California Center for the Book

2019 Book to Action Toolkit
Last Updated: 12/13/2018


California Center for the Book (CCFB) is here to help you succeed on your Book to Action journey. We hope that this will be an exciting and rewarding professional opportunity for you and your community partner to focus on engaging adults and intergenerational groups. Let’s create dynamic, action-oriented programming and share what we learn.

Book to Action History

Book to Action started at the Multnomah County Library in 2008. In 2011, the Hayward Public Library, under the guidance of Sally Thomas, launched the first Book to Action program in the state of California. In 2012, 10 California libraries received small LSTA grants to implement their own Book to Action programs – all with great success. In 2013, the California Center for the Book began administering the program on behalf of the State Library.  In 2015, Hayward Book to Action became a collaborative effort between the Hayward Public Library and CSU East Bay. In 2017, Sally Thomas joined the California Center for the Book Advisory Council.  You can see many examples of past Book to Action projects here.  Participants in the Book to Action program have described their experiences as motivating, empowering, uplifting, and thought-provoking.  

Book to Action 2019 Overview - CCFB programs

In 2019, California Center for the Book will support 25 Book to Action projects in California libraries.  Each library will receive:

Participating libraries agree to:

2019 Book To Action Timeline

IMLS and Statewide Aligned Program Goals & Outcomes

Steps for a Successful Book to Action Program

#1 - Plan Early

Give yourself time to research and plan.  Develop a rough timeline of programs and possible activities. Stay open to input from your community partner and community.  Explore the #BookToAction programs of the past for inspiration!  Contact us early with questions or concerns.


#2 - Research & Assess

Be sure to choose a need or issue that is relevant to your community, addressed in the book you choose, and directly relates to a community service project or civic engagement activity.  Research the nonprofit and government organizations and volunteer networks that are active in your community for inspiration. Perhaps you’re interested in supporting a state-wide activity that offers opportunities for local engagement, like the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day or Hunger Action Day.  Consider forming a very small Book to Action advisory committee of staff members and community members who can advise on potential titles, projects, and community partners.  


#3 - Get Input & Choose a Community Partner (see the list at the end of this toolkit)                        Determine the terms and requirements of community partners and any co-sponsors. Be sure that that your main community partner is involved in designing an engaging and needed community service project or civic engagement activity. Be as clear as you can at the outset about your expectations, so all parties involved understand the terms of the collaboration. Consider putting the basic in writing.  


#4 - Choose an Engaging Book (see the list at the end of this toolkit)

An ideal book will engage and educate your community about an important social issue, have a strong tie-in to your community partner, and be easily linked to a community service project or civic engagement activity.

#5 - Invite the Author or Speaker         
If possible, see if you can get the author to speak. You might need to make arrangements through the author’s representative, publisher, or speakers’ bureau.  If an author’s fees are too high or s/he is unavailable, contact a  local expert, speaker, or panel.  You might want or need to draw up an agreement with your speaker or author that covers: fees, date, time, location, duration, etc. Be sure to outline your expectations and include whether you want the author or speaker  to make a presentation, read from the book, answer audience questions, moderate a panel, sign books, etc.                                          


#6 - Design a Community Service or Civic Engagement Activity (see the list at the end of this toolkit)

Embrace your role as a connector of people, ideas, and communities, and make this fact clear to the program participants. Consult your community partner about the best ways to engage volunteers.  

#7 - Remember to design a SERIES                                        

Book to Action should be a series of events - book discussions, author or expert talks, panel discussions, movie screenings, and a community service project or civic engagement activity. Encourage community members to experience the full impact of the series by participating as much as possible.  It’s perfectly okay to tie into an existing library, community, or bigger program. For example, if you already organize a “One Community, One Book” program, consider adding an “action” component to your next series. Some libraries prefer to condense their Book to Action events into one month and some prefer to spread them out over several months. Think of your events as a series of learning and discovery that culminates in an action.         


#8 - Involve High Schools, Community Colleges & Universities                        
Contact local high schools, community colleges or universities to invite students to attend the Book to Action series of events.  Be sure to reach out to the
Cal State Center for Community Engagement if you have one nearby. Be sure high school students know they can get service hours for your community service or civic engagement activity (if appropriate).


#9 - Involve a Local Bookstore                
If you are not already teaming up with a local bookstore to promote author events or other book-related programs, Book to Action provides you with a perfect opportunity to initiate a partnership.  Search the
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association or the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association for help in locating the nearest independent bookseller.

#10 - Encourage Diverse Opinions and Respectful Dialogue

When you focus on a book that highlights a social issue, you can expect that people won’t always agree with the author or with each other.  Facilitate discussions that give people permission to respectfully disagree with each other. Set ground rules.  Emphasize your role as a facilitator. Allow everyone the opportunity to speak. Get help from your community partner or a professional moderator if you need it.


#11 - Market Your Program

Outreach and publicity are essential to the success of your Book to Action program.  Write a press release (Example: Nevada County Library’s 2018 Book to Action Press Release) and send it to all local media. Make follow-up calls or emails to verify that the press release has been received. Offer to write an article (which media outlets might publish directly) or invite media to your events. Consult your PR or Communications Officer at the city or county level to assist you. Distribute promo materials to local schools, cafes, and community centers.  Be sure to post to all relevant social networks - Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, NextDoor, Goodreads, Twitter, Meetup, etc, in addition to your library website and calendar. Tag your posts with #BooktoAction and @CaliforniaCenterfortheBook.  Visit the CCFB Promotions page for our logo, URL note, IMLS statement, social media links, and more.                 

#12 - Document and Share        

A picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure you document your events and activities with photographs and, if possible, videos. Write a short summary of what made your program meaningful, and what you learned from the experience. Invite program participants to talk about their Book to Action experience in front of a camera. For inspiration, check out this video from Sally Thomas at Hayward Public Library! Tag your social media posts with #BooktoAction and @CaliforniaCenterfortheBook.  Visit the CCFB Promotions page for our logo, URL note, IMLS statement (in English, see below for Spanish), social media links, and more. Be sure to share your marketing materials and event photos on the CCFB Librarians Facebook group too.

Book to Action IMLS Statement in Spanish:
Libro de Acción es un programa del Centro de California para el Libro, bajo el Auspicios de la Asociación de Bibliotecas de California, y es apoyado por los El Instituto de Museos y Servicios Bibliotecarios de los EE.UU. bajo las disposiciones de la Biblioteca Servicios y Tecnología, administrado en California por el Bibliotecario Estatal.


#13 - Evaluate

Feedback from patrons is essential. Survey results can also be used to fine-tune future programs and demonstrate the program value for your community, your library, and CCFB.  For each Book to Action program you hold, distribute and gather the surveys, record the number of participants, and plan to report those online by JULY 15, 2019. There will also be a brief final report that you’ll complete online for California Center for the Book. More information and surveys coming soon.


Selecting a Book        

The book you select for your Book to Action program ideally should be:                                                                                                

Book to Action
 Books and Program Ideas

Use the selection criteria above, this list below, ideas from previous Book to Action programs, input from your community and your partner, and your professional judgment to find on a great Book to Action title for your community. Feel free to use One Book, One City,  and other similar community reading programs as inspiration.  Example: NEA Big Read information for Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Below are possible titles, program and partner ideas, and examples of past Book to Action programs. See also #BookToAction on Instagram for ideas and please let us know if there are ‘must adds’ for this list.


The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner        
With the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are that you may live up to a decade longer. What’s the prescription for success? National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity found in the Blue Zones: places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives. And in this dynamic book he discloses the recipe, blending this unique lifestyle formula with the latest scientific findings to inspire easy, lasting change that may add years to your life.


Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene
From two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene comes a profound and surprising account of dogs on the front lines of rescuing both children and adults from the trenches of grief, emotional, physical, and cognitive disability, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chancer: How One Good Boy Saved Another by Donnie Kanter Winokur
When a devastating diagnosis tears author Donnie Kanter Winokur’s family apart, a service dog may be their best hope to stay together.

Death and Dying

Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

Immigration and Refugees

Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World  by Gulwali Passarlay
A gripping, inspiring, and eye-opening memoir of fortitude and survival—of a twelve-year-old boy’s traumatic flight from Afghanistan to the West—that puts a face to one of the most shocking and devastating humanitarian crises of our time.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

Mental Health and Community

Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu…

The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brenee Brown
True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. Social scientist Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives--experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.

Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir by Mark Vonnegut
More than thirty years after the publication of his acclaimed memoir The Eden Express, Mark Vonnegut continues his remarkable story in this searingly funny, iconoclastic account of coping with mental illness, finding his calling as a pediatrician, and learning that willpower isn’t nearly enough.

Natural World, Sustainability & Environment

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution by Peter Kalmus
How a climate scientist and suburban father cut his climate impact down to one tenth the US average and became happier because of it. Being the Change merges science, spirituality, and practical knowledge to offer a deeply optimistic message: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California, Florence Williams investigates the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into brand-new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv
For many of us, thinking about the future conjures up images of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: a post-apocalyptic dystopia stripped of nature. Richard Louv, author of the landmark bestseller Last Child in the Woods, urges us to change our vision of the future, suggesting that if we reconceive environmentalism and sustainability, they will evolve into a larger movement that will touch every part of society.

Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist by Bill McKibben
Bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben recounts the personal and global story of the fight to build and preserve a sustainable planet

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City by Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates
In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden.

Social Justice

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and James Obergefell
The fascinating and very moving story of the lovers, lawyers, judges and activists behind the groundbreaking Supreme Court case that led to one of the most important, national civil rights victories in decades—the legalization of same-sex marriage.

March: Book One by John Lewis
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation by John Freeman (Editor)
Thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America--including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Russo, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell, and many more.

Social Justice

Contribute to this Toolkit

The Book to Action Toolkit is a living document.  We welcome your ideas and additions! Please let us know how we can improve this toolkit by dropping a line to jrobbins@calbook.org.

California Center for the Book is a program of the California Library Association, supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.