Books Bring us Together: The Junior League of Washington Celebrates 20 Years of Partnership with the Library of Congress National Book Festival

By: Adeyinka Oyesile Ogunlegan

Ahead of this year’s National Book Festival that will be taking place on August 12, 2023, let’s take a look back at last year’s event and the Junior League of Washington (JLW)’s involvement in it. 

On September 3, 2022, authors, illustrators, and book lovers gathered at Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the first fully in-person National Book Festival since the pandemic. Volunteers from JLW were also in attendance to once again support the organization’s long standing partnership with the Library of Congress. 

The National Book Festival is an annual celebration of storytelling, readers, and authors in Washington, DC. Originally founded by Laura Bush and James H. Billington in 2001, it is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and has become one of the most prominent literary events in the United States. JLW’s Literacy Events Planning Committee (LEP) has organized volunteer support for the event since 2003. 

For 20 years, JLW has provided an army of volunteers who research participating authors and  draft one-pagers in the months leading up to the event. On the day of, JLW volunteers work in shifts and are responsible for staffing book signing lines to help fans meet their favorite authors, helping readers find new books to enjoy, and encouraging children to learn how rich this country’s storytelling is by meeting librarians and authors from across the United States, territories, and commonwealths. 

“It’s truly an all-hands on deck affair the day of the Festival,” said Emily Ancinec, 2022-2023 Chair of the Literacy Events Planning Committee. “But it also involves several hours of planning and coordination leading up to the big day to make sure everything goes smoothly.” 

In fact, the LEP Committee spent 1050 hours planning for the 2022 Festival and the Junior League of Washington has provided nearly 40,000 hours of volunteer support over the course of the partnership to help make the event a success year after year.

The theme for the 2022 Festival was “Books Bring us Together” and the open-to-all ages event featured hundreds of authors, poets, and audiobook performers. The live readings, author talks and book signings are a big draw for any bibliophile including JLW volunteers who have had some notable encounters over the years. 

“This is a great event for anyone who loves learning, reading and meeting new people,” said Arcinec. “I had a chance to meet Leslie Jordan while staffing his bookseller’s line. It’s always inspiring to see how welcoming and accessible the authors are to meeting their fans, signing books, and taking pictures. We may be there to work and keep the lines moving, but everyone is there because we love stories and what the National Book Festival represents.”

To learn more about this historic partnership and how to volunteer for the 2023 National Book Festival in August, contact the Literacy Events Planning (LEP) Committee.