl did not actually speak much at the Book Buzz program. She introduced the program and let the spokespeople from several publishers promote their forthcoming books. I was most interested in Milkweed, a small nonprofit press from Minnesota.

Tomorrow the regular presentations start. I have a very full schedule.


laura said...

Milkweed is great, as are Graywolf and Coffee House Press, which are also both in the Twin Cities.

Anonymous said...

Greg Mortenson has never been on Oprah, although his work has received recognition in other media.

Anonymous said...

John Wood's management style is much more 'western' top down, micro-management, and Mortenson uses what he had learned from this father working in rural Africa to use a much more community-based, local style management. Both work, but in principal are significantly different.

Susan Kirchhoff