Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Edible Book Festivals at Academic Libraries: Partnering

A guide to planning and hosting an edible book festival on your campus, drawing on the experiences of the University of Illinois Library.

The Pelican Beef

By Emily Love, 2008

Fox on Stocks

By the Business & Economics Library Graduate Assistants, 2009

Whom to partner with and why

An academic library can certainly put on an edible book event without any outside help.  However, partnering with other organizations can help you

  • reach new audiences
  • provide a venue
  • secure funding
  • widen the publicity efforts
  • spread the work among more volunteers

Remember that building relationships and working with partners takes time and attention.   Choose partners strategically.  

Also remember:  Keep careful track of expenses and hold onto receipts.  This is always good advice, but it's especially important if you're spending another organization's money.  Their accounting systems may differ from your own library's. 

Local libraries

Local public libraries or other libraries in your area may make excellent partners.  They may be able to provide space, volunteers, and/or publicity. 

Example:  In 2008, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Edible Books Festival partnered with the Champaign Public Library, as part of CPL's "Meet a Hero @ Your Library" project.  Grant funding for the project helped pay for publicity.  A special category was added to the awards for the "Best Depiction of the Theme: Meet a Hero @ Your Library."

Community-wide reading programs

"One book, one city" mass reading programs thrive in many communities. Some campuses also mount such programs.  If the timing is right, consider linking your edible book event to such a program.

Example:  In 2010, the University of Illinois Undergraduate Library received a grant from the NEH for a community-wide Big Read program, featuring the book Sun, Stone & Shadows, a collection of Mexican short stories.  The edible book festival had a special prize category called "Taste of Mexico" and invited the assistant director of La Casa Cultural Latina, the Latino/Latina student resource center, to be one of the festival's judges.  The organizer of the Big Read contributed a copy of the book and a gift certificate to a campus-area Mexican restaurant as prizes.  The Edible Book Festival was listed in the official calendar of Big Read events.


Consider making your edible book event a fund raiser for a good cause.  Some libraries charge admission and use the income to support library programs or other charities.  Formally partnering with a local non-profit group may lead to more publicity and increased attendance.  Arts organizations, food-related groups, and organizations that promote literacy and reading are likely partners.

Example: Since 2009, the University of Illinois Edible Book Festival has passed a jar to collect money for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank.  Although it's voluntary, many attendees contribute generously.  


Local businesses can contribute in several ways:

  • Display posters or other publicity.
  • Donate prizes.
  • Donate beverages or other refreshments.
  • Create a company-themed edible book.

Not every business will say yes to a request for donations.  Some only make strategic donations; some have set budgets for charitable support and won't exceed them.  Some businesses are part of larger corporations and must abide by their parent companies' donation policies.  Some make donation decisions on an annual or semi-annual basis and won't consider requests that come in at other times.  So don't be surprised if a business says no.  Just remember: It never hurts to ask!

Example: The Common Ground Food Coop, the Dallas & Company party supply store, the branch of Espresso Royale in the Undergraduate Library, and the University of Illinois Press, among other businesses, have donated prizes to the University of Illinois edible book festival.

Academic departments and programs

The possibilities are almost limitless for partnering with units on campus.  Consider:

  • Related academic departments, such as Art, Food Science, Hospitality Management, or English.
  • Campus dining services.
  • Student organizations, such as fraternities, sororities, or registered clubs.
  • Student chapters of professional associations like the American Library Association.
  • Residences or associations for international students and their families.

Example:  The University of Illinois edible book team includes students from the Graduate School of Library & Information Science.


Other potential partners

Consider collaborating with:

  • Restaurants, bakeries, or specialty food shops
  • Art museums
  • Publishers
  • Book clubs
  • Library friends groups
  • Community recreation centers

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Teaching, Learning, and Academic Support Library
Main Library
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801