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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Edible Book Festivals at Academic Libraries: Planning

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

A Clockwork Orange

By Julia Kenner, 2008

Frankenstein

By Chris Johns, 2009

Steps to a great Edible Books Festival - CHECKLIST

The boxes below list things to think about as you plan your edible book event.

1. Build a team

Many hands make light work -- and increase the fun! 

  • Recruit team members 4-6 months before the event.  
  • Involve library and non-library volunteers (see the Partners page).
  • Involve students from relevant departments like library & information science, art, literature, food sciences.
  • Keep meetings short.
  • Create a listserv or use social media to communicate between meetings.

2. Pick a date

Edible book events are held around the world on or around April 1. According to the artists who founded it, "April 1st is the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book Physiologie du goût, a witty meditation on food. April fools' day is also the perfect day to eat your words and play with them."

Considerations when scheduling:

  • If it's held on a Monday, participants will have the weekend to prepare their entry.
  • Avoid holding it immediately before or after a semester break. (And of course, don't schedule it during a break.) 
  • If possible, coordinate the edible books event with an ongoing program, e.g. a weekly noon-time cultural series.
  • If it's on a weekday, scheduling it over the lunch hour will draw a larger crowd from the campus.
  • If you hope to attract more community members, try an evening event.  Children?  Try a weekend.

3. Choose a venue

Will you hold the event in the library, at another campus location, or off-campus?  Each location has pros and cons.

Library

PRO:  • It will bring people into the library.  • It may be easier for library staff to be involved.

CON:  • Oh no! Food in the library?!   • Library users who seek a quiet study spot may be inconvenienced.

Non-library campus location

PRO:  • Other buildings may have better facilities for handling and displaying food.  • Student centers and buildings with high foot traffic may boost participation. 

CON:  • Parking may be difficult.

Off campus

PRO:  • Community members may feel more welcome.   • Parking may be easier.

CON:  • Depending on the distance from campus, it may be harder for students or college employees to take part.

 

 

4. Make a timeline

Work backwards from the date of your event to set target dates for publicity, etc. 

Example:

4-6 months ahead:  • Organize the team.  • Secure a venue.

3 months ahead:  • Recruit judges.  • Solicit donations.  • Design or update the event website.

1-2 months ahead:  • Begin to publicize it through websites, blogs, Facebook, newsletters, etc.

3 weeks ahead:  • Begin putting up posters.  • Contact local media.  • Open online registration.

2-3 days ahead:  • Email reminders to registered entrants.  • Confirm supplies, volunteers, etc. for the event.

Festival Day:  • Arrive early at the venue.  Have fun!

 

5. Set a schedule for the event

Edible book events can take place on any day of the week, in the morning, afternoon or evening.  Just be sure to leave time for each stage.

Example:  The following schedule has worked well for the University of Illinois Edible Book Festival:

8-10 am - Participants drop off edible entries

10-11:30 am - Judging and photography

11:30 am - Public viewing begins

12:15 pm - Welcome and judges' commentary

12:45 pm - Eating of books!

 

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