Tonight is World Book Night 2013 (WBN) and I was chosen as a giver this year. I heard an article about it on Radio 4 a few months ago when I was driving, and it was the last day to apply. I checked the website and thought it sounded great. All applications were vetted and you had to provide an idea of where and how you would plan to give your books out. My plan was to give books out in an Accident and Emergency Department (A and E). Most patients and relatives are there unexpectedly and once they've read the health information posters they are pretty stuck for entertaining reading while waiting, or afterwards if they are admitted. I also planned to give a few to some of the nurses.
My box of 20 books were delivered to my local library and had a special jacket giving information on WBN. There are 500,000 books going out tonight through 20,000 Givers or through organisations such as libraries, prisons or other institutions.
I chose Alexander McCall Smith's The No1 Ladies Detective Agency for lots of reasons. I'd read the book which was a requirement, the author is both a Scottish novellist and a forensic pathologist, the book is a full sized novel but it is a fairly light read, it appeals to both sexes despite the title, some receivers might recognise it from the BBC adaptation, it is quite an escapist piece AND it is set somewhere they have sun more than 2days per year unlike Scotland!
Tonight, finally the BIG NIGHT arrived, or I should say the big late afternoon. I'd received permission from the Director of Nursing and made all the necessary arrangements for access but what wasn't plan-able was a full waiting area! The place looked decidedly light on my target audience initially. Still I was raring to go and once I got into the trolley's area saw that the waiting room wasn't a good indicator of patient volume as the department was in good going flow.
I was keen not to interrupt the nursing staff or hamper their activity. However, they were very welcoming and most helpful in identifying patients who would be appropriate to access to offer a book to. Some staff were also keen and happy to receive a book and all agreed to read and share it with colleagues once they were finished.
I started off going round the cubicles and minor injuries areas offering to the patients or relatives that had been identified as fit to be accessed, then I progressed to the waiting areas. Despite my day job involving speaking to small and large groups it was still a little daunting to accost strangers and try to gift them a book. I know I'm a lady and apparently ladies don't sweat, instead they merely glow. Well, I'm not sure if it was the situation or the fact I've been fairly ill recently but I was glowing like no-one's business and my poor fringe and blouse were stuck to me by the end!
One nurse was polite but distant while I was chatting to the Nurse in Charge who was checking the screen to identify suitable patients. Then she hit me with her bombshell when she asked if I was one of those 'Holy Rollers' giving out Gideon Bibles. Later a lady's husband thought he definitely recognised me a Jehovah's Witness. Strange how we are often suspicious of people offering something for nothing, or maybe I've just got one of those angelic little faces...NOT!
Most waiting were very polite in listening to my little 30second introduction, with the odd exception. However, speaking to the small groups in the different waiting areas seemed to make some people embarrassed and I think perhaps the tendency for people 'not to step from the herd' and make the first move was behind some of the refusals. Much more successful was approaching individuals in the other small seating areas as, when people were asked in a one-to-one interaction, they were generally much more accepting. A few people laughed off the offer saying they were 'not great readers' but this only made me pounce on them and tell them they were the real intended audience as the big idea is to increase enjoyment of reading. All of these people chose to accept a book and seemed genuinely pleased by it. My box of books disappeared much more quickly than I'd expected and I could really have done with double the number.
One doctor decided the book was not for him as it wasn't available as a free kindle download. I thought this was a little at odds with the concept of World BOOK Night but he was insistent a kindle was a book. Personally I reckon a kindle is a reading platform however, when you look at the increasing proportion of books sold in e-book format then he possibly has a point. I love my tech but for me a physical paper book remains a thing of joy. I hate the idea that I can't read a kindle in the bath or that its battery might conk out mid-read. I do have some e-books on my smartphone, and am less resistant now that colour tablets with lights are available, but still haven't made the kindle commitment.
On an amusing note, in the first of the waiting areas two gentlemen were sitting and listened attentively when I gave my little spiel. However when I presented the book they both looked a little put off and were adamant they didn't want a copy of the 'No1 Ladies Detective Agency'. This was fair enough and I went on with my giving. When I was leaving the department one of these gentlemen was on his phone and as his jacket was now open I could see his police identification card on its lanyard. This rather explained his, and his colleague's, rather scandalised look given the title of the book that was on offer and made me giggle all the way back to the car!
I've loved being involved as it was a lovely, heartwarming thing to do to bring the joy of reading to those in this setting. I felt truly honoured being part of the UK contribution to a worldwide charitable event and will definitely apply next year to hopefully be chosen to do the same in one of the other A and E Depts in this Health Board area.